The Best Modern Samurai Action Thriller You Need To Stream Now

By Jacob VanGundy | Published

Samurai movies often get boiled down to just the classic black-and-white films of the 1950s. While classic samurai movies are great, there are plenty of modern samurai films reinvigorating the genre. Takashi Miike’s 13 Assassins is one of my favorite samurai movies, not just in the modern era but of all time, and more people should see it. 

13 Assassins Is A Remake

A remake of Eiichi Kodo’s movie of the same name, 13 Assasins, is set in Japan’s Edo period and follows a band of assassins who set out to kill the corrupt lord Matsudaira Naritsugu. The band consists of twelve samurai and a hunter who guides them through the wilderness. After assembling his band, the samurai Shimada Shinzaemon leads the lord’s troops into an ambush, where a brutal showdown ensues. 

A Slow Build To The Epic Battle

13 Assassins begins with a slow pace that gradually builds into an extended action scene that is equal parts beautiful and brutal. There is only one brief fight in the first half of the film, which mostly introduces the large cast and establishes the political danger Naritsugu poses. When the ambush set by the assassins is sprung, the movie transitions into a 45-minute action scene that includes flaming bulls, samurai beating each other to death with rocks, and some of the best swordplay ever put on film. 

While it’s easy to praise the movie’s incredible, violent climax, the build-up that comes before it is just as important to 13 Assassins. The quest to kill Naritsugu is spurred on by the reveal of one of his mutilated victims who’s had her limbs and tongue removed, which gives both the characters and audience a personal stake in seeing him punished. With such a long, stylized action sequence, it would be easy for the characters to get lost, but I felt genuine tension and sadness watching characters I’d come to love fighting for their lives. 

Classic Samurai For Modern Audiences

Miike has the ability to blend the political drama and duels of classic samurai films while giving it a modern flair. 13 Assassins’ themes of duty vs morality, and political disillusionment are in line with the works of Kobayashi and Kurosawa, but the action feels distinctly modern. As a fan of classic samurai movies, I fell in love with the movie for its ability to respect the genre’s legacy while still doing something bold and new inside that framework. 

Takashi Miike’s Best Film

Takashi Miike is an accomplished, but controversial filmmaker. His films are known for their extreme violence and his ability to have wild tonal shifts, such as Audition which pivots from romantic comedy to psychological horror. While I’ve only seen a handful of Miike’s films, 13 Assassins stands head and shoulders above the others, its historical setting and political themes giving his signature brutality a sense of purpose.

Stream 13 Assassins For Free


I’m always hesitant to recommend classic samurai movies like Rashomon or Samurai Assassin due to their classic sensibilities and slower pace, 13 Assassins is an easy entry point into the genre. The only major hurdle for viewers to get past is Takashi Miike’s brutal visuals, with the mutilated woman at the start of the film being particularly unsettling. But for anyone who isn’t squeamish, 13 Assassins is a must-watch, especially since it’s currently free to stream on Tubi.