Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999)

R  |   |  Action, Crime, Drama  |  24 March 2000 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.6/10 from 67,394 users   Metascore: 67/100
Reviews: 342 user | 166 critic | 31 from

An African American mafia hit man who models himself after the samurai of old finds himself targeted for death by the mob.



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1 win & 7 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Dennis Liu ...
Frank Minucci ...
Gene Ruffini ...
Frank Adonis ...
Kenny Guay ...
Vince Viverito ...


A hitman who lives by the code of the samurai, works for the mafia and finds himself in their crosshairs when his recent job doesn't go according to plan. Now he must find a way to defend himself and his honor while retaining the code he lives by. Written by Scott Jarreau

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


All assassins live beyond the law... only one follows the code See more »

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for strong violence and language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:



Official Sites:


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Release Date:

24 March 2000 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Ghost Dog  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$166,344 (USA) (3 March 2000)


$255,412 (Brazil) (21 February 2003)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


As the main character, Forest Whitaker doesn't have an onscreen (non-voiceover) line of dialogue until nearly 37 minutes into the film. See more »


When Louie is saving Ghost Dog from the thugs beating him up, he shoots the pistol that he has, but the slide does not move to eject the spent cartridge when he fires the gun. See more »


[first lines]
Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai is found in death. Meditation on inevitable death should be performed daily. Every day when one's body and mind are at peace, one should meditate upon being ripped apart by arrows, rifles, spears, and swords. Being carried away by surging waves. Being thrown into the midst of a great fire. Being struck by lightning, being shaken to death by a great earthquake. Falling from thousand-foot cliffs, dying of disease, or committing seppuku at the death of one's ...
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Crazy Credits

The second to last person thanked at the credits' close is Akira Kurosawa--the Japanese filmmaker who filmed one of the Ghost Dog's central texts, Rashomon. See more »


Referenced in The Venture Bros.: Every Which Way But Zeus (2010) See more »


Dangerous Fun
Written and Performed by William Loose
Published by Revision West (BMI), Don Great (BMI), and May Loo Music (BMI)
Courtesy of Marc Ferrari/Don Great Music Library
See more »

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User Reviews

A big surprise that really works
5 June 2005 | by (Tessenderlo, Belgium) – See all my reviews

Jim Jarmusch isn't exactly a household name when it comes to Hollywood directors. I don't know about other people, but personally I had heard of his name before, but certainly couldn't name any of his movies. Now that has changed. Since I've seen "Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai" I'll try to see at least a couple of his other movies as well, because I really liked this one.

"Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai" is a quite unique movie. It tells the story of an African-American mafia hit-man in New York who lives by the rules of the Samurai, in simplicity and alone with his pigeons, who calls himself Ghost Dog and who is always faithful to his master, a local mobster who has saved his life several years ago. When the daughter of the local mob boss witnesses one of Ghost Dog's hits, he must die himself. The first victims are his birds and in response, Ghost Dog goes right at his attackers. He is lethal, but does not want to harm his master or the young woman. And while his life is in constant danger, the only people he ever has contact with are a little girl, with whom he discusses books, and a Haitian ice cream man who only speaks French and doesn't understand a word of what Ghost Dog tells him.

I guess the best way to categorize this movie is to call it a mix of the movie "Léon", the Samurai code and hip-hop culture. Normally you would think that such a mix could never work, but this time it does. I admit that it certainly isn't a normal mix, but Jarmusch avoids the traps that would make this original and daring movie a complete waste of time and which would turn it into one unbelievable and unrealistic mess. I know it sounds strange, how can a movie that combines Italian, Japanese and hip-hop culture into one ever become one solid movie? Don't ask me, I don't even know how he came up with the idea, but it works and that's all that matters.

This movie has several strong points. One is the way everything is told and shown, which make this a sober, but powerful movie. Especially with the quotes that are taken from the Way of the Samurai and that are voiced by Forest Whitaker, a solid base is formed. This helps you to understand why the man does what he does, why he lives his life like that and why he will always respect his master. If this hadn't been in the movie, I would probably not have liked it a bit. The other strong point is the acting. The mobsters look a bit stereotypical, but are well portrayed by people like Cliff Gorman, John Tormey, Richard Portnow,... but the best performance definitely comes from Forest Whitaker. Normally Whitaker plays the role of a good guy, like for instance Jody in "The Crying Game" or Captain Ramey in "Phone Boot" and it has to be said, he really has some talent for that kind of roles. But, as he proves with this movie, he is capable of a lot more. He plays the role of the samurai hit man, doesn't look like he's fit for that role at all (at least, I would never think of him when it comes to that role), but does it really very well.

As a conclusion I would like to add that the sound track is also very nice. Normally I'm not too much a fan of hip hop in the movies, although I can appreciate it as a form of music on itself, but this time it really works. Add to this some nice acting, a cool and well-written story, some funny moments (like for instance a rapping mobster) and what you'll get is a movie that is fun and interesting to watch. I give it an 8/10.

49 of 62 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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