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The Last Samurai (2003)

R  |   |  Action, Drama, History  |  5 December 2003 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.7/10 from 295,055 users   Metascore: 55/100
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An American military advisor embraces the Samurai culture he was hired to destroy after he is captured in battle.



(story), (screenplay), 2 more credits »
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Nominated for 4 Oscars. Another 20 wins & 44 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Ray Godshall Sr. ...
Shichinosuke Nakamura ...
Satoshi Nikaido ...
Shintaro Wada ...


In the 1870s, Captain Nathan Algren, a cynical veteran of the American Civil war who will work for anyone, is hired by Americans who want lucrative contracts with the Emperor of Japan to train the peasant conscripts for the first standing imperial army in modern warfare using firearms. The imperial Omura cabinet's first priority is to repress a rebellion of traditionalist Samurai -hereditary warriors- who remain devoted to the sacred dynasty but reject the Westernizing policy and even refuse firearms. Yet when his ill-prepared superior force sets out too soon, their panic allows the sword-wielding samurai to crush them. Badly wounded Algren's courageous stand makes the samurai leader Katsumoto spare his life; once nursed to health he learns to know and respect the old Japanese way, and participates as advisor in Katsumoto's failed attempt to save the Bushido tradition, but Omura gets repressive laws enacted- he must now choose to honor his loyalty to one of the embittered sides when ... Written by KGF Vissers

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


In the face of an enemy, in the Heart of One Man, Lies the Soul of a Warrior.


Action | Drama | History | War

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for strong violence and battle sequences | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:



Official Sites:

| |  »


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Release Date:

5 December 2003 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Samurai  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$140,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$2,630,243 (Japan) (5 December 2003)


$111,110,575 (USA) (2 April 2004)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

| |


Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Over 500 Japanese extras trained for ten days at the Clifton Rugby Grounds in New Plymouth, New Zealand, for the climactic battle scenes. See more »


There is a modern telephone pole in the village. See more »


Simon Graham: [first lines]
Simon Graham: [narrating] They say Japan was made by a sword. They say the old gods dipped a coral blade into the ocean, and when they pulled it out four perfect drops fell back into the sea, and those drops became the islands of Japan. I say, Japan was made by a handful of brave men. Warriors, willing to give their lives for what seems to have become a forgotten word: honor.
See more »

Crazy Credits

The opening Warner Bros. logo is light blue on a solid black background. See more »


Referenced in Grey's Anatomy: Shake Your Groove Thing (2005) See more »


Performed by Tokyo Gakuso
Courtesy of Columbia Music Entertainment, Inc.
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

The Last Samurai - a labor of love dedicated to the spirit of the Samurai warriors
2 October 2005 | by (sf, usa) – See all my reviews

"The Last Samurai" 2003 and "The Last of the Dogmen" (1995 d: Tab Murphy, with Tom Berenger and Barbara Hershey in the lead) are both films with the theme of the 'last' of warrior spirits (one is Samurai, one is Cheyenne). The production of The Last Samurai is well worth seeing - the glory of a large-scale Hollywood production it is. From the research of the historical Japanese Meiji period, the mannerisms, the way different classes of people dress, the settings, the battle weapons and armory, how the Samurai train and fight, to the study and appreciation of the Art of War - where men of honor and integrity in service to the Emperor is the thing to die for. The film title in three Kanji characters means The Way of the Warrior (Samurai). The one character shown on screen at the very beginning (romanization: Sze) meant in the service of the King. Hence the definition of Watanabe's Samurai lifelong one true goal - to serve his Emperor, one and only, and to die in the service of the Emperor would be an honor.

The film, directed by Ed Zwick, is truly a combined labor of love of everyone involved. From the producer-lead actor Tom Cruise and Zwick's film-making partner Marshall Herskovitz, cinematography by John Toll and film score by Hans Zimmer, to the costuming details, diverse casting, location scouting all the way to New Zealand and training of the supporting cast - even the official Web site with extensive production notes - all provide enhanced appreciation of this remarkable film. The storyline and drama of "The Last Samurai" evoke various level of emotions, pulling the heartstrings of the audience with high emotional energy - suspense, sadness, smiles, empathy, joy.

"Kagemusha" by Akira Kurosawa, of course, is the ultimate grandeur of a historic Samurai epic. "The Last Samurai" is comparable in drama and treatment if not with equal passionate efforts all round. Both are available on DVD with special features of audio commentary and the making of 'featurette' and more.

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