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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 299,291 users   Metascore: 55/100
Reviews: 924 user | 189 critic | 44 from Metacritic.com

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 19 wins & 45 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 »


During the wooden sword fight in the rain, (after Nathan spars with one of the young boys), he gets a bloody nose from a blow to the face. In the very next shot, the blood is gone. 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 Selfie: Traumatic Party Stress Disorder (2014) See more »


Performed by Tokyo Gakuso
Courtesy of Columbia Music Entertainment, Inc.
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Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

"Success is a journey, not a destination" - Zen saying
30 August 2004 | by (the heartland) – See all my reviews

The Last Samurai is a strictly by-the-numbers samurai epic set in 1876-1877 Japan. All the necessary ingredients are here - beautiful Japanese landscapes and costumes, larger than life battlefield sequences, and eastern philosophy.Although the pageantry is not as beautiful as such samurai epics as "Heaven and Earth", it is more than adequate.

Do not, however go into this film expecting "Kill Bill", grindhouse type swordplay nor the poignancy of a Kurosawa piece. Instead, "The Last Samurai" occupies the middle ground; a human story of one Westerner learning to embrace another culture kind of a mixture of "Dances With Wolves" and "Shogun", films from which it derives almost directly. And this is the films greatest flaw. It is utterly predictable. No spoilers here, we all know what happens to the samurai. If not, the title ought to give you a clue. Every scene is one that you were expecting to see. And the ending is the ending you expect.

But Zwick and co. still manage to weave an engaging story with panache, and a climactic (despite it's predictability) ending, and that is why "The Last Samurai" is such a great film. As the Zen saying goes, "Success is a journey, not a destination". It is equally applicable to the samurai in the film, and the film itself. A success. 8/10.

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