263 user 128 critic

The Art of Self-Defense (2019)

2:29 | Trailer
After being attacked on the street, a young man enlists at a local dojo, led by a charismatic and mysterious sensei, in an effort to learn how to defend himself from future threats.


Riley Stearns


Riley Stearns
4,553 ( 61)
5 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Jesse Eisenberg ... Casey
Alessandro Nivola ... Sensei
Imogen Poots ... Anna
Steve Terada ... Thomas
David Zellner ... Henry
Phillip Andre Botello ... Kennith
Jason Burkey ... Alex
Mike Brooks Mike Brooks ... Steve
C.J. Rush ... Other Steve (as CJ Rush)
Davey Johnson ... Gun Store Owner
Hauke Bahr ... Grant
Katherine Martin Katherine Martin ... Bakery Woman
Cameron Murphy ... New White Belt (as Patrick Cameron Murphy)
Nicholas Hulstine Nicholas Hulstine ... Pickup Truck Driver
Lena Friedrich Lena Friedrich ... French Girl


After he's attacked on the street at night by a roving motorcycle gang, timid bookkeeper Casey (Jesse Eisenberg) joins a neighborhood karate studio to learn how to protect himself. Under the watchful eye of a charismatic instructor, Sensei (Alessandro Nivola), and hardcore brown belt Anna (Imogen Poots), Casey gains a newfound sense of confidence for the first time in his life. But when he attends Sensei's mysterious night classes, he discovers a sinister world of fraternity, brutality and hyper-masculinity, presenting a journey that places him squarely in the sights of his enigmatic new mentor. Written by Bleecker Street

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for violence, sexual content, graphic nudity and language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


In the photograph of the master in the dojo you can see, behind the master, a picture of Morihei Ueshiba Osensei the founder of the martial art of aikido. This implies that the master trained as an aikidoka. Aikido, loosely translated, means 'The Way of Spiritual Harmony'. This is puzzling since aikido is a grappling art more akin to judo than to the striking art, karate. See more »


Sensei: [after Anna beats a fellow student to a pulp] You're done for the night.
Anna: So is he.
See more »

Crazy Credits

SPOILER:The wall of the dojo is shown. Next to the Grand Master is now a photo of Casey's deceased dachshund. He can be heard in the background teaching the children's class. See more »


Can You Hear Me Now?
Performed by Donald McMichael
Written by Donald McMichael
See more »

User Reviews

Spoofing self-important martial arts posers
15 April 2020 | by choosefakenameSee all my reviews

Remember that scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), when a sword fighter performs fancy Martial Arts tricks - and Indiana Jones nonchalantly shoots him? Probably it was an old joke even back then, and people had seen it many times before. Nevertheless, today - almost fourty years later -, Riley Stones has based a whole movie on that same joke. The Art of Self-Defense is all about the overblown antics of wannabe martial arts super heroes, and a bullet being superior to their bs. And guess what: It still works, it still is funny! The Art if Self Defense is a slow paced film, and very different to the usual Hollywood output today, you need to accept this and be somewhat open minded towards unconventional storytelling, but it's definitely worth it. Jesse Eisenberg delivers a great performance, and the rest of the cast does a good job, too. Especially if you're with the NRA, you'll be happy to find a movie that agrees with your politics, and Charles Bronson is not even in it!

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Official Sites:

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English | French | German

Release Date:

19 July 2019 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Art of Self-Defense See more »

Filming Locations:

Louisville, Kentucky, USA


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$114,374, 14 July 2019

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

Production Co:

End Cue See more »
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Technical Specs




Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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