top of page
  • Writer's pictureMatteo Pascale

The Influence of Japanese Samurai and Horror Films on Western Cinema

The topic for this annotated bibliography is regarding Japanese Samurai films and horror films and their influence on western films. This is a very broad topic, and the influence ranges from important directors such as Akira Kurosawa, Toshiro Mifune, and Takashi Shimura. They directed classic Japanese films from the 1950s onward to the 1990s. Their films such as The Seven Samurai, Godzilla, and Rashomon. These famous directors and films have direct influence on many films that have become cultural icons and award-winning films over the past fifty years. The paper will include some discussion about the role of money in the art of filmmaking and look at Benjamin and Adorno’s works to investigate their criticism.

While researching this topic, it becomes apparent that many films in western cinema as it exists today have direct roots in Japanese films. Imagine if there were no westerns, no Star Wars franchise, no Kill Bill franchise, and many of Hollywood’s best directors, such as Tarantino, George Lucas, and Christopher Nolan. Today, additionally the horror film genre has been very much impacted by the Japanese film tradition, and there are new directors who are influenced by the genre, as Jordan Peele references certain scenes in Japanese horror films. While the average viewer in the United States would not necessarily see this connection, once these films are researched and viewed, the way in which Japan has changed Hollywood and the European film tradition is evident.

1. Thorne, Roland. “Samurai Films—History and criticism.” Harpenden, Herts: Kamera Books. 2008. Print.

This book is an excellent source since it references Samurai films that have action, drama, character-driven conflict and loyalty, and the historical setting of pre-industrial Japan. The main argument of the book is that the subgenre of Samurai films is very popular around the world and has had a tremendous influence on world cinema. This author analyzes key films and directors, such as Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress and Yojimbo, and Seven Samurai, and how they influenced Lucas, Tarantino, and others. The author wrote the book while studying film and media. It is written in an informal style and has been reviewed for its interesting connections between Japanese and western films.

2. Prajapati, Rajiv. 1/2/2023. “8 Westerns That Were Inspired by Samurai Movies.”

In this article, the author writes about numerous films and directors from the west who have adapted Japanese films. It opens with an example of an iconic spaghetti western, “A Fistful of Dollars” which was directed by Sergio Leone and starring Clint Eastwood, and it was the film that made him a star. When viewing this film, this film is adapted from Akira Kurosawa’s, “Yojimbo.” The 1966 release of Django, a spaghetti western, was made to continue the success of “A Fistful of Dollars.” The original Django was directed by Enzo Barboni. The release of Django can be interpreted as an extended adaptation of “Yojimbo” and “A Fistful of Dollars.” With this, one begins to see how the borrowing of and adaptations and becoming more ingrained in the western film culture. They have been huge money-makers for Hollywood and the directors. The industry has profited in many ways from this sub-genre of the Samurai film.

3. Campbell, Kambole. 2021. “Go west: 8 Japanese classics and the western films inspired by

This article on this website is important for this research because it lists the original films and directors from Japan and the specific western directors who were either inspired or directly remade the films. This article on this website shows the titles, stills from the films, and a comparison of remakes or influences. For example, the film Seven Samurais originally released in 1954, directly influenced The Magnificent Seven, released in the United States in 1960 and directed by John Sturges. One of the more famous remakes, “Kill Bill” was taken from a movie, “Lady Snow Blood” directed by Toshiya Fujita made in 1973. When watching the original movies, the movements of the kendo work are mimicked exactly. This website includes important information on a range of genres and examples of the important influence on western cinema.

4. Adordo,Theodor, Max Horkeimer. “Adordo-Horkeimer-Culture Industry.pdf.” from Dialectic of Enlightenment, New York: Continuum, 1993) (Originally published as Dialektik der Augklarung, 1944). Print.

This article can be used as part of criticism to point out how the culture industry in Hollywood and other European and western directors are using Japanese films as a cultural system of standardizing visual representation in cinema to make money and reproduce existing films as a means of making money through mass production of cultural products. “It has made the technology of the culture industry no more than the achievement of standardization and mass production, sacrificing whatever involved a distinction between the logic of the work and that of the social system…” This critical essay written about how capitalism produces certain outcomes in cultural production is an interesting aspect to analyze film and media in the twentieth/twenty-first centuries. It shows how cultural reproduction is made to produce great wealth, not great art. The element of the remake cultural appropriation for money-making films falls into this type of analysis.

5. Matt Alt. “The United States of Japan.” The New Yorker, May 4th, 2018.

This article connects how Japan has influenced the United States culture in the past two generations, in its many innovations in technology, video games, robotic toys, and cultural point of view. This article is not a very good source because although it mentions many ways in which Japan has influenced American and all western cultures, it is too broad to use as a good resource. There are only several quotes or paragraphs in this article that refer to film and there is a better source to find connections between original Japanese films and remakes in the west. The article focuses on anime, video games, manga series, and other cultural/social trends rather than focusing on film and cinema.

6. Miura, Shogo, “A comparative analysis of a Japanese film and its American remake” (2008). Master’s Theses. 3488. Master’s Theses and Graduate Research at SJSU Scholarworks.

This research paper explores the many ways in which American films have been remade from Japanese films, including horror films, and explores the relationship between cultures. The author discusses the intricate process of remaking a film for an American audience and what is required to create a film experience that has a successful transition from Japanese culture to American culture. This research paper investigates what a remake entails, and how it is more than just a language translation and explores gender roles in cultural settings shift. This paper will be used to show elements of what must be considered to have a successful remake.

7. Lyon, Peter. “Star Wars V Matrix: How Japanese Cinema Influences Hollywood., June 29, 2016.

This author elaborates on Japanese horror films such as The Ring and The Grudge and Silent Hill, which was a Japanese video game that was adapted into an American movie franchise. The huge influence that Japanese storylines and themes have had on the American horror genre. The Japanese horror film storylines are more developed and have subtle, psychological, and sinister overtones. They use ghost stories and revenge twists that keep audiences engaged and are more sophisticated than American horror genre films. The article also elaborates on Kurosawa’s influence on Star Wars, which can be seen in costumes, names, and traditions that are part of the Star Wars Galaxy. Similarly, The Matrix is based on The Ghost in the Shell partially produced by Studio Ghibli.

8. Benjamin, Walter. “Work of Art.pdf. “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.”

The article by Walter Benjamin discusses the role of art in society and what happens when art is reproduced and loses its originality. Walter Benjamin says that art has a way of transporting values. The Samurai in Japanese society represents honor, integrity, loyalty, and discipline. These qualities have become diminished in Western culture, and maybe that is the attraction of the Japanese Samurai film for western directors and audiences, as the reproduction of a tradition that can be admired and consumed.

27 views0 comments


bottom of page