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Parents' Guide to

The Last Samurai

By Nell Minow, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 14+

Japan-set war epic has intense battle violence, drinking.

Movie R 2003 154 minutes
The Last Samurai Movie Poster: Tom Cruise looks serious

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 13+

Based on 8 parent reviews

age 11+

Excellent movie!

This is a fantastic movie with a lot of deep meaning. I agree that it is violent but not overly so, and there is purpose to any scenes of violence unlike most movies today. I am baffled at the sexual content rating as there is zero content and I agree with a previous reviewer about how any looks are wholesome and respectful like in traditional courting. The good messages within the movie definitely outweigh any negative aspects of the movie and there is a lot to be learned about honor, respect of different cultures, not letting mistakes of the past dictate our future and etc. I think the age of the child watching the movie would greatly depend on their intellectual maturity and understanding of history, but also depends on a parent’s ability and willingness to highlight and reinforce the deeper positive messages found within this movie. I do not think the suicide depicted in this movie is like the suicide of today and if a child was interested in the samurai and read about them this information would be present as it is historically significant information. I am also a firm believer that suicide should not be a taboo subject, but should be openly discussed, but that has nothing to do with this movie or the review;)
age 13+

Good Movie With Lessons To Teach

I saw this movie in theatres upon its release and have seen it several times. I even own a copy on DVD. I have a slight disagreement with the reviewers on this site over two categories. These are the Violence and Sex categories. Yes, the movie contains violence. The use of guns and melee weapons, such as the katana sword, are prevalent throughout. However, I would not give the violence a 5-star rating. When I envision a maximum rating on violence movies such as Rambo Last Blood and John Wick 3 come to mind. At most I would give it a 4-star rating for violence. The reviewers also give it a 3-rating in the Sex category. The movie does not contain nudity or sex scenes. You will find much stronger sexual connotations in a CW TV show than you will find in this movie. One last note. Reviewers have also mentioned the movie's inclusion of the topic of suicide. It is important to remember the story takes place in the 1870s when the samurai class of Japan still existed. The practice of seppuku was a rite practiced only by the elite samurai class of Japan. However, the act of "falling on one's sword" has roots going back to ancient Rome and is the last act of Saul recorded in the Christian bible (1 Samuel 31). It was a way to avoid capture and the subsequent torture and humiliation at the hands of one's enemies. The samurai class used it for the same reason and also for a way to atone for the serious offense of bringing shame to themselves or their family. Obviously, we do not practice such rites in our modern society nor should we. Parents can use this movie as a teachable moment for younger people to compare and contrast an ancient culture's understanding of shame and dishonor with that of the society we live in today.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (8 ):
Kids say (41 ):

This epic action drama has some outstanding action scenes and memorable performances, but its greatest strength is its scope. Director/co-author Edward Zwick imbues every part of the screen with respect, even majesty. The epic reach of The Last Samurai is grounded in committed and thoughtful performances, especially from Watanabe and Koyuki as Taka, Katsumoto's sister. Cruise delivers his usual performance, sincere and loaded with movie-star charisma. His mastery of the samurai fighting techniques is impressive.

However, the movie's greatest weakness is that, while we know that Algren's commanding officer is a bad guy, the emperor is a weak guy (who's advised by a greedy guy), and Katsumoto is a good guy, we never understand the substance of the conflict well enough to take sides. One side may be corrupt, but it's grappling with the inevitable in engaging with modernity. And the other side may have honor and dignity, but by embracing its own extinction, it seems to have forgotten how to do anything other than fight, no matter what the consequences to its community. And the last 20 minutes or so are disappointingly formulaic, undercutting the power of everything that came before.

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