13 Assassins

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
13 Assassins Movie Poster Image
Incredibly violent samurai movie with epic battle scene.
  • R
  • 2011
  • 126 minutes

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 1 review

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The movie's main theme is revenge, although the target is a sociopath so unspeakably evil that his death feels like a good deed. (It is implied that killing him will save the lives of many future victims.) Characters bravely and calmly agree to risk their lives and work together to stop him.

Positive Role Models & Representations

All of the characters are brave, and each gets a chance to prove himself in battle. The leader of the group is the most noble, and encourages a spirit of teamwork. But the most changed over the course of the film is the bandit. By the end, he has renounced his shady ways and promises to settle down with the girl he loves.


Not much happens until the movie's final third, when it turns into one of the longest, bloodiest, and most sustained battle sequences ever filmed. There are literally rivers of blood flowing from the hundreds of dead bodies slain on the battlefield, in addition to spurting and spraying blood. We see one of the villain's victims, a woman with her arms and legs chopped off (and her tongue cut out). It's a gruesome, disturbing sight. Characters use swords, bows and arrows, bombs, and fire. We see bashing, stabbing, and beheadings. Bulls are lit on fire and sent into battle. The villain rapes women, and kills women and children (all off-screen). A man commits hara-kiri (off-screen).


There's no sex, but a naked woman is shown; she's the victim of the main villain; her arms, legs, and tongue have all been cut off. Needless to say, it's not a sensual image, but rather a violent and disturbing one. There's also some sexual innuendo in the form of dialogue among the men. A small naked boy is seen urinating.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The men drink sake in one scene, in a social setting.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that 13 Assassins is an incredibly violent samurai action movie, from the maverick Japanese cult director Takashi Miike, who is known for some of the most intense movies of the past ten years (including Audition). The final 45 minutes of the movie is a bloody, sustained battle sequence that literally includes rivers of blood, spraying and spurting blood, and hundreds of dead bodies. Weapons used include swords, bows and arrows, fire, and bombs. Rape, the murder of women and children, and the act of hara-kiri are all portrayed off-screen. Most disturbingly, we see one of the villain's victims: a naked woman whose arms, legs, and tongue have been cut off. Additionally, there's some sexual innuendo and some sake drinking. This review applies to the American theatrical release and the DVD/Blu-Ray release, which runs 126 minutes. The original Japanese version, which is not yet officially available in the U.S., runs 141 minutes. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bydarthsitkur October 21, 2012

It was alright, but the first half was pretty slow

I thought this movie was okay, the first half was just really slow, but the second half was a huge shot of adrenaline, the set piece battle was freakin awesome... Continue reading

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What's the story?

In 1844, samurai Sinzaemon Shimada (Koji Yakusho) is chosen to assassinate the sadistic sociopath Lord Naritsugu (Goro Inagaki), who likes to cut off the arms and legs of his female companions when he's through with them. For the good of the nation, Naritsugu must be killed before he advances to a more powerful position and leads the country to war. Shimada finds 11 volunteers for this dangerous mission. On the road, they meet the 13th team member, the gleeful, half-mad hunter Koyata Kiga (Yusuke Iseya). Then comes the final battle, in which the assassins attack the evil warlord and his seemingly endless run of guards. Can anyone survive this onslaught?

Is it any good?

A remake of a 1963 movie, this is basically a Seven Samurai, Dirty Dozen-style "assemble the team" film that starts slowly, and keeps moving fairly slowly until the big 45-minute blowout battle. In the lead role, the fine actor Koji Yakusho isn't used to his maximum potential here; he usually has a kind of distant sadness that doesn't quite come across. Moreover, viewers that know director Takashi Miike's other work will find this movie a tad... ordinary.

But on the plus side, 13 Assassins is a terrific way for newcomers -- older teens only -- to be introduced to Miike's work, and to Japanese cinema in general. Moreover, Yusuke Iseya, who plays the gleefully scrappy hunter, brings a much-needed injection of life into the film's second act; his energy keeps things humming. And the battle scene itself should be studied by 95% of so-called action directors in America. Miike really shows how it's done. (Tsuyoshi Ihara from Letters from Iwo Jima also stars.)

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the movie's bloody violence. How does it affect you? Is it thrilling? Disgusting? Boring? What effect do you think the director was trying to achieve?

  • Is revenge a good motive in this movie? Does the sheer evilness of the villain justify the heroes' acts?

  • Are the samurai in this movie good role models? Why or why not?

Movie details

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