The Last Samurai

Movie review by
Nell Minow, Common Sense Media
The Last Samurai Movie Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
Outstanding action and performance; lots of blood.
  • R
  • 2003
  • 154 minutes

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 12 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 43 reviews

Did we miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.

A lot or a little?

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


Intense battle violence, graphic injuries, characters killed, suicide Nightmare material.


Sexual references.


Strong 19th century language.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Character abuses alcohol, smoking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this movie has extreme and graphic violence with many grisy wounds and a lot of blood. Many characters are killed, including some we have come to care about. Parents should especially be aware of the way that this movie portrays the traditional samurai notion of suicide as an honorable choice in the event of a defeat. The movie also includes some strong language, alcohol abuse, smoking, and sexual references. One of the movie's strengths is its respect for the Japanese culture and its portrayal of strong and respectful relationships between people of different races and cultures.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byMr. Media42 April 2, 2020

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 thi... Continue reading
Adult Written bySteve W August 12, 2019

Great movie was some blood splatter

Great movie. Great message. I did not watch it with my 14 year old son because CommonSense gave it 3 dots for "sexual references." It's possible... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written byTripleR July 12, 2011

Marvelous but with a few disturbances

I am completely in love with this movie!!! I love watching it over and over and the end always makes me at least tear up. I think the positive messages are to n... Continue reading
Kid, 9 years old April 3, 2011

OK Iff your fine with blood and gore

Its an amazing story, about an drunk American captain who drinks to forget about the way he slaughtered the innocent native Indians. He travels to Japan to conq... Continue reading

What's the story?

THE LAST SAMURAI centers on Nathan Algren (Tom Cruise), a Civil War veteran irredeemably corrupted by wartime atrocities and devoid of honor. When he is offered a job to train Japanese soldiers in modern fighting techniques, he does not care whose side he will be on. He is still haunted by a raid that killed civilian Indians. Algren goes to work training soldiers in modern tactics so that they can defeat a samurai rebellion led by Katsumoto (Ken Watanabe). Against his best judgment, the troops are sent in against the samurai too soon. They are defeated, and Algren is captured. Algren learns that the samurai believe that they, not the troops Algren has been training, are doing what the emperor needs. He's impressed and ultimately moved by them. Algren -- or at least the man he once was -- has more in common with the samurais' life of "service, discipline, and compassion" than he has with any of his peers. The samurai have all the honor and self-respect that Algren left behind when he followed orders he despised. Algren is trained by the samurai in the ancient arts, which include not just fighting but living.

Is it any good?

The Last Samurai 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 movie is grounded in committed and thoughtful performances, especially Watanabe and Koyuki as Taka, his 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 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 is grappling with the inevitable in engaging with modernity. The other side may have honor and dignity, but in embracing its own extinction it seems to have forgotten how to do anything but 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 went before.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what it means to say that "A man does what he can until his destiny is revealed."

Movie details

Our editors recommend

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

Streaming options powered by JustWatch

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate