The Last Samurai

Warner Bros. Released 2003




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Movie Summary

Edward Zwick

The Last Samurai is a story about a troubled former captain of the United States Army whose life gets turned upside down when he experiences and eventually embraces Japanese culture and customs. Cruise plays Captain Nathan Algren, a veteran of the Civil War and the Indian Wars. In the latter conflict, Algren participated in the massacre of defenseless Native Americans, an event that has haunted him ever since. Years later, he's an unemployed alcoholic in need of a job. He agrees to travel to Japan and help train Japanese troops in the ways of Western combat, lending his assistance to the Meiji Restoration Movement. The government's efforts to modernize Japan's military are radical, as it requires the dramatic upheaval of centuries of Japanese honorable tradition including the destruction of the Japanese samurai. As Algren attempts to train the woefully under-skilled Japanese soldiers, he begins to sympathize with the plight of the samurai.


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Metacritic Score

  • 70

    Los Angeles Times Manohla Dargis

    Taken on the level of spectacle rather than of sense, The Last Samurai affords the sort of fizzy enjoyment that can come with epic movie endeavors, including a meticulously detaile...

  • 60

    The New York Times A.O. Scott

    Most watchable during the majestic brutality of the battle sequences. This is not only because of the handsome staging, but also because the keywords sacrifice and honor are evoked...

  • 50

    Variety Todd McCarthy

    As rich in period and historical background as it is deficient in fresh dramatic and thematic ideas.

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


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  • NOTES (6)

    • Production Budget - $140,000,000
      Domestic Gross - $111,127,263 (20th)
      Worldwide Gross - $456,758,981 (6th)

      Domestic adjusted for 2013 - $150,381,172
      Worldwide adjusted for 2013 - $618,101,706

    • Other production companies:
      Bedford Falls Company
      The Cruise / Wagner Productions
      Radar Pictures

    • Filming locations:
      Santa Clarita, California
      Awaji City, Hyogo, Japan
      Castle Green Apartments, Pasadena, California
      Henderson Valley Studios, Henderson, Auckland, New Zealand
      Mount Taranaki, Taranaki, New Zealand
      New Plymouth, Taranaki, New Zealand
      Nijo Castle, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto, Japan
      Pukekura Park, New Plymouth, Taranaki, New Zealand
      Shoshazan Engyo-ji Temple, Himeji, Japan
      Warner Brothers Burbank Studios, Burbank, California
      Uruti Valley, Uruti, Taranaki, New Zealand

    • Tagline:
      In the face of an enemy, in the Heart of One Man, Lies the Soul of a Warrior.

    • Music:
      Performed by Tokyo Gakuso

    • Academy Awards Nominations:
      1. Supporting Actor - Ken Watanabe (won by Tim Robbins for Mystic River)
      2. Art Direction
      3. Costume Design
      4. Sound


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