As stated in a previous post, Ninja were all the rage in the 1980’s-early 1990’s and the phenomenon left a pop culture landscape dealing with the mystery of the Ninja and Ninjutsu. Ninjutsu will always have a special place in my heart. In the 1990’s I trained for two years in Dexter, MI ( a few minutes outside of Ann Arbor, MI) with Sensei Otto Cardew then 3rd Degree Black Belt with the Bujinkan Ninpo System. The lore of the Ninja was and is strong and these movies helped build the image in the minds of fans (especially those of us growing up in the 1980’s). The following list is some of the memorable movies, TV shows and other media that helped fuel the Ninja craze of the 1980’s and early 1990’s. Enjoy and feel free to debate!!!!
10. The Master TV series
A Ninja (Lee Van Cleef) and his disciple look for his long lost daughter while he uses his skills to help others and thwart the attack of a powerful Ninja( Sho Kosugi) from his clan hellbent on destroying him for leaving the Ninja Clan.
9. The Octagon
Chuck Norris steps into the role of Ninja Master Scott who busts a crime ring known as The Octagon which employ Ninjas to do their dirty work.
8. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Heroes in a half-shell!
7. Ninja 3: The Domination
Ninja black magic, cheesy special effects and Sho Kosugi make this a classic!
6. Stephen K. Hayes
One of the first Americans to study Ninjutsu in Japan, Sentoshi Hayes wrote articles for Inside Kung fu, Inside Karate, Ninja Magazine, Black Belt and authored a series of books about the Ninja and their fighting arts. He was also featured in more mainstream magazines dealing with counter-terrorism and self-defense.
5. Grandmaster Masaaki Hatsumi
Stephen K. Hayes’ teacher and the modern ninja Grandmaster who authored books, produced instructional videos, and opened his dojo doors to people from all around the world to spread his Bujinkan Ninpo system.
4. Five Element Ninja
The Shaw Brothers and martial arts maestro Chang Cheh get into the act and make one of the best Ninja movies in martial arts movie history! The Five Element formation vs the Chinese ancestor style to the Ninja makes for great and bloody fight scenes.
4a Ninja in the Deadly Trap
Kuo Chui, Chiang Sheng, Lu Feng make their Taiwan Ninja debut with this great entry. Furious fights, acrobatics, and bloody killing!!! Did I mention Yusuaki Karata is the main villain? Enough said!!!
4b Ninja in the Dragon’s Den
Conan Lee and Hiroyuki Sanada fight each other and the evil Ninjas hell bent on destroying a old ninja in hiding. Ng See Yuen produced and Cory Yuenb directed!!! Great fight scenes!!!
3. American Ninja
Cannon Films hit the jackpot with the first of the American Ninjas series starring Michael Dudikoff and the highly underrated Steve James. Ninja stealth, magic, and the mystique surrounding the Ninja make this a classic of the genre.
2. Shogun’s Ninja
Sonny Chiba, Hiroyuki Sanada, and the Japan Action Club bring the goods in this film about the fall of the Momochi Clan and the rise of the Tokugawa Shogunate. One of Chiba and Sanada’s best performances ( and the dubbing was the same crew as the HK kung fu movies)!
1. Sho Kosugi!
Sho Kosugi was THE MAN when it came to Ninja related movies and TV shows in the 1980’s. He was featured in movies such as Enter the Ninja, Revenge of the Ninja () , The Master TV series, appeared with JCVD in Black Eagle, and choreographed the Ninja sequences in his movies and many others. He was the MVP of the Ninja boom and also appeared in magazines, books, and other media!