Japanese Movies and Their Hollywood Remakes

photo courtesy of two cups of tea

photo courtesy of two cups of tea

Hollywood has a long and storied history of remaking Japanese movies. Big crossover Japanese hits like The Ring have come along in the flourishing horror genre. But the history of Japanese influence goes back to the ‘50s. In a strange twist on cultural perception, an epic in the American Western genre, The Magnificent Seven, is a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai; the mythologies of the Samurai warrior applied to the Mexican-American border. It works! Pop culture hits also have a habit of crossing over from Tokyo into to Tinsel Town. One of my personal favorites is Shall We Dance?.

Here are more details on these three Japanese movies and their American remakes.


七人の侍  shichinin no samurai   Seven Samurai (1954)

七人の侍 (shichinin no samurai) is a Japanese period film that takes place in 1587 during the Warring States Period of Japan. A village of farmers hires seven masterless samurai to do combat with bandits who steal their crops. The movie is said to be one of the most influential films ever made. Director: Akira Kurosawa. Starring: Toshiro Mifune, Takashi Shimura, Daisuke Kato, Isao Kimura, Minoru Chiaki, Seiji Miyaguchi, and Yoshio Inaba.


The Magnificent Seven (1960)

The Magnificent Seven is a remake of 七人の侍 (shichinin no samurai) in the style of an epic Western. It’s a story of a small Mexican village of farmers hiring seven gunfighters to protect the village from bandits. Through popularity in Europe, oddly enough, the movie became a genre mainstay that spun off a series of lesser sequels. Director: John Sturges. Starring: Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, Robert Vaughn, James Coburn, Brad Dexter, and Horst Buchholz.


リング  ringu  Ring  (1998)

リング (ringu) is a horror film, adapted from the novel Ring by Koji Suzuki. The film tracks a TV reporter who investigates a series of mysterious deaths that appear to originate with a video tape. The surreal contents of the video expose its audience to the evil doings of a vengeful spirit who has been erstwhile locked away by wiser souls. Director: Hideo Nakata. Starring: Nanako Matsushima and Hiroyuki Sanada.

The Ring (2002)

The Ring is a Hollywood remake of リング (ringu). This is the first American remake of a Japanese horror movie. The Ring kicked of a kind of renaissance in U.S. horror films that also includes Japanese remakes of The Grudge, Dark Water, and Pulse.
Like the original, the videotape victims lead investigators to the treacherous ghost of a bad seed salted away for the good of humanity. Director: Gore Verbinski. Starring: Naomi Watts, Daveigh Chase, Brian Cox, and Martin Henderson.



Shall We ダンス?  sharu wii dansu? Shall We Dance?  (1996)

Shall We ダンス? (sharu wii dansu?) tells the tale of a middle-aged accountant who finds the missing passion in his life when he starts taking ballroom dance lessons. The account-dancer keeps his new life a secret which leads to unforeseen consequences in his personal life. The movie exceeds “dance movie” expectation due to a solid script, interesting character studies, and a positive message concerning the liberating power of human creativity. Director: Suo Masayuki. Starring: Koji Yakusho, Tamiyo Kusakari.

Shall We Dance? (2004)

Shall We Dance? is a Hollywood remake of Shall We ダンス? (sharu wii dansu?). In this version of the film, the middle-aged accountant at the center of the Japanese narrative is played by an affluent lawyer who only appears to have it all. When he finally encounters dance, his world is turned upside down (in a good way) Director: Peter Chelsom. Starring: Richard Gere, Jennifer Lopez, and Susan Sarandon.


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