Most Highly Recommended Anime Action/Adventure
Nausicaa – Epic fantasy by Hayao Miyazaki & Isao Takahata before they formed Studio Ghibli.
Castle of Cagliostro – Heist comedy from the beloved Lupin manga/anime series, Lupin III, and Hayao Miyazaki’s feature film debut as director.
Ninja Scroll – Intense, artful, bloody ninja quest movie, basically following the structure of an old computer game (but, man, are the fights something to watch).
Castle in the Sky – The first film by Studio Ghibli: an epic adventure piece, playing to Miyazaki’s twin passions of early 20th Century aeronautics and environmental consciousness.
Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust – Beautiful gothic horror actioner set a post-apocalyptic wasteland of demons and ghouls.
Dead Leaves – I.G. Productions’ visual distillation of pure adrenaline – one of the most excessive and creative festivals of cartoon violence that one could ever ask for.
Redline – The same kind of fun as Dead Leaves with more plot, more detailed, immersive, luscious visuals and more boobs.
Most Highly Recommended Martial Arts Spectacles
The Raid: Redemption – The purest action film of the 21st Century.
Ong-Bak – The film that launched Thai martial arts super-star Tony Jaa, whose gifts for kicking sevens hades of shit out of his fellow human beings and talent for surviving gymnastic stunts are exploited to great effect in an all-round brilliant pop-corn movie.
Drunken Master – One of Jackie Chan’s first great successes from Hong Kong and a brilliantly funny and inventive martial arts fest.
Chocolate – Inventive, spectacular but down-to-earth Thai martial arts extravaganza about an autistic savant’s ability to pick-up new martial arts styles as and when she faces new fighters. Not much plot or character development here, but still just enough to keep things coherent between the awesome set-pieces.
The Protector – Worth seeing for this scene alone> ALL. ONE. SHOT. MOTHERFUCKER. The movie itself, is pretty rubbish in every respect, save for the stupefying fight sequences, which work like a greatest-hits showreel of world martial arts, from muy-tai to capoeira. Just don’t expect any plot, character development or anything resembling substance and you can just sit back to enjoy the fights.
Most Highly Recommended Chanbara Pictures
Harakiri – A blisteringly tense deconstruction of the myth of the Samurai Code of Honor; culminating in one of the finest Man vs. An Army Of Henchmen fight scenes ever shot!
Yojimbo – The world’s first Japanese western and one of the most all-around entertaining and substantial action films you could every ask for.
Sanjuro – Sequel/prequel to Yojimbo and, amazingly, no less stunning or entertaining; culminating in cinema’s best 1.5-second sword fight.
Baby Cart at the River Styx – Brutal Chanbara fantasy and the strongest entry in a legendary 1970s series of gore-splattered adventures about a former shogunate executioner-turned wandering ronin.