Ninjas in fiction are usually very dramatic, highly visible acrobats, dressed in black pajamas and ski masks, who kill people with weapons like nunchakus, throwing stars, etc.

To the best of my knowledge, historically real ninjas tended to dress like people of different social groups, usually low-status ones (servants, peasants, bakers, fisher-people, etc.), and to fight with things like farming implements.

I can't seem to find a single film that attempted to depict ninjas in a more realistic and historically-accurate way. Was there ever any movie or TV show about, or with, this type of relatively realistic ninja?

  • 4
    How is this off-topic? "Is there a movie that portrays <something often seen in movies> in a historically correct manner?" sounds perfectly on-topic to me. Jake's very good answer, in my opinion, confirms that. Dec 25, 2015 at 0:33
  • Voted to reopen (though I admit it's a tough call)
    – Walt
    Jan 2, 2016 at 16:44
  • PS. By "realistic," I don't mean necessarily 100% true-to-life, with nothing far-fetched. It might also count if there was a movie/show/comic about ninjas who were masters of disguise and of fighting with farming implements (or weapons that looked like farming implements), who were Batman-level fighters, but never wore black pajamas and ski masks etc.
    – user24353
    Jan 3, 2016 at 21:52

3 Answers 3


You are 100% correct. According to this excellent article on Kotaku, pretty much everything most people assume about ninjas—black pajamas, throwing stars, swords, etc…—is utter nonsense. The traditional role that grew to be known as a “ninja” was simply that of a spy. As Matt Alt—co-author of the book Ninja Attack—explains:

A 15th century ninja would laugh out loud at the sight of a dude in black pajamas running around a modern city. The whole point of a ninja was to blend in.


Imagine that the year is 1600. Two of your enemies are fighting a battle, so you send a couple of guys dressed as farmers to the area to watch the battle and report back to about what's happening. That’s ninja work.

And the article then explains a perfect example of this kind of work/role can be found in Akira Kurosawa’s 1980 film, Kagemusha: The Shadow Warrior:

[The film] is set in the Sengoku period of Japanese history and tells the story of a lower-class criminal who is taught to impersonate a dying daimyo (feudal lord) in order to dissuade opposing lords from attacking the newly vulnerable clan.

Here is the trailer for the film:


Ninjas both dressed as farmers to blend in AND in black to camouflage and disguise themselves in woods, shadows, water etc. The term ninja though refers to actions and skills rather than outfit. Great films to watch are Shinobi No Mono which was filmed using Sensei Hatsumi and his grand master Takamatsu as trainers and consultants so the techniques are absolutely accurate and historically correct, and the film is based on true stories. Also Zatoichi film is technically correct, shows a completely different perspective of ninjas, but still historically correct. Zatoichi is like the Robin Hood of Japanese folk law. Both ninja films, both realistic, both different!


As odd as it is, it seems "You Only Live Twice" -yes the bond film, might be closest thing to a movie containing realistic ninjas...They blended in with the locals, then attacked by surprise. Probably a stretch, but not the worst.

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