Like the hit Hulu series Shōgun? Then watch these 5 great movies right now – Digital Trends

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Against all odds, FX’s Shōgun has emerged as the best new TV series of the year so far. Based on James Clavell’s 1975 novel of the same name, the miniseries is a big-budget, sprawling exploration of early 1600s Japan that feels, at times, alternately like a measured political thriller, samurai adventure, and Game of Thrones-esque tale of brutality, honor, and sacrifice. It’s about as visually impressive as a TV series can get, but it backs up its surface-level pleasures with enough narrative and thematic complexity to keep viewers coming back for more.
Even in our current Prestige TV era, shows like Shōgun still seem rare. However, there are a few epic movies that feel like spiritual cousins to the FX drama, including the following five films, all of which are titles that both cinephiles and casual viewers should seek out.
Directed by Akira Kurosawa, Ran is a stunning, 160-minute Shakespeare adaptation that sets the story of King Lear in Medieval Japan. It follows an elderly warlord who, upon retiring, splits his empire between his sons. In doing so, he lays the groundwork for a war that will go on to ravage a once-peaceful, unified land and rob both his children and himself of whatever joy they might have previously known.
It’s a haunting masterpiece and one of the best Japanese movies ever made, that offers even more beautiful images and moments of brutal violence than Shōgun. That said, the film’s scope and its story of bitter, interpersonal, and political rivalries make it a fitting companion piece to the new FX miniseries.
Ran is streaming on Amazon Prime Video via BFI Player Classics.
Shōgun extensively explores how the growing presence of Portuguese traders and Catholics in 1600s Japan shaped and affected some of the policies and political tensions of the time. That makes director Martin Scorsese‘s Silence a must-watch for anyone who finds themselves intrigued by the FX series’ exploration of the conflicts that grew in Japan between the Portuguese Catholics who were already established there, the European Protestants who wanted to create a foothold in the country, and the Japanese natives who were wary of the longterm effects Christianity could have on their nation’s culture.
Set some years after Shōgun, Silence follows a pair of Portuguese Jesuit priests (Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver) who travel to Japan to try to locate their former mentor (Liam Neeson) in a time when the Christian faith is being suppressed throughout the country. It’s a deeply spiritual film that offers new insight into how some of the religious and political tensions set up in Shōgun ultimately played out.
Silence is streaming on Paramount+.
A lot of characters commit seppuku (i.e., a form of Japanese ritualistic suicide) throughout Shōgun‘s 10 episodes, and no movie explores the socially accepted, self-mutilating nature of that act more incisively or memorably than director Masaki Kobayashi’s 1962 masterpiece, Harakiri.
A film about a ronin (Tatsuya Nakadai) who requests to commit seppuku at a feudal lord’s palace only to challenge the reputations of everyone in attendance, Harakiri depicts where real honor comes from, as well as how the very concept could — and frequently was — weaponized throughout feudal Japanese society. It’s a necessary watch for anyone who finds Shōgun‘s ideas about self-sacrifice, bravery, and ideological commitment at all compelling.
Harakiri can be rented or purchased on Amazon Prime Video.
Another late-career masterpiece from legendary Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa, Kagemusha tells the story of a thief (Tatsuya Nakadai) with a shocking resemblance to a samurai warlord who is selected to serve as his doppelgänger’s double. When the lord in question later dies, his second is forced to assume his fake role full-time and lead entire armies into battle.
Along the way, Kagemusha emerges as an evocative treatise on not only the responsibility one bears to one’s culture, country, and fellow men but also how damaging the divisions that separate the poor from the rich and the powerful from the powerless can be to a nation’s future. It’s a perfect film to watch alongside Shōgun, a series about a powerful lord (Hiroyuki Sanada) willing to push his subjects as far as possible to ensure their loyalty.
Kagemusha can be rented or purchased on Amazon Prime Video.
A 1970s neo-noir directed by Sydney Pollack and written by Paul Schrader and Robert Towne, The Yakuza follows an American P.I. (Robert Mitchum) who returns to Japan to rescue the kidnapped daughter of a friend and call upon the debt of a former yakuza gangster (Ken Takakura) to help him do it. As straightforward as its plot may seem, there’s more going on beneath the surface of The Yakuza than you think.
What starts as a simple crime thriller grows into a moving tale of two men bound to each other by fate and a shared sense of honor. It is, in part, a film about a Westerner with a deep respect for Japanese culture who comes to realize the impact that his mere presence can have on a foreign land, which is why it’s a worthy entry on this list.
Like Shōgun, it’s about how a series of cultural clashes can pave the way for a deeper sense of mutual understanding than anyone might expect.
The Yakuza is streaming on Hulu.
Throughout his long career in Hollywood (dating back to The Goonies), Josh Brolin has proven that he can be a little bit of a chameleon. He fits just as well in the world of Dune, for example, as he does in worlds that are much more grounded in reality.
Now that he’s set to return as Gurney Halleck in Dune 2, though, this is the perfect moment to check out a few of the other great movies that Brolin has made throughout his career. Here are three you should definitely start with:
Sicario (2015)
The first two months of 2024 have been slow at the box office. There have been far more misses than hits. It’s a bad sign when Madame Web is the most memorable film of 2024, but for all the wrong reasons. These negative feelings are about to change with Dune: Part Two on March 1. The sequel to Denis Villeneuve’s Dune continues the story of Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) and his mission to unite the Fremen people of Arrakis in a war against the Harkonnens.
After watching Dune: Part Two, are you craving more sci-fi adventures? Below, we selected five great sci-fi films to explore after your trip to Arrakis. Our picks include a Christopher Nolan spy thriller, one of the greatest sequels ever, and an earlier film in Villeneuve’s filmography.
Tenet (2020)
You’d be hard-pressed not to find something worth watching on Hulu. The streaming service has a great selection of fabulous TV series, including several that have won numerous Emmys, like The Bear, along with exciting new shows like Shōgun and Percy Jackson and the Olympians. Via partnerships with other streaming services like Disney+ and networks like FX and ABC, the library of titles goes well beyond just Hulu originals.
Hulu is the perfect place to start if you’re looking for a great new show to add to your watch list. We have you covered with this consistently updated list of the best shows on Hulu right now. Whether it’s a new show or one that has been around for months, even years, you’ll find something that suits your mood and genre preference here.
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