American Ninja

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American Ninja
American Ninja.jpg
Promotional poster for the film.
Directed by Sam Firstenberg
Produced by Yoram Globus
Menahem Golan
Written by Gideon Amir
Avi Kleinberger
Starring Michael Dudikoff
Steve James
John Fujioka
Judie Aronson
Distributed by Cannon Group
Release dates
August 30, 1985
Running time
95 min.
Country United States
Language English
Budget $1,000,000 (estimated)

American Ninja is a 1985 ninja action film produced by Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus's Cannon Films. Directed by Sam Firstenberg, who specialized in this genre in the 1980s, the film stars Michael Dudikoff in the title role, with Steve James as his side-kick. Domestic box office grosses for the picture totaled $10,499,694.


Pvt. Joe Armstrong (Michael Dudikoff) chooses to enlist in the US army rather than go to prison and finds himself fighting off ninjas on a base in the Philippines. When he saves Patricia (Judie Aronson), the base colonel's daughter, from kidnapping but loses everyone else in the platoon, Joe's popularity with his colleagues drops precipitously and he becomes the target of revenge of the lead ninja (Tadashi Yamashita).

While performing his daily chores, Cpl. Curtis Jackson (Steve James) antagonizes Joe and challenges him to a match. Joe easily wins, showing off his ninjutsu skills and impresses Jackson, earning the respect of the others as well. Jackson gets the whole story from Joe: he has amnesia, but he always remembers his ninjutsu moves, and that has helped him with his instinct for survival. Patricia arrives back on the base and arranges a date night, Jackson and Charley Madison (Phil Brock) sneak him off the base, but they are caught during dinner by Rinaldo, who is having a business dinner with Ortega (meaning they're in league together). To ensure his elimination, Rinaldo leads him to an abandoned warehouse on the pretense of dropping off some supplies. Ninjas ambush Joe, but Joe quickly kills all of them. Somebody steals his truck and Joe chases him on motorbike. The driver tails Joe, crushing his bike and thinks he is dead. Joe, however, rides under the car and gets a glimpse into Ortega's operation and the ninja training: he is smuggling weapons from the U.S. Army and selling them to the highest bidder. He is caught by ninjas and fights, but later makes his escape thanks to Ortega's helper named Shinyuki (John Fujioka). Joe is immediately placed under arrest by military police upon his arrival at the base. Jackson later protests to Rinaldo that the charges are not justified. The black star ninja leader sneaks in to the MP holding cells that night, and kills all the stationed MP officers before trying to kill Joe. Joe escapes, and challenges him to a duel before other MP officers arrive at the scene. One MP is found with a throwing star lodged in his head, this further implicates Joe as a murderer. Joe explains everything to Jackson, who brings Patricia along as well.

Joe informs William of the hijacked weapons, but not before he is betrayed when Williams orders Rinaldo to finish it. The black star ninja leader arrives at the house and kidnaps Patricia, while Ortega threatens Williams, who has been involved in the scheme the whole time. At the same time, Joe drives off with Rinaldo and his men on the trail. Joe's car clips Rinaldo's that sends him off course and into a tree, killing him instantly. Joe sneaks back into Ortega's, reuniting him with Shinyuki. It is revealed that Shinyuki raised Joe when he was a baby, training him in the art of Ninjutsu before a bomb blast separates them both. With the remaining time left, Shinyuki completes Joe's training and begin an assault on Ortega's base. Shinyuki dies in battle, as the Army officers arrive on the scene with Hickock leading the way. Hickock is killed by Ortega, and the black star ninja leader is killed by Joe. Ortega leaves with Patricia in the chopper, but Joe rescues Patricia in time for Jackson to fire a missile at the helicopter, killing Ortega.



The film was originally called American Warrior and was released in UK cinemas under that title, but was changed to American Ninja for all other releases. The trailer (included on the DVD) contains the original title. In Germany, however, the film was released under the title American Fighter. It was also the first of three films pairing Michael Dudikoff and Steve James, the other two being American Ninja 2: The Confrontation and Avenging Force.[citation needed]


American Ninja received a mixed reception with critics.[1][2][3]


  1. ^ Kogan, Rick (1985-09-03). "`Ninja` Has The Fights, But No Fire". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2010-09-04. 
  2. ^ "`American Ninja` An Embarrassment". Sun Sentinel. Retrieved 2010-09-04. 
  3. ^ Blowen, Michael (August 31, 1985). "'AMERICAN NINJA' OFFERS GRATUITOUS VIOLENCE". Boston Globe. 

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