Enter the Ninja

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For the song by Die Antwoord, see 5 (Die Antwoord EP). For all other uses, see Ninja (disambiguation).
Enter the Ninja
Film poster designed by Design Projects, Inc.
Directed by Menahem Golan
Produced by Yoram Globus
Menahem Golan
Written by Dick Desmond
Story by Mike Stone
Starring Franco Nero
Susan George
Sho Kosugi
Christopher George
Music by W. Michael Lewis
Laurin Rinder
Cinematography David Gurfinkel
Edited by Michael J. Duthie
Mark Goldblatt
Distributed by Cannon Films
Release dates
October 23, 1981
Running time
101 minutes
Language English
Budget $1.5 million

Enter the Ninja is a 1981 ninja action film directed by Menahem Golan and starring Franco Nero, Susan George, Christopher George, and Sho Kosugi. It is often credited with starting the "Ninja Movie" craze of the 1980s. It was the first in Cannon Films' "Ninja Trilogy" anthology series, followed by Revenge of the Ninja and Ninja III: The Domination.


Cole, a veteran of the Angolan Bush War, completes his ninjutsu training in Japan. Cole goes to visit his war buddy Frank Landers and his newlywed wife Mary Ann Landers, who are the owners of a large piece of farming land in the Philippines. Cole soon finds that the Landers are being repeatedly harassed by a wealthy CEO named Charles Venarius in order to get them to sell their property because, unbeknownst to them, a large oil deposit is located beneath their land. After beginning to thwart Venarius' hired henchmen's attempts to bully and coerce the Landers into the selling of their property to Venarius, Cole eventually finds himself facing an old rival from the days of his training – Hasegawa, who was hired by Venarius as an assassin to eliminate Cole. In the midst of these events, an affair occurs between Cole and Mary one evening.



Production was started in the Philippines with Emmett Alston directing, but when Charles Bronson refused to allow Menahem Golan to direct Death Wish II, Golan, a co-principal of Cannon Films which was producing both movies, took over directing duties of Ninja, replacing Alston.

The film was initially conceptualized by martial artist and stuntman Mike Stone. He wrote the initial screenplay, which shared similarities to the popular novel The Ninja by Eric Van Lustbader, which at the time was being developed into a film by John Carpenter. The final screenplay was written by Stone, Dick Desmond, and an uncredited Menahem Golan. Originally, the role of Cole was intended to be played by Stone himself, but he was let go due to a lack of acting experience. Franco Nero, who had no prior knowledge of martial arts but was discovered by the producers attending a film festival in Manila, was cast instead, while Stone doubled for the more elaborate fight scenes. The film was shot primarily in the Philippines, with some additional footage shot in Japan. This was Sho Kosugi's first major English-language film role.


The film received mixed to positive reviews from critics at the time of its release.

Considering that all the action stunts in the film were practical and done with specially-choreographed fight sequences, the film was shot with potential dangers. Some critics would point out its occasional campy tone while some praising the production values of the relatively low-budget film.

During recent times, it is criticized for having "cheesy acting" and receives negative reviews at the moment. Despite receiving countless of negative reviews these days, a few critics have managed to appreciate the film and the film has garnered a "cult following". This was the original ninja movie that started the "80's craze". The film was followed by two sequels, the second receiving the best reviews in the series and the last receiving the worst reviews.


The film was followed by Revenge of the Ninja in 1983 with Kosugi as the only returning cast member. Kosugi would also return in the third Ninja film, Ninja III: The Domination, in 1984.

Home media[edit]

The film has been released on VHS and Beta during the 1980s, but an official US DVD release had long eluded the masses until MGM issued as part of its Limited Edition Collection (a series of manufactured-on-demand DVD-Rs) in October 2011.[1] The film had also been distributed on DVD in the UK by Lighthouse (2001) and Optimum Entertainment (2011). In 2015, the film was released on Blu-ray by Kino Lorber.


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