Mixed or average reviews - based on 43 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 19 out of 43
  2. Negative: 4 out of 43
Watch On
  1. Reviewed by: Will Lawrence
    The Last Samurai is much more fun than a mere history lesson.
  2. Reviewed by: Richard Schickel
    A movie that demands our surrender -- to its energy, to its bold-stroke moviemaking, to its acting (particularly by Cruise and Watanabe, who blend musing and graceful muscularity) and, above all, to its romantic vision of a lost world.
  3. 88
    Beautifully designed, intelligently written, acted with conviction, it's an uncommonly thoughtful epic. Its power is compromised only by an ending that sheepishly backs away from what the film is really about.
  4. 88
    A rousing tale that combines high adventure with emotional effectiveness. This movie works because it never loses sight of the characters no matter how epic the scope becomes.
  5. In his first role since turning 40, Cruise displays a likable new maturity, and an unexpected willingness to look weak and foolish.
  6. Hugely satisfying entertainment that will attract a broad spectrum of audiences around the world. Zwick fully exploits the star power at his disposal, pairing off Cruise and Japanese star Ken Watanabe as two larger-than-life warriors.
  7. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    Even if you think Cruise has never had a moment of doubt in his life, he makes Nathan's self-loathing palpable, and the character's regeneration has a hoarse, cautious purposefulness that's striking.
  8. A handsome epic, a brave-hearted 19th-century man-saga from the director who made the period piece man-sagas ''Glory'' and ''Legends of the Fall.''
  9. May fall short of its great model, "Seven Samurai" (almost all action movies do), but it's miles ahead of most of the gadget-ridden adventure epics around now.
  10. An almost perfect example of mainstream Hollywood filmmaking at its most expensive, well-calculated and safe: opulent production values, solid acting from its name star, distinguished performances from people surrounding him, Big Themes concerning sacrifice and honor, and a ridiculous finale full of superhuman achievements.
  11. Cruise's undeniable star voltage makes it all palatable, and the film is gorgeous to behold and even to listen to, from the rolling green hills to the galloping horses to the "Lohengrin"-like theme music on the sound track.
  12. 70
    Cruise holds the center of the film with a sharply focused performance, though his bonding with the wise samurai chieftain (Ken Watanabe) is noticeably more ardent than his soggy romance with the stoic wife of a man he killed in combat.
  13. Taken on the level of spectacle rather than of sense, The Last Samurai affords the sort of fizzy enjoyment that can come with epic movie endeavors, including a meticulously detailed world unlike our own, an excellent supporting cast and some pulse-pounding fights.
  14. 67
    Though serious, well-crafted and handsome, lacks most of the pungency of the epitome of the genre, "Lawrence of Arabia."
  15. 67
    What is not debatable, however, is that Cruise is an actor of limited emotional resources, one who lacks the presence required for the film’s protagonist, a character intended to inhabit more than one dimension.
  16. Grandly overblown and deeply cornball.
  17. Reviewed by: Glenn Kenny
    Depends on how you're feeling about Tom Cruise--as opposed to the character he's putatively playing.
  18. It's not just Hollywood convention that gets in the way of the story, it's the lack of depth, heft and heart at its core.
  19. Cruise isn't horribly miscast, a la Tony Curtis in "The Son of Ali Baba" or John Wayne as Genghis Khan in "The Conqueror," but he doesn't miss by far.
  20. Reviewed by: Chris Barsanti
    Director Edward Zwick has an ace up his sleeve, in addition to all the glorious scenery and pulse-pounding battles, and that’s Ken Watanabe.
  21. Reviewed by: David Edelstein
    All its themes are laid out like index cards on a screenwriter's bulletin board, and each plot turn seems so inevitable that you'll think you saw this movie in a previous life. (You did.)
  22. The Last Samurai is an idyll in which the savageries of existence are transcended by spiritual devotion. That’s a beautiful dream, and it gives the film a deep pleasingness, but the fullness of life and its blackest ambiguities are sacrificed.
  23. 60
    The only history that bears a real influence on The Last Samurai is the history of Hollywood moviemaking, and the unfortunate way it has of turning extraordinary stories into hopelessly ordinary ones.
  24. 60
    Most watchable during the majestic brutality of the battle sequences. This is not only because of the handsome staging, but also because the keywords sacrifice and honor are evoked with verve and simplicity, more so than in the "exchange of idea" chats between Algren and Katsumoto, which sound like statements being read into the Congressional Record by Nathaniel Hawthorne.
  25. 60
    Unwilling to offend, Zwick whitewashes a culture in which brutality and contemplative beauty were inextricably intertwined and, afraid to alienate audiences, he shies away from the story's logical downbeat conclusion, replacing it with an "ambiguous" ending that recalls, of all things, "The Road Warrior."
  26. 50
    In The Last Samurai, the body count is almost as high as the dead-brain-cell count.
  27. Reviewed by: David Ansen
    There are pleasures to be had in the handsome, heroic The Last Samurai. But they' all on the surface.
  28. 50
    When the script, by Zwick, Marshall Herskovitz and John Logan, doesn't sabotage the images, and the great cinematographer John Toll turns action into poetry, The Last Samurai emerges as a haunting silent movie.
  29. Patently intended to be a serious exploration of a cultural encounter, but this intent withers through a lack of writers' gravity and a mass of action clichés.
  30. Reviewed by: Todd McCarthy
    As rich in period and historical background as it is deficient in fresh dramatic and thematic ideas.
  31. 50
    Zwick can’t find anything fresh in this deeply pious East-meets-West stuff. The movie comes close to dying between battle scenes. [8 December 2003, p. 139]
  32. 50
    What it lacks is artistry, those small touches of personality that might have distinguished its lugubrious history lesson from a bunch of pretty pictures with captions telling the story.
  33. 50
    This is a Tom Cruise vehicle, pure and simple, and that means it's destined to be the biggest chunk of guilty white-boy wish fulfillment since Kevin Costner got down with the Sioux in "Dances With Wolves." In fact, the parallels are all but plagiaristic.
  34. 50
    Worst of all, nothing happens that we don't see coming. Nothing. If, as Nathan seems to believe, surprise is a crucial element in any campaign, then The Last Samurai might win a battle or two for your attention but is doomed to lose the Oscar war.
  35. Less a heart-stirring historical study than a nostalgic fantasy, built on a foundation no firmer than Cruise's superstar persona.
  36. Too many mind and the story grows tedious or absurd. No mind and the spectacle suffices.
  37. Never recovers from its failure to grip or engage in the early going.
  38. 50
    A crock - a pandering epic that's as phony as it is condescending.
  39. 40
    Watanabe's charismatic performance and a couple of colorful minor characters aside, The Last Samurai has little to recommend it.
  40. There's some cool sword-fighting. But still, it's junk.
  41. 30
    The least one can say for this costume action flick is that it hits bottom immediately.
  42. Despite its intelligent agenda, swollen heart and fabulously epic surface, amounts to a didactic banality: a white guy's politically correct lesson abroad.
  43. 30
    Cruise pedals hard through The Last Samurai, and the exertion shows. In fact, the whole picture is belabored and lumbering.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 312 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Negative: 21 out of 140
  1. Sep 27, 2011
    The movie is uneven. It overwhelmingly gives advantages to Cruise and his Japan Samurais, but it surprisingly does the job smoothly andThe movie is uneven. It overwhelmingly gives advantages to Cruise and his Japan Samurais, but it surprisingly does the job smoothly and deftly. In the end, "The Last Samurai" is a great movie to watch without thinking. Full Review »
  2. Aug 14, 2010
    This is one of my favorite movies of all time, and I don't even like Tom Cruise. I'm not sure why the critics are so far off the users on thisThis is one of my favorite movies of all time, and I don't even like Tom Cruise. I'm not sure why the critics are so far off the users on this one. It is well worth a view, even for a Cruise hater. Full Review »
  3. Feb 15, 2011
    This story brings some originality to Hollywood, and I think it has been unjustly criticized. Between the action, the pseudo-history and theThis story brings some originality to Hollywood, and I think it has been unjustly criticized. Between the action, the pseudo-history and the character development, The Last Samurai succeeds in taking you away to another world and inspiring you as it does so. Full Review »