The Last Samurai

2003 film by Edward Zwick
What does it mean to be Samurai? To devote yourself utterly to a set of moral principles. To seek a stillness of your mind. And to master the way of the sword.

The Last Samurai is a 2003 alternate history film about an American army captain Nathan Algren who is hired to train Japanese troops during the Meiji Restoration. In his first battle against the oppositional samurai, Algren is taken prisoner by Lord Katsumoto who gradually converts him to his cause. Although not historically accurate, the film covered several major issues of the Japanese history and was received better in Japan than in the US.

Directed by Edward Zwick. Written by John Logan
In the face of an enemy, in the Heart of One Man, Lies the Soul of a Warrior

Nathan AlgrenEdit

  • There is some comfort in the emptiness of the sea, no past, no future.
  • My thanks, on behalf of those who died in the name of better mechanical amusements and commercial opportunities.
  • Imagine someone who hates you with the utmost intensity grabbing a handful of your hair while you're lying prostrate and helpless. Then scraping the dull blade of a rusty knife across you scalp. And let your imagination grasp if you can, Mr. Graham, the effect that a strong, quick jerk on the turf of your hair to release any clinging particles would have on your nervous system.
  • You want me to kill the enemies of Jappos, I'll kill the enemies of Jappos. Rebs or Sioux or Cheyenne; for 500 bucks a month I'll kill whoever you want. But keep one thing in mind: I'd happily kill you for free.
  • [to the Silent Samurai] I know why you don't talk. You're angry. You're angry because they make you wear a dress.
  • [speaking with the Silent Samurai, after being beaten to the ground by Uijo] I just realized, I've been remiss. Forgive me, I forgot to thank you for looking out for me yesterday. That is your job, correct? Protecting me. Well done 'Bob.' You don't mind if I call you Bob, do you? I knew a Bob once; God, he was ugly as a mule. Are you a ladies man, Bob?
  • [kneeling in front of Emperor] If you believe me to be your enemy, command me, and I will gladly take my life.
  • [narrating] Winter, 1877. What does it mean to be Samurai? To devote yourself utterly to a set of moral principles. To seek a stillness of your mind. And to master the way of the sword.
  • [narrating] Spring, 1877. This marks the longest I've stayed in one place since I left the farm at 17. There is so much here I will never understand. I've never been a church going man, and what I've seen on the field of battle has led me to question God's purpose. But there is indeed something spiritual in this place. And though it may forever be obscure to me, I cannot but be aware of its power. I do know that it is here that I've known my first untroubled sleep in many years.
  • They are an intriguing people. From the moment they wake, they devote themselves to the perfection of whatever they pursue. I have never seen such discipline.
  • [narrating] May 25, 1877. This will be the last entry in this journal. I have tried to give a true accounting of what I have seen, what I have done. I do not presume to understand the course of my life. I know I am grateful to have partaken of this, even if for a moment.
  • I should have died so many times before.


  • Many of our customs seem strange to you. And the same is true of yours. For example, not to introduce yourself is considered extremely rude, even among enemies.
  • I have introduced myself. You have introduced yourself. This is a very good conversation.
  • The perfect blossom is a rare thing. You could spend your life looking for one, and it would not be a wasted life.
  • [returning Algren's things before leaving the samurai village] When I took these, you were my enemy...
  • [last words, about cherry blossoms] Perfect. They... are all... perfect...
  • My name is Katsumoto. What is your name??


  • We must resist the Western powers by becoming powerful ourselves. Our army and our economy must be strong.
  • If Katsumoto attracts other samurai to his cause, we will have 10 years of rebellion. This is something I will not allow. Either I will stop him at the council today or you will lead my army against him. And with these new weapons, you will crush him.
  • [increasingly fearful] This is madness. He's going to attack? He's defeated. He must accept his shame. Kill him. Kill all of them.
  • Bring out the new gun.. Quickly.. Quickly.. Fire.. Idiots keep on firing.


  • Colonel Bagley: [to Algren] Just tell me one thing. What is it about your own people that you hate so much?
  • Emperor Meiji: I have dreamed of a unified Japan. Of a country strong and independent and modern... Now we have railroads and cannon, Western clothing, but we cannot forget who we are or where we come from.
  • Simon Graham [opening narration]: They say Japan was made by a sword. They say the old gods dipped a coral blade into the ocean, and when they pulled it out four perfect drops fell back into the sea, and those drops became the islands of Japan. I say, Japan was made by a handful of brave men. Warriors, willing to give their lives for what seems to have become a forgotten word: honor.
  • Simon Graham [closing narration]: And so the days of the Samurai had ended. Nations, like men, it is sometimes said, have their own destiny. As for the American Captain, no one knows what became of him. Some say that he died of his wounds. Others, that he returned to his own country. But I like to think he may have at last found some small measure of peace, that we all seek, and few of us ever find.


Omura: Katsumoto is an extraordinary man, is he not?
Algren: He's a tribal leader. I've known many of them.
Omura: But none who are samurai. Their ways have great appeal.
Algren: I don't see how this concerns me.
Omura: Ah, but it does. You see, you were right, Captain Algren. Last year, we were not prepared to go to battle. You were right and Colonel Bagley was wrong. But now, we are ready. If Katsumoto is allowed to attract other samurai to his cause, we will have 10 years of rebellion. This is something I will not allow. Either I will stop him at the council today, or you will lead my army against him. And with these new weapons, you will crush him.
Algren: I appreciate the offer...
Omura: It is not an offer.
Algren: Mr. Omura, my contract with you was to train your army.
Omura: Then we will make a new contract. One that will recognize the extraordinary contribution you have made to the emperor. Do we understand each other?
Algren: Yes, we understand each other perfectly.
Omura: Then I am pleased. [Algren bows, turns, and leaves the room. Omura turns to his secretary and speaks in Japanese] Follow him. If he goes anywhere near Katsumoto, kill him.

Colonel Bagley: Nathan, Katsumoto's attacked the railroad at the border of this province.
Omura: We cannot govern a country in which we cannot travel freely. He must be stopped now. My railroad is a priority for this country.
Algren: [about the army] They're not ready.
Colonel Bagley: The rebels don't have a single rifle. They're savages with bows and arrows.
Algren: Whose sole occupation for the last thousand years has been war.
Colonel Bagley: You have superior firepower and a larger force. I am ordering the regiment to move against the rebel Katsumoto. You will track him down and engage him.

Algren: [To one Japanese soldier] Load. [to Simon Graham] Mr. Graham, tell this man to fire at me!
Simon Graham: I beg your pardon?
Algren: [Pulls out his pistol and cocks it] Tell this man that if he does not shoot me, I will kill him.
Sgt. Gant: Captain, if I might have a word...
[Algren fires his pistol at the soldier's feet, making everyone except Gant and Bagley jump.]
Algren: Tell him... tell him! [Re-cocks his pistol]
[Graham hurriedly translates for the soldier. Shocked and wide-eyed at Algren's command, the soldier looks at Algren and frantically shakes his head.]
Algren: Load!
[He fires again, this time knocking the soldier's hat off. The soldier hurriedly re-loads his rifle.]
Algren: Faster! [fires again] Faster!
[The soldier loads as fast as possible, discarding his ramrod in his haste.]
Algren: Shoot me, damn it.
[The soldier cocks his rifle and aims at Algren, but, almost as though he understands Algren's command, shakes his head and refuses to shoot.]
Algren: Fire! Fire, ute!
[Algren fires his last shot. The soldier aims quickly and pulls his trigger, narrowly missing Algren and hitting the sandbag behind him. Algren lowers his gun, sighs in disappointment, then holsters his gun and pats the soldier on the shoulder, who almost collapses from fear.]
Algren: [to Bagley] They're not ready.
Colonel Bagley: [to the rest of the army] The regiment leaves at 6 AM!

[Katsumoto has been granted an audience with the Emperor during a truce, in which he begs him to stop letting the new merchant-class of tycoons dominate his government, and accept the samurai back]
Emperor Meiji: You rise against me, my teacher.
Katsumoto: No, Highness. I rise against your enemies.
Emperor Meiji: They are my advisors, like you.
Katsumoto: They advise in their own interest!
Emperor Meiji: I need advisors who know the modern world.
Katsumoto: If I am no use, I will happily end my life.
Emperor Meiji: No, I need your voice in the Council.
Katsumoto: It is your voice we need, Highness. You are a living god. Do what you think is right.
Emperor Meiji: [ruefully] I am a living god - as long as I do what *they* think is right.
Katsumoto: [stunned beyond words, sorrowful] ...What sad words you speak...

Katsumoto: With this sword I guarded the Emperor...
Omura: We don't need your protection. We are a nation of laws.
Katsumoto: We are a nation of whores selling ourselves...
Omura: If we are whores, the samurai made us this way.

Omura: Commence firing.. You see, even the mighty samurai cannot stand up to the howitzers. Signal the attack.
Colonel Bagley: I'd advise sending in skirmishers first.
Omura: Nonsense! Full attack!

[The commanders see smoke rising from the battlefield]
Colonel Bagley: What on earth?!
Omura: What is happening?
Colonel Bagley: The attack has been stopped.
Omura: Send in rest of the regiment.

Omura: What is this? This is madness. Is he going to attack?
Colonel Bagley: Yes.
Omura: [fearful, referring to Algren] He is defeated, he must accept his shame. Kill him, all of them now.
Colonel Bagley:[Ignores Omura's request to use the howizers and gives him the binoculars, intending to finish off Algren, Katsumoto and the rebellion by using himself and the soldiers.] My Horse.

Colonel Bagley: Nathan. I did what I was ordered to do, and I have no regrets. So what do you say we put the past behind us?
Nathan Algren: You want me to kill Jappos? I'll kill Jappos.
Colonel Bagley: I'm not asking you to kill anybody.
Nathan Algren: You want me to kill the enemies of Jappos, I'll kill the enemies of Jappos... the Rebs or Sioux, or Cheyenne... For 500 bucks a month, I'll kill whoever you want. But keep one thing in mind: I'd happily kill you for free.

Nathan Algren: Sergeant Gant, report to the rear and see to the disposition of the supply trains. Sergeant Gant, did you hear my order?
Zebulon Gant: I did indeed, sir.
Nathan Algren: Good, then you will obey it. Now!
Zebulon Gant: No disrespect intended, sir, but shove it up your arse.

The Silent Samurai: Algren-san! [rushes in front of Algren to protect him from being shot and takes the bullet]
Nathan Algren: Bob!

Emperor Meiji [about Katsumoto]: Tell me how he died.
Nathan Algren: I will tell you how he lived.

Emperor Meiji: I dreamed of a unified Japan, of a country strong and independent and modern. And now we have railroads and cannon, Western clothing. But we cannot forget who we are, or where we come from. Ambassador Swanbeck, I have concluded that your treaty is NOT in the best interests of my people.
Ambassador Swanbeck: Sir, if I may...
Emperor Meiji: So sorry, but you may not.
Ambassador Swanbeck: This is an outrage!
[He and his aide storm out of the room in anger.]

Omura: Enlighted One, we must discuss this-
Emperor Meiji: Omura, you have done quite enough.
Omura: Everything I have done, I have done for my country.
Emperor Meiji: [disbelieving Omura] Then you will not mind when I seize your family's assets and present them as my gift to the people.
[Algren while on his knees is seen pleased at Omura's downfall.]
Omura: [furious] You disgrace me!
Emperor Meiji: If your shame is too unbearable, I offer you this sword!
[Emperor Meiji holds up Katsumoto's sword in front of Omura. Unwilling to committ seppuku, he backs down.]

Zebulon Gant [to Japanese recruits]: Alright, you little bastards! You will stand up straight or I will personally shit kick every Far Eastern buttock that appears before my eyes! [the recruits quickly come to attention]
Nathan Algren: Well done, Sergeant.
Zebulon Gant: When you understand the language, sir, everything falls into place.

Nobutada: Please forgive, too many mind.
Nathan Algren: Too many mind?
Nobutada: Hai. Mind the sword, mind the people watching, mind the enemy, too many mind... [pause] No mind.

Higen: I would be afraid to die in battle.
Algren: So would I.
Higen: But you have been in many battles.
Algren: ...and I was always afraid.
Higen: (realizing the nature of what could happen to Algren, the father figure he came to love) I don't want you to go.

Katsumoto: [presents Algren with a katana] You will need this. [Algren draws the sword and inspects the engraving on the blade]
Algren: What does it say?
Katsumoto: "I belong to the warrior in whom the old ways have joined the new".

Emperor Meiji:[upon learning Katsumoto's death] You were with him until the very end.
Algren: Hai.
Omura: Emperor, this man fought against you.
Algren: Your highness, if you believe me to be your enemy. Command me and I'll gladly take my life.

[As Algren and Katsumoto rides up to meet Omura, an unnamed lieutenant and Col. Bagley. Bagley is shocked to see Algren in a red samurai armor.]
Colonel Bagley: Good God! [Recovers to face both Algren and Katsumoto] Sir, the Imperial Army of Japan demands your surrender. If you and your fellows lay down your arms, you will not be harmed.
Katsumoto: This is not possible as Mr. Omura knows.
[Omura gives Katsumoto a nod as a sign of respect. Bagley then faces Algren]
Colonel Bagley: Captain Algren, we will show you no quarter. You ride against us and you're the same as they are.
Algren: I'll look for you in the field.

[While conversing with Graham and General Hasegawa.]
Algren: Who supplies their weapons?
[Graham asks Hasegawa about Katsumoto's rebellion and firearms. He tells Graham in Japanese.]
Graham: Katsumoto no longer dishonors himself by using firearms, you see.
Algren: He uses no firearms?
Graham: To those who honor the old ways, Katsumoto is a hero.
Algren: [Regarding General Hasegawa] How well does he know this man?
Graham: Well he and Katsumoto fought together for the emperor.
Algren: He fought with the samurai.
Graham: He is Samurai.

Katsumoto and AlgrenEdit

Nathan Algren: What do you want?
Katsumoto: To know my enemy.
Nathan Algren: I've seen what you do to your enemies.
Katsumoto: Warriors in your country do not kill?
Nathan Algren: They don't cut the heads off defeated, kneeling men.
Katsumoto: General Hasegawa asked me to help him end his life. A samurai cannot stand the shame of defeat. I was honored to cut off his head.

Katsumoto: And who was your general?
Nathan Algren: Don't you have a rebellion to lead?
Katsumoto: People in your country do not like conversation?
Nathan Algren: He was a lieutenant colonel. His name was Custer.
Katsumoto: I know this name. He killed many warriors.
Nathan Algren: Oh, yes. Many warriors.
Katsumoto: So he was a good general.
Nathan Algren: No. He wasn't a good general. He was arrogant and foolhardy. And he got massacred because he took a single battalion against two thousand angry Indians.
Katsumoto: Two thousand Indians? How many men for Custer?
Nathan Algren: Two hundred and eleven.
Katsumoto: I like this General Custer.
Nathan Algren: He was a murderer who fell in love with his own legend. And his troopers died for it.
Katsumoto: I think this is a very good death.
Nathan Algren: Well, maybe you can have one just like it someday.

Katsumoto: The perfect blossom is a rare thing. You could spend your life looking for one and it would not be a wasted life.
Nathan Algren: Who sent those men to kill you?
Katsumoto: I'm writing a poem about a dream I had. 'The tiger's eyes are like my own, but he comes from across a deep and troubled sea...'
Nathan Algren: Was it the Emperor? Omura?
Katsumoto: If the Emperor wishes my death, he has but to ask.
Nathan Algren: So it was Omura.
Katsumoto: I'm having trouble finishing the poem. Can you suggest a last line?
Nathan Algren: I'm not a writer.
Katsumoto: Yet you have written many pages since you came here.
Nathan Algren: What else has she told you?
Katsumoto: You have nightmares.
Nathan Algren: Every soldier has nightmares.
Katsumoto: Only one who is ashamed of what he has done.
Nathan Algren: You have no idea what I've done.
Katsumoto: You have seen many things.
Nathan Algren: I have.
Katsumoto: And you do not fear death, but sometimes you wish for it. Is this not so?
Nathan Algren: Yes.
Katsumoto: I also. It happens to men who have seen what we have seen. But then I come to this place of my ancestors, and I remember. Like these blossoms, we are all dying. To know life in every breath, every cup of tea, every life we take. The way of the warrior....
Nathan Algren: Life in every breath...
Katsumoto: That is Bushido.

Katsumoto: You believe a man can change his destiny?
Nathan Algren: I think a man does what he can, until his destiny is revealed.

Katsumoto: What happened to the warriors at Thermopylae?
Nathan Algren [smiling]: Dead to the last man.

Katsumoto: The Emperor could not hear my words. His army will come. For nine hundred years, my ancestors have protected our people. Now... I have failed them.
Nathan Algren: So you will take your own life? In shame? Shame for a life of service? Discipline? Compassion?
Katsumoto: The way of the Samurai is not necessary anymore.
Nathan Algren: Necessary? What could be more necessary?
Katsumoto: I will die by the sword. My own, or my enemy's.
Nathan Algren: Then let it be your enemy's.

[After narrowly defeating the first Imperial attack amidst heavy losses]
Nathan Algren: They'll bring two more regiments up here soon. We won't be able to stop them again.
Katsumoto: You do not have to die here.
Nathan Algren: I should have died so many times before.
Katsumoto: And now you live again.
Nathan Algren: Yes.
Katsumoto: It was not your time.
Nathan Algren: It's not over.


External linksEdit

Wikipedia has an article about: