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Ghost Dog - The Way of the Samurai (2000)



Average Rating: 7/10
Reviews Counted: 94
Fresh: 77 | Rotten: 17

An innovative blend of samurai and gangster lifestyles.


Average Rating: 6.4/10
Critic Reviews: 26
Fresh: 18 | Rotten: 8

An innovative blend of samurai and gangster lifestyles.



liked it
Average Rating: 3.7/5
User Ratings: 46,264

My Rating

Movie Info

A surreal crime drama told as only Jim Jarmusch could, Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai stars Forest Whitaker as Ghost Dog, a hit man living in an unidentified but run-down city in what license plates call "The Industrialized State." Known for his gift of being able to come and go without people noticing him, Ghost Dog is a self-taught samurai who is obsessed with order and his strict personal moral code, drawn from the philosophies of the Japanese warriors. As every samurai needs a leader to


Drama, Action & Adventure, Comedy

Jim Jarmusch

Aug 22, 2000

Artisan Entertainment - Official Site External Icon

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All Critics (99) | Top Critics (27) | Fresh (77) | Rotten (17) | DVD (18)

At once a tribute to traditional notions of honour, loyalty, friendship and professionalism, and a stylish, ironic pastiche inspired by the likes of Melville and Suzuki, it's very funny, insightful, and highly original.

June 24, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

A handsomely shot, cool-sounding head-scratcher of a film that probably isn't worth the wear on the fingernails.

April 5, 2002 Full Review Source: Globe and Mail
Globe and Mail
Top Critic IconTop Critic

compellingly strange twist on the mafia genre

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Top Critic IconTop Critic

By turns irritating and inviting; Jarmusch's allusive metaphysics has a sensual glide, but much of what he's doing here is also too, too hip.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: New York Magazine/Vulture
New York Magazine/Vulture
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Ghost Dog is an impeccably shot and sensationally scored deadpan parody of two current popular modes -- the hit-man glorification saga and the Cosa Nostra family drama.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Village Voice
Village Voice
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Jarmusch has introduced historical references ... that have opened up his imagination and extended his thematic and affective range well beyond that of his first five features.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Amusing, melancholy, and meditative, Ghost Dog is a modern classic of the hit man genre.

November 7, 2012 Full Review Source: Empire Magazine Australasia
Empire Magazine Australasia

Jarmusch's original film, which deconstructs the mobster genre as seen through the eyes of a Samurai, is by turn eccentric, mysterious, and mythical, defying viewers expectations

February 3, 2011 Full Review Source: EmanuelLevy.Com

One of the coolest movies to come down the pike in years.

February 13, 2008 Full Review Source:

Jarmusch blends these disparate themes into a cohesive film that combines humor and truly unique characters with Eastern philosophy, mobster flick and shoot-'em-up western.

April 9, 2005 Full Review Source: Reeling Reviews
Reeling Reviews

Visually creative film with a remarkable use of color and music.

January 24, 2005 Full Review Source: Classic Film and Television
Classic Film and Television

I can scarcely think of ways to improve this engrossing, original, near-brilliant production.

May 22, 2003 Full Review Source: Film Blather | Comment (1)
Film Blather

Ghost Dog himself is so remote and focused on his path, it's hard to drum up a lot of identification or sympathy.

May 20, 2003
Palo Alto Weekly

An act of pure, unadulterated creativity that boasts its narrative gambles and poetic whimsy as badges of honor... One of the most improbably gorgeous films of the year.

January 10, 2003 Full Review Source: Nick's Flick Picks
Nick's Flick Picks

Jarmusch and Whitaker are masters at work proving once again that you don't need a huge budget to tell a meaningful story.

December 8, 2002 Full Review Source: Film Threat
Film Threat

This is a picture by turns amusing and melancholic, sweet-centred and dark-edged.

December 2, 2002 Full Review Source: Sight and Sound
Sight and Sound

...I was lulled by the relaxed storytelling.

November 12, 2002 Full Review Source: Reel Film Reviews
Reel Film Reviews

It reminded me how vibrantly original an honest-to-God independent film can be.

October 15, 2002 Full Review Source: Cincinnati Enquirer
Cincinnati Enquirer

The solitary Ghost Dog remains too remote a figure to sustain much interest, and certain elements of the film do not fit well together.

June 5, 2002 Full Review Source: Boxoffice Magazine
Boxoffice Magazine

Little details, as well as Whitaker's performance ... elevate this film.

February 28, 2002 Full Review Source: Goatdog's Movies
Goatdog's Movies

It's a bit somnolent, but the interactions between Whitaker and his mob bosses strike a few sparks.

January 9, 2002 Full Review Source: Movieline

It's a small, offbeat, extremely well-crafted little film that's full of terrific touches. It's also the funniest mob comedy in years.

December 10, 2001 Full Review Source: Shadows on the Wall
Shadows on the Wall

Smart, engaging, and weirdly cool, Ghost Dog defies easy pigeonholing in favor of a complexity all its own.

October 24, 2001 Full Review Source: Flipside Movie Emporium
Flipside Movie Emporium

Less a pastiche than a mastermix from a cinematic DJ at the height of his formalist powers, Ghost Dog is pretty ill -- but it's not evil.

September 10, 2001 Full Review Source: Premiere Magazine
Premiere Magazine

Audience Reviews for Ghost Dog - The Way of the Samurai

July 1, 2013
Directors Cat
Directors Cat

Super Reviewer

A well-constructed and superb genre piece that has a terrific and poignant mixture of urban attitude, street savvy, stylistic shootings and compelling samurai wisdom along with gangster, western and martial arts genre films. A skillful and darkly engagging character study. A beautifully made and brilliant film. A sharply entertaining and stylish crime-thriller. It`s smart, funny, cool, thrilling and action-packed. An instant classic. A great and genuine surprise to watch. Forest Whitaker gives an extroadinary and compelling performance, one of his best performances ever, it stands wit his work in Bird and The Last King of Scottland. Director, Jim Jarmusch crafts his masterwork. A skillful and enthralling work of art thats handsomely shot, hypnotic and has a seductive rytham all of its own. One of the best hitman films to come along since The Professional.
September 17, 2012

Super Reviewer

Now Forest Whitaker isn't the kind of guy you would normally think of for a smart ice cool hitman flick. His big lumbering appearance and droopy eye always gives him the look of a bad guy or suit type, not some ninja like assassin.

But here we are in dare I say 'Leon' for a black audience? is that wrong of me? cos this sure as hell is what it is. Take the overall premise of 'Leon' and virtually copy it scene for scene and you have 'Ghost Dog' but with a nice samurai code twist.

This film is actually based on a very good French film called 'Le Samouraï' which in turn also probably influenced Besson for his New York based hitman classic. Its pretty fair to say when watching that this is heavily influenced by those said films, from the hit sequences to the little girl who 'Ghost Dog' befriends but doesn't train...although that is hinted at somewhat towards the end.

Personally I love this film, its could easily be a sequel to 'Leon' and moves just as sexually and gracefully including some excellent hit scenes, albeit a bit brief. The film is kinda slow and builds around 'GD' training in the art of samurai whilst living his simple life caring for pigeons. Your not really sure if your suppose to root for this guy either, he's not doing good stuff after all. He works for the mob and kills people, breaks into properties and steals cars pretty regularly, he doesn't kill innocents but nor does he care too much about them or their material possessions.

Trying not to mention other films too much here but when you see the American mobsters in this it rings so many bells. The bad guys are a classic stereotypical cliched lineup of fat, aging, balding, badly dressed 70's looking rejects that could of come from any well known mafia flick you've ever heard of. I loved how they looked and spoke in that typical Nu Joisey/Nu Yawk fashion with their big tinted shades, dated tracksuits or leather coats, absolutely perfect. You could almost think of these guys as a parody really. Almost caricatures and exactly how you expect Italian American hoods to look and act with the addition of great names like 'Handsome Frank' and the all too common names of Vinny, Ray and Louie.

The cast are familiar too, all the regular faces that normally play wheezing old fat mafioso's. Their boss is Henry Silva who is pretty much the perfect face for a bad guy, a mafia bad guy. The man is a character acting legend plus his face is evil looking with those sharp cheek bones and odd stretched wrinkle-less like skin complexion, no wonder he was in 'Dick Tracy'.

There isn't too much action here like I said but that isn't a problem really. The film moves slow just like its main player and the outcome is resolved quite quickly really. The Japanese filling throughout is a nice touch which is obviously there because of the French film it plays homage to but it neither hinders or helps really, its just nice little touches that are pleasant to view. End of the day the samurai code doesn't really effect the film much apart from what 'GD' allows to happen.

Didn't think the film needed the African American influence of rap music though, would of been nice without that, more unique really as the old gangster thing still looms somewhat. Still a unique film though can't dent that. For me the film is made with the stellar casting for the bad guys, they are really quite amusing, Whitaker does well also in his calm near silent role. A must see film if you like this kind of thing but just don't expect tonnes of action.
September 7, 2012

Super Reviewer

A solitary, bird loving hitman is targeted by his own employer but his code of honour prevents him from direct retaliation. Ghost Dog is probably Jim Jarmusch's most accessible film but is still a quirky and off beat affair that feels all the world like a Hip Hop version of a Takeshi Kitano gangster film. Forest Whitaker cuts an imposing figure who is like a modern day pigeon fancying Yojimbo who has chosen to live by the Samurai code in modern day America. It's a very low key film that combines amusingly oddball characters (especially the inept, bigoted and hypocritical "stupid f***ing white men" who clearly don't deserve his loyalty), black humour and understated violence to great effect. Add a soundtrack by the RZA that perfectly compliments the mood of the film and you have a rather unique gangster film that plays out a bit like Leon on valium. Which is a good thing.
November 18, 2011
xGary Xx

Super Reviewer

    1. Ghost Dog: Duh!
    – Submitted by Jesse K (12 months ago)
    1. Ghost Dog: Our bodies are given life from the midst of nothingness. Existing where there is nothing is the meaning of the phrase, 'form is emptiness.' That all things are provided for by nothingness is the meaning of the phrase, 'Emptiness is form.' One should not think that these are two separate things.
    – Submitted by Pete G (3 years ago)
    1. Ghost Dog: It is bad when one thing becomes two. One should not look for anything else in the Way of the Samurai. It is the same for anything that is called a Way. If one understands things in this manner, he should be able to hear about all ways and be more and more in accord with his own.
    – Submitted by Pete G (3 years ago)
View all quotes (3)

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Foreign Titles

  • Ghost Dog - Der Weg des Samurai (DE)
  • Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (CA)
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