Although they are as far removed as you could possibly get from the actual historical ninjas, since the 80’s, if you needed an injection of awesome, you added a ninja. There’s been so many killer, bad ass ninjas throughout the years, here are our picks for ten of the best.
1. Snake Eyes (GI Joe): No matter how terrible the version of GI Joe *cough* GI Joe: Rise of Cobra *cough*, it’s pretty much a given that their resident ninja, Snake Eyes, will be the best part. Introduced in the Real American hero toyline and cartoon, Snake Eyes has been a pivotal part of pretty much everything GI Joe since, getting solo comic series and tons of variant figures. Trained in ninjitsu alongside fellow ninja, Storm Shadow, the two became mortal enemies when Snake Eyes surpassed Storm Shadow in the eyes of their master. In the movie universe, Snake Eyes is played by Ray Park, who is pretty much a ninja in real life.
2. Leonardo (TMNT): The leader of the Turtles for a reason, Leonardo is the one who is most focused becoming a true master of ninjitsu and arguably the team’s best fighter. Although he lost to Raphael in the TMNT movie, the Screwattack series Death Battle proved that Leonardo would win in a battle between all four turtles and also against the Battletoad, Zitz. Leonardo is also the stealthiest turtle, like when he was travelling around South America Predatoring various drug dealers and criminals in the jungle.
3. Scorpion (Mortal Kombat): In the wide world of ninjas and robot ninjas in the Mortal Kombat universe, Scorpion reigns supreme. He’s so bad ass that not even Hell can contain him. Not even Sub Zero was able to come back after getting killed by Scorpion and his brother had to try and get revenge on the demonic ninja. Scorpion has basically become the face of the series with his catchphrase of “Get over here!” and his trademark chain blade and demonic fire powers.
4. Ryu Hayabusa (Ninja Gaiden): Nintendo jumped right into the 80’s ninja craze and introduced one of most enduring video game ninjas with Ryu Hayabusa in Ninja Gaiden. Wielding the mystical Dragon Blade, Ryu has faced off against pretty much every type of enemy you can possibly think of, including private militaries, demonic dragons, werewolves, monsters and more. He does lose some points because his greatest enemy is annoying but ordinary eagles.
5. Akira Saito (Pray for Death): Played by the master of 80’s ninjas, Sho Kosugi, Akira Saito just wants to live an ordinary life in America with his family but a misunderstanding involving some diamonds and the local mob forces him to unleash his ninja past to get justice. Akira has one of the coolest ninja outfits and arsenals in the world of movie ninjas, using everything at his disposal, including caltrops, ninja stars and smoke, to take down the criminals threatening his family.
6. Casey Bowman (Ninja): Scott Adkins updated the 80’s ninja movies for the 21st century with his two Ninja movies, where he plays American Casey Bowman, who is trained in, and eventually teaches, the art of ninjitsu. He has to deal with a rogue ninja who has turned into the world’s deadliest assassin and then goes on a quest for revenge when his wife is killed by a drug cartel. Since, like Ray Park, Scott Adkins is basically a real life ninja, the fight scenes in both Ninja movies, but especially the sequel, are fantastic.
7. Cole (Enter the Ninja): The one who started the whole craze, Franco Nero’s Cole is, again, an American trained in the art of ninjitsu, who goes to visit some friends when he gets caught up in a scheme to steal their farmland and has to fight off an army of goons and also, Hasegawa (Sho Kosugi), an old rival from his training days. Rocking a sweet stache and a classic white ninja uniform, Cole takes on all comers and ends things with possibly the greatest kill in movie history. We’ll dive into this more during our commentary.
8. Joe (American Ninja): Joe probably has the strangest origin of any of the ninjas on this list, as he was found as a baby by a Japanese soldier who was alone on an island and thought World War II was still happening, and also he was a ninja and raised Joe in the art of ninjitsu. Joe later joined the US Army and was stationed in the Phillipines when he uncovered a rogue ninja army being trained by a crazed arms dealer and has to stop them. Joe gets bonus points for stopping a ninja who has a laser gauntlet weapon and he later fights drug dealers in the Caribbean, who also have ninjas on the payroll.
9. Black Ninja (Ninja III: The Domination): Although he doesn’t have the most screen time, the evil Black Ninja from Ninja III: The Domination makes the most of his time with the craziest, most over the top ninja rampage in movie history, taking out a golf playing business man and his bodyguards before taking on an army of cops. He’s finally stopped by an entire arsenal of bullets but he’s somehow able to transport his mind into the body of sexy aerobics instructor, Christie, who unwittingly continues the Black Ninja’s killing spree.
10. 3 Ninjas (3 Ninjas): Despite their ages, the 3 Ninjas (Tum Tum, Colt and Rocky) somehow manage to defeat international arms dealers, veteran martial artists, rogue supervillains and more thanks to the summer training they get from their grandpa. They also use their ninja skills to win at basketball and defeat a group of surfer/stoner home invaders. As you can see above, they also somehow manage to defeat the mountain of martial arts power that is Professor Toru Tanaka.
Honorable Mention: The Ruthless Super Ninja from Chuck Norris Karate Kommandos