3 Ninjas (film)

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3 Ninjas
Three ninjas poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Jon Turteltaub [1]
Produced by Martha Chang
Shunji Hirano
James Kang
Jason Ing
Yuriko Matsubara
Written by Kenny Kim
Edward Emanuel
Music by Richard Marvin
Cinematography Richard Michalak
Edited by David Rennie
Distributed by Buena Vista Pictures
Release date
  • August 7, 1992 (1992-08-07)
Running time
  • 84 minutes
  • 96 minutes (international version)
CountryUnited States
Budget$2.5 million [2]
Box office$29 million

3 Ninjas is a 1992 American martial arts comedy film directed by Jon Turteltaub and starring Victor Wong, Michael Treanor, Max Elliott Slade, and Chad Power. It was the only 3 Ninjas film released by Touchstone Pictures, while the others were released by TriStar Pictures. The film is about three young brothers who learn martial arts from their Japanese grandfather.



Every year, twelve-year-old Samuel, eleven-year-old Jeffrey and eight-year-old Michael Douglas visit their grandfather, Mori Tanaka, at his cabin. Mori trains his grandchildren in the art of ninjutsu . As the summer comes to an end, Mori gives each of them a new "ninja" name based on their personalities: 'Rocky', 'Colt', and 'Tum-Tum'.

Meanwhile, the boys' father, Sam Douglas, is an FBI agent who stages a sting operation to entrap master criminal Hugo Snyder in the sale of warheads. Snyder escapes the trap with the use of his own ninja henchmen and decides to then visit Mori, who is his former business partner. Mori is tested by Snyder's henchmen and easily defeats them while the boys aid their grandfather by defeating two ninjas, ignoring his orders to stay in the house. Face to face, Snyder threatens Mori's family if he does not get son-in-law Sam off his back. With Snyder and company gone, Mori chides the boys briefly for interfering in his personal affairs. When they return home, they find their father unenthusiastic to see what they had learned during their visit and more annoyed at their new names. Emily, a friend of Rocky's, compliments his new name and agrees to ride with them to school the next day. Snyder develops a plan to kidnap the boys to use them as leverage to get Sam to back off. Since the FBI watches them, his assistant Nigel Brown contacts his irresponsible nephew Fester, a petty criminal surf punk, as well as his buddies Hammer and Marcus, to kidnap the boys. Due to Sam and his FBI crew's presence, they are unable to capture the boys that night.

The next day, Fester and his friends follow the boys to school but are side-tracked by a fender bender with a police car. Emily becomes separated from the boys and encounters a group of bullies who steal her bike. At recess, the boys challenge the bullies to a two-on-two basketball game to ten, and they spot the bullies nine points. The brothers effortlessly score nine consecutive points, all while the bullies use dirty tactics, but fail and lose their bikes after one bully uses a hip check and are able to score their tenth point and win.

That night, Colt learns that Snyder, who they assumed was a friend of Mori's, is actually the criminal their father is after. They are left with a babysitter when Jessica leaves to pick up Sam, and Fester and his friends break into the house with a fake pizza order, subduing the babysitter. Believing it to be a home invasion, the brothers suit up in their ninja robes and fight back using their surroundings and numerous household items. Afterwards, the guys gather themselves and go to the brothers' bedroom in search of a way to turn the tables on them. Fester uses a device to call Emily over and they take her as a hostage. Due to an earlier trap, Hammer and Marcus run to the bathrooms sick to their stomachs while Fester is defeated by Tum-Tum and Emily. Hammer is subsequently defeated by Rocky and Colt and Marcus by Tum-Tum. After freeing the babysitter, the boys are overpowered by Brown and Snyder's bodyguard Rushmore.

The boys escape their captivity and manage to subdue Rushmore. Snyder confronts Mori and challenges him to a fight for the boys' freedom. Due to his youth and speed (and a hidden pepper bomb), Snyder almost proves too much for Mori, until he remembers a handful of jelly beans which Tum-Tum had given him and uses them to gag Snyder. Refusing defeat, Snyder grabs a gun from one of his subordinates but is suddenly shot and subdued by Sam. Snyder and his men are arrested. Sam tells his boys that he will let the boys continue to go to their grandpa’s every summer and takes the rest of the night off from work to go get pizza with the family, including Mori, who personally doesn’t like pizza.

While on the way home from school, the bullies return to try and take Tum-Tum’s bike. After one bully shoves Rocky and slaps him, Emily tells him to “show off”, and Rocky beats the bully up using his ninjutsu skills. The rest of the bullies jump off their bikes and run away, as Rocky, Colt, Tum-Tum, and Emily reclaim their bikes and ride off.

International version

The international cut of the film features a number of small parts of scenes that were cut from the movie for its American release, most likely to ensure a PG rating. Among the cut scenes are (not all-inclusive): extra footage of Snyder's escape in which he confronts two FBI agents whom he promptly defeats, a scene in which the robbers fire a gun in the convenience store and tie up the clerk behind the counter, a scene in which the robbers get the Douglas family address from Brown, additional footage of Grandpa trailing Snyder to his ship hideout, numerous small portions of the scene where the robbers invade the Douglas household, including Colt beating the robbers after getting them under a tarp in the room being renovated, and a scene of Fester, the leader of the robbers, asking his uncle (Brown) if he can be paid, extra sarcastic dialogue while the boys are locked up in Snyder's ship, and an extended scene in which the boys are reunited with Grandpa. Additionally, in the international version the boys lose the basketball challenge and their bikes, so a scene ends the international version of the film in which they fight the bullies to get them back.



As of August 2020, the film held a 32% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 22 reviews. [3] Stephen Holden of The New York Times said that "the film can't seem to make up its mind whether it wants to be a comedy, a fantasy or an adventure film" and that "beneath all the excitement, the message that '3 Ninjas' conveys is anything but reassuring." [4] It did attain a favorable response from Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times , who said that "although their attention may wander, parents can be grateful that there's some substance as well as fun in this Disney release, for martial arts is presented as a matter of defense rather than aggression, emphasizing that it is a matter of mind and spirit as well as body and requiring resourcefulness and discipline." [5] Later on, it would receive a cult following for its camp factor and spawned three less-successful sequels 3 Ninjas Kick Back , 3 Ninjas Knuckle Up , and 3 Ninjas: High Noon at Mega Mountain .

Box office

The film opened at the box office in the #4 position, and by the end of its 6-week run in theaters grossed US$29,000,301 domestically. [6] [7] Considering that the film was budgeted at $2.5 million, it was a huge financial success, and turned out to be the most profitable film of the year in terms of cost-to-gross ratio. [2]


Slade, Power and Treanor host an annual screening and Q&A in Oak Park, a neighborhood in Sacramento, California each April.[ citation needed ]

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  1. Goldstein, Patrick (July 5, 2000). "Company With Disney; By Hollywood standards, director Jon Turteltaub has remained remarkably loyal to one studio, from '3 Ninjas' to his latest, 'The Kid.'". Los Angeles Times . Retrieved 2010-12-28.
  2. 1 2 "Disney's '3 Ninjas' was Most Profitable '92 Flick". The Deseret News. Salt Lake City, UT: Nl.newsbank.com. January 11, 1993. Retrieved October 13, 2020.
  3. "3 Ninjas at Rotten Tomatoes. Accessed August 9, 2020.
  4. Holden, Stephen (August 7, 1992). "Review/Film; 3 Junior Ninjas Home Alone". The New York Times . Retrieved 2011-01-29.
  5. Thomas, Kevin (August 7, 1992). "Movie Review '3 Ninjas': Best Left to the Under-10 Crowd". Los Angeles Times . Retrieved 2010-12-29.
  6. Fox, David J. (August 11, 1992). "Weekend Box Office Unforgiven' Boosts Summer Sales". Los Angeles Times . Retrieved 2010-12-29.
  7. "3 Ninjas (1992)". Box Office Mojo. 1992-09-29. Retrieved 2011-12-05.