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Hulu’s Shōgun is a hit. Check out author James Clavell’s 5 best movies and shows, ranked

A man leads his troops in Shogun.

It only took 44 years for a new adaptation of Shōgun to come along and remind viewers that the late James Clavell was an incredible writer. Clavell was a solider in the British army during World War II, and he endured a harsh stint as a POW before his eventual release. Those experiences informed his writing as he went on to become an acclaimed screenwriter, director, and novelist. Shōgun may be Clavell’s most famous work, but it’s far from his only masterpiece.

Because the new version of Shōgun is currently airing on FX and streaming on Hulu, we’re taking a look back at the five best James Clavell movies and shows. Even some film aficionados may not have realized that Clavell was behind some of these flicks. That’s why it’s important to shine a light on his work, even if some of these projects aren’t readily available to be streamed.

5. Noble House (1988)

Ben Masters and Pierce Brosnan in Noble House.

Noble House scored quite the coup by landing future James Bond actor Pierce Brosnan for the leading role of Ian Dunross shortly after he lost his first chance to play James Bond. Unlike Shōgun, Noble House isn’t an action-packed story. Instead it’s a tale about the rivalry between Dunross and Quillan Gornt (John Rhys-Davies) over the Hong Kong-based trading company Struan & Company.

It’s Dunross’ job to guide Straun, the titular Noble House, out of its severe financial difficulties. But because Gornt is so eager to destroy Dunross and take his company away, Dunross is forced to seek out some unsavory alliances in order to save Straun. And sometimes, the stakes are more than just financial.

Noble House isn’t currently available to stream.

4. King Rat (1965)

James Fox and George Segal in King Rat.
Columbia Pictures

King Rat was based on Clavell’s experiences as a prisoner, but fictionalized as both a novel and a feature film. Clavell’s fictional counterpart in the story is Marlowe (James Fox), a British pilot who is held alongside other POWs in a Japanese prison camp. That’s where Marlowe meets the title character, Corporal King (George Segal), an American who thrives in the camp because he runs the black market for goods.

Marlowe works with King at the camp, and they develop a rapport. But King is a little bit too comfortable on his throne, and his power starts to wane as the war winds down.

Rent or buy King Rat on Prime Video or other digital outlets.

3. Shōgun (1980)

Yoko Shimada and Richard Chamberlain in Shōgun.
Paramount TV

The new version of Shōgun may be critically acclaimed, but so too was the original adaptation for television in 1980. Shōgun is now widely regarded as one of the greatest miniseries ever made, and it ran for a staggering nine hours over the course of five nights. Richard Chamberlain stars as John Blackthorne, an English sailor who is trapped in Japan during the early 17th century.

Lord Yoshi Toranaga (Toshiro Mifune, star of some of the best Japanese movies ever) allows Blackthorne to live as long as he serves his new master. Toranaga also assigns Lady Mariko (Yoko Shimada) to teach Blackthorne the Japanese language and culture. Sparks fly between Blackthorne and Mariko despite her marriage to another man, but the tension explodes when Toranaga’s enemies move against him and Blackthorne has to prove his loyalty.

The original Shōgun isn’t currently available to stream.

2. To Sir, with Love (1967)

Sidney Poitier in To Sir, With Love.
Columbia Pictures

Clavell wrote and directed one of his most acclaimed films, To Sir, With Love, which was based on the novel by E. R. Braithwaite. Sidney Poitier stars in the film as Mark Thackeray, an immigrant from British Guiana who reluctantly accepts a job as a teacher because he can’t secure work as an engineer. Thackeray also finds himself leading a class of at-risk students who don’t have much desire to learn anything.

When his students defy him, Thackeray decides to offer them the chance to set the class subjects and be treated with respect as adults. Some of the students constantly challenge Thackeray’s resolve, but his approach does get results.

Watch To Sir, With Love on Prime Video.

1. The Great Escape (1963)

The cast of The Great Escape.
United Artists

Although Clavell co-wrote The Great Escape, it wasn’t based on his own experiences as a POW. Instead, it was a fictionalized version of Paul Brickhill’s book of the same name, with legendary director John Sturges at the helm. This epic war drama also has a dream cast that includes Steve McQueen, James Garner, Richard Attenborough, James Donald, Charles Bronson, Donald Pleasence, and James Coburn.

During the height of World War II, Captain Virgil Hilts (McQueen) and his fellow POWs devise a bold plan to divert Nazi resources from the frontline by staging a breakout for 250 prisoners at once. It’s a tall order even under the best of circumstances. And if the men actually get out of the prison camp, escaping enemy territory with their lives may prove to be too dangerous.

Rent or buy The Great Escape on Prime Video or other digital outlets.

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