Following Netflix’s success with One Piece, Naruto is getting a live-action movie adaptation, but there are questions about how the anime’s arcs will be broken up on the big screen. Masashi Kishimoto’s story spans 700 chapters and 720 episodes, so it’ll be difficult to squeeze the entire thing into a movie format. That’s one of numerous challenges the live-action Naruto adaptation faces in bringing the source material to life. Even cutting the filler arcs from the anime, there’s a lot to tackle, and sequels aren’t guaranteed.
Assuming the first part of Naruto is fully adapted — Naruto: Shippuden would come much later and pose its own challenges, with the main cast aging — it will take multiple movies to get the story right. Naruto works better as a TV show, but the separate arcs indicate how it can be turned into individual movies. While the film series would still struggle to hit all the notes from the manga and anime, breaking Naruto part 1 into four live-action movies would give the filmmakers enough space to cover all the major details.
The first live-action Naruto movie will no doubt cover the Land of Waves arc, which is somewhat disappointing given it features a villain who doesn’t factor prominently into the rest of the story. Still, a film tackling the Naruto anime’s prologue will give viewers the opportunity to get to know Team 7: Naruto, Sasuke, Sakura, and Kakashi. The first movie will be tasked with establishing the world, as well as the main characters’ backstories — no small feat considering the scale of the manga and anime.
With the live-action Naruto film moving forward, the adaptation will have to solve a difficult Naruto villain dilemma for the movie to work.
With that in mind, it’s probably for the best that the initial live-action Naruto film won’t dig into the more complex storylines that unravel later on. Instead, it will give Naruto and his teammates the chance to hone their skills and learn to work together. This will culminate in two fights against Zabuza Momochi, the first of which will reveal Kakashi’s abilities with the Sharingan. The second confrontation could serve as the climax of the film, with Haku’s death, Sasuke’s move to protect Naruto, and Zabuza’s sacrifice packing several emotional punches. If the live-action Naruto doesn’t get a sequel, this prologue can also stand on its own.
The sequel to the live-action Naruto movie will be a bit more exciting for the young ninjas, as it will likely cover the Chunin Exams arc. The second installment can briefly spend time explaining the purpose of the exams and introducing the large supporting cast. Then it can focus on the Forest of Death and one-on-one battles. The Forest of Death will be especially important in Naruto 2, as it will introduce Orochimaru and set up later storylines, including the coup and Sasuke’s departure. These are all necessary components of Kishimoto’s story, so it’s crucial that the Naruto adaptation gets them right.
Unfortunately, squeezing the Chunin Exams into a single film likely means that Naruto 2 will need to cut back on the one-on-one battles. In the source material, Naruto and his fellow ninjas-in-training do a full round of one-on-one matches, then return later for a second tournament-style test. The latter is interrupted by Orochimaru and the Sunagakure staging a coup, which leads to even more high-stakes confrontations. Unless the second Naruto movie receives an extra-long runtime, it will likely have to combine the one-on-one fights to cover everything. It would also end on a cliffhanger, as there’s no way to fit the Konoha Crush arc in as well.
The second live-action Naruto movie would end on a cliffhanger, with the third picking up in the midst of Orochimaru’s coup. Naruto 3 can cover his fight with the Third Hokage, which concludes with the leader’s death. This makes the Konoha Crush arc an ideal storyline to combine with the Search for Tsunade. Since Tsunade becomes the next Hokage, it’s fitting that the movie would cover both Sarutobi’s death and her journey to accepting the role. During Naruto and Jaraiya’s search for the third Sannin, they’ll also encounter Orochimaru, establishing a consistent villain over the course of the film series.
Naruto 3 would also need to deal with Naruto vs. Gaara early on, cementing Naruto’s ability to inspire those around him and showcasing the talents he picks up while training with Jaraiya. The Search for Tsunade arc also needs to introduce Itachi, assuming the Naruto movies want to set up Shippuden‘s storylines ahead of time. Alternatively, Itachi’s arrival could be bumped back to the beginning of the Shippuden films. However, that would pose some problems in Naruto 4, which depends on Sasuke’s desire to kill his brother to get the ball rolling.
The Sasuke Recovery Mission arc is one of the best storylines from the original Naruto, so it should receive its own live-action movie. Naruto 4 can open with Sasuke questioning his place in Konoha and stewing over his encounter with Itachi. His fight with Naruto can happen near the beginning of the film, with his decision to leave prompting the mission to recover him. From there, most of Naruto 4 would consist of fight sequences. The Sasuke Recovery Mission arc sees Naruto and his friends taking on the Sound Ninja Four (and the unexpected fifth member of their group). Each of the young ninjas winds up fighting a villain one-on-one.
This would take up most of the movie’s runtime, but it would provide an action-packed and compelling conclusion to the original Naruto storyline — just as it does in the manga and anime. The climax of Naruto 4 would be Naruto catching up with Sasuke, who refuses to return with him. The two characters get into a massive confrontation that nearly results in Naruto’s death. It’s an emotional and thrilling sequence that will leave moviegoers wanting Shippuden movies. That’s good news for Lionsgate, the studio making the live-action Naruto adaptation.
If the live-action Naruto does extend beyond the original series, the final film can also include the brief Sunakagure Support Mission arc. This spans just five episodes, most of which aren’t canon. These installments set up the events of Shippuden, with episode 220 — the only canon one — sending Naruto away to train with Jaraiya. This heralds the time skip between Naruto and Naruto: Shippuden, making it the perfect place to end the original series of movies.
The original Naruto anime is streaming on Crunchyroll, Netflix, Hulu, and Peacock.