The first mention of this continuation of the NINJA series came at the American Film Market in 1984 when Golan and Globus promised a NINJA IV alongside other sequels PREPPIES II and THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE II. NINJA 3: THE DOMINATION (1983) had come out the previous September and done only so-so, but the GoGo Boys were determined to keep wringing the last drop out of that shinobi shozoku. A few months later at Cannes, the company debuted the AMERICAN NINJA title. A this point it was a wildly different film. Director Sam Firstenberg was back, but the lead was Cannon’s Golden Bearded Boy, Chuck Norris. The tagline promised “Assassination! Random Murder! Terrorism! Only One Power Can Stop It…” and the screenplay was credited to James Silke. Come the October MIFED film convention and the film had changed significantly again - the script was now written by Norris and James Bruner and Joseph Zito was credited as director. Given those particulars, it is easy to see this Norris project morphed from AMERICAN NINJA to INVASION U.S.A., his 1985 vehicle.
Cannon ended up getting AMERICAN NINJA into theaters just a few days earlier than their September 1985 release date (imagine the insanity of shooting a film in April and having it in theaters just a few months later). The film debuted nationwide on August 30, 1985 and was the highest grossing new release that weekend with a haul of $3,234,837 for a fourth place finish. It is worth noting that Cannon only got this into 672 theaters, the lowest theater count in the top five (for reference, the no. 1 and 2 films, BACK TO THE FUTURE and TEEN WOLF, had over 1,500 and 1,400 screens, respectively; damn, Michael J. Fox was kicking ass at the box office). AMERICAN NINJA ended its haul with $10,499,694, which was more than NINJA 3 had made the previous year. The series proved popular enough on home video and cable that four sequels were produced over the next six years.