Akira Kurosawa, a name synonymous with cinematic genius, has left an indelible mark on the world of filmmaking.

His masterful storytelling and innovative techniques have influenced a legion of filmmakers across generations.

From the windswept plains of feudal Japan to the bustling streets of modern Tokyo, Kurosawa’s films are a testament to his visionary talent.

In this comprehensive guide, we delve into the very essence of Kurosawa’s craft, exploring his best works that have not only defined a genre but have also become benchmarks of global cinema.

Who Is Akira Kurosawa?

Kurosawa’s journey in the film industry is as enthralling as his movies. His ability to weave intricate narratives with profound themes like morality, human nature, and societal conflicts has earned him international acclaim.

Each of his films is a masterclass in direction, narrative, and visual composition. As we embark on this cinematic odyssey, we’ll explore the depths of Kurosawa’s most celebrated films, uncovering the nuances that make each a masterpiece.

This article isn’t just a list; it’s a journey through Kurosawa’s rich filmography, offering insights into his creative process and the historical context of his works.

Whether you’re a seasoned cinephile or new to Kurosawa’s world, this guide is your gateway to understanding the genius of one of the greatest filmmakers in the history of cinema.

So, sit back and let us guide you through the best of Akira Kurosawa’s films, where every frame is a brushstroke on the canvas of cinematic greatness.

Best Akira Kurosawa Films

Let’s take a look at Kurosawa’s best films.

1. Seven Samurai (1954)              

Seven Samurai is a masterpiece of cinema by the legendary Japanese director Akira Kurosawa.

This epic film tells the story of a group of samurai who are hired by a poor village to defend them against a gang of bandits.

The film is a beautiful exploration of the human spirit and the complexities of honor, duty, and sacrifice.

Kurosawa uses his signature style of breathtaking cinematography and masterful storytelling to create a deeply emotional and thought-provoking experience.

The characters are well-developed and each of the seven samurai has their own distinct personality that adds to the richness of the story.

   

The performances are outstanding, especially Toshiro Mifune as the wild and unpredictable Kikuchiyo.

The action scenes are some of the most thrilling ever put on film, with impeccable choreography and a sense of realism that is rarely seen in modern movies.

The final battle is a true cinematic masterpiece that will leave you on the edge of your seat.

Seven Samurai (English Subtitled)
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Toshiro Mifune, Takashi Shimura, Keiko Tsushima (Actors)
  • Akira Kurosawa (Director) - Akira Kurosawa (Writer) - Sojiro Motoki (Producer)
  • (Playback Language)
  • Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)

2. Yojimbo (1961)           

Yojimbo, directed by Akira Kurosawa, is a true masterpiece of Japanese cinema.

This samurai film tells the story of a wandering ronin, Sanjuro, who arrives in a town torn apart by two rival gangs.

With his wit, cunning, and swordsmanship, Sanjuro plays both sides against each other in a deadly game of deception and violence.

Toshiro Mifune gives a brilliant performance as Sanjuro, perfectly embodying the character’s swagger, humor, and badassery.

The supporting cast is equally strong, with standout performances from Tatsuya Nakadai as the sinister and conniving leader of one of the gangs and Takashi Shimura as a wise and compassionate sake brewer.

Kurosawa’s direction is masterful, with stunning black-and-white cinematography, precise editing, and a gripping sense of tension and suspense.

The action scenes are thrilling and expertly choreographed, showcasing Sanjuro’s skill with a sword and his ability to outsmart his opponents.

Yojimbo is a classic of the samurai genre and a must-see for fans of Kurosawa, Mifune, and Japanese cinema in general.

It’s a film that still holds up today, over 60 years after its initial release, and continues to inspire and influence filmmakers around the world.

Yojimbo (English Subtitled)
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Toshiro Mifune, Tatsuya Nakadai, Yoko Tsukasa (Actors)
  • Akira Kurosawa (Director) - Ryuzo Kikushima (Writer) - Tomoyuki Tanaka (Producer)
  • (Playback Language)
  • Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)

3. Ran (1985)     

“Ran” is a cinematic masterpiece that leaves a lasting impression on its viewers.

   

Akira Kurosawa’s epic tale of power, betrayal, and family drama is brought to life with stunning visuals and a haunting score.

The film transports you to feudal Japan, where aging warlord Hidetora Ichimonji decides to divide his kingdom among his three sons, leading to a bloody power struggle that ultimately destroys everything he built.

The performances are outstanding, particularly Tatsuya Nakadai as Hidetora Ichimonji, who delivers a powerful portrayal of a man grappling with the consequences of his actions.

The battle scenes are breathtaking, with expertly choreographed fight sequences and stunning cinematography that captures the chaos and brutality of war.

Kurosawa’s attention to detail is evident in every frame, from the intricate costumes to the elaborate sets.

The themes of loyalty, honor, and the cost of ambition are explored with depth and nuance, leaving viewers with much to ponder long after the credits roll.

Ran (1985)
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Tatsuya Nakadi, Akira Terao, Jinpachi Nezu (Actors)
  • Akira Kurosawa (Director) - Akira Kurosawa (Writer) - Masato Hara (Producer)
  • (Playback Language)
  • Audience Rating: R (Restricted)

4. Ikiru (1952)   

Ikiru is a masterpiece of Japanese cinema that tells the story of a man named Kanji Watanabe, who is diagnosed with stomach cancer and given only a few months to live.

The film follows Watanabe’s quest to find meaning in his life and leave a legacy behind before he passes away.

Directed by Akira Kurosawa, Ikiru is a poignant and deeply human film that explores themes of mortality, purpose, and redemption.

   

The cinematography is stunning, capturing the beauty and chaos of post-war Tokyo, while the performances are nuanced and powerful, particularly that of Takashi Shimura as Watanabe.

What makes Ikiru truly remarkable is its ability to touch the hearts of its viewers.

The film’s message is universal, reminding us that life is fleeting and that we must find meaning in our existence.

It’s a film that will make you laugh, cry, and ultimately leave you feeling inspired and moved.

Ikiru (English Subtitled)
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Takashi Shimura, Nobuo Kaneko, Kyoko Seki (Actors)
  • Akira Kurosawa (Director) - Hideo Oguni (Writer) - Shojiro Motoki (Producer)
  • (Playback Language)
  • Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)

5. Rashomon (1950)       

Rashomon is a masterful work of art that explores the nature of truth and human perception through a gripping narrative that is as timeless as it is thought-provoking.

Directed by the legendary Akira Kurosawa and starring Toshiro Mifune, this film is a true masterpiece that has stood the test of time.

The film opens with a group of travelers seeking shelter from the rain in the ruins of an ancient gatehouse in Kyoto.

As they wait out the storm, they recount the story of a bandit who is accused of murdering a samurai and raping his wife.

But as the witnesses tell their versions of events, their stories contradict each other, leaving the truth of what really happened shrouded in mystery.

Kurosawa expertly weaves together multiple perspectives, showcasing the complex and often unreliable nature of human perception.

The stunning cinematography captures the beauty of the forest and the tension of the courtroom scenes, while the haunting score adds to the emotional weight of the story.

Toshiro Mifune’s performance as the bandit is nothing short of mesmerizing, bringing to life a character who is both charismatic and deeply flawed.

The rest of the cast is equally impressive, with each actor bringing nuance and depth to their respective roles.

Rashomon
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Toshiro Mifune, Machiko Kyo, Masayuki Mori (Actors)
  • Akira Kurosawa (Director) - Ryunosuke Akutagawa (Writer) - Minoru Jingo (Producer)
  • (Playback Language)

6. High and Low (1963) 

High and Low is a masterful thriller by legendary director Akira Kurosawa.

The film tells the story of a wealthy industrialist named Kingo Gondo (Toshiro Mifune) who receives a ransom demand for his son’s kidnapping.

However, as the story unfolds, it becomes clear that the kidnapper has made a mistake and has taken the wrong boy.

Gondo is then faced with a moral dilemma: should he pay the ransom and save the life of a child who is not his own, or should he refuse and risk the life of his own son?

The film is a gripping exploration of the themes of class, crime, and morality.

Kurosawa’s direction is impeccable, with the use of long takes and deep focus shots creating a sense of tension and urgency throughout the film.

The performances are also top-notch, with Mifune delivering a powerful portrayal of a man torn between his duty to his family and his conscience.

What sets High and Low apart from other thrillers is its nuanced exploration of the characters and their motivations.

The film is not just about the kidnapping and the race against time to save the child, but also about the impact that the incident has on the lives of those involved.

It is a thought-provoking film that leaves a lasting impression on the viewer.

High and Low (English Subtitled)
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Toshiro Mifune, Kyoko Kagawa, Tatsuya Mihashi (Actors)
  • Akira Kurosawa (Director) - Akira Kurosawa (Writer) - Ryuzo Kikushima (Producer)
  • (Playback Language)

7. Throne of Blood (1957)            

Throne of Blood is a masterpiece of cinema, directed by the legendary Akira Kurosawa.

The film is a powerful adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, set in feudal Japan.

The story follows the ambitious samurai, Washizu, and his wife, Asaji, as they plot and scheme their way to the throne.

The film is a haunting exploration of power, betrayal, and the human condition.

Kurosawa’s direction is masterful, capturing the eerie atmosphere of the forest and the tension of the political intrigue.

The performances are equally impressive, with Toshiro Mifune delivering a brilliant portrayal of Washizu, a man consumed by his own ambition.

Isuzu Yamada is equally impressive as Asaji, his wife and partner in crime.

One of the most striking elements of the film is the use of the Noh theater, which adds a surreal and ethereal quality to the story.

The final battle scene, set in the fog-shrouded forest, is both stunning and chilling.

Throne of Blood (English Subtitled)
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Toshiro Mifune, Isuzu Yamada, Minoru Chiaki (Actors)
  • Akira Kurasawa (Director) - Hideo Oguni (Writer) - Sojiro Motoki (Producer)
  • (Playback Language)
  • Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)

8. Kagemusha (1980)     

Kagemusha is a stunning masterpiece that showcases the genius of Akira Kurosawa.

The film tells the story of a thief who is brought in to impersonate a powerful warlord after his death.

The visuals in this film are absolutely breathtaking – every frame is a work of art.

The costume design and set pieces transport you to feudal Japan and the battle sequences are nothing short of epic.

The performances are also top-notch, particularly Tatsuya Nakadai who plays both the warlord and the thief.

Kurosawa’s direction is masterful, as he expertly weaves together themes of power, loyalty, and identity.

This is a must-see for any fan of Japanese cinema or epic war dramas.

Kagemusha: Shadow Warrior
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Daisuke Ryi, Jinpachi Nezu, Kenichi Hagiwara (Actors)
  • Akira Kurosawa (Director) - Akira Kurosawa (Writer) - Akira Kurosawa (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

9. Dersu Uzala (1975)    

Dersu Uzala is a cinematic masterpiece directed by the legendary filmmaker Akira Kurosawa.

The film tells the story of an elderly hunter named Dersu Uzala, who guides a Russian surveying team through the vast and treacherous wilderness of Siberia.

The visuals in this film are breathtaking, capturing the beauty and danger of the Siberian landscape.

The performances are equally impressive, with the lead actor, Maksim Munzuk, delivering a powerful and nuanced portrayal of Dersu Uzala.

At its core, Dersu Uzala is a meditation on the relationship between man and nature, and the importance of respecting and preserving the natural world.

Kurosawa’s deft direction and masterful storytelling make this a must-see for anyone who appreciates great cinema.

Dersu Uzala
  • Dersu Uzala (Imprint)
  • Dersu Uzala (Imprint)
  • Dima Korshikov, Alexandr Pyatkov, Vladimir Kremena (Actors)
  • Akira Kurosawa (Director)
  • English (Subtitle)

10. Red Beard (1965)     

Red Beard is a masterpiece of Japanese cinema, directed by the legendary Akira Kurosawa.

Set in the mid-19th century, the film tells the story of a young doctor named Yasumoto who is sent to work at a clinic under the tutelage of the gruff and unyielding Dr. Niide, also known as Red Beard.

At first, Yasumoto is resistant to Red Beard’s teachings and methods, but as he becomes more immersed in the daily struggles of the clinic’s patients, he begins to see the value in his mentor’s approach.

The film explores themes of compassion, human dignity, and the importance of community and connection in the face of adversity.

The performances in Red Beard are outstanding, particularly Toshiro Mifune as the titular character.

His portrayal of Red Beard is both intimidating and tender, conveying a complex range of emotions with ease. Yuzo Kayama also delivers a strong performance as Yasumoto, capturing the character’s transformation from a callous outsider to a compassionate healer.

Kurosawa’s direction is masterful, as always, with stunning visuals and a meticulous attention to detail.

The film’s pacing is deliberate, allowing the audience to fully immerse themselves in the world of the clinic and its inhabitants.

Sale
Red Beard (The Criterion Collection) [DVD]
  • Factory sealed DVD
  • Toshirô Mifune, Yuzo Kayama, Tsutomu Yamazaki (Actors)
  • Akira Kurosawa (Director)
  • English (Subtitle)
  • English (Publication Language)

11. Sanjuro (1962)          

Sanjuro is a stylish and thrilling samurai film that showcases director Akira Kurosawa’s mastery of the genre.

Toshiro Mifune returns as the charismatic and witty ronin, Sanjuro, who finds himself embroiled in a web of deceit and violence when he helps a group of young warriors uncover corruption in their clan.

The film boasts stunning cinematography, with Kurosawa expertly using light and shadow to create a moody and atmospheric world.

The action scenes are impeccably choreographed, with each sword fight and battle sequence serving as a showcase for Mifune’s incredible physicality and grace.

But what sets Sanjuro apart from other samurai films is its sly sense of humor.

Sanjuro is a charming rogue who never takes himself too seriously, and his interactions with the bumbling young warriors provide plenty of laughs.

Sanjuro (English Subtitled)
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Toshiro Mifune, Tatsuya Nakadai, Keiju Kobayashi (Actors)
  • Akira Kurosawa (Director) - Ryuzo Kikushima (Writer) - Tomoyuki Tanaka (Producer)
  • (Playback Language)
  • Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)

12. The Bad Sleep Well (1960)  

The Bad Sleep Well is a gripping and intense drama that takes the audience on a rollercoaster ride of emotions.

Directed by the legendary Akira Kurosawa, this film is a masterclass in storytelling, cinematography, and acting.

The plot revolves around a young executive named Nishi (Toshiro Mifune) who is seeking revenge against a corrupt corporation that was responsible for his father’s death.

The story is intricately woven with layers of deception, betrayal, and greed, making for a thrilling and suspenseful viewing experience.

Kurosawa’s direction is impeccable, as he expertly builds tension and suspense throughout the film.

The cinematography is equally impressive, with stunning shots that capture the beauty and darkness of the characters and their surroundings.

Toshiro Mifune delivers a standout performance as Nishi, perfectly capturing the character’s pain, anger, and determination.

The supporting cast is equally impressive, with standout performances from Takeshi Kato and Masayuki Mori.

The Bad Sleep Well [1960] [DVD]
  • Polish Release, cover may contain Polish text/markings. The disk has English subtitles.
  • English (Subtitle)

13. The Hidden Fortress (1958) 

The Hidden Fortress, a classic masterpiece directed by the legendary Akira Kurosawa, is a cinematic experience that is both thrilling and captivating.

Set in feudal Japan, the story follows two bickering peasants who reluctantly join forces with a samurai and a princess to retrieve a cache of gold hidden in a fortress.

Kurosawa’s brilliant direction and masterful use of wide-angle shots make the film a visual treat.

The stunning landscapes and battle scenes are breathtakingly captured, leaving the audience in awe of the sheer scale of the production.

The performances by the cast are also top-notch, with Toshiro Mifune giving a standout performance as the gruff and charismatic samurai.

The Hidden Fortress is a film that seamlessly blends action, humor, and drama, making it an entertaining and well-rounded viewing experience.

It’s a testament to Kurosawa’s storytelling ability that the film has been able to stand the test of time and remains a classic to this day.

The Hidden Fortress (English Subtitled)
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Toshiro Mifune, Minoru Chiaki, Kamatari Fujiwara (Actors)
  • Akira Kurosawa (Director) - Ryuzo Kikushima (Writer) - Sanezumi Fujimoto (Producer)
  • (Playback Language)
  • Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)

14. Stray Dog (1949)      

Stray Dog is a gripping crime drama directed by the legendary Akira Kurosawa.

The film follows a rookie detective, Murakami (played brilliantly by Toshiro Mifune), who becomes obsessed with finding his stolen gun in the sweltering heat of post-war Tokyo.

As he dives deeper into the underworld of the city, Murakami is forced to confront his own moral compass and the harsh realities of life in Japan after World War II.

Kurosawa’s direction is masterful, with each shot expertly crafted to create a palpable sense of tension and unease.

The performances are also top-notch, particularly Mifune’s portrayal of a young detective struggling with his own demons.

The film’s exploration of themes of guilt, honor, and redemption make it a standout in Kurosawa’s filmography and a must-see for fans of classic cinema.

Stray Dog
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Toshiro Mifune, Takashi Shimura (Actors)
  • Akira Kurosawa (Director) - Akira Kurosawa (Writer) - Akira Kurosawa (Producer)
  • Turkish, English (Playback Language)
  • Turkish, English (Subtitles)

15. Dreams (1990)          

Dreams is a mesmerizing and visually stunning film directed by the legendary Akira Kurosawa.

This film is a collection of eight short stories that explore different dreams that people have, ranging from the magical to the disturbing.

Each segment is like a beautiful painting brought to life, with rich and vibrant colors that transport the viewer to another world.

Kurosawa’s masterful direction is on full display here, as he weaves together each story with a poetic and dreamlike quality that is hard to describe.

The film is a true work of art, and each segment feels like a unique and unforgettable experience.

One standout segment is “The Peach Orchard,” which follows a group of travelers as they come across a magical peach orchard that is inhabited by a woman who is half-peach, half-human.

This segment is both whimsical and haunting, and the imagery is absolutely breathtaking.

 

Backstreet Dreams
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Brooke Shields, Sherilynn Fenn, Jason O'Malley (Actors)
  • Rupert Hitzig (Director) - Jason O'Malley (Writer) - Jason O'Malley (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

16. Drunken Angel (1948)            

Drunken Angel is a masterclass in filmmaking.

Akira Kurosawa’s direction and Toshiro Mifune’s performance are both incredibly powerful, elevating this film to a level of cinematic greatness.

The chemistry between Mifune’s character, a small-time gangster, and Takashi Shimura’s character, a doctor struggling to treat him and others in the slums of post-war Tokyo, is palpable and deeply moving.

Kurosawa’s use of lighting and camera angles create a haunting atmosphere that perfectly captures the desperation and hopelessness of the film’s setting.

This is a must-watch for any cinephile, and a true testament to the power of storytelling through film.

 

17. No Regrets for Our Youth (1946)      

No Regrets for Our Youth is a powerful and moving film that tells the story of a young woman named Yukie, who must navigate the political and social upheavals of pre-war and wartime Japan.

Directed by the legendary Akira Kurosawa, this film is a beautifully crafted tale of one woman’s struggle for justice and freedom in a society that seeks to silence her voice.

As with many of Kurosawa’s films, No Regrets for Our Youth is characterized by its stunning cinematography and nuanced performances.

Setsuko Hara, who plays Yukie, is particularly impressive, bringing a quiet strength and dignity to her role that is both inspiring and heartbreaking.

The film’s themes of political oppression, personal sacrifice, and the search for identity are all explored with depth and sensitivity, making for a truly unforgettable viewing experience.

18. I Live in Fear (1955)

I Live in Fear is a poignant and powerful film that explores the existential fears of a post-World War II Japan.

Directed by Akira Kurosawa, this film tells the story of an aging businessman, played masterfully by Toshiro Mifune, who is consumed by his fear of a nuclear war and decides to move his entire family to Brazil in search of safety.

The film’s cinematography is stunning, with Kawa’s use of shadows and light adding to the overall feeling of dread that permeates throughout the film.

The performances by the entire cast are superb, with Mifune’s portrayal of a man on the brink of madness being particularly noteworthy.

What sets I Live in Fear apart from other films about the horrors of war is its focus on the psychological impact of nuclear weapons.

The film raises important questions about the ethical responsibility of those who possess such destructive power and the devastating consequences of their use.

I Live in Fear [Region 4]
  • I Live in Fear ( Ikimono no kiroku ) ( Record of a Living Being )
  • I Live in Fear
  • Ikimono no kiroku
  • Record of a Living Being
  • Toshirô Mifune, Takashi Shimura, Minoru Chiaki (Actors)

19. The Lower Depths (1957)     

The Lower Depths is a cinematic masterpiece that transports viewers to the poverty-stricken tenements of Tsarist Russia.

Director Akira Kurosawa expertly adapts Maxim Gorky’s play to the screen, weaving together a tale of survival, hope, and despair.

The ensemble cast is outstanding, bringing to life a diverse group of characters who find themselves living in the same squalid tenement.

Toshiro Mifune delivers a standout performance as the thief and con artist Sutekichi, while Isuzu Yamada shines as the downtrodden prostitute Osugi.

Kurosawa’s direction is impeccable, using the cramped and dilapidated setting to heighten the sense of desperation and claustrophobia.

The Lower Depths is a visual feast, with stunning cinematography that captures the grit and grime of the tenement, as well as the beauty of the natural world outside.

While the film is dark and sometimes brutal, it is also infused with moments of humor and humanity.

The Lower Depths is a poignant exploration of the human condition, and a reminder of the resilience of the human spirit in the face of adversity.

Sale
The Lower Depths (Kurosawa 1957) / The Lower Depths (Renoir 1936) (The Criterion Collection) [DVD]
  • Factory sealed DVD
  • Jean Gabin, Suzy Prim, Louis Jouvet (Actors)
  • Akira Kurosawa (Director) - Akira Kurosawa (Writer)
  • English (Subtitle)
  • Audience Rating: Unrated (Not Rated)

20. The Idiot (1951)        

“The Idiot” directed by Akira Kurosawa, is a cinematic masterpiece that explores the complexities of human relationships and emotions with a poignant and thought-provoking narrative.

Based on the novel by Fyodor Dostoevsky, this film is a stunning adaptation that captures the essence of the book and brings it to life on the big screen.

The film follows the story of Kameda, a man who is labeled as an “idiot” by society due to his naive and innocent nature.

As he navigates through the complex social dynamics of his environment, he becomes entangled in a love triangle with two women, Taeko and Ayako, who represent two different sides of his personality.

Kurosawa’s direction is flawless, with every shot and scene meticulously crafted to convey a range of emotions and themes.

The performances of the cast are equally impressive, with Toshiro Mifune delivering a standout performance as Kameda.

The film’s exploration of themes such as love, trust, and betrayal is both profound and relatable, making it a timeless classic that continues to resonate with audiences today.

The Idiot
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Toshiro Mifune, Masyauki Mori (Actors)
  • Akira Kurosawa (Director) - Akira Kurosawa (Writer) - Takashi Koide (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

21. Madadayo (1993)    

Madadayo is a touching and heartwarming film that explores the themes of aging, friendship, and nostalgia.

Directed by the legendary Akira Kurosawa, this 1993 film is a beautiful and poignant tribute to life and the joys of living.

The film follows the story of a retired professor and his former students as they celebrate his birthday every year and reflect on the joys and challenges of their lives.

The film is filled with tender moments and beautiful imagery, and Kurosawa’s masterful direction brings the characters and their stories to life in a way that is both authentic and deeply moving.

Despite being a slow-paced film, Madadayo is a captivating and emotional journey that will leave you feeling uplifted and inspired.

The performances are outstanding, and the film’s message of love and resilience in the face of life’s challenges is one that will resonate with viewers of all ages.

Oh Dadayo (Blu-ray)
  • Japanese (Subtitle)

22. Sanshiro Sugata (1943)         

Sanshiro Sugata is a stunning masterpiece from the legendary Japanese filmmaker, Akira Kurosawa.

Released in 1943, this film is a powerful portrayal of martial arts and the human spirit.

The story follows the journey of Sanshiro Sugata, a young man who sets out to master the art of Judo.

As he trains and learns from his sensei, he becomes embroiled in a series of challenges and conflicts that test his strength, courage, and skill.

The plot is simple yet profound, and it is brought to life by Kurosawa’s masterful direction and the brilliant performances of the cast.

One of the most striking things about Sanshiro Sugata is its visual beauty.

From the sweeping landscapes to the intimate moments of hand-to-hand combat, every shot is carefully crafted and bursting with emotion.

The fight scenes are especially impressive, with the choreography and cinematography working together to create a sense of power and grace that is truly awe-inspiring.

But what really sets Sanshiro Sugata apart is its exploration of themes like tradition, honor, and perseverance.

Through Sanshiro’s journey, we see the importance of respecting the past while embracing the future, of staying true to oneself even in the face of adversity, and of striving for excellence in all things.

23. Dodes’ka-den (1970)              

Dodes’ka-den is a masterpiece that showcases the brilliance of legendary filmmaker Akira Kurosawa.

This film takes us into the lives of a group of impoverished people living in a slum on the outskirts of Tokyo.

Through their struggles and hardships, we witness the power of human resilience and the beauty of compassion.

The cinematography in Dodes’ka-den is breathtaking, with Kurosawa’s use of color and shadows adding depth and emotion to every scene.

The acting is also superb, with the ensemble cast bringing each character to life with nuance and subtlety.

What sets this film apart, however, is its ability to find hope and beauty in the darkest of circumstances.

Kurosawa’s message is clear: even in the bleakest of situations, there is always a glimmer of light to be found.

Dodes’ka-den is a powerful and moving film that will stay with you long after the credits roll.

It is a testament to the talent and vision of one of cinema’s greatest directors, and a reminder of the power of empathy and kindness in a world that can often feel cruel and unforgiving.

Dodes'ka-Den
  • Factory sealed DVD
  • Akira Kurosawa (Director)
  • English (Subtitle)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)

24. The Quiet Duel (1949)           

The Quiet Duel is a powerful and emotionally charged film from legendary director Akira Kurosawa.

Starring the great Toshiro Mifune, the film tells the story of a doctor who contracts syphilis from a patient and must come to terms with his own mortality and the consequences of his actions.

Kurosawa’s direction is impeccable as always, with stunning cinematography and an intimate focus on the characters and their struggles.

Mifune delivers a tour-de-force performance, conveying a range of emotions from anger and frustration to vulnerability and acceptance.

The film’s exploration of themes such as guilt, responsibility, and the fragility of life is both thought-provoking and heart-wrenching.

It’s a true testament to Kurosawa’s skill as a filmmaker that he can take such a simple premise and turn it into a profound meditation on the human condition.

25. Scandal (1950)          

Scandal is a gripping, noir-style film that explores the scandalous affair between a doctor and a young showgirl.

The film is based on the real-life Profumo Affair that rocked British politics in the 1960s.

Director Michael Powell expertly weaves together a complex tale of love, betrayal, and political intrigue that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very end.

The film’s standout performances come from Joan Greenwood as the seductive showgirl, and John Justin as the naive doctor who becomes embroiled in the scandal.

Their chemistry is palpable, and their performances are both nuanced and captivating.

The supporting cast, including such luminaries as Ralph Richardson and Margaret Leighton, also deliver strong performances that help to flesh out the film’s intricate plot.

Visually, Scandal is a treat, with Powell’s use of light and shadow adding depth and complexity to the film’s themes.

The film’s score, composed by William Alwyn, is also noteworthy, with its haunting melodies underscoring the film’s emotional highs and lows.

Scandal (1950)
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Toshiro Mifune, Yoshiko Yamagushi, Takashi Shimura (Actors)
  • Akira Kurosawa (Director) - Akira Kurosawa (Writer) - Takashi Koide (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

26. The Men Who Tread on the Tiger’s Tail (1945)           

“The Men Who Tread on the Tiger’s Tail” is a masterful display of cinematic storytelling by legendary Japanese director Akira Kurosawa.

Set in feudal Japan, the film follows a group of samurais who disguise themselves as monks in order to cross enemy territory and reach their destination safely.

Kurosawa’s use of stunning visuals and gripping narrative keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout the film.

The tension between the samurais and their pursuers is palpable and the performances by the cast are nothing short of brilliant.

The film also explores themes of honor, duty, and sacrifice, making it a thought-provoking and engaging watch.

“The Men Who Tread on the Tiger’s Tail” may be one of Kurosawa’s lesser-known works, but it is a testament to his genius as a filmmaker.

The Men Who Tread On The Tiger's Tail
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Denjiro Okochi, Susumu Fujita, Ken'ichi Enomoto (Actors)
  • Akira Kurosawa (Director) - Akira Kurosawa (Writer) - Motohiko Itô (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

27. One Wonderful Sunday (1947)          

One Wonderful Sunday is a charming and poignant film that showcases the struggles of post-war Tokyo through the eyes of a young couple in love.

Directed by the legendary Akira Kurosawa, the film depicts the challenges faced by the couple as they try to make the most of their Sunday despite having very little money.

The film captures the essence of the city, showing the crowded streets, the poverty, and the devastation left by the war.

The performances by Isao Numasaki and Chieko Nakakita are superb, with their chemistry being the driving force of the film.

The film’s pacing is deliberate, taking time to showcase the struggles of the couple as they try to enjoy their day together.

The cinematography is also impressive, with Kurosawa’s signature style of long takes and tracking shots adding to the film’s emotional impact.

One Wonderful Sunday is a must-watch for fans of Kurosawa’s work, as well as for those who appreciate heartfelt and authentic storytelling.

It’s a film that reminds us of the power of love and hope in the face of adversity, and it will leave you with a sense of warmth and joy.

One Wonderful Sunday
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Akira Kurosawa (Director) - Akira Kurosawa (Writer) - Sôjirô Motoki (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)
  • Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)

28. Rhapsody in August (1991)  

Rhapsody in August, directed by the legendary Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa, is a poignant meditation on grief, memory, and reconciliation.

The film follows a young girl named Sachiko (played brilliantly by Mieko Harada) who travels to Nagasaki to visit her elderly aunt and uncle, who survived the atomic bombing of the city in 1945.

As Sachiko learns more about her family’s past and the devastating effects of the bombing, she begins to confront her own feelings of loss and pain.

Kurosawa’s direction is masterful, capturing both the beauty and tragedy of Nagasaki’s landscape and its people.

The performances are uniformly excellent, with Harada delivering a nuanced and deeply empathetic portrayal of a young woman grappling with the weight of history.

The supporting cast, which includes Richard Gere in a small but memorable role, is equally strong

Rhapsody in August ( Hachigatsu no rapusodî ) [ NON-USA FORMAT, PAL, Reg.2 Import - Netherlands ]
  • Rhapsody in August ( Hachigatsu no rapusodî )
  • Rhapsody in August
  • Hachigatsu no rapusodî
  • Sachiko Murase, Hisashi Igawa, Narumi Kayashima (Actors)
  • Akira Kurosawa (Director) - Rhapsody in August ( Hachigatsu no rapusodî ) (Producer)

29. The Most Beautiful (1944)   

The Most Beautiful is a stunning masterpiece from the legendary director Akira Kurosawa.

This film is a tribute to the resilience and spirit of Japanese women during the war.

The film follows the story of a group of young women who are selected to work in a factory producing lenses for military equipment.

The film is a poetic and poignant portrayal of the courage, sacrifice, and hard work of these women.

Kurosawa’s direction is flawless, capturing the essence of the women’s struggles with sensitivity and grace.

The black and white cinematography is breathtaking, with every frame carefully composed to evoke a sense of beauty and strength.

The performances from the cast are also remarkable, each actor portraying the characters with nuance and depth.

The Most Beautiful is a must-see film for anyone interested in Japanese cinema, history, or war dramas.

It is a powerful reminder of the human capacity for resilience and hope in the face of adversity.

I highly recommend this film to anyone who loves great cinema.

The Most Beautiful
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Takashi Shimura, Shoji Kiyokawa, Ichiro Sugai (Actors)
  • Akira Kurosawa (Director) - Akira Kurosawa (Writer) - Motohiko Itô (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

30. Sanshiro Sugata, Part Two (1945)     

Sanshiro Sugata, Part Two is a beautiful and poignant film that showcases the incredible artistry of legendary director Akira Kurosawa.

The film picks up where its predecessor left off, following the journey of Sanshiro Sugata as he continues to train in the art of Judo.

Kurosawa masterfully weaves together themes of honor, discipline, and self-discovery, creating a film that is both visually stunning and emotionally moving.

The fight scenes are expertly choreographed, showcasing the grace and strength of the martial arts while also emphasizing the importance of technique and strategy.

The performances in Sanshiro Sugata, Part Two are equally impressive, with Denjirô Ôkôchi delivering a standout performance as the wise and respected Judo master, Shiro Saigo.

The film is also notable for its nuanced portrayal of female characters, with Sugata’s love interest, Sayo Murai, being a strong and independent woman who is not simply relegated to the role of damsel in distress.

Eclipse Series 23: The First Films of Akira Kurosawa (Sanshiro Sugata / The Most Beautiful / Sanshiro Sugata, Part Two / The Men Who Tread on the Tiger's Tail) (The Criterion Collection) [DVD]
  • Factory sealed DVD
  • Susumu Fujita, Takashi Shimura, Denjiro Okochi (Actors)
  • Akira Kurosawa (Director)
  • English (Subtitle)
  • English (Publication Language)

Characteristics of Akira Kurosawa Films

Kurosawa’s films are characterized by their use of long takes and static camera angles, which make the audience feel like they are watching a play.

These characteristics give the films a sense of unity and continuity, which can be seen in his first film, Rashomon (1950).

The film has been described as “a single long take where we feel as if we are watching a play from backstage” (Mendelsohn).

Another characteristic that makes Kurosawa’s films unique is their use of natural light.

To make these films more realistic, he used natural light instead of artificial lights to give it a more authentic feel.

The use of natural light makes Kurosawa’s films look realistic because there aren’t any shadows or harsh lighting in them.

This gives them an authentic feeling because they seem like they could have actually happened in real life rather than being made up through editing or special effects (Mendelsohn).

Best Akira Kurosawa Films – Wrapping Up

As you can see, the list of the best Akira Kurosawa films is long and diverse, with a few standouts.

All of his films have been critically acclaimed and financially successful, but none has gone as far as Seven Samurai or Yojimbo in terms of box office success.

The latter won two Oscars at the Academy Awards, while Seven Samurai won one (for Best Foreign Language Film).

Kurosawa was also a member of the Japanese parliament for five years after his retirement from filmmaking.

He died in 1998 at the age of 81 due to prostate cancer.

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