Toshiro Mifune was a legendary Japanese actor who starred in over 150 films throughout his career, many of which have become beloved classics of Japanese cinema.
Mifune was known for his intense and charismatic performances, as well as his collaborations with acclaimed filmmaker Akira Kurosawa.
Some of the best Toshiro Mifune movies include “Seven Samurai” (1954), in which he plays a charismatic and skilled warrior leading a group of samurai in defending a village from bandits.
“Rashomon” (1950), in which he plays a bandit whose version of events surrounding a murder is one of several conflicting stories. And “Yojimbo” (1961), in which he plays a wandering samurai who plays two rival gangs against each other for his own benefit.
Other notable Toshiro Mifune movies include “Throne of Blood” (1957), a retelling of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” set in feudal Japan; “The Hidden Fortress” (1958), a swashbuckling adventure film that inspired George Lucas’s “Star Wars”; and “High and Low” (1963), a crime drama in which Mifune plays a wealthy businessman whose son is kidnapped.
Best Toshiro Mifune Movies
Mifune’s career spanned several decades, and his performances continue to inspire and captivate audiences around the world.
1. Seven Samurai (1954)
Seven Samurai is a classic Japanese movie directed by Akira Kurosawa and released in 1954. The film tells the story of a group of seven samurai who are hired by a village to defend them against bandits. Here are three reasons to watch Seven Samurai:
Cinematic masterpiece: Seven Samurai is widely regarded as a cinematic masterpiece and is often cited as one of the greatest films ever made.
The film is known for its stunning visuals, dynamic action sequences, and powerful performances, all of which come together to create a truly unforgettable cinematic experience.
Cultural significance: Seven Samurai is an important film in Japanese cinema and is considered a cultural touchstone.
The movie explores themes of loyalty, honor, and sacrifice that are deeply ingrained in Japanese culture, and it is credited with helping to popularize the samurai genre both domestically and internationally.
Influence: Seven Samurai has had a significant influence on world cinema, and its impact can be seen in many subsequent films, particularly those in the action and adventure genres.
The film’s innovative cinematography and dynamic action sequences have inspired countless filmmakers over the years, making it an important touchstone in the history of cinema.
In conclusion, Seven Samurai is a cinematic masterpiece with cultural significance and far-reaching influence that makes it an essential viewing experience for any fan of world cinema.
2. High and Low (1963)
“High and Low” is a 1963 Japanese crime film directed by Akira Kurosawa, based on the novel “King’s Ransom” by Ed McBain.
The film tells the story of Gondo, a wealthy businessman who is faced with a difficult decision when his son is kidnapped for ransom. The film is notable for its exploration of class divisions in Japan, and for its use of split-screen and other innovative visual techniques.
Here are three reasons to watch “High and Low”:
Akira Kurosawa’s direction: Kurosawa is widely regarded as one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, and “High and Low” is a testament to his talent. The film’s masterful pacing, stunning visuals, and nuanced performances all demonstrate Kurosawa’s skill as a director.
The performances: “High and Low” features a stellar cast, including Toshiro Mifune as Gondo and Tatsuya Nakadai as the kidnapper.
Mifune delivers a powerful performance as a man struggling with the ethical dilemma of whether to pay the ransom, while Nakadai brings a sense of depth and complexity to the role of the kidnapper.
The exploration of class divisions: “High and Low” is not just a crime thriller, but also a social commentary on the class divisions in Japan.
The film examines the stark contrast between the luxurious lifestyle of Gondo and the poverty and desperation of the kidnapper, highlighting the harsh realities of a society that is divided by wealth and status.
Overall, “High and Low” is a must-watch for fans of crime dramas, social commentaries, and masterful filmmaking.
3. Red Beard (1965)
“Red Beard” is a 1965 Japanese drama film directed by Akira Kurosawa, starring Toshiro Mifune and Yuzo Kayama.
The film is set in 19th century Japan and follows the story of a young doctor named Noboru Yasumoto (played by Kayama) who is sent to work at a public clinic in a poor district of the city.
The clinic is run by a gruff and stern doctor named Kyojou Niide, also known as “Red Beard” (played by Mifune), who takes on the role of mentor to Yasumoto.
As Yasumoto works alongside Red Beard and the clinic’s other staff members, he begins to witness the harsh realities of poverty, illness, and social injustice that afflict the patients who come to the clinic.
Through his experiences, Yasumoto learns to appreciate the value of human life and the importance of treating patients with compassion and dignity, rather than simply as medical cases.
“Red Beard” is considered one of Kurosawa’s masterpieces, and is noted for its powerful performances, stunning cinematography, and profound humanist message.
The film’s exploration of themes such as social inequality, human suffering, and the importance of empathy and human connection have made it a beloved classic of world cinema.
4. Samurai Rebellion (1967)
“Samurai Rebellion” is a 1967 Japanese jidaigeki (period drama) film directed by Masaki Kobayashi and starring Toshiro Mifune and Yoko Tsukasa.
The film is set in 18th century Japan and tells the story of a samurai named Isaburo Sasahara (Mifune) who is ordered to marry off his son to the daughter of his lord, even though his son is already married to another woman.
When Isaburo’s son and his new wife are mistreated by their lord and forced to leave their home, Isaburo decides to rebel against his lord and lead a group of samurai in a fight for justice and honor.
As the conflict escalates, Isaburo must confront not only his lord, but also his own sense of duty and loyalty.
“Samurai Rebellion” is known for its beautiful cinematography, tense action scenes, and complex portrayal of honor and loyalty in feudal Japan. Mifune delivers a powerful performance as Isaburo, a proud samurai torn between his duty to his lord and his love for his family.
The film was a critical and commercial success in Japan and abroad, earning numerous awards and nominations, including the Palme d’Or at the 1967 Cannes Film Festival. It has since become a classic of Japanese cinema and is widely regarded as one of Kobayashi and Mifune’s best works.
5. Rashomon (1950)
“Rashomon” is a 1950 Japanese film directed by Akira Kurosawa and starring Toshiro Mifune. The film is widely regarded as a masterpiece of world cinema and a groundbreaking work of art that introduced Japanese cinema to Western audiences.
The film tells the story of a murder and the different perspectives of the witnesses and participants in the events leading up to the crime. Mifune plays the character of Tajomaru, a notorious bandit who is accused of the murder.
Through a series of flashbacks and testimonies, the film explores the themes of truth, subjectivity, and the reliability of human perception and memory.
Mifune’s performance as the charismatic and enigmatic Tajomaru is widely considered to be one of his best. His portrayal of the character’s physicality, facial expressions, and vocal delivery help to convey the complex emotions and motivations of the bandit.
“Rashomon” has had a lasting impact on cinema and has inspired countless filmmakers and artists around the world.
The film’s innovative storytelling techniques, powerful performances, and exploration of the human condition continue to captivate audiences today.
6. Yojimbo (1961)
Yojimbo is a classic Japanese movie directed by Akira Kurosawa and released in 1961. The film tells the story of a ronin, or wandering samurai, who arrives in a small town that is being torn apart by two warring factions. Here are three reasons to watch Yojimbo:
Engaging story and characters: Yojimbo is a gripping tale of loyalty, betrayal, and revenge, with complex characters and an intricate plot that keeps audiences on the edge of their seats.
The film’s central character, played brilliantly by Toshiro Mifune, is a fascinating study in cunning and ruthlessness, and his interactions with the various townspeople and rival factions are both suspenseful and entertaining.
Innovative filmmaking techniques: Yojimbo is known for its innovative filmmaking techniques, including the use of multiple camera angles and rapid editing to create a sense of frenetic action and heightened tension.
The film’s unique visual style, which combines traditional Japanese aesthetics with modern cinematic sensibilities, is a testament to Kurosawa’s skill as a filmmaker.
Influence: Yojimbo has had a profound influence on world cinema, particularly in the action and adventure genres.
The film’s story and characters have been adapted and reimagined in countless films and television shows over the years, and its impact can be seen in everything from spaghetti westerns to samurai films.
In conclusion, Yojimbo is a masterpiece of Japanese cinema with a gripping story, complex characters, and innovative filmmaking techniques. Its influence on world cinema is profound and enduring, making it an essential viewing experience for any fan of the action and adventure genres.
7. Throne of Blood (1957)
“Throne of Blood” is a 1957 Japanese film directed by Akira Kurosawa. It is an adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth,” set in feudal Japan. The film follows the story of Washizu, a samurai who becomes consumed by ambition and ultimately meets a tragic fate.
Here are three reasons to watch “Throne of Blood”:
Akira Kurosawa’s direction: Kurosawa is known for his masterful direction, and “Throne of Blood” is no exception. His use of camera angles, music, and lighting creates a tense and foreboding atmosphere throughout the film.
The famous scene where Washizu is chased through the forest by a hail of arrows is a testament to Kurosawa’s skill as a director.
The performances: Toshiro Mifune delivers a powerful and nuanced performance as Washizu, capturing the character’s descent into madness with great depth and complexity. Isuzu Yamada also shines as Lady Asaji, Washizu’s ruthless and manipulative wife.
The adaptation of Shakespeare: “Throne of Blood” is a unique and fascinating adaptation of “Macbeth,” set in a different cultural context.
Kurosawa’s adaptation captures the themes of ambition, betrayal, and fate that are central to the play, while also infusing the story with elements of Japanese folklore and mythology.
Overall, “Throne of Blood” is a masterpiece of Japanese cinema and a must-watch for fans of Kurosawa, Shakespeare, and period dramas.
8. The Hidden Fortress (1958)
“The Hidden Fortress” is a 1958 Japanese epic film directed by Akira Kurosawa, starring Toshiro Mifune and Misa Uehara.
The film is set in feudal Japan and tells the story of two peasants, Tahei and Matashichi, who become involved in a quest to transport a princess and her family’s fortune across enemy lines to safety.
As they journey through dangerous territory, Tahei and Matashichi encounter a samurai named General Rokurota Makabe (played by Mifune) who is secretly protecting the princess and the fortune.
Makabe enlists the reluctant peasants to assist in their mission, and the three embark on a perilous journey that tests their bravery, loyalty, and determination.
“The Hidden Fortress” is noted for its adventurous and engaging story, as well as its innovative use of widescreen cinematography and dynamic action sequences.
The film’s themes of honor, loyalty, and the human cost of war are explored through the struggles of the characters, who must navigate treacherous terrain and overcome personal obstacles in order to achieve their goals.
The film has had a lasting impact on popular culture, with its influence being felt in works such as George Lucas’ “Star Wars” trilogy, which drew heavily from “The Hidden Fortress” for its storytelling and visual style.
Today, “The Hidden Fortress” is widely regarded as a classic of Japanese cinema and a must-see for fans of adventure and action films.
9. Sanjuro (1962)
“Sanjuro” is a 1962 Japanese jidaigeki (period drama) film directed by Akira Kurosawa and starring Toshiro Mifune.
It is a sequel to Kurosawa’s earlier film “Yojimbo” and tells the story of a group of young samurai who hire a ronin named Sanjuro (Mifune) to help them overthrow a corrupt chamberlain who is exploiting their clan.
Sanjuro, a wandering samurai with a keen sense of justice and a talent for sword fighting, agrees to help the young men and guides them through a series of traps and ambushes set up by the chamberlain’s men.
As the battle between the two sides intensifies, Sanjuro must use all of his skills and wit to outsmart his opponents and bring justice to the oppressed.
“Sanjuro” is known for its sharp dialogue, intricate plot, and masterful direction by Kurosawa. Mifune delivers a charismatic performance as Sanjuro, a rough and tough character who nevertheless has a strong sense of honor and justice.
The film was a critical and commercial success in Japan and abroad, earning praise for its action scenes, character development, and social commentary. It has since become a classic of Japanese cinema and is widely regarded as one of Kurosawa and Mifune’s best collaborations.
10. The Life of Oharu (1952)
“The Life of Oharu” (1952) is a Japanese film directed by Kenji Mizoguchi, starring Toshiro Mifune in a supporting role. The film follows the life of a woman named Oharu, played by Kinuyo Tanaka, from her youth as a noblewoman to her descent into poverty and prostitution.
Mifune’s performance in the film is relatively minor, but his presence is still felt throughout. He plays Katsunosuke, a young lord who falls in love with Oharu during her youth.
Although their love is forbidden by society, Katsunosuke continues to pursue Oharu throughout the film, even as her life takes a series of tragic turns.
Mifune’s portrayal of Katsunosuke is characterized by a sense of restrained passion and melancholy. Despite his position of privilege and power, the character is deeply affected by his love for Oharu and the obstacles they face.
“The Life of Oharu” is widely regarded as a classic of Japanese cinema, and is considered one of Mizoguchi’s most powerful and poignant films.
The film’s exploration of themes such as class, gender, and societal norms, as well as its exquisite cinematography and nuanced performances, make it a must-see for fans of Japanese cinema and film enthusiasts in general.
3 Reasons To Watch Toshiro Mifune Movies
Mifune’s unique acting style: Toshiro Mifune was a highly versatile actor who was known for his intensity, physicality, and range.
He could seamlessly transition between roles that required him to be serious and brooding, to those that required him to be comedic and lighthearted. Mifune’s performances were always captivating and engaging, and he had a way of bringing a unique energy to each of his roles.
His collaborations with director Akira Kurosawa: Mifune is perhaps best known for his work with legendary Japanese director Akira Kurosawa, with whom he made 16 films.
Their collaborations are widely regarded as some of the greatest in cinematic history, and they had a profound impact on Japanese cinema and beyond.
Their films often explored complex themes and were visually stunning, featuring innovative camera techniques and striking imagery.
The importance of Mifune’s work to Japanese cinema: Toshiro Mifune is widely regarded as one of the most important actors in the history of Japanese cinema.
His work helped to establish Japanese cinema as a major force in world cinema, and his influence can still be felt today.
Watching Mifune’s films is not only a chance to witness the work of a great actor, but also an opportunity to gain insight into the history and culture of Japan.