Akira Kurosawa

Akira Kurosawa is one of the most famous foreign directors in the United States and it is mostly due to his large fan base towards his samurai films. But it was his structurally innovative film Rashomon (1950) and its premiere in Tokyo which stunned audiences and cemented the director’s reputation as one of the most important young filmmakers in Japan. Rashomon ultimately became the winner of the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival and its popularity grew, subsequently being released in Europe and North America. The commercial and critical success of the film opened up Western film markets for the first time to the products of the Japanese film industry, which in turn led to international recognition for other Japanese filmmakers. Kurosawa’s favorite go-to lead actor Toshiro Mifune also achieved world-wide fame than any other actor of his century, and the two ultimately collaborated in a total of 16 pictures making the two of them one of the greatest director-actor duos in the history of cinema. When Kurosawa released his four-hour adventure epic Seven Samurai (1954) it became the single largest undertaking by a Japanese filmmaker at the time. The film became a technical and creative watershed that became Japan’s highest-grossing movie and also set a new standard for the Japanese film industry. Many of Kurosawa’s films became such popular successes internationally that several of them were later remade in America, most famously The Hidden Fortress (1958), in which its entire premise was remade into George Lucas’s science-fiction blockbuster Star Wars (1977). Throughout his filmmaking career Kurosawa was heavily influenced by the epic stories of William Shakespeare and the American westerns of director John Ford, and because of that he was heavily condemned by the Japanese for being too western and old-fashioned, making it hard for him to find funding for most of his later pictures. Kurosawa once wrote in his memoirs, “There is one person, I feel, I would like to resemble as I grow old: The late American film director John Ford.” Kurosawa admired American director John Ford so much that he apparently wore dark glasses in imitation of the great director while on set filming, and when John Ford became the first recipient of the AFI Lifetime Achievement Award, Kurosawa was among the many who announced him to be the world’s greatest living director. Because of the international popularity for films like Yojimbo (1961), Throne of Blood (1957) and Ran (1985), not many fans acknowledge Kurosawa’s work outside the samurai genre, which I find to be greatly unfortunate. Kurosawa has made some of the most powerful and emotional modern dramas which deal with the existential human condition, like Red Beard (1965), High and Low (1963), Dersu Uzala (1975), and Ikiru (1952). Kurosawa is regarded today as one of the most important and influential filmmakers in the world and was posthumously named ‘Asian of the Century’ in the “Arts, Literature, and Culture” category by AsianWeek magazine.

Akira Kurosawa
Akira Kurosawa Featured Films
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Articles and Essays on Akira Kurosawa

Yojimbo (1961)

Every western audience should be able to recognize the theme in the beginning shots of Yojimbo, Akira Kurosawa’s most popular film in Japan. A ronin and a ‘man with no name’ played by the legendary Japanese actor Toshiro Mifune, walks into what appears to be an abandoned village with dust and leaves blowing across a wide, empty street as […]


Seven Samurai (1954)

Akira Kurosawa’s action adventure classic Seven Samurai is one of the most popular and influential films in the world. Seven Samurai was the first samurai film that Akira Kurosawa had ever directed, and it was not only Kurosawa’s longest film clocking in at three hours and twenty-seven minutes including an intermission; it was the longest film since […]


Rashomon (1950)

Akira Kurosawa stated that one day before shooting the film Rashomon, three assistant directors came to see him at an inn that he was staying at. It turned out that the three assistants found the script of Rashomon baffling and wanted Kurosawa to explain it to them. “Please read it again more carefully,” Kurosawa told them. […]


Ran (1985)

Throughout his career William Shakespeare’s stories have always fascinated the legendary director Akira Kurosawa, and he has adapted many of his stories into Japanese Samurai culture. He translated Macbeth into his samurai film Throne of Blood and the classic story of Hamlet into his noir film The Bad Sleep Well. Then in 1975 he wanted to make […]


High and Low (1963)

Sadly Akira Kurosawa is mostly known for his Samurai films, and some of his greatest works were outside of the Samurai genre (like John Ford’s films outside of his Westerns.) High and Low is one of them, as it tells a story about a wealthy industrialist whose family is the target of a cold-blooded kidnapper. High and Low […]

Akira Kurosawa