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10 Best Akira Kurosawa Movies, According To IMDb | ScreenRant

It’s no exaggeration to say that Akira Kurosawa is one of the greatest and most influential filmmakers of all time. The trailblazing Japanese storyteller helped to establish the language of cinema and define certain filmmaking tenets that have persisted for over eight decades. As such, Kurosawa’s most venerated work boasts some of the highest movie ratings IMDb has ever seen.

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From such landmark titles as Rashomon, Seven Samurai, and Throne of Blood to lesser-known classics like Ran, Red Beard, and more, Akira Kurosawa’s most well-received films tend to come from the middle of his moviemaking career, marking a level of quality that has rarely been eclipsed since.

Said to be a major influence that Star Wars borrowed from in 1977 (per The Secret History of Star Wars), The Hidden Fortress tracks two peasants in Feudal Japan who are ordered to escort a princess and a general through a perilous territory as enemies close in. Driven by their greed for gold as a reward, the two peasants have no clue how important their escortees are, which leads to an intense battle of wits and weaponry, betrayal, and redemption.

Hailed as one of his most accessible and mainstream movies for Kurosawa beginners to enjoy, The Hidden Fortress marks Kurosawa’s first film shot in widescreen, proving once more that the pioneer was at the forefront of pushing cinematic technology forward.

Made one year before The Hidden Fortress, Throne of Blood is a loose adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth set in Feudal Japan. Kurosawa’s longtime acting muse Toshiro Mifune stars as a grizzled war general named Washizu who goes to treacherous lengths to turn his wife’s vision to become the top ruler into fruition. All of Shakespeare’s hefty themes of tragic betrayal, craven ambition, and inevitable vengeance are on display.

Also known as the Castle of the Spider’s Web in Japan, the eerie labyrinthine forest that serves as the major setting is among the movie’s most memorable and unsettling. The combination of Shakespeare’s timeless tale and Kurosawa’s groundbreaking direction is simply above reproach.

Kurosawa only made five movies after the little-known Dersu Uzala, winner of the 1976 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. The story follows the title character, a trapper sent by Russian armed forces to explore the uncharted Sikhote-Alin region of Siberia. Along the way, Dersu (Maksim Munzuk) forges an unlikely friendship with a grizzled hunter named Arsenev (Yuriy Solomon).

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Filmed almost entirely on location in the frigid Russian wilderness, the film features one of the most harrowingly realistic tiger attacks captured on celluloid. Made toward the twilight of his illustrious career, Dersu Azala is Kurosawa at his most contemplative and soulful state.

While Toshiro Mifune would reprise his now-iconic role of Sanjuro one year later in the eponymous Kurosawa film, Yojimbo reigns supreme in the eyes of many. Ranked #145 on IMDb’s Top 250, Yojimbo (which translates to “Bodyguard”) refers to the wily nomadic samurai who manipulates two ruthless gangsters at odds with each other in 19th-century Japan.

One of Kurosawa’s biggest commercial hits in Japan, Yojimbo has been said to have influenced several other beloved westerns, including Sergio Leonne’s A Fistful of Dollars (per First Post). Violent, philosophical, and transcendent, Yojimbo remains one of Kurosawa’s most popular movies and an all-time classic made right in the middle of his prime.

Loosely inspired by Shakespeare’s King Lear, Ran is one of Kurosawa’s most personal passion projects. The story concerns aging warlord and land baron Hidetora Ichimonji (Tatsuya Nakadai), who bestows the imperial power on his three sons, completely blindsided by their cruel corruption, deadly deceit, and craven betrayal.

Currently rated #139 on IMDb’s Top 250, Ran surprisingly marks the only time Kurosawa was nominated for an Oscar for Best Director. While many IMDb users note the deliberate pace of the film that requires patience to endure, they all agree that the rewards are more than worth the investment. Kurosawa only directed three more movies in his career after Ran.

Notorious for shifting character perspectives and retelling the same story events from multiple points of view, Rashomon is among Kurosawa’s most inventive and oft-imitated masterworks. Adhering to the old adage that there are three sides to every story, few movies explore the veracity of the he-said-she-said dynamic like Rashomon. Even pop-culture filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino have referenced Rashomon in past movies.

When a bride is brutally raped and her husband murdered attempting to protect her, all involved are forced to testify before the court. Each account of the barbarous crimes slightly differs from one another, calling into question the nature of truth, memory, perception, and the cunning manipulation therein.

In his final collaboration with leading man Toshiro Mifune, Kurosawa tells one of his most relatable human tales in Red Beard, the three-hour magnum opus character study. The story follows Kyojo Niide (Mifune), an irascible doctor in a small Japanese town who forges a personal and professional bond with his new medical trainee, Dr. Yasumoto (Yuzo Kayama).

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As Kurosawa’s final black and white film as well, Red Beard in many ways marks the end of an era for the master storyteller, who would go on to direct nine more movies over the next 28 years of his career. Per the IMDb sentiment writ large, many feel that Red Beard is Kurosawa at his most enlightened and spiritually uplifting.

Currently ranked #111 on IMDb’s Top 250 Movies ever made, Ikiru is arguably Kurosawa’s best most emotionally resonant movie of all. Kanji Watanabe (Takashi Shimura) is a career social worker who is suddenly diagnosed with late-stage cancer, which forces him to take stock of his life, find existential meaning, and press on in the face of unfathomable fear.

Given less than one year to live, what makes the story so profoundly aching is the mundane repetition of Kanji’s daily life at his job, to which he dedicated 30 years of his life. Afraid to die but too miserable to live, Kanji’s spiritual journey is both heartening and soul-crushing at once, as only Kurosawa can do.

A perfect crime story and character study told in three precise acts, High and Low is as good as moviemaking gets. The moral quandary concerns Kingo Gondo (Toshiro Mifune), a top executive at the Yokohoma shoe company, who is about to close a very important business deal. But when his son is kidnapped from his home, he agrees to use the money to pay for the ransom, only to realize it was his son’s friend who was kidnapped instead.

By agreeing to pay the ransom before discovering another boy was taken, Gondo is left in an impossible ethical bind. If he pays to save a friend’s child, he will lose the money for his business dealings. If he uses the money for the deal, the boy will be harmed. The way Kurosawa handles the material amounts to one of the most effective cinematic morality plays in history.

For cineasts everywhere, it should come as no surprise that Seven Samurai is considered Kurosawa’s finest film to date, per IMDb. Famously remade as The Magnificent Seven in 1960, the story of a 16th-century Japanese village marauded by violent bandits avenged by seven sword-swinging samurai is now deeply ingrained in storytelling mythology. With visceral action and compelling characters, Seven Samurai is Kurosawa at his sharpest.

Ranked #20 on IMDb’s Top 250, the basic premise of the story does not do justice to the landmark filmmaking achievement of Kurosawa’s singular style. Using multiple cameras for the first time in his career (and henceforth), the film defined modern-day action movie conventions of epic fight sequences and remains the most celebrated samurai film ever conceived.

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