Akira Kurosawa is a cinematic genius whose legacy has stood the ravages of time. His films, spanning over five decades, have captured the hearts and souls of moviegoers around the world. From striking visuals that transport viewers to another time and place to complex narratives that delve into the human psyche, Kurosawa’s work is nothing short of extraordinary. Whether you’re a fan of samurai epics or character-driven stories, there’s a Kurosawa film that’s sure to leave a lasting impression. Below are five best Akira Kurosawa movies that’ll keep you glued to your couch and make you forget about the outside world.
Stray Dog (1949)
The film is a captivating journey through the seedy and dangerous streets of post-World War II Tokyo, told through the eyes of the young and optimistic police officer Murakami. As he delves deeper into the case of his stolen pistol, he becomes immersed in a world of crime and corruption, where nothing is as it seems. Along the way, he meets the experienced investigator, Sato, who offers him a glimpse into the grim realities of life in Tokyo.
The visual style of Stray Dog immerses the audience in the raw and gritty atmosphere of post-World War II Tokyo. Through the collaboration of Kurosawa and cinematographer Asakazu Nakai, the film employs a myriad of camera techniques to convey the roughness and squalor of the city. The realistic shooting locations add to the authenticity and immediacy of the film, making the chase scenes through the bustling streets and alleyways particularly striking examples of skilled camerawork.
Ikiru is a touching film that chronicles the journey of Kanji Watanabe, a government accountant who has devoted his life to his job. Upon receiving a terminal cancer diagnosis, he begins to reflect on the emptiness of his life and the legacy he will leave behind. With a newfound sense of purpose, he embarks on a quest to make a positive difference in the world by building a park for the community. His search for meaning and redemption is both inspiring and deeply moving as he confronts the harsh realities of life and learns to cherish the small moments of joy and beauty that make life worth living.
Akira Kurosawa’s Ikiru is a true gem of his artistic vision, a profound exploration of the human psyche and the quest for meaning in life. The film’s poignant characters and their complex relationships are portrayed with depth and sensitivity, which is a testament to Kurosawa’s storytelling prowess. The masterful cinematography perfectly captures the intricate nuances of the characters’ emotional states, offering an experience that is nothing short of a visual feast.
We follow the perspective of Sanjuro, an exiled warrior whose fate lands him in a small hamlet engulfed in a brutal turf war between two gangs in the chaotic Edo period of Japan. With his sharp sword and sharper wit, Sanjuro quickly grasps that the villagers are helpless in the face of the factions’ brutality and corruption. He embarks on a mission to outmaneuver and turn the two factions against each other, with the ultimate goal of bringing an end to the violence and restoring law and order to the village.
The film is a perfect equilibrium of action, intrigue, and humor that seamlessly weaves a compelling narrative. Sanjuro, the protagonist, is a complex and intriguing character who embodies both heroism and flaws. A master of the sword, he is also a shrewd manipulator with a sharp wit and ego. Kurosawa’s direction is nothing short of brilliant- the film’s stunning use of deep focus shots captures the beauty and brutality of feudal Japan and is just one of many breathtaking elements that make this film a true cinematic masterpiece.
High And Low (1963)
The film tells the story of Kingo Gondo, a successful entrepreneur who has invested all his resources into an unsafe business deal. But when things spiral out of control, Gondo finds himself in a precarious financial situation. As if this wasn’t bad, his son also gets kidnapped, and a hefty ransom is demanded by the abductors. As the police launch a probe into the kidnapping, Gondo must decide whether to pay the ransom and risk financial ruin or take a stand and refuse to give in to the kidnappers’ demands.
Kurosawa’s visionary direction is a feast for the eyes, utilizing stunning cinematography to vividly capture both the opulence of Gondo’s lavish home and the seedy underbelly of the city. The film’s unique structure is split between two worlds, effortlessly weaving together the high and low levels of society in a way that feels both jarring and seamless. The cast’s performances are outstanding, with Toshiro Mifune delivering a captivating portrayal of Gondo’s inner turmoil and conflicting emotions.
The movie chronicles the lives of those residing in a destitute slum on the outskirts of Tokyo. A man struggling with mental illness, a family with a domineering patriarch, a group of children scavenging in the garbage, and a homeless person dreaming of building a new abode are all part of this motley crew. The movie is presented as a succession of interconnected vignettes, each revolving around a different character or group as they navigate their way through the daily struggle of finding meaning and joy in their existence.
The film delves into the lives of those who are marginalized and struggling, showcasing their struggles for love and fulfillment despite the oppressive conditions they face due to poverty. It offers a compassionate portrayal of the human condition and how the quest for happiness transcends all social barriers. The cast’s outstanding work defies the fact that the majority of the performers are amateurs. All of the actors deliver portrayals that are both assertive and emotionally gripping, thanks to Kurosawa’s direction.