Saturday, August 13, 2011

Top Ranked Films of Akira Kurosawa

These are all the films of Japanese master Akira Kurosawa that made the top 1000 in our 2011 update of the Top Ranked 1000 Films on the Net, all polls. He is tied for 5th with 11 ranked titles, and is 4th overall in total points, after Hitchcock, Kubrick, and Scorsese. He also has 3 titles in the top 100, and many cinephiles would argue that Ikiru is perhaps his finest film and also very close to the top 100 at #101 – it will likely be within the top 100 on the next updating of these rankings as it’s reputation is growing over time. He is currently my favorite all-time director after Stanley Kubrick, and I've only seen half his vast filmography so far.

1. The Seven Samurai (1954, bw) #2 This was refilmed as the western The Magnificent Seven
2. Rashomon (1954, bw) #29
3. Ran (1985) #39 This is a retelling of Shakespeare's King Lear
4. Ikiru (1952, bw) #101
5. Yojimbo (1961, bw) #163 This was refilmed as the western Fistful of Dollars
6. Throne of Blood (1957, bw) #244 This is a retelling of Shakespeare's Macbeth
7. High and Low (1963, bw) #449
8. Dersu Uzala (1975) #646
9. Kagemusha (1980) #683
10. Hidden Fortress, The (1958, bw) #788 George Lucas said this inspired Star Wars
11. Red Beard (1965, bw) #961

Seven Samurai had the original title of The Magnificent Seven - Kurosawa changed the title when the U.S. western remake came out to avoid confusion, and is a bona fide masterpiece, perhaps the greatest film of all time. In our most recent update of the Top Ranked 1000 Films, it’s now ranked only behind The Godfather, but is much more ground-breaking. It’s gritty realistic style and in-your-face action influenced all action films to follow. On top of that, the entire battle sequence was filmed in a torrential rainstorm, so water and mud are constantly flying in front of the lens, which also helped to totally immerse the viewers in the action. I also much prefer Kurosawa’s early b&w films to the later epics in color – I’m totally bored by Ran and Kagemusha, but Dersu Uzala, about a Siberian wilderness guide, is a very good color film.

A young Toshiro Mifune plays a
detective in Stray Dog

For me, the most glaring omission here is Stray Dog (1949, bw), a police procedural about a rookie detective (played by Kurosawa favorite Toshiro Mifune) having his gun stolen on a crowded bus, and his dogged search in Tokyo’s black market for the missing gun, which is now being used to commit other crimes. This film caused a sensation in Japan and a whole wave of police procedural films as a result. His High and Low is a throwback to Stray Dog, being another police investigation, this one of a child’s kidnapping for a huge ransom from a corporate executive, also played by Toshiro Mifune. These two films will make you want to watch all of Kurosawa’s crime films.

See the full list of top ranked 100 directors here: Top Ranked 100 Directors, 2011 Edition


Anonymous said...

I think Ikiru is a Dostoevsky adaptation (To Live). Might be interesting to add that to the description.

Jim Beaver said...

Ikiru is NOT a Dostoyevsky adaptation. The Idiot is, though, but it didn't make the list.