From Kubrick to Scorsese: The great Akira Kurosawa named his top 100 favourite films of all time
Akira Kurosawa, the iconic Japanese film director and screenwriter whose career lasted 57 prolific years, is wildly regarded as one of the most important and influential filmmakers in the history of cinema.
Having directed over 30 years throughout his career, Kurosawa worked his way through the film industry having ended his brief spell as a painter back in 1936. As a director in training, Kurosawa worked as an assistant director to the famed filmmaker of the time Kajirō Yamamoto who, in turn, nurtured his talent by increasing his responsibilities as part of the team and inevitably teaching Kurosawa the core roles of cinema.
Kurosawa eventually made his directional debut during World War II by releasing the popular action film Sanshiro Sugata. Following the end of the war, the Japanese filmmaker’s career was beginning to flourish and the release of the critically acclaimed 1948 film Drunken Angel which signified a major moment in the making of Kurosawa.
The likes of Rashomon, Ikiru, Seven Samurai, Yojimbo, Kagemusha and Ran followed in what proved to be a hugely successful and expansive career for Kurosawa who would influence leading names in cinema such as Martin Scorsese, George Lucas, Francis Ford Coppola, Federico Fellini, Federico Fellini and more.
“One thing that distinguishes Akira Kurosawa is that he didn’t just make a masterpiece or two masterpieces,” Coppola once said of the Japanese filmmaker. “He made eight masterpieces.”
Now, in reflection, the praise for Kurosawa is longstanding and written in the archives despite perhaps being slightly overlooked while in his prime. Swedish director Bergman once called his own film The Virgin Spring “touristic” and “a lousy imitation of Kurosawa” and, amazingly, added: “At that time my admiration for the Japanese cinema was at its height. I was almost a samurai myself.”
Following his death at the age of 88, the posthumous book Yume wa tensai de aru (A Dream is a Genius) was published with the approval of Kurosawa’s family. As part of that book, publishers were able to pull together a comprehensive list of the director’s favourite films of all time.
His daughter, Kazuko Kurosawa, detailed the formation of her father’s list, said: “My father always said that the films he loved were too many to count, and to make a top ten rank. That explains why you cannot find in this list many of the titles of the films he regarded as wonderful.”
She added: “The principle of the choice is: one film for one director, entry of the unforgettable films about which I and my father had a lovely talk, and of some ideas on cinema that he had cherished but did not express in public. This is the way I made a list of 100 films of Kurosawa’s choice.
Below, featuring the likes of Hitchcock, Fellini, Coppola and more.
Akira Kurosawa’s 100 favourite films:
1. Broken Blossoms or The Yellow Man and the Girl – Griffith, 1919. 2. Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari [The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari] -Wiene, 1920. 3. Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler – Ein Bild der Zeit (Part 1 – Part 2) [Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler] – Lang, 1922. 4.The Gold Rush – Chaplin, 1925. 5.La Chute de la Maison Usher [The Fall of the House of Usher] – Jean Epstein, 1928. 6.Un Chien Andalou [An Andalusian Dog] – Bunuel, 1928. 7.Morocco – von Sternberg, 1930. 8.Der Kongress Tanzt – Charell, 1931. 9.Die 3groschenoper [The Threepenny Opera] – Pabst, 1931. 10.Leise Flehen Meine Lieder [Lover Divine] – Forst, 1933. 11.The Thin Man – Dyke, 1934. 12.Tonari no Yae-chan [My Little Neighbour, Yae] – Shimazu, 1934. 13.Tange Sazen yowa: Hyakuman ryo no tsubo [Sazen Tange and the Pot Worth a Million Ryo] – Yamanaka, 1935. 14.Akanishi Kakita [Capricious Young Men] – Itami, 1936. 15.La Grande Illusion [The Grand Illusion] – Renoir, 1937. 16.Stella Dallas – Vidor, 1937. 17. Tsuzurikata Kyoshitsu [Lessons in Essay] – Yamamoto, 1938. 18.Tsuchi [Earth] – Uchida, 1939. 19.Ninotchka – Lubitsch, 1939. 20. Ivan Groznyy I, Ivan Groznyy II: Boyarsky Zagovor [Ivan the Terrible Parts I and II] – Eisenstein, 1944-46. 21.My Darling Clementine – Ford, 1946. 22.It’s a Wonderful Life – Capra, 1946. 23.The Big Sleep – Hawks, 1946. 24.Ladri di Biciclette [The Bicycle Thief] [Bicycle Thieves] – De Sica, 1948. 25.Aoi sanmyaku [The Green Mountains] – Imai, 1949. 26. The Third Man – Reed, 1949. 27. Banshun [Late Spring] – Ozu, 1949. 28.Orpheus – Cocteau, 1949. 29.Karumen kokyo ni kaeru [Carmen Comes Home] – Kinoshita, 1951. 30.A Streetcar Named Desire – Kazan, 1951. 31. Thérèse Raquin [The Adultress] – Carne 1953. 32.Saikaku ichidai onna [The Life of Oharu] – Mizoguchi, 1952. 33.Viaggio in Italia [Journey to Italy] – Rossellini, 1953. 34.Gojira [Godzilla] – Honda, 1954. 35.La Strada – Fellini, 1954. 36.Ukigumo [Floating Clouds] – Naruse, 1955. 37. Pather Panchali [Song of the Road] – Ray, 1955. 38.Daddy Long Legs – Negulesco, 1955. 39.The Proud Ones – Webb, 1956. 40. Bakumatsu taiyoden [Sun in the Last Days of the Shogunate] – Kawashima, 1957. 41.The Young Lions – Dmytryk, 1957. 42.Les Cousins [The Cousins] – Chabrol, 1959. 43.Les Quarte Cents Coups [The 400 Blows] – Truffaut, 1959. 44.A bout de Souffle [Breathless] – Godard, 1959. 45.Ben-Hur – Wyler, 1959. 46. Ototo [Her Brother] – Ichikawa, 1960. 47. Une aussi longue absence [The Long Absence] – Colpi, 1960. 48.Le Voyage en Ballon [Stowaway in the Sky] – Lamorisse, 1960. 49.Plein Soleil [Purple Noon] – Clement, 1960. 50.Zazie dans le métro [Zazie on the Subway] – Malle, 1960. 51. L’Annee derniere a Marienbad [Last Year in Marienbad] – Resnais, 1960). 52. What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? – Aldrich, 1962. 53.Lawrence of Arabia – Lean, 1962. 54. Melodie en sous-sol [Any Number Can Win] – Verneuil, 1963. 55.The Birds – Hitchcock, 1963. 56.Il Deserto Rosso [The Red Desert]- Antonioni, 1964. 57.Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? – Nichols, 1966. 58.Bonnie and Clyde – Penn, 1967. 59.In the Heat of the Night – Jewison, 1967. 60.The Charge of the Light Brigade – Richardson, 1968. 61.Midnight Cowboy – Schlesinger, 1969. 62.MASH – Altman, 1970. 63.Johnny Got His Gun – Trumbo, 1971. 64.The French Connection – Friedkin, 1971. 65.El espíritu de la colmena [Spirit of the Beehive] – Erice, 1973. 66.Solyaris [Solaris] – Tarkovsky, 1972. 67.The Day of the Jackal – Zinneman, 1973. 68.Gruppo di famiglia in un interno [Conversation Piece] – Visconti, 1974. 69. The Godfather Part II – Coppola, 1974. 70.Sandakan hachibanshokan bohkyo [Sandakan 8] – Kumai, 1974. 71. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – Forman, 1975. 72.O, Thiassos [The Travelling Players] -Angelopoulos, 1975. 73.Barry Lyndon – Kubrick, 1975. 74.Daichi no komoriuta [Lullaby of the Earth] – Masumura, 1976. 75.Annie Hall – Allen, 1977. 76.Neokonchennaya pyesa dlya mekhanicheskogo pianino [Unfinished Piece for Mechanical Piano] – Mikhalkov, 1977. 77.Padre Padrone [My Father My Master] (P. & V. Taviani, 1977. 78.Gloria (Cassavetes, 1980. 79.Harukanaru yama no yobigoe [A Distant Cry From Spring] – Yamada, 1980. 80. La Traviata – Zeffirelli, 1982. 81.Fanny och Alexander [Fanny and Alexander] – Bergman, 1982. 82.Fitzcarraldo – Herzog, 1982. 83.The King of Comedy – Scorsese, 1983. 84.Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence – Oshima, 1983. 85.The Killing Fields – Joffe 1984. 86. Stranger Than Paradise – Jarmusch, 1984. 87.Dongdong de Jiaqi [A Summer at Grandpa’s] – Hou, 1984. 88. Paris, Texas – Wenders, 1984. 89.Witness – Weir, 1985. 90.The Trip to Bountiful – Masterson, 1985. 91.Otac na sluzbenom putu [When Father was Away on Business] – Kusturica, 1985. 92. The Dead – Huston, 1987. 93.Khane-ye doust kodjast? [Where is the Friend’s Home] – Kiarostami, 1987. 94.Baghdad Cafe [Out of Rosenheim] – Adlon, 1987. 95.The Whales of August – Anderson, 1987. 96.Running on Empty – Lumet, 1988. 97. Tonari no totoro [My Neighbour Totoro] – Miyazaki, 1988. 98. A un [Buddies] – Furuhata, 1989. 99. La Belle Noiseuse [The Beautiful Troublemaker] – Rivette, 1991. 100.Hana-bi [Fireworks] – Kitano, 1997.