The films of Akira Kurosawa, one of the cinema’s greatest auteurs, have had a profound effect on audiences around the world, and his acclaimed samurai epics – featuring international star Toshirô Mifune – have inspired filmmakers a diverse as George Lucas and Sergio Leone.
SEVEN SAMURAI (1954)
When the residents of a small Japanese village seek protection they hire seven unemployed “ronin“ (masterless samurai). Paid only in handfuls of rice, the samurai remain distant from the villagers, knowing that their assignment may prove to be fatal. Unanimously hailed as one of cinema’s greatest masterpieces, Seven Samurai has inspired countless films, including The Magnificent Seven.
Japan | 1954 | 190 minutes | Original aspect ratio 1.33:1
THRONE OF BLOOD (1957)
In this brilliant re-imagining of Shakespeare’s Macbeth Toshirô Mifune plays a samurai fated to betray his friend and master in exchange for the prestige of nobility. Kurosawa’s bloody tale is a triumph of economic style, and the climactic battle scene is full of remarkable, and brutal, imagery.
Japan | 1957 | 104 minutes | Original aspect ratio 1.33:1
THE HIDDEN FORTRESS (1958)
In this classic collaboration between Kurosawa and star Mifune, a warrior and a princess try against all odds to return to their homeland with their fortune. Acknowledged by George Lucas as the inspiration for Star Wars, The Hidden Fortress combines an epic tale of struggle and honour with modern comic sensibilities to masterful effect.
Japan | 1958 | 138 minutes | Original aspect ratio 2.35:1 (16×9 enhanced)
A drifting samurai for hire plays both ends against the middle with two warring factions, surviving on his wits and his ability to outrun his own bad luck. Eventually the samurai seeks to eliminate both sides for his own gain and to define his own sense of honour. Yojimbo provided inspiration for A Fistful of Dollars.
Japan | 1961 | 106 minutes | Widecreen 4:3 format
After the success of Yojimbo, Kurosawa teamed up once again with Mifune one year later to make this comedy of manners. The film, which follows a man fighting corruption in local government, offers a twist on the classic Samurai tale by gently, but perfectly parodying the conventions of the Japanese period action movie tradition.
Japan | 1962 | 95 minutes | Original aspect ratio 2.35:1 (16×9 enhanced)