Great Japanese Movies, not just Kurosawa

Checklist of Japanese Cinema

Film, Year, Director, Comment

Not just Akira Kurosawa? Maybe. But there’s no doubt that the great director, most well-known to Western audiences, dominates this list. I haven’t seen all of them, not yet anyway.

It’s no accident that most of these films are from the 1950s, the so-called Golden Age of Japanese cinema. One reason was that the movies commanded the largest audiences in Japan in that decade, before television ate away at movie attendance in Japan, which dropped by eighty percent between 1958 and 1970. It may be a simplistic reason, but large audiences meant large budgets, it meant a greater degree of directorial freedom, and it meant that film makers could get the best talented professionals (actors, film editors, cameramen, etc.).

Film Year Director Comment
Rashomon 1950 Akira Kurosawa winner of Golden Lion at Venice Film Festival
Seven Samurai 1954 Akira Kurosawa Sight & Sound’s 2002 Critics and Directors Poll for the best films of all time
Ugetsu 1953 Kenji Mizoguchi Silver Bear at Venice, TIME’s 100 Greatest
Tokyo Story 1953 Yasujiro Ozu Sight & Sound’s 2002 Critics and Directors Poll for the best films of all time, TIME’s 100 Greatest
Ikiru 1952 Akira Kurosawa , TIME’s 100 Greatest
Gojira/Godzilla 1954 Ishiro Honda
Gate of Hell 1954 Teinosuke Kinugasa first Japanese color film. Winner of Palme d’Or
Sansho the Bailiff 1954 Kenji Mizoguchi
The Burmese Harp 1957 Kon Ichikawa several award nominations
Samurai Trilogy 1954-56 Hiroshi Inagaki starring Toshiro Mifune as Musashi Miyamoto. Academy Award for first one.
Throne of Blood 1957 Akira Kurosawa a version of Macbeth
The Hidden Fortress 1958 Akira Kurosawa inspiration for Star Wars
Yojimbo 1961 Akira Kurosawa remade as ‘For a Fistful of Dollars’ with Clint Eastwood, TIME’s 100 Greatest
Woman in the Dunes 1964 Hiroshi Teshigahara
Sanjuro 1962 Akira Kurosawa
Dersu Uzala 1975 Akira Kurosawa Academy Award, Best Foreign Film
Kagemusha 1980 Akira Kurosawa Palme d’Or
Ran 1985 Akira Kurosawa based on King Lear
Tampopo 1985 Juzo Itami cult ‘noodle Western’