Kurosawa Filmography, per a DVD collection bought on eBay

Kurosawa Filmography

Based on an inexpensive Chinese DVD set bought on eBay (33 discs)

With notes on getting better subtitles from Subcene.com

Akira Kurosawa directed thirty films over fifty years, from 1943 to 1993. Sixteen of those, from 1948 to 1965, featured Toshiro Mifune. That era, including Ikiru (in which Mifune did not appear), is generally considered Kurosawa’s best. From 1958 through 1965, he made six films in the the widescreen, anamorphic format, called “Tohoscope,” with a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. These movies probably represent the peak of his cinematic creativity, in which he displayed the broadest range of skills. Although it should be noted that his two most famous movies, Rashomon and Seven Samurai, were made before the widescreen era.

All seventeen films in that era were filmed in black-and-white.

He made six films before Mifune (1943-47), and seven afterwards (1970-93). His seven later films, all made in color, include two great films, Kagemusha and Ran, but Kurosawa was missing many of his regular film-making team (writers, cinematographers, musicians) as well as Mifune and other familiar actors.

The DVD set notes is almost complete, missing two films. A few others lack English subtitles. And quite a few have rather poor image quality. The quality/subtitle issues are noted.

The Grade is simply my own personal ranking, probably influenced by the order in which I saw the films. I saw Yojimbo before Sanjuro, and it made a deeper impact on me. Almost all of his movies from 1950 through 1965 were excellent; the differences are quite narrow. I marked “n.a.” all those that I haven’t seen all the way through.


Period Year Title Format/
Aspect Ratio
Grade DVD Quality Romanization
1943 Sanshiro Sugata
aka Judo Saga
1.33:1 D

All 6 DVDs are barely passable/unacceptable.

The English subtitles are very poorly translated, in parts nonsensical.

The image quality is poor, blurry with lots of ‘ghosting,’
i.e. traces of headache-inducing double images.

Any dark nighttime scenes are very hard to see.

Sugata Sanshiro-
1944 The Most Beautiful 1.33:1 D Ichiban utsukushiku
1945 Sanshiro Sugata Part II
aka Judo Saga 2
1.33:1 D Zoku Sugata Sanshiro
The Men Who Tread on the Tiger’s Tail 1.33:1 D Tora no o wo fumu otokotachi
1946 No Regrets for Our Youth 1.33:1 C Waga seishun ni kuinashi
1947 One Wonderful Sunday 1.33:1 C Subarashiki nichiyo-bi
1948 Drunken Angel 1.33:1 C+ only Fr/Chin subtitles, 2 discs, decent image Yoidore tenshi
1949 The Quiet Duel 1.33:1 n.a. only Chin subtitles, decent image Shizukanaru ketto
Stray Dog 1.33:1 C+ ok,
poor Eng. subtitles, decent image quality
Nora inu
1950 Scandal 1.33:1 C ok,
Eng. subtitles okay, decent image
aka Shu-bun
Rashomon 1.33:1 A+ good sound, Eng. subtitles, and image Rasho-mon
1951 The Idiot 1.33:1 C+ disc will play on Xbox 360, but not on my laptop,
good image, good Eng. subtitles
IKIRU 1952 Ikiru
aka To Live
1.33:1 A+ ok, poor Eng. subtitles, decent image Ikiru
1954 Seven Samurai 1.33:1 A+ high quality,
Criterion Coll., 3 discs
Shichinin no samurai
1955 I Live in Fear
aka Record of a Living Being
1.33:1 B ok,
poor Eng. subtitles, good image, 2 discs
Ikimono no kiroku
1957 Throne of Blood
aka Spider Web Castle
1.33:1 B+ high quality, Criterion Coll. Kumonosu-jo-
The Lower Depths 1.33:1 A Criterion Collection, good image and Eng. subtitles Donzoko
1958 The Hidden Fortress 2.35:1 B barely passable,
poor Eng. subtitles, poor image
Kakushi toride no san akunin
1960 The Bad Sleep Well 2.35:1 B ok,
poor Eng. subtitles, good image
Warui yatsu hodo yoku nemuru
1961 Yojimbo
aka The Bodyguard
2.35:1 A high quality, Criterion Coll. Yo-jinbo-
1962 Sanjuro 2.35:1 B- high quality, Criterion Coll. Tsubaki Sanju-ro-
1963 High and Low
aka Heaven and Hell
2.35:1 B+ Not included Tengoku to jigoku
1965 Red Beard 2.35:1 A okay quality Akahige
1970 Dodesukaden 1.33:1 n.a. Not included Dodesukaden
1975 Dersu Uzala 2.35:1 n.a. only Fr/Chin subtitles, 2 discs Derusu Uza-ra
1980 Kagemusha
aka The Shadow Warrior
1.85:1 B- good Eng. subtitles, good image Kagemusha
1985 Ran 1.85:1 A- only Fr/Chin subtitles, very good image Ran
1990 Dreams
aka Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams
1.85:1 C good Eng. subtitles, good image Yume
1991 Rhapsody in August 1.85:1 n.a. good Eng. subtitles, good image Hachigatsu no rapusodi-
aka Hachigatsu no kyo-shikyoku
1993 Madadayo
aka Not Yet
1.85:1 n.a. good Eng. subtitles, good image Ma-dadayo

Getting Better Subtitles from Subscene.com

This process requires a few steps, and may not be worth it, but for anyone with more patience for a little techie stuff than with lousy, pidgin-English subtitles, it may be worth it. I refer to the 33-DVD set that I bought on eBay, a nearly complete Kurosawa collection, but with many poorly subtitled films.

The website, Subscene.com has tens of thousands of subtitle files, uploaded by users, including most of Kurosawa’s films. The quality of the subtitles is good (i.e. fluent accurate English), or at least the subtitles for Ikiru were very good. (I have not checked other movies yet.) So, you can download the subtitle file for almost any poorly-subtitled Kurosawa DVD that you might have.

But … but … but … You need a media player capable of playing back a DVD simultaneously with the appropriate subtitle file. As of May, 2009, they recommended VLC player, but I’d check Subscene for their current recommendation. VLC Player was easy to download, install, and run. It was clear how to launch the DVD and the separate subtitle file.

Oops. The DVD and the subtitle file were out of sync, in the case of my specific DVD and the specific downloaded subtitle file, they were 17 seconds off. You need another piece of software to fix this. I opted for the simple Time Adjuster program which permits you to adjust a particular subtitle file backwards or forwards by X seconds. Obviously this adjustment would be specific to the DVD and the file. That’s a little clunky, and there was a more elegant, flexible program, but it was too complicated for me. Again, I’d check Subscene for their current approach to the time adjustment issue.

It’s all a bit of a rigamarole, but not terribly complicated.