Akira Kurosawa’s List of His 100 Favorite Movies

In movies like Sev­en Samu­rai and High and Low, direc­tor Aki­ra Kuro­sawa took the cin­e­mat­ic lan­guage of Hol­ly­wood and improved on it, cre­at­ing a vig­or­ous, mus­cu­lar method of visu­al sto­ry­telling that became a styl­is­tic play­book for the likes of Mar­tin Scors­ese, George Lucas and Fran­cis Ford Cop­po­la. In movies like Ikiru, The Bad Sleep Well and The Low­er Depths, Kuro­sawa relent­less­ly strug­gled to find the rays of light among the shad­ows of the human soul. This philo­soph­i­cal urgency com­bined with his visu­al bril­liance is what gives his work, espe­cial­ly his ear­ly films, such vital­i­ty.

“One thing that dis­tin­guish­es Aki­ra Kuro­sawa is that he didn’t just make a mas­ter­piece or two mas­ter­pieces,” Cop­po­la said dur­ing an inter­view. “He made eight mas­ter­pieces.”

So when Kuro­sawa comes out with a rec­om­mend­ed view­ing list, movie mavens every­where should take note. Such a list was pub­lished in his posthu­mous­ly pub­lished book Yume wa ten­sai de aru (A Dream is a Genius). His daugh­ter Kazuko Kuro­sawa described the list’s selec­tion process:

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. 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.

Orga­nized chrono­log­i­cal­ly, the list starts with D.W. Griffith’s Bro­ken Blos­soms and ends with Takeshi Kitano’s Hana-Bi. In between is a remark­ably thor­ough and diverse col­lec­tion of films, mix­ing in equal parts Hol­ly­wood, art house and Japan­ese clas­sics. Many of the movies are exact­ly the ones you would see on any Film Stud­ies 101 syl­labus — Truffaut’s 400 Blows, Car­ol Reed’s The Third Man and DeSica’s Bicy­cle Thieves. Oth­er films are less expect­ed. Hayao Miyazaki’s utter­ly won­der­ful My Neigh­bor Totoro makes the cut, as does Ishi­ro Hon­da’s Goji­ra and Peter Weir’s Wit­ness. His pol­i­cy of one film per direc­tor yields some sur­pris­ing, almost will­ful­ly per­verse results. The God­fa­ther, Part 2 over The God­fa­ther? The King of Com­e­dy over Good­fel­las? Ivan the Ter­ri­ble over Bat­tle­ship Potemkin? The Birds over Ver­ti­go? Bar­ry Lyn­don over pret­ty much any­thing else that Stan­ley Kubrick did? And while I am pleased that Mikio Naruse gets a nod for Ukigu­mo – in a just world, Naruse would be as read­i­ly praised and cel­e­brat­ed as his con­tem­po­raries Yasu­jiro Ozu and Ken­ji Mizoguchi – I am also struck by the list’s most glar­ing, and curi­ous, omis­sion. There’s no Orson Welles.

You can see his 100 essen­tial movies below. Above we have the sec­ond film on the list, The Cab­i­net of Dr. Cali­gari, which you can oth­er­wise find in our col­lec­tion, 4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Clas­sics, Indies, Noir, West­erns, Doc­u­men­taries & More.

1. Bro­ken Blos­soms or The Yel­low Man and the Girl (Grif­fith, 1919) USA
2. Das Cab­i­net des Dr. Cali­gari [The Cab­i­net of Dr. Cali­gari] (Wiene, 1920) Ger­many
3. Dr. Mabuse, der Spiel­er – Ein Bild der Zeit (Part 1Part 2) [Dr. Mabuse, the Gam­bler] (Lang, 1922) Ger­many
4. The Gold Rush (Chap­lin, 1925) USA
5. La Chute de la Mai­son Ush­er [The Fall of the House of Ush­er] (Jean Epstein, 1928) France
6. Un Chien Andalou [An Andalu­sian Dog] (Bunuel, 1928) France
7. Moroc­co (von Stern­berg, 1930) USA
8. Der Kongress Tanzt (Charell, 1931) Ger­many
9. Die 3groschenoper [The Three­pen­ny Opera] (Pab­st, 1931) Ger­many
10. Leise Fle­hen Meine Lieder [Lover Divine] (Forst, 1933) Austria/Germany
11. The Thin Man (Dyke, 1934) USA
12. Tonari no Yae-chan [My Lit­tle Neigh­bour, Yae] (Shi­mazu, 1934) Japan
13. Tange Sazen yowa: Hyaku­man ryo no tsubo [Sazen Tange and the Pot Worth a Mil­lion Ryo] (Yamana­ka, 1935) Japan
14. Akan­ishi Kaki­ta [Capri­cious Young Men] (Ita­mi, 1936) Japan
15. La Grande Illu­sion [The Grand Illu­sion] (Renoir, 1937) France
16. Stel­la Dal­las (Vidor, 1937) USA
17. Tsuzurika­ta Kyoshit­su [Lessons in Essay] (Yamamo­to, 1938) Japan
18. Tsuchi [Earth] (Uchi­da, 1939) Japan
19. Ninotch­ka (Lubitsch, 1939) USA
20. Ivan Groznyy I, Ivan Groznyy II: Boyarsky Zagov­or [Ivan the Ter­ri­ble Parts I and II] (Eisen­stein, 1944–46) Sovi­et Union
21. My Dar­ling Clemen­tine (Ford, 1946) USA
22. It’s a Won­der­ful Life (Capra, 1946) USA
23. The Big Sleep (Hawks, 1946) USA
24. Ladri di Bici­clette [The Bicy­cle Thief] [Bicy­cle Thieves] (De Sica, 1948) Italy
25. Aoi san­myaku [The Green Moun­tains] (Imai, 1949) Japan
26. The Third Man (Reed, 1949) UK
27. Ban­shun [Late Spring] (Ozu, 1949) Japan
28. Orpheus (Cocteau, 1949) France
29. Karu­men kokyo ni kaeru [Car­men Comes Home] (Kinoshi­ta, 1951) Japan
30. A Street­car Named Desire (Kazan, 1951) USA
31. Thérèse Raquin [The Adul­tress] (Carne 1953) France
32. Saikaku ichidai onna [The Life of Oharu] (Mizoguchi, 1952) Japan
33. Viag­gio in Italia [Jour­ney to Italy] (Rosselli­ni, 1953) Italy
34. Goji­ra [Godzil­la] (Hon­da, 1954) Japan
35. La Stra­da (Felli­ni, 1954) Italy
36. Ukigu­mo [Float­ing Clouds] (Naruse, 1955) Japan
37. Pather Pan­chali [Song of the Road] (Ray, 1955) India
38. Dad­dy Long Legs (Neg­ule­sco, 1955) USA
39. The Proud Ones (Webb, 1956) USA
40. Baku­mat­su taiy­o­den [Sun in the Last Days of the Shogu­nate] (Kawashima, 1957) Japan
41. The Young Lions (Dmytryk, 1957) USA
42. Les Cousins [The Cousins] (Chabrol, 1959) France
43. Les Quarte Cents Coups [The 400 Blows] (Truf­faut, 1959) France
44. A bout de Souf­fle [Breath­less] (Godard, 1959) France
45. Ben-Hur (Wyler, 1959) USA
46. Oto­to [Her Broth­er] (Ichikawa, 1960) Japan
47. Une aus­si longue absence [The Long Absence] (Colpi, 1960) France/Italy
48. Le Voy­age en Bal­lon [Stow­away in the Sky] (Lam­or­isse, 1960) France
49. Plein Soleil [Pur­ple Noon] (Clement, 1960) France/Italy
50. Zazie dans le métro [Zazie on the Subway](Malle, 1960) France/Italy
51. L’Annee derniere a Marien­bad [Last Year in Marien­bad] (Resnais, 1960) France/Italy
52. What Ever Hap­pened to Baby Jane? (Aldrich, 1962) USA
53. Lawrence of Ara­bia (Lean, 1962) UK
54. Melodie en sous-sol [Any Num­ber Can Win] (Verneuil, 1963) France/Italy
55. The Birds (Hitch­cock, 1963) USA
56. Il Deser­to Rosso [The Red Desert](Antonioni, 1964) Italy/France
57. Who’s Afraid of Vir­ginia Woolf? (Nichols, 1966) USA
58. Bon­nie and Clyde (Penn, 1967) USA
59. In the Heat of the Night (Jew­i­son, 1967) USA
60. The Charge of the Light Brigade (Richard­son, 1968) UK
61. Mid­night Cow­boy (Schlesinger, 1969) USA
62. MASH (Alt­man, 1970) USA
63. John­ny Got His Gun (Trum­bo, 1971) USA
64. The French Con­nec­tion (Fried­kin, 1971) USA
65. El espíritu de la col­me­na [Spir­it of the Bee­hive] (Erice, 1973) Spain
66. Sol­yaris [Solaris] (Tarkovsky, 1972) Sovi­et Union
67. The Day of the Jack­al (Zin­ne­man, 1973) UK/France
68. Grup­po di famiglia in un inter­no [Con­ver­sa­tion Piece] (Vis­con­ti, 1974) Italy/France
69. The God­fa­ther Part II (Cop­po­la, 1974) USA
70. San­dakan hachiban­shokan bohkyo [San­dakan 8] (Kumai, 1974) Japan
71. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (For­man, 1975) USA
72. O, Thi­as­sos [The Trav­el­ling Play­ers] (Angelopou­los, 1975) Greece
73. Bar­ry Lyn­don (Kubrick, 1975) UK
74. Daichi no komo­ri­u­ta [Lul­la­by of the Earth] (Masumu­ra, 1976) Japan
75. Annie Hall (Allen, 1977) USA
76. Neokonchen­naya pye­sa dlya mekhanich­esko­go piani­no [Unfin­ished Piece for Mechan­i­cal Piano] (Mikhalkov, 1977) Sovi­et Union
77. Padre Padrone [My Father My Mas­ter] (P. & V. Taviani, 1977) Italy
78. Glo­ria (Cas­savetes, 1980) USA
79. Haruka­naru yama no yobi­goe [A Dis­tant Cry From Spring] (Yama­da, 1980) Japan
80. La Travi­a­ta (Zef­firelli, 1982) Italy
81. Fan­ny och Alexan­der [Fan­ny and Alexan­der] (Bergman, 1982) Sweden/France/West Ger­many
82. Fitz­car­ral­do (Her­zog, 1982) Peru/West Ger­many
83. The King of Com­e­dy (Scors­ese, 1983) USA
84. Mer­ry Christ­mas Mr. Lawrence (Oshi­ma, 1983) UK/Japan/New Zealand
85. The Killing Fields (Joffe 1984) UK
86. Stranger Than Par­adise (Jar­musch, 1984) USA/ West Ger­many
87. Dong­dong de Jiaqi [A Sum­mer at Grand­pa’s] (Hou, 1984) Tai­wan
88. Paris, Texas (Wen­ders, 1984) France/ West Ger­many
89. Wit­ness (Weir, 1985) USA
90. The Trip to Boun­ti­ful (Mas­ter­son, 1985) USA
91. Otac na sluzbenom putu [When Father was Away on Busi­ness] (Kus­turi­ca, 1985) Yugoslavia
92. The Dead (Hus­ton, 1987) UK/Ireland/USA
93. Khane-ye doust kod­jast? [Where is the Friend’s Home] (Kiarosta­mi, 1987) Iran
94. Bagh­dad Cafe [Out of Rosen­heim] (Adlon, 1987) West Germany/USA
95. The Whales of August (Ander­son, 1987) USA
96. Run­ning on Emp­ty (Lumet, 1988) USA
97. Tonari no totoro [My Neigh­bour Totoro] (Miyaza­ki, 1988) Japan
98. A un [Bud­dies] (Furuha­ta, 1989) Japan
99. La Belle Noiseuse [The Beau­ti­ful Trou­ble­mak­er] (Riv­ette, 1991) France/Switzerland
100. Hana-bi [Fire­works] (Kitano, 1997) Japan

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newslet­ter, please find it here. Or fol­low our posts on Threads, Face­book, BlueSky or Mastodon.

If you would like to sup­port the mis­sion of Open Cul­ture, con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your con­tri­bu­tions will help us con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing the best free cul­tur­al and edu­ca­tion­al mate­ri­als to learn­ers every­where. You can con­tribute through Pay­Pal, Patre­on, and Ven­mo (@openculture). Thanks!

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

Watch Kurosawa’s Rashomon Free Online, the Film That Intro­duced Japan­ese Cin­e­ma to the West

David Lynch Lists His Favorite Films & Direc­tors, Includ­ing Felli­ni, Wilder, Tati & Hitch­cock

Andrei Tarkovsky Cre­ates a List of His 10 Favorite Films (1972)

Stan­ley Kubrick’s List of Top 10 Films (The First and Only List He Ever Cre­at­ed)

Lis­ten to François Truffaut’s Big, 12-Hour Inter­view with Alfred Hitch­cock (1962)

Aki­ra Kuro­sawa & Fran­cis Ford Cop­po­la Star in Japan­ese Whisky Com­mer­cials (1980)

Jonathan Crow is a Los Ange­les-based writer and film­mak­er whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hol­ly­wood Reporter, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can fol­low him at @jonccrow. And check out his blog Veep­to­pus, fea­tur­ing lots of pic­tures of bad­gers and even more pic­tures of vice pres­i­dents with octo­pus­es on their heads.  The Veep­to­pus store is here.

by | Permalink | Comments (27) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (27)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
  • Scott says:

    No Welles as direc­tor, but we do get a bril­liant per­for­mance by Welles as actor in The Third Man. I won­der if that would have been a fac­tor in his list.

  • Tim Craig says:

    over 60% I cou­uld pick but.…
    What,no Blade Run­ner?

  • Ali Baba's 26th Theif says:

    Needs more Robo­cop (1987)

  • MDL says:

    Inter­est­ing that the one Scors­ese film to make the list is The King of Com­e­dy.

  • winjer says:

    Bar­ry Lyn­don is the best Kubrick film.

  • Scott Bain says:

    Bar­ry Lyn­don is high­ly under­rat­ed, but it’s a tough call to pick Kubrick­’s best film. They are all so good and yet so dif­fer­ent from each oth­er. You can elim­i­nate Spar­ta­cus as it was not real­ly “his.” But all of this oth­er work could legit­i­mate­ly argued for the “best” posi­tion.

  • Georg says:

    Includ­ing Her­zog’s Fitz­car­ral­do shows the man had good taste, bra­vo.

  • anbu says:

    Hey! why no trans­form­ers movies? not even one?!

  • Floyd Rock says:

    “s pol­i­cy of one film per direc­tor yields some sur­pris­ing, almost will­ful­ly per­verse results. The God­fa­ther, Part 2 over The God­fa­ther? The King of Com­e­dy over Good­fel­las? Ivan the Ter­ri­ble over Bat­tle­ship Potemkin? The Birds over Ver­ti­go? Bar­ry Lyn­don over pret­ty much any­thing else that Stan­ley Kubrick did?”

    Well out­side of The Birds over Ver­ti­go I’d agree with all of that myself. Well I’d take 2001 over Bar­ry Lyn­don but not Kubrick­’s oth­ers.

    Not that it some of the choic­es per direc­tor don’t seem a bit dif­fer­ent from what I would think (MASH and not McCabe and Mrs. Miller or the more like­ly Nashville) but a ter­rif­ic list nonethe­less.

    I’m also glad to see any­one drop one of Sadao Yamanaka’s films. And sur­pris­ing that it’s The Pot Worth a Mil­lion Tho and not Human­i­ty and Paper Bal­loons

  • Just Saying says:

    Search­ing the list for Mars Needs Women.

  • Ralph Dunn says:

    So what hap­pened to Kobayashi’s high­ly rat­ed Japan­ese movie, “Kwaidan” (1964)?

  • Omar Gonzalez says:

    It con­stant­ly intrigues me how these lists, weath­er from the greats like Kuro­sawa and Kael, or your aver­age Joe, are most­ly influ­enced by sub­jec­tiv­i­ty. Objec­tiv­i­ty should be the guid­ing prin­ci­ple with only a dash of sub­jec­tiv­i­ty.

  • Average Joe says:

    Omar Gon­za­lez,

    Well, the list does­n’t say “best of” but favourites. Besides, genius or not, they’re still humans and, regard­ing these sort of lists, it always comes first sub­jec­tiv­i­ty.

  • Robert Ready says:

    Bar­ry Lyn­don is the most beau­ti­ful­ly com­posed of Kubrick­’s films…assuming this was a major fac­tor in Kuro­sawa’s choice.

  • Dante says:

    “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.”

  • Gazey says:

    Well, as one above said Welles’s sin­gu­lar­ly per­fect RKO mas­ter­piece Cit­i­zen Kane is incom­pre­hen­si­bly absent.
    Though per­haps Aki­ra was inspired by Welles’s aston­ish­ing the­atri­cal per­for­mance as King Lear, since he did recy­cle it in his own fiery if infe­ri­orver­sion Ran.

    In my mind Cit­i­zen Kane is the def­i­n­i­tion of the poten­tial of the cin­e­mat­ic medi­um, not to men­tion, though I shall, the pur­pose of art.
    Bar­ry Lyn­don is pre­ferrable amon­st Kubrick­’s works not only because of the cin­e­mat­ic shots but vast­ly more sig­nif­i­cant the sub­stance-inci­den­tal­ly very sim­i­lar to Welles’s CK: how the past is always hold­ing the hands of the present and­fu­ture and crit­i­cal­ly how avarice is root­ed in dis­pos­ses­sion, smong oth­et things.

    That being said, for bud­ding autuers or cin­emaphiles, you could do a hell of a lot worse than using this list to enrich your own scope of study or plea­sure.

  • steve says:

    No Jacques Tati? No Agnes Var­da or Jacques Demy? My favorite of his choic­es is “The Dead,” from John Hus­ton; it’s a gem!

  • Aadi Desai says:

    Yes I agree but François Truf­faut wrote breath­less and yet we have his 400 blows in the list

  • John Handforth says:

    The Birds? Seri­ous­ly?

  • martin fennell says:

    It’s obvi­ous he was no snob, when it came to movies. Although I’ll deduct points for not hav­ing Police sto­ry 2 there. ☺
    Yep, as some­one else, “favourites£ does­n’t nec­es­sar­i­ly mean “best”

  • dr1be says:

    Top 100 and no Bres­son?

  • Bill Owen says:

    Bril­liant film but flawed and mud­dled.

  • online work says:

    online work is avail­able

  • emenac says:

    Unveil the beau­ty and diver­si­ty of Amer­i­ca with our exclu­sive trav­el pack­ages. Amer­i­ca Unveiled Trav­el Escapes ensures a per­son­al­ized and inti­mate expe­ri­ence, allow­ing you to uncov­er the less­er-known won­ders and cul­tur­al gems of the USA

  • jameswilliam says:

    Thanks for shar­ing this excel­lent piece of knowl­edge for me. It was real­ly remark­able and valu­able for me. It has solved my cou­ple of issues which I was fac­ing the recent cou­ple of days. I am soft­ware engi­neer and I used to trav­el to dif­fer­ent des­ti­na­tions in the Ara­bi­an Penin­su­la. When­ev­er I want to vis­it Dubai I book Cheap dubai flight from UK. Most of the time we are struck in most of the prob­lems which we have to face in the soft­ware hous­es.

  • johnwilly says:

    I am thank­ful for shar­ing this excel­lent piece of writ­ing that you have shared through this plat­form. The way you start­ed the arti­cle and the way you con­clud­ed the top­ic was appre­cia­ble. By the way, I am a res­i­dent of Birm­ing­ham and I trav­eled last year to Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates using the direct Cheap dubai flight Flights UK which are indulged with the excel­lent ameni­ties and facil­i­ties on the board.

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.