My five favorite Samurai films. Kurosawa, Toshiro Mifune.

Via elephant journal
on Dec 12, 2009
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Whether via Netflix or your local indie video store, these films—some of which provided inspiration to Western directors including Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas, Stephen Spielberg—are worth your time.

1. Seven Samurai

One of the all-time best movies—of any genre. Far more than a samurai film (if you think samurai films are about swordplay or Japanese culture), Seven Samurai is an epic tale of human suffering, cooperation, nobility, class, triumph and tragedy.

2. Hidden Fortress

My personal favorite, all about honor, nobility and journey. It was a close source in plot and characters for Star Wars. Watch the movie, the parallels are endless. George Lucas wanted Mifune to play Obi wan, apparently:

mifune yojimbo

3. Yojimbo

4. Sanjuro

…upon which Clint Eastwood’s famous Fistful of Dollars “Spaghetti Western” was based. I think another one was based on Sanjuro, right?

5. The Samurai Trilogy

Not a Kurosawa-directed film, but great: the story of Musashi, one of Japan’s greatest heroes, both in battle and in peace.

This scene is one of the great face-off battle scenes in literature, and in cinema:

Bonus: also not Kurosawa, and not with Mifune, but…Harakiri is perfect.


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13 Responses to “My five favorite Samurai films. Kurosawa, Toshiro Mifune.”

  1. Noel says:

    For the advanced viewer:
    Samurai Rebellion, starring Toshiro Mifune, is my all-time favorite. It's slower paced than some of the usual slash-em-ups, but explores the samurai ethos on a deep level, going beyond a sense of feudal duty to a more genuine duty to protect the love and happiness of others. The climactic battle is heart-rending and tense.

    Hidden Blade, by the same director as Twilight Samurai- these are similar, but Hidden Blade is a bit more refined- these are contemporary, sublime, and fun.

  2. Cool, I'll check 'em out. Think I've seen Samurai Rebellion, just last year…but not sure. Shoulda had you make the list, you and I watching Marx Bros and Kurosawa vids in Boulder Public Library now 25 years ago (#@$%^&*(!!) is how I got my start.

  3. Robert Mann says:

    Roshomon, Red Lion, RAN, Zatoichi, Throne of blood…. Guess these are kind of a no brainer though,.. ah?

  4. Robert and Noel in one post! I'm in heaven. I didn't love Ran, tho visually it might be Kurosawa's best. A lot of my friends love Red Beard…I need to take another look. Rashomon is ca-lassic. Great additions.

  5. Robert Mann says:

    Looks you found the proper bait for us "M" kids! Can't help but bite into Samurai… Throne of Blood is on my top 5 of all time…. Mix a little Shakespeare with the Mifune-Kurosawa team and you have one tasty cocktail friends.

  6. eyedeekay says:

    Harakiri is good, but oyu gotta check out Sword of Doom!!!!

  7. Ben Ralston says:

    Yum Yum, thanks for the suggestions… I love Samurai movies.

  8. […] Mumford’s look at 4 minutes even is as powerful as anything I’ve ever seen in a Kurosawa film. […]

  9. elephantjournal says:

    Soooooo good. Watched since blogging the above.

  10. […] through basketball (Magic). And, through the movies: some were bad boys—like Errol Flynn or Toshiro Mifune—but they were still inspired by higher causes, by being of service, by dignity and nobility. Some […]

  11. @chasrmartin says:

    Samurai Saga. Mifune's Cyrano.

  12. […] Samurai Rebellion, Seven Samurai, God Created Woman, Musashi, Hidden Fortress, Scenes from a Marriage, Sword of Doom, Sanjuro, […]