Skip to content

Akira Kurosawa- Japanese Film Director

There is probably nothing quite like a Samurai epic to put one into a traditional Japanese mood. The classics of one Japanese director, in particular, are a favorite which has inspired famous Western film makers in the making of their own movies, many of which are now considered international classics in their own right.

You may or may not be surprised to hear that George Lucas is even documented as having been quite inspired by Japanese classics of the Samurai genre. Near the beginning of the original “Star Wars”, there is a scene considered to be a direct translation of an excerpt from a classic Samurai movie directed by a certain famous Japanese director named “Akira Kurosawa”. Kurosawa’s epic Samurai films have, according to Lucas, been a huge inspiration and influence on his personal filmmaking style and also helped to shape much of how he directed the Star Wars features. So profound was Kurosawa’s influence that popular robot characters, C3PO and R2D2, are actually considered to be a mechanical version of two characters from a Kurosawa film. Some of Kurosawa’s many Samurai movies were also directly remade into popular Western (literally) classics. One is a Western film called “Fist Full of Dollars”, a remake of Kurosawa’s “Yojimbo”, and another is “The Magnificent Seven”, which was a remake of Kurosawa’s “Seven Samurai”.

Akira Kurosawa was a truly prolific director and in his 50 years of direction he is known for having had 30 of his films grace the silver screen. His family is actually documented to have descended from Samurai, so his apparent love affair with the traditional genre was likely a somewhat natural extension of his heritage. He was such a respected director internationally that he was awarded the Academy Award for “Lifetime Achievement”, by which he was officially thanked for his truly inspiring cinematic excellence. As part of the award ceremony he was also recognized for how his direction style has since influenced so many of the film makers who followed. His directing style was apparently considered, by his colleagues, to be considerably perfectionist. Those working with him reportedly referred to him as “Tenno”, which is Japanese for “Emperor”, as a response to his uncompromising style of direction. Kurosawa was so dedicated to perfection that he supposedly even edited many of his films himself, which is considered extremely rare in any cinematic production and truly a sign of amazing dedication to his movies.

Although many films of Akira Kurosawa have influenced many Western movie makers, he himself is said to have had inspiration from abroad. Intriguingly enough, many of Kurosawa’s films about Japanese culture were occasionally themselves influenced by a certain Western playwright (or playwrights) by the name of Shakespeare. From the West to the East and from the East to the West, inspiration is something that, as Kurosawa showed the world, is truly borderless. There are likely many modern Japanese films that have unknowingly been inspired by Kurosawa’s Japanese classics, although through the Western interpretation of Star Wars.