What If…? Akira Kurosawa’s (Sort Of) Top 100 Films List

ak1Okay, let me go ahead and admit up front that the headline up above is – in the best internet tradition – at least slightly misleading.

No, the acclaimed Japanese director Akira Kurosawa never made a top 100 films list. As his daughter, Kazuko Kurosawa states, “My father always said that the films he loved were too many to count, and to make a top ten rank.”

However, in the 1999 book A Dream Is a Genius, from which this list is taken, Ms. Kurosawa who actually compiled he list, based on discussions with her father about movies he loved, goes on to state “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”

What makes this list even better than say a simple list of the great director’s 10 favorite films is that it not only is a fascinating insight into the mind and filmic influences of the great director, it includes thoughts from him on the films included.

This list is also a wonderful compilation of films that could be considered a great jumping off point for movie lovers wondering “What should I watch next?’ as well as a challenge to those who consider themselves knowledgeable about film.

I’m simply reproducing the list below, however, Kurosawa’s comments, translated from the Japanese by Noriyo Hoozawa-Arkenau can be found on this page at the Criterion Forum. I highly recommend that anyone wanting further insight into the thoughts of this always-fascinating director, or those simply looking for some very insightful comments on these movies go there and read the full post.

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 [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 [Composition Classes] [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 Orphée [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] (Carné, 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] (Clément, 1960) France/Italy
50 Zazie dans le métro [Zazie on the Subway] [Zazie on the Underground] (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
*the book says the Erice film was made in 1972.
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 (Joffé, 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 Bagdad Café [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

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