Video: Learn How to Make 'Beautiful' Movies from the Master, Akira Kurosawa

Akira Kurosawa is one of the most influential, as well as celebrated directors in all of cinematic history, especially when it comes to Japanese filmmaking. He was heavily involved in nearly ever aspect of his films' production process, from co-writing scripts to editing (many considered editing the director's greatest strength as a filmmaker). In this 90-minute documentary, A Message from Akira Kurosawa: For Beautiful Movies (2000), Kurosawa shares his unique insight in ten interviews that were conducted towards the end of his life, discussing screenwriting, shooting, cinematography, directing, and his "quest for making the perfect -- 'beautiful' movie," -- definitely a masterclass in filmmaking from a filmmaking master.

For those who may not be familiar with the work of Akira Kurosawa, here's a little bit of history. His career spanned over nearly 60 years beginning in 1943 with his action film Sanshiro Sugata. He's most known for his samurai epics, such as RashomonSeven SamuraiHidden Fortress (which inspired Star Wars), Yojimbo/SanjuroKagemusha, and Ran, in which he often cast Toshiro Mifune (who collaborated with Kurosawa on 16 of his 30 films).

Kurosawa's reach spanned over international borders, touching not only moviegoers, but filmmakers as well. Some of the greatest filmmakers in history, including Ingmar Bergman, Federico Fellini, Robert Altman, Francis Ford Coppola, Steven Spielberg, and Martin Scorsese have made their admiration of the director abundantly clear. Fellini once called him "the greatest living example of all that an author of the cinema should be."

Thanks to Cinephilia and Beyond for sharing the documentary. Check it out below (here's a breakdown of each chapter to help you navigate.)

Chapter 1: The seed of a film
Chapter 2: Screenplays
Chapter 3: Storyboards
Chapter 4: Filming
Chapter 5: Lighting
Chapter 6: Production design
Chapter 7: Costumes
Chapter 8: Editing
Chapter 9: Music
Chapter 10: Directing

How has Akira Kurosawa inspired your own work? What lessons did the documentary teach you? Let us know in the comments below.

[via Cinephilia and Beyond]

Your Comment


Thank you for this priceless documentary. I'm so glad I found your Facebook page.
Never having been on a set to watch a production, I found it all fascinating.
I've been working on my first screenplay and it really helps to listen to and watch a great filmmaker describe everything that motivates him as he goes along. It helps to put everything in place as I write my script.

I am looking forward to watching the compilation of movies that will help me learn the craft of filmmaking which I believe goes hand in hand with screenwriting.
I am going to have a busy weekend watching Akira Kurosawa's collection of films.

December 26, 2013 at 10:09PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM

Irene Platt

Kurosawa taught me that violence and humor could be excellent companions. In addition he demonstrated the value in character portrayal of what we might call good micro-contrast in still photography.

December 27, 2013 at 1:55AM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM


There is a certain association with Kurosawa and violent Samurai films, as those are the films more circulated in the West and also spawned Fistful of Dollars and Magnificent Seven, but his treatment of the human condition spans a greater body of work.

Indirectly related, it is worth seeking out Indian director Satyajit Ray, since Kurosawa himself said "Not seeing the cinema of Ray means existing in the world without having seen either the Sun or the Moon" (it is ironic that most Indians have never heard of Ray and prefer the somewhat excrutiating Bollywood floss instead).

December 27, 2013 at 2:18AM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM


Hi Saied
Can you recommend the best movies or must see of Satyajit Ray to watch.
thank you

December 27, 2013 at 6:25AM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM


Hi Aksel, I don't want to appear to be dictating to you, so you could maybe keep it simple by comparing the ones which inspired iconic Western remakes to give familiar frames of reference ie Hidden Fortress being Star Wars, Yojimbo being Fistful of Dollars, Seven Samurai being Magnificent Seven Also, Ran is based on King Lear, and Throne of Blood is based on Macbeth. It was the film Rashomon which first brought Kurosawa to attention in the West, winning the Oscar for Best Foreign Film and nominated for another.

Kurosawa worked many times with actor Toshiro Mifune, who often played a tough Samurai type, and many of the poster designs for Seven Samurai feature Mifune wearing a helmet giving a wild battle cry, almost stereo-typing him in this role with audiences here (I'm in the UK).

Hence it is almost worth seeing Mifune in another role if you want a more rounded view. Hence you could go a little more esoteric by picking a couple from above and looking at Kagemusha, Red Beard and Kurosawa's Dreams too.

I'm sure others will have their own views (!). All the best.

December 27, 2013 at 7:27AM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM


Guess what, I just cleaned my reading glasses and realise I completely fluffed your question, doh !

With Ray I would say that the Apu Trilogy is an absolute must, consisting of Pather Panchali, Aparajito and World of Apu. The Music Room and Chess Players certainly spring to mind too. Then anything you can get hold of is welcome to be honest, since DVD releases are harder to come by than Kurosawa. BTW, it was Ray who came up with the story for E.T. first but his own script was blackballed in Hollywood for years.

Sorry about misreading your question earlier. Best.

December 27, 2013 at 8:10AM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM


It's tough to pick Ray's best. The Apu Trilogy (Pather Panchali, Aparajito and Apur Sansar) and Charulata (in Ray's opinion his best) would be good places to start.

Cheers and Thanks for the lovely insight into Kurosawa!

December 27, 2013 at 10:31AM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM


Lots of Ray and Kurosawa films available on Hulu Plus, btw, since they have a very large number of Criterion films. They even have a few of the DVD extras.

December 28, 2013 at 11:58AM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM


b&w films…great!!!

December 27, 2013 at 7:09AM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM


Excelent!Thanks very much!

December 27, 2013 at 2:14PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM

Roberto Igor P ...

Thank you so much for sharing such an amazing documentary with us.

December 30, 2013 at 5:22AM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM

Ciáran C.

Lot to learn from the Master! Will watch this one soon.. so many thanks for sharing!

January 24, 2014 at 5:58AM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM