Tomorrow, March 23, is Akira Kurosawa's birthday. The iconic and influential director would have been 103-years-old had he lived long enough to see it, but that isn't to say he hasn't left a lasting legacy keeping him alive in the hearts of cinephiles.
To celebrate the occasion, Criterion and Hulu have made available 24 of Kurosawa's films on Hulu free of charge to nonsubscribers (with commercial interruptions, and only in the U.S.) through midnight Sunday, March 24 and it includes all the hits and then some.
Now I haven't seen all of Kurosawa's films, but I would like to at least offer up some suggestions for those of you looking for a starting point, or just a diversion from all this NCAA Basketball.
1.) Seven Samurai - The obvious starting point is Seven Samurai. It's the film most everyone immediately associates with Kurosawa even if it isn't necessarily one they consider his best or their favorite. It's a fantastic film and one to certainly make sure is under your belt.
2 & 3.) Yojimbo & Sanjuro - Yojimbo is certainly the better of the two, but don't for a second think Sanjuro isn't all that good. After all, it's got one hell of a glorious and bloody ending likely to shock new viewers.
4.) Rashomon - A twisted narrative utilizing flashbacks in a way that benefits the story rather than as a crutch. See how a master storyteller uses a storytelling tool many of today's filmmakers use only because they're too lazy to think outside the box.
5.) High and Low - You think of Kurosawa and you also probably think of Toshirô Mifune and just as much as I love Mifune in films such as Seven Samurai, Yojimbo and many of Kurosawa's other films, see his intensity as a samurai in the other films and experience here as he plays a wealthy industrialist whose family becomes the target of a cold-blooded kidnapper.
6.) Ikiru - You think of Mifune when you think of Kurosawa and you also think of Takashi Shimura and one of the greatest things I read about this movie after the first time I saw it was to say, "After asking the question 'Where do we go when we die?' the director can only respond that there is one place for certain: the memory of others."
7.) The Hidden Fortress - I don't necessarily love this film, but it is often cited as an influence on George Lucas' Star Wars.
BONUS: Madadayo - I actually haven't seen this film, but this is Kurosawa's final film and it isn't currently available on Criterion DVD or Blu-ray so why not use this opportunity to give it a look?
Click here to begin watching. Of course, my list above includes the obvious titles, other obvious titles include Throne of Blood and Drunken Angel. I have seen and enjoyed Kurosawa's debut film Sanjuro Sugata, but I have not yet seen The Bad Sleep Well or The Lower Depths, but those and many more are all available, so click here to get started.