Ran (1985)

ran poster 1985 movie akira kurosawa
9.0 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 10/10

Great visuals, strong story


Movie Info

Movie Name: Ran

Studio: Greenwich Film Productions

Genre(s): Drama/Martial Arts

Release Date(s): June 1, 1985

MPAA Rating: R


Have fun storming the castle!

Lord Hidetora Ichimonji (Tatsuy Nakadai) has decided to step down as ruler of his kingdom and passes his kingdom to his sons Taro (Akira Terao), Jiro (Jinpachi Nezu), and Saburo (Daisuke Ryu). When Saburo questions his father’s logic, he finds himself banished from kingdom while Taro is pushed by his wife Lady Kaede (Mieko Harada) to wage war against Jiro for his part of the kingdom. Lost and abandoned, Lord Ichimonji learning passing on his kingdom has consequences.

Directed by Akira Kurosawa (who shares writing credits with Hideo Oguni and Masato Ide), Ran (乱 or Chaos or Turmoil) is a samurai film. Following Kurosawa’s Kagemusha in 1980, the movie takes its story from Shakespeare’s King Lear and also bases the story on the feudal lord Mōri Motonari from 16th Century Japan. It was well received by critics and won an Academy Award for Best Costume Design with nominations for Best Director, Best Cinematography, and Best Art Direction-Set Decoration. The Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film (Criterion #316) but the version is no longer in print.


I like horses!

I love Akira Kurosawa, and I particularly like his samurai films. Sidney Lumet pushed Akira Kurosawa’s name for a Best Director nomination for the film, but the push was legitimate (and I think the film is better constructed than the winning director Sidney Pollock for Out of Africa). With his life and career winding down, Ran is a nice BIG last push by Akira Kurosawa.

The story does use a lot of the storytelling of King Lear for its basis, but Akira Kurosawa really seems to layer it in a way that it feels like its own tale as well. The character of Hidetora also has been paralleled to Kurosawa and his rise as a director (Kurosawa did say that he felt like the character). The story and the storytelling combine with great visuals for a really massive feeling film.

The cast is also strong. Toshiro Mifune was going to be cast as Hidetora and it would have been nice to see him back as Kurosawa’s lead to kind of completely the circle. Despite this, Tatsuya Nakadai (who also appeared in multiple Kurosawa films) does a strong job as the king at the end of life who has made a fatal mistake. He’s supported by a nice supporting cast and like a Shakespearian play, Tatsuya Nakadai must really hold a lot of the audience.


OMG…My insurance rates are going to go through the roof!

The movie is just great looking. Akira Kurosawa always was a master of framing and visuals and the bright colors of this film combine with a great mountainous looking scenery. Things like the burning of the castle are actual constructs for the film and the filming locations were allowed with special permission. The visuals have been emulated since in films like Princess Mononoke which has a very similar setting and visual style.

Ran is a great film from a great director. Akira Kurosawa was nearly blind when the movie was being made and had to be helped along the way…despite this he made a great film that feels huge and bigger than most of his other works (though I still like a few of them better than this film). It is a movie that builds upon Kurosawa’s past works for a near perfect result. Kurosawa followed Ran with another personal film in Dreams in 1990.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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