This page lists Kurosawa’s movies on Blu-ray. It is primarily catering for the English speaking audience, and therefore mainly documents the releases available for an English-speaking audience. If you know of any non-English releases that should nevertheless be interesting to this audience, let me know!
The number of English-friendly Kurosawa releases on Blu-ray is steadily increasing, and about a third of Kurosawa’s films are now available as fairly excellent transfers, largely thanks to Criterion.
In Japan, most of Kurosawa’s films have been made available on Blu-ray through the Masterworks Collection. In case you do not need English subtitles, you may consider purchasing the Masterworks box sets: Set 1, Set 2, Set 3. Each box set includes 7 movies, and the titles included are also available for purchase individually.
You may also be interested in our list of Kurosawa DVDs.
Rashomon (Rashomon, 1950)
Criterion’s Region A Blu-ray edition of Rashomon was released in November 2012 and has been extremely well received. While the audio is not quite as warm as it perhaps still could be, the visuals are excellent, and the new transfer is far ahead any other release out there.
To the best of my knowledge, no English-friendly Region B or Region C releases of Rashomon are currently available.
Seven Samurai (Shichinin no samurai, 1954)
Criterion’s Region A Blu-ray edition of Seven Samurai was released on October 19, 2010 to overwhelmingly positive reviews. It was commended for its high quality transfer, which removed even the few bits of dust and scratches that remain on the company’s earlier DVD edition. All in all, Criterion’s blu-ray Seven Samurai is generally thought of as the best digital presentation of the film currently available in the English speaking market (and possibly any market).
Criterion’s Seven Samurai blu-ray is available from Amazon.com and Amazon.ca, as well as from Amazon.co.uk as an import. Do note that as a Region A release, it is intended for the North American market and requires a player capable of playing Region A discs.
In Region B (Europe), we have the fairly good but not as excellent BFI release, which is available exclusively from Zavvi. Its extra features are a booklet with essays, the original Japanese theatrical trailer, and a 49 minute discussion with Tony Rayns about Kurosawa’s career and influence, which is exclusive to BFI’s release.
No English-friendly Region C releases of Seven Samurai are currently available.
Throne of Blood (Kumonosu jo, 1957)
Criterion’s latest release of Throne of Blood first came out in January 2014 as a dual format Blu-ray and DVD release, and later in August 2015 as a Blu-ray only package. Either way, the Blu-ray disc features a new HD transfer whose video and audio quality is excellent. The release comes with an audio commentary by Michael Jeck, a making of episode from Akira Kurosawa: It Is Wonderful to Create, an essay by Stephen Prince, and two subtitle translations, one of them a work by Donald Richie based on Jacobean diction.
No English-friendly Region B or Region C Blu-rays are currently available.
The Hidden Fortress (Kakushi-toride no san-akunin, 1958)
Criterion will put out a new dual format DVD+Blu-ray release of The Hidden Fortress on March 18, 2014. It is expected to be excellent.
The Blu-ray comes with a new HD quality transfer and also includes a new audio commentary by film scholar and Kurosawa expert Stephen Prince. As with their other up-to-date releases, Criterion will also be including the relevant episode from the Toho Masterworks documentary series titled Akira Kurosawa: It Is Wonderful to Create. Criterion also lists a new subtitle translation and a booklet with an essay by Catherine Russell. Like their original DVD release, the set will also include the 2001 interview with George Lucas and the film’s original theatrical trailer.
Criterion’s The Hidden Fortress Blu-ray is available for pre-order from Amazon.com. As a Criterion release, it is intended for the North American market and requires a Region A player.
No other English friendly Blu-ray releases of The Hidden Fortress are currently available.
Yojimbo (Yojimbo, 1961)
Criterion released Yojimbo on Blu-ray in March 2010 to celebrate Kurosawa’s centenary. (They had originally planned to put out Seven Samurai, but couldn’t finish the restoration in time.)
This Region A release is an improvement over Criterion’s earlier DVD release, as both video and audio quality have been enhanced by the high definition treatment. The extras included are exactly the same as with the DVD release: these include the Yojimbo episode of the excellent It is Wonderful to Create documentary, a Stephen Prince commentary, a trailer and a teaser, as well as a booklet with an essay and further notes about the film.
There are currently no English-friendly Region B or Region C Blu-ray releases of Yojimbo.
Note that Yojimbo is also available in a single box set together with its sequel Sanjuro, which Criterion re-released simultaneously. This double pack is similarly available from Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, as well as from Amazon.co.uk as an import.
Sanjuro (Tsubaki Sanjuro, 1962)
Criterion released Sanjuro on Blu-ray in March 2010 to celebrate Kurosawa’s centenary. (They had originally planned to put out Seven Samurai, but couldn’t finish the restoration in time.)
This Region A release is a slight improvement over Criterion’s earlier DVD release, with both video and audio quality somewhat enhanced by the high definition treatment, but not as much as is the case with Yojimbo. Unfortunately, the Blu-ray edition of Sanjuro duplicates the problem with Criterion’s DVD version that has to do with cropping: when you compare Criterion editions to other editions, you can see that the Criterions miss some of the width. To see it for yourself, take a look at DVD Beaver’s Sanjuro screenshot comparison.
The extras included on the Sanjuro Blu-ray are exactly the same as with the Sanjuro DVD release: these include the Sanjuro episode of the excellent It is Wonderful to Create documentary, a Stephen Prince commentary, a trailer and a teaser, as well as a booklet with an essay and further notes about the film.
There are currently no English-friendly Region B or Region C Blu-ray releases of Sanjuro.
Note that Sanjuro is also available in a single box set together with Yojimbo, which Criterion re-released simultaneously. This double pack is similarly available from Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, as well as from Amazon.co.uk as an import.
High and Low (Tengoku to Jigoku, 1963)
As with Criterion’s other blu-ray updates of Akira Kurosawa’s films, the blu-ray High and Low does not contain any content that was not already included on their 2008 DVD edition. The transfer has, of course, been upgraded to high definition, although reviews have questioned whether the transfer is significantly better than the DVD edition. The consensus appears to be that the picture quality is an improvement, but for an average film connoisseur, it is not as good as to warrant replacing the DVD.
To the best of my knowledge, no English-friendly Region B or Region C releases of High and Low are currently available.
Kagemusha (Kagemusha, 1980)
Criterion’s Region A Blu-ray edition of Kagemusha is described as a dramatic improvement over the already excellent DVD. Especially the colour depth is much praised, but apparently the video quality is an over-all improvement over the DVD, while the audio is also slightly better.
Criterion’s Kagemusha is the original 179 minute Japanese cut, not the shorter “International” one. Which version of the film is actually the definite one, is a good question. I have tried to map the differences.
Criterion’s Blu-ray release comes with almost exactly the same extras as the DVD: among other things with Stephen Prince’s commentary, a 40-minute “making of” documentary, and interviews with Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas who helped to finance the film. The only major difference in terms of content is with the booklet, which no longer has Donald Ritchie’s essay, but now includes the 1981 interview Kurosawa did with Tony Rays (the one reprinted in Bert Cardullo), as well as an essay by Peter Grilli. Some minor changes have also been made to the layout of the booklet, and a few errors have been corrected.
To the best of my knowledge, no English-friendly Region B or Region C releases of Kagemusha are currently available.
Ran (Ran, 1985)
It is somewhat unfortunate that Criterion, known for their excellent releases, lost all rights to Ran in 2009. Consequently, a planned Blu-ray release was cancelled. What we got instead is a release by Optimum (in Europe) and Lionsgate (in North America) — two practically identical releases, save for a single featurette.
What makes this all the more unfortunate is that the quality of the Blu-ray release is not quite what it could be. According to reviews, there are numerous issues with the disc. Contrast is apparently way off, with too much edge enhancements and with many scenes blown out of proportion. There is also some issue with the level of digital grain. Whether it is better than Criterion’s now out-of-print DVD release is open for discussion.
The Blu-ray has no audio commentary, but does include Chris Maker’s 74-minute documentary “A.K.”, which was shot while Ran was filmed, as well as a 41-minute French documentary called Akira Kurosawa: The Epic and the Intimate, which also focuses on the making of Ran. There are also two samurai documentaries and a booklet. Optimum’s European version additionally includes a 14-minute featurette Portrait of Akira Kurosawa, in which the film scholar Catherine Cadou talks about her experiences as Kurosawa’s interpreter when the director visited France (this is not included on the North American release).