Born in Tokyo, Japan on the 23rd of March 1910, Akira Kurosawa is considered one of the biggest figures in the film industry and a notable influence to western filmmakers such as George Lucas, Francis Ford Coppola and Steven Spielberg.
His career started in 1936 as an assistant director. Kurosawa was taken under the wing of director Kajiro Yamamoto, who promoted him to chief assistant director within a year. His first film as a director was Drunken Angel in 1948 and was the first of many collaborations with actor Toshiro Mifune. His international breakthrough came with Rashomon in 1950, a movie that won him the top prize at the Venice Film Festival and opened the gates of the Western to Japanese films.
The following years he worked on Ikiru(1952); Seven Samurai (1954), his first "proper samurai film" regarded by some as the greatest Japanese film ever made; and Throne of Blood (1957), an adaptation of Shakespeare's Macbeth set in the Sengoku era. The mood reflected in his movies after Seven Samurai was dark and pessimistic so he decided to work on a lighthearted and entertaining film for his next project. The result was The Hidden Fortress, the story of a medieval princess, her general and two peasants who need to travel together through enemy lines in order to return to their home region. It's worth noting that this movie was a big influence in the making of Star Wars, as George Lucas himself admitted.
He started the 60's with a pair of samurai comedies: Yojimbo (1961) and Sanjuro (1962). Both films received positive reviews and were box office successes. The former was widely imitated overseas, the biggest example being Sergio Leone's A Fistful of Dollars, a virtual scene-by-scene recreation of Yojimbo. Red Beard (1965), marked the halfway point of Kurosawa's career and remains as one of the best-known and most-loved works in his native country.
The following decade would be one of his lowest periods, making him believe he would never be able to make another movie. Kurosawa attempted suicide in 1971, but he survived and managed to get back on his feet. With the help of George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola he made Kagemusha (1980), film that would win the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1980, among other awards. His next project would be Ran, an epic based on Shakespeare's King Lear. Kurosawa believed this to be his best film and it's considered by some to be one of his finest works along with Kagemusha.
His last movies were Dreams (1990), Rhapsody in August (1991) and Madadayo (1993). He died at the age of 88 on the 6th of September 1998.