Skip to content’s Top 20 Movies of All-Time: #20

10 February 2009

Embedded in Florida for a week, enjoying the 75-degree sunshine. I’m skipping the local dive bars (The Independent is nowhere near as trendy as the Web site intro implies, thank goodness) to bang out #20 on the Top 20 Movies of All-Time.

In case you missed ’em, here are the Honorable Mentions and the Honorable Mentions to the Honorable Mentions.

Now, let’s start the Top 20:

20 Rashomon: Considered by some to be Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa’s greatest achievement, Rashomon’s plot is also one of the simplest (and most elegant) in movie history. Kurosawa recreates 12th-century Japan, where he tells the tale of a samurai who is murdered, and his wife raped, by the bandit Tojamaru (played by legendary Kurosawa leading man and all-around bad-ass Toshiro Mifune). Tojamaru is captured and put on trial. But the case hinges on the most subjective of standards — eye-witness testimony. The film progresses from there, with Tojamaru, the wife, the spirit of her dead husband (channeled by a psychic) and the woodcutter who found the body all telling their sides of the story.

The film works for many reasons. Kurosawa uses a bucolic backdrop to tell the tale, channeling the visual style that helped forge his image as one of the masters of film. The performances by Mifune and company are also riveting. But at its heart, this film is all about perspective. The same story, told through the lens of four sets of eyes, creates a gripping drama that wraps you up from beginning to end. Few films have been ripped off more often than Rashomon, from the critically-acclaimed crapfest that was Crash (this movie stinks, and you can’t convince me otherwise) to a planned remake called Rashomon 2010 which might prompt me to burn down theaters in protest.

You can make a great film by playing with perspective, like Bryan Singer does with The Usual Suspects. But anyone who tries to get any closer to the original Rashomon format is destined to fail.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. sorekara323 permalink
    12 February 2009 2:02 am

    Rashomon is a great film not only for the reasons you describe, but also for its role in introducing Japanese cinema to the rest of the world. Amazing as it may seem, Japan’s film industry is as old as any in the world, with an extensive silent film catalogue. A lot of these films were then “found” and taken around the world as a result of “Rashomon” being the hit that it was in Europe..

    That being said it’s not my favorite Kurosawa film. For me it’s Yojimbo and Ran (I like Seven Samurai but think it’s a bit over-rated to be honest..)

    Havn’t seen “Crash” and don’t intend to..look forward to the rest of your list. Will “Weekend at Bernie’s” crack the top 10??? :)

  2. 12 February 2009 1:15 pm

    i just discovered Kurosawa about a year ago after I watched “A Decade Under the Influence” and set my Tivo up for Kurosawa movies. I will have to agree that this movie was my favorite of his, and Mifune in general plays a great character throughout Kurosawa movies. I’m hoping that The Dark Backward is somewhere between 19 and 1 Jonah!

  3. Jonah permalink*
    13 February 2009 9:48 pm

    Never seen The Dark Backward. I’ll put it on my list.

    Yojimbo and Ran are definitely big winners. Weekend at Bernie’s didn’t make the cut. Weekend at Bernie’s II was an easy choice for #1, though.

  4. 10 June 2010 3:16 pm

    I’ve never known an actor as adorable as Mifune. I’m sure, if heaven exists, he’s up there, drinking sake with Miyamoto Musashi and Kurosawa, the three then discussing art and cinema with Satyajit Ray and then jamming all night with Hendrix!


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