Critics Consensus

Ikiru is a well-acted and deeply moving humanist tale about a man facing his own mortality, one of legendary director Akira Kurosawa's most intimate films.



Total Count: 38


Audience Score

User Ratings: 20,261
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Movie Info

Akira Kurosawa's drama stars Takashi Shimura as Kanji Watanabe, a government clerk who learns he has only months to live. Fearing his life may amount to nothing, he decides to turn his back on his rigid routines in order to search for the meaning of existence.


Takashi Shimura
as Kanji Wantanabe
Miki Odagiri
as Toyo Odagiri, employee
Nobuo Kaneko
as Mitsuo Watanabe, Kanji's son
Kyoko Seki
as Kazue Watanabe, Mitsuo's wife
Makoto Kobori
as Kiichi Watanabe
Kasuo Abe
as City Assemblyman
Kumeko Urabe
as Tatsu Watanabe
as Subordinate Clerk
Yoshie Minami
as Hayoshi, the Maid
as Assistant
Nobuo Nakamura
as Deputy Mayor
Kazao Abe
as City Assemblyman
Yunosuke Ito
as Novelist
Ko Kimura
as Intern
as Intern
Seiji Miyaguchi
as Gang Boss
Fuyuki Murakami
as Newspaperman
Daisuke Katô
as Gang Member
Ichiro Chiba
as Policeman
Toranosuke Ogawa
as Park Section Chief
Akira Tani
as Old Man in Bar
Kin Sugai
as Housewife
Eiko Miyoshi
as Housewife
Fumiko Homma
as Housewife
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Critic Reviews for Ikiru

All Critics (38) | Top Critics (11) | Fresh (38)

Audience Reviews for Ikiru

  • Mar 29, 2017
    Sometimes films released more than 50 years ago don't have the same impact they once did. Well, that's not the case at all for Ikiru, one of Akira Kurosawa's first universally praised hits. Ikiru tells the story of a man out of time. A bureaucratic man who has worked the same job for decades and can't seem to find any purpose in his work or life in general. That is, until he finds out he has terminal stomach cancer. What follows is a coming of age story for a middle aged man who does his best to leave an impact on the world he will inevitably leave. With one of these types of stories, it all comes down to execution. The only way to make a film like this leave you with a particularly effective message is to have a filmmaker like Kurosawa. For the most part, I did go through the emotions the film wanted me to. It's also a story that lends itself to being more relatable the older you get. It's not easy for a 23-year-old guy like me to understand what Watanabe goes through in Ikiru, but it may be something that I relate to more as I get older. I found this film to be especially inspiring from his co-workers perspective. No one at the office does anything of value it seems, and it's only until after Watanabe takes a leave of absence and goes on a journey of self-discovery that they feel like they need to do something as well. The film shifts from Watanabe's story to his friends & families' story about half way through. I found each part to be interesting in its own right, but watching the people he cares about look back on his life and the impact he seemed to have made was some powerful stuff. The lessons and themes in the film are important ones. Pleasure is not living. Don't always do things for others or to please others, make sure you're taken care of as well. And most importantly, life is brief, make of it as you wish. +Poignant +Kurosawa's direction (duh) -Two separate parts feel jarring at first 8.4/10
    Thomas D Super Reviewer
  • Jan 22, 2017
    What if in the dreary days of middle-age, as you were cruising along in the set routine of your life, you came to understand you had six months left to live? And further, that your son and his wife looked forward to their inheritance more than they cared for you, and that your co-workers mocked you for how little you accomplished in your meaningless, bureaucratic job? Such is the fate of Kanji Watanabe, played by Takashi Shimura, in an excellent movie by Akira Kurosawa. It may sound depressing and I suppose parts of it are, but Shimura's face evokes such a depth of emotions, Kurosawa's story-telling is so brilliant, and the movie is so profound, that you can't help being gripped by it. Ikiru - To Live - what does it mean to live, what is the meaning of life, when it's so brief? Can there be meaning? Watanabe at first 'lives it up', going out on a bender with a stranger he meets, playing pachinko, visiting dance halls, drinking, and going to a strip club. It's the reaction some have to the horrifying transience of life, and in some sense, the characters are right when they say that he has begun to live when he found out he was going to die. It's an immature, unsatisfying reaction, however. He attempts to get closer to a much younger woman from his office, played with childish spunk by Miki Odagiri, not in an attempt to seduce her, but because he admires her passion, and her decision at an early age to leave her boring job. She ever-so-subtly steers him onto the right path by saying he needs to find his own things to make, and he has the idea to use his remaining time fighting for the cause of park which has is stuck in a bureaucratic quagmire. Therein lies his redemption. The movie is distinctly Japanese, with customs like bowing and strict hierarchy on full display, but on the other hand, it has a universal feel to it. Faust and 'Ecce Homo' are referenced. The screenplay was influenced by Tolstoy's "The Death of Ivan Ilyich". The nightclub scenes are highly Western, particularly the piano player. There is evidence of Kurosawa's artistry throughout the movie, with scenes in light and shadow that might remind you of paintings by Caravaggio. The film itself may also remind you of Ingmar Bergman's masterpiece, 'Wild Strawberries'. And of course, the theme itself connects us all at that most fundamental of levels. The story is often told in flashbacks, and revealed gradually. It's poignant seeing Watanabe's relationship with his son over the years. It's profound that he eventually realizes he needs to do good deeds with the time remaining, and that, despite obstacles in his path, he says "I can't afford to hate people - I haven't got the time". If only we could all come to this realization! He will see the beauty in a sunset, and perhaps in the most moving scene, swing on the playground in the park he built, singing 'Gondola no Uta', whose lyrics are "life is brief; fall in love, maidens, before the crimson bloom fades from your lips." While he had sung those words despondently before, he now sings them in quiet triumph, knowing he may be the only one who ever understands his life and his truths. Perhaps it's the best any of us can hope for.
    Antonius B Super Reviewer
  • Nov 15, 2015
    A special, bittersweet and sometimes surprisingly funny celebration of the act of living, beautifully directed and with a wonderful performance by Takashi Shimura as an awkward old protagonist who should inspire us all to reconsider the way we have been living our lives.
    Carlos M Super Reviewer
  • Dec 04, 2014
    A true classic. About as hard-hitting as they come; sober and genuinely touching. Don't go into it thinking of it as a classic, or as a reviewer trying to rate it, or anything. It's beyond all that. It is what it is -- a mirror. Approach it as a human being -- that's how it approaches you. Let it affect you (which it may deeply do anyway). The film is in my estimate probably unrateable, but after my first viewing I'd say it's either a 4.5 or a 5.
    Kyle M Super Reviewer

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