Critics Consensus

Akira Kurosawa's sprawling, epic take on King Lear should be required viewing for fans of westerns, war movies, or period films in general.



Reviews Counted: 81

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Average Rating: 4.3/5

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Ran is Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa's reinterpretation of William Shakespeare's King Lear. The Lear counterpart is an elderly 16th-century warlord (Tatsuya Nakadai), who announces that he's about to divide his kingdom equally among his three sons. In his dotage, he falls prey to the false flattery of his treacherous sons (Akira Terao and Jinpachi Nezu), while banishing his youngest son (Daisuke Ryu), the only member of the family who loves him enough to tell him the unvarnished truth. Thanks to his foolish pride, his domain collapses under its own weight as the sons battle each other over total control. Kurosawa's first film in five years, Ran had been in the planning stages for twice that long; Kurosawa had storyboarded the project with a series of vivid color paintings that have since been published in book form in England. The battle scenes are staged with such brutal vigor that it's hard to imagine that the director was 75 years old at the time. This 160-minute historical epic won several international awards, but it was not a hit in Japan, and it would be five more years before Kurosawa would be able to finance another picture. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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Tatsuya Nakadai
as Lord Hidetora Ichimonji
Akira Terao
as Tarotakatora Ichimonji
Jinpachi Nezu
as Jiromasatora Ichimonji
Daisuke Ryu
as Saburonaotora Ichimonji
Mieko Harada
as Lady Kaede
Hisashi Igawa
as Kurogane
Hitoshi Ueki
as Fujimaki
as Kyoami
Hisashi Ikawa
as Kurogane
Takeshi Nomura
as Tsurumaru
Toshiya Ito
as Naganuma
Kenji Kodama
as Shirane
Binpachi Ito
as Naganuma
Takeshi Katô
as Hatakeyama
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Critic Reviews for Ran

All Critics (81) | Top Critics (26)

Audience Reviews for Ran

At 75 years old, Kurosawa delivers this epic and breathtaking cinematic spectacle of disgrace and tragedy falling upon mortal men, a grandiose production with overwhelming war scenes and spellbinding visuals - even if also a bit long and repetitious in its second half.

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer


An epic retelling of Shakespeare's "King Lear", detailing the actions of a ruthless king (Tatsuya Nakadai) and how his good intentions of dividing his kingdom amongst his three songs goes horribly awry, and a power struggle of biblical proportions unleashes itself upon this leader. This is a story loaded with intriguing themes such as guilt, power, violence, revenge, and insanity, and all of these come clashing together to form one huge beast of a film. Although, granted, it is slow-paced and the expository beginning goes on a little long, when it gets rolling it remains arresting and intense throughout. Nakadai's turn is simply sensational, as he fully captures the crippling insanity that threatened to tear this king asunder. The battle scenes are also a work of art, where the legendary director Akira Kurosawa really flexes his artistic muscles and conjures up some truly chilling moments. It falls a little short of perfect due to its beginning, but it is still a magnificent movie well worth a view.

Dan Schultz
Dan Schultz

Super Reviewer

Akira Kurosawa's Ran is a brilliant, sweeping picture using plenty of themes for build an incredible story. Greed and revenge are the themes explored in the film, and Kurosawa always managed to get the most out of his film because he crafts films that really resonate with the viewer. Ran is such a film. Brilliantly shot, acted and directed, the film, not only boasts effective performances, but has stunning imagery, which adds so much to the film. Fans of his work will definitely relish in the power that the film possesses. I much preferred Kurosawa's earlier work, but Ran is nonetheless a strong film that features all the trademarks that has made Kurosawa's work so good. With strong performances, and a simple, yet effective story, Ran is brilliant, poetic filmmaking that should be seen by any film buff. I really enjoy films that have simple ideas for storylines, and I find that the filmmaker is able to get much more depth out of an idea without overdoing anything, and the result is an impressive effort that ranks among the finest foreign films. Nonetheless, I still think that Seven Samurai was Akira Kurosawa's masterstroke of filmmaking. He has never topped it, but he always delivered thought provoking, epics that managed to be some of the finest films ever made. If you want a good action drama, then give this a viewing, it is a film going experience like no other, and it's one of the few foreign films that have stood the test of time. This is a film worth seeing, and it is enthralling experience from start to finish that will surely appeal to viewers looking for a film that has a simple idea, yet grand execution in style. That was what stood out for Akira Kuroswawa's work, his knack to create big, ambitious films while keeping everything to a bare minimum, as to not complicate things for the viewer and in the process, he created something quite remarkable in the cinematic medium.

Alex roy
Alex roy

Super Reviewer


"Men prefer sorrow over joy, suffering over peace." Simply put: When an aging father gives various portions of his empire to his sons, let's just say things don't go exactly as planned. Kurosawa's brilliant epic is a powerful look at the insatiable lust for power that lurks in the hearts of men. How congeniality can turn to savagery at the slightest hint of gain. Also, and what I think is his most effective message of the film: We as a people lie, cheat, steal, and in some instances murder, yet expect the world to be fair to us in return. Like all Kurosawa films, he loves using nature to reflect what is happening in the story. As the family bonds being to fray, he often cuts to ominous clouds descending upon the castle. When the father realizes that he is no longer welcome in his kingdom, we get a close up of the sun and the sweat beading on his brow. These are just classic Kurosawa staples that are done beautifully here. While I was expecting this focus on nature, I was not however prepared for how graphic the film would be. There are extended gory battle sequences that frankly were very shocking to me. I have nothing against violence, I just haven't seen Kurosawa tackle it with such intensity. Although it is arresting, it is very fitting to the film as Kurosawa shows that these aren't men engaged in acts of valor, this is wanton violence brought on by greed. The music that plays over it isn't triumphant, it is of something lost. At the tender age of 75, you would think he wouldn't want to dabble in such brutality. But I guess 75 is as good as age as any to show some good old-fashion double suicides. While there is a lot to chew on, I think that if Kurosawa wants you to walk away with one message, it is to never give up power, especially to your rotten kids.

Reid Volk
Reid Volk

Super Reviewer

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