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Ikiru (1952)

Not Rated | | Drama | 25 March 1956 (USA)
A bureaucrat tries to find a meaning in his life after he discovers he has terminal cancer.



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Top Rated Movies #128 | Nominated for 1 BAFTA Film Award. Another 5 wins. See more awards »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Haruo Tanaka ...
Miki Odagiri ...
Toyo Odagiri, employee
Bokuzen Hidari ...
Minosuke Yamada ...
Subordinate Clerk Saito
Kamatari Fujiwara ...
Sub-Section Chief Ono
Makoto Kobori ...
Kiichi Watanabe, Kanji's Brother
Nobuo Kaneko ...
Mitsuo Watanabe, Kanji's son
Nobuo Nakamura ...
Deputy Mayor
Atsushi Watanabe ...
Isao Kimura ...
Masao Shimizu ...
Yûnosuke Itô ...


Kanji Watanabe is a longtime bureaucrat in a city office who, along with the rest of the office, spends his entire working life doing nothing. He learns he is dying of cancer and wants to find some meaning in his life. He finds himself unable to talk with his family, and spends a night on the town with a novelist, but that leaves him unfulfilled. He next spends time with a young woman from his office, but finally decides he can make a difference through his job... After Watanabe's death, co-workers at his funeral discuss his behavior over the last several months and debate why he suddenly became assertive in his job to promote a city park, and resolve to be more like Watanabe. Written by Mike Rosenlof <mrosenlof@qualcomm.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


One of the Great Films of Our Time!




Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

25 March 1956 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Ikiru  »

Filming Locations:

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$7,590 (USA) (3 January 2003)


$55,240 (USA) (26 September 2003)

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


| (cut)

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider. See more »


In the last scene with Toyo (in the restaurant with the birthday party going on), the position of the bell on the mechanical bunny changes, even though neither actor has touched the bunny. See more »


Kanji: Drinking this expensive sake is like paying myself back with poison for the way I lived all these years.
See more »


Featured in Siskel & Ebert: Crix Pick Prez Flix (1993) See more »


J'ai Deux Amours
Music by Vincent Scotto
Lyrics by Georges Koger and Henri Varna
Performed by Josephine Baker
When entering in the bar with the long-faced man
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

"Only when he learned he would die did he start to live!"
11 January 2003 | by (Switzerland) – See all my reviews

Ikiru ("to live")is a Kurosawa film devoid of samurai or Toshiro Mifune. It is an oddity in his canon, neither an adaptation, nor an epic, or even a detective story. Instead, it is the simple and touching story of the last months of the life of a man, Watanabbe, public official, who decides to give a meaning to his life by transcending the obtuse and stiff mind of government bureaucracy to get a small public children's park built. As a parable for the soulless workings of modern bureaucracy, the goal is set pretty high, and Kurosawa goes even further, giving this story a lot of character, frequent humor, life and, most of all, heart. And going beyond the strengths of the direction and script, is the central performance by Takashi Shimura (later Kambei in Seven Samurai). Shimura gives his character such a transparently good heart and such great pain that every second of Watanabe's plight and struggle tugs at your heart, not in an overwhelmingly sentimental manner, but in one than feels honest and pure. If even many hardened souls will be drawn to tears, it is not for pity, but, admirably, because of envy for Watanabe's beautiful human dignity in the end, and for a film to have such power is beyond pure accomplishment, as the need to see this and, more importantly, feel it, goes beyond pure necessity...

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