183 user 115 critic

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.



Watch Now

From $2.99 (SD) on Prime Video

Top Rated Movies #125 | Nominated for 1 BAFTA Film Award. Another 5 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »


Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

Yojimbo (1961)
Action | Drama | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  

A crafty ronin comes to a town divided by two criminal gangs and decides to play them against each other to free the town.

Director: Akira Kurosawa
Stars: Toshirô Mifune, Eijirô Tôno, Tatsuya Nakadai
Rashômon (1950)
Crime | Drama | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  

A heinous crime and its aftermath are recalled from differing points of view.

Director: Akira Kurosawa
Stars: Toshirô Mifune, Machiko Kyô, Masayuki Mori
Ran (1985)
Action | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  

In Medieval Japan, an elderly warlord retires, handing over his empire to his three sons. However, he vastly underestimates how the new-found power will corrupt them and cause them to turn on each other...and him.

Director: Akira Kurosawa
Stars: Tatsuya Nakadai, Akira Terao, Jinpachi Nezu
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  

A war-hardened general, egged on by his ambitious wife, works to fulfill a prophecy that he would become lord of Spider's Web Castle.

Director: Akira Kurosawa
Stars: Toshirô Mifune, Minoru Chiaki, Isuzu Yamada
Tokyo Story (1953)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  

An old couple visit their children and grandchildren in the city; but the children have little time for them.

Director: Yasujirô Ozu
Stars: Chishû Ryû, Chieko Higashiyama, Sô Yamamura
Sanjuro (1962)
Action | Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  

A crafty samurai helps a young man and his fellow clansmen save his uncle, who has been framed and imprisoned by a corrupt superintendent.

Director: Akira Kurosawa
Stars: Toshirô Mifune, Tatsuya Nakadai, Keiju Kobayashi
High and Low (1963)
Crime | Drama | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.4/10 X  

An executive of a shoe company becomes a victim of extortion when his chauffeur's son is kidnapped and held for ransom.

Director: Akira Kurosawa
Stars: Toshirô Mifune, Yutaka Sada, Tatsuya Nakadai
Seven Samurai (1954)
Adventure | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.7/10 X  

A poor village under attack by bandits recruits seven unemployed samurai to help them defend themselves.

Director: Akira Kurosawa
Stars: Toshirô Mifune, Takashi Shimura, Keiko Tsushima
Adventure | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  

Lured by gold, two greedy peasants escort a man and woman across enemy lines. However, they do not realize that their companions are actually a princess and her general.

Director: Akira Kurosawa
Stars: Toshirô Mifune, Misa Uehara, Minoru Chiaki
Red Beard (1965)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  

In 19th century Japan, a rough tempered yet charitable town doctor trains a young intern.

Director: Akira Kurosawa
Stars: Toshirô Mifune, Yûzô Kayama, Tsutomu Yamazaki
Kagemusha (1980)
Drama | History | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8/10 X  

A petty thief with an utter resemblance to a samurai warlord is hired as the lord's double. When the warlord later dies the thief is forced to take up arms in his place.

Director: Akira Kurosawa
Stars: Tatsuya Nakadai, Tsutomu Yamazaki, Ken'ichi Hagiwara
Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  

After living a life marked by coldness, an aging professor is forced to confront the emptiness of his existence.

Director: Ingmar Bergman
Stars: Victor Sjöström, Bibi Andersson, Ingrid Thulin


Cast overview, first billed only:
Haruo Tanaka ...
Minosuke Yamada ...
Subordinate Clerk Saito
Makoto Kobori ...
Nobuo Kaneko ...
Nobuo Nakamura ...
Deputy Mayor
Atsushi Watanabe ...
Isao Kimura ...
Masao Shimizu ...
Yûnosuke Itô ...


Kanji Watanabe is a civil servant. He has worked in the same department for 30 years. His life is pretty boring and monotonous, though he once used to have passion and drive. Then one day he discovers that he has stomach cancer and has less than a year to live. After the initial depression he sets about living for the first time in over 20 years. Then he realises that his limited time left is not just for living life to the full but to leave something meaningful behind... Written by grantss

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Akira Kurosawa's Masterpiece See more »




Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

25 March 1956 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Ikiru  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$7,590, 5 January 2003, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$55,240, 28 September 2003
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show more on  »

Technical Specs


| (cut)

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The only Akira Kurosawa film between Drunken Angel (1948) (Drunken Angel) and Red Beard (1965) (Red Beard) not to feature Toshirô Mifune. 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 »


Novelist: You're amazing! Rebelling against your past self at this age! That rebellious spirit moves me. You were a slave to your own life. Now you'll become its master. It's our human duty to enjoy life. Wasting it is desecrating God's great gift.
See more »


Referenced in The Geisha Boy (1958) 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

See more »

User Reviews

Complex and thought-provoking masterpiece
16 December 2004 | by See all my reviews

Ikiru is a film about life. Constantly complex and thought-provoking, although simple at the same time; it tells a story about life's limits, how we perceive life and the fact that life is short and not to be wasted. Our hero is Kanji Watanabe, the most unlikely 'hero' of all time. He works in a dreary city office, where nothing happens and it's all very meaningless. Watanabe is particularly boring, which has lead to him being nicknamed 'The Mummy' by a fellow worker. He later learns that he is dying from stomach cancer and that he only has six months to live. But Watanabe has been dead for thirty years, and now that he's learned that his life has a limit; it's time for Watanabe to escape his dreary life and finally start living. What follows is probably the most thoughtful analysis of life ever filmed.

Ikiru marks a departure for Akira Kurosawa, a man better known for his samurai films, but it's a welcome departure in my opinion. Kurosawa constantly refers to Watanabe as 'our hero' throughout the film, and at first this struck me as rather odd because, as I've mentioned, he's probably the least likely hero that Kurosawa has ever directed; but that's just it! This man is not a superhero samurai, but rather an ordinary guy that decides he doesn't want to be useless anymore. That's why he's 'our hero'. Kurosawa makes us feel for the character every moment he's on screen - we're sorry that he's wasted his life, and we're sorry that his wasted life is about to be cruelly cut short. However, despite the bleak and miserable facade that this movie gives out, there is a distinct beauty about it that shines through. The beauty emits from the way that Watanabe tries to redeem his life; because we feel for him and are with him every step of the way, it's easy to see why Watanabe acts in the way he does. Ikiru is a psychologically beautiful film.

It could be said that the fantastic first hour and a half is let down by a more politically based final third - and this is true. The movie needs it's final third in order to finish telling the story, but it really doesn't work as well as the earlier parts did. However, Kurosawa still delights us with some brilliant imagery and the shot of Watanabe on a swing is the most poetically brilliant thing that Kurosawa ever filmed. Together with the music and the rest of the film that you've seen so far; that picture that Kurosawa gives us is as moving as it is brilliant.

71 of 88 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 183 user reviews »

Contribute to This Page