Ran is a 1985 Japanese-French jidaigeki film written and directed by Akira Kurosawa. The film starred Tatsuya Nakadai as Hidetora Ichimonji, an aging Sengoku-era warlord who decides to abdicate as ruler in favor of his three sons. It also stars Mieko Harada as the wife of Ichimonji's eldest son. The story is based on legends of the daimyo Mori Motonari, as well as on the Shakespearean tragedy King Lear.
Ran was Kurosawa's last epic. With a budget of $12 million, it was the most expensive Japanese film ever produced up to that time. After Ran, Kurosawa directed three other films before he died, but none on so large a scale. The film was hailed for its powerful images and use of color—costume designer Emi Wada won an Academy Award for Costume Design for her work on Ran. The distinctive Gustav Mahler-inspired film score, written by Toru Takemitsu, plays in isolation with ambient sound muted.
Kurosawa first got the idea that would become Ran in the mid-1970s, when he read a parable about the Sengoku-era warlord Mori Motonari. Motonari was famous for having three sons, all incredibly loyal and talented in their own right. Kurosawa began imagining what would have happened had they been bad.
Despite the similarities to Shakespeare's play King Lear, Kurosawa only became aware of the similarities after he had started pre-planning. According to him, the stories of Mori Motonari and Lear merged in a way he was never fully able to explain. He wrote the script shortly after filming Dersu Uzala in 1975, and then "let it sleep" for seven years. During this time, he painted storyboards of every shot in the film, later published with the screenplay and available as an extra on the Criterion Collection DVD release of the film, and continued searching for funding. Following his success with 1980's Kagemusha, which he sometimes called a "dress rehearsal" for Ran, Kurosawa was finally able to secure backing from French producer Serge Silberman.
It was completed too late to be entered at Cannes and had its premiere at Japan's first Tokyo International Film Festival. Kurosawa skipped the film's premiere, angering many in the Japanese film industry. As a result Ran was not submitted as Japan's entry for the Best Foreign Language Film category of the Oscars. Serge Silberman then tried to get it nominated as a French co-production but failed. However, American director Sidney Lumet helped organize a successful campaign to have Kurosawa nominated as Best Director.
However, Roger Ebert had awarded the film Four out of Four stars, stating "'Ran' is a great, glorious achievement. Kurosawa often must have associated himself with the old lord as he tried to put this film together, but in the end he has triumphed, and the image I have of him, at 75, is of three arrows bundled together." In 2000, he added it to his list of Great Movies.