Winning streak: Sanshiro Sugata (1943), The Most Beautiful (1944), Sanshiro Sugata Part II (1945), The Men Who Tread on the Tiger’s Tail (1945), No Regrets for Our Youth (1946), One Wonderful Sunday (1947), Drunken Angel (1948), The Quiet Duel (1949), Stray Dog (1949), Scandal (1950), Rashomon (1950), The Idiot (1951), Ikiru (1952), Seven Samurai (1954), I Live in Fear (1955), Throne of Blood (1957), The Lower Depths (1957), The Hidden Fortress (1958), The Bad Sleep Well (1960), Yojimbo (1961), Sanjuro (1962), High and Low (1963), Red Beard (1965), Dodesukaden (1970), Dersu Uzala (1975), The Shadow Warrior (1980), Ran (1985), Dreams (1990), Rhapsody in August (1991), Not Yet (1993)

Depending on who you ask, Akira Kurosawa is either the greatest, most under-appreciated, or most influential filmmaker of all time, or all three at once. And, frankly, each of those responses is acceptable.

Hailing from Tokyo, Japan, the late Kurosawa endured through one of the longest, unwaveringly solid careers in movie history, with his output ranging from samurai action-adventure epics (Seven Samurai being the best of the lot) to ambitious thrillers that pushed the boundaries of the medium (i.e., Rashomon, which cleverly shows various interpretations of one criminal act). And the audiences for his movies, upon their initial releases, were comprised of some of Hollywood's soon-to-be elite.

Martin Scorsese, for instance, once called Kurosawa his "master," while Steven Spielberg readily admitted that the Japanese director's pics taught him more about filmmaking than "almost any other filmmaker on the face of the earth." Furthermore, George Lucas' Star Wars franchise wouldn't exist if it weren't for the influence of Kurosawa's The Hidden Fortress.

Most directors would kill a kitten to have at least one masterpiece to their credit; Kurosawa, bless his soul, cooked up, arguably, a dime's worth of faultless movies. The fact that his lesser efforts were still worthy of high praise is what makes him an undisputed icon.