Groundbreaking Japanese moviemaker Akira Kurosawa died this day in 1998, leaving behind a vast catalog of acclaimed cinema. Kurosawa began his directorial career in 1943, and by 1950 had released Rashomon, said to be his crowning achievement. Though the film tanked among critics when it was released in Japan, Rashomon has come to be recognized as a masterpiece. The recent Jet Li vehicle, Hero, mirrors the movie’s complex narrative of a story unfolding from different viewpoints. In 1954 Kurosawa made Seven Samurai, the tale of a group of farmers who enlist the help of samurai to help defend their village from a bandit onslaught. The movie became Japan’s highest grossing and set the bar for many of today’s band-of-heroes epics. With a unique style and structure, Samurai combined Japanese traditions with Western heroism and bravado and was also one of the first films to feature slow motion. It influenced American moviemakers heavily, remade most notably as the cowboy epic The Magnificent Seven starring Steve McQueen.

Akira Kurosawa was nominated for only one Academy Award in his life–for the 1985 feature Ran. But, for his “cinematic accomplishments that have inspired, delighted, enriched and entertained worldwide audiences and influenced filmmakers throughout the world,” the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences bestowed an honorary award upon him in 1990.