- Frequently uses the "wipe effect" to fade from one scene to another. This effect later became famous due to its usage in the Star Wars trilogy.
- Likes to do Shakespearan plays in Feudal Japanese settings
- Often casts Toshirô Mifune , Takashi Shimura, & Tatsuya Nakadai
- Painterly compositions
- Use of weather to heighten mood, most obviously rain
- Female characters that are usually either sweet but weak and submissive or are deceitful, evil and conniving
- Driven characters who frequently end up failing in the goals but ultimately learn hard won life lessons
- His signature look on set: dark clothes, floppy hat and sunglasses
- Revolutionary action sequences
- Reoccurring cynical distrust of memories and nostalgia.
- In his color films, use of bold, painterly visuals
- The (often demented) elderly or deceased are frequently misrepresented or unfairly maligned by those remembering them.