Seven Samurai (1954)

Rice farmers hire a band of samurai to defend them against marauding bandits in Akira Kurosawa’s influential epic, a touchstone for action movies ever since.

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Film details

Alternative titles

  • Shichinin no samurai Original Japanese

Introduction

“What is always impressive about Seven Samurai is its boundless energy. The film is an exercise in kinesis, in the realization of a cinema defined as pure motion.”
Stephen Prince, The Warrior’s Camera: The Cinema of Akira Kurosawa, 1991

Akira Kurosawa followed the breakthrough international acclaim for Rashomon (1950) and Ikiru (1952) with this three-and-a-half-hour jidaigeki (period drama) set during Japan’s turbulent 16th century.

Strongly influenced by the poetic westerns of John Ford, Kurosawa’s story of farmers recruiting a motley troupe of samurai to help them fend off bandits in turn had a huge impact on subsequent westerns and action films – from Hollywood remake The Magnificent Seven (1961) onwards.

The early section’s gathering together of the diversely talented fighters is a trope in action movies to this day, while the restrained use of slow-motion in the frenzied final faceoff has since been abused to far less subtle ends. Kurosawa expertly sustains the suspense over a lengthy duration, instilling the story with an almost Shakespearian grandeur.

The director’s regular star Toshiro Mifune (here playing the wild-card seventh samurai) later played the lone, wandering ronin in Kurosawa’s Yojimbo (1961).

Cast & Credits

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