Seven Samurai is a 1954 Japanese epic samurai drama film
co-written, edited, and directed by Akira Kurosawa. The story
takes place in 1586 during the Sengoku
period of Japanese history. It follows the story of a village of
farmers that hire seven rōnin (masterless
samurai) to combat bandits who will return after the harvest to
steal their crops.
Bandits discuss raiding a mountain village, but their chief decides
to wait until after the harvest as they had
raided it fairly recently. The plan is inadvertently overheard by a
farmer, whereupon the villagers ask Gisaku,
the village elder and miller, for advice. He states that he once saw
a village that had hired samurai and
remained untouched by raiders, and declares they should also hire
samurai to defend themselves. Since they have
no money, Gisaku advises them to find hungry samurai.
After having little success initially, the scouting group watches
Kambei, an aging but experienced rōnin, rescue
a young boy who had been taken hostage by a thief. A young samurai
named Katsushirō asks to become Kambei's
disciple. The villagers then ask for help, and after initial
reluctance, Kambei agrees. He recruits his old
friend Shichirōji and, with Katsushirō's assistance, three other
samurai: the friendly, wily Gorobei; the
good-willed Heihachi; and Kyūzō, a taciturn master swordsman whom
Katsushirō regards with awe. Although
inexperienced, Katsushirō is accepted because time is short.
Kikuchiyo, a man who carries a family scroll that
he claims proves he is a samurai (though the birth date on it is for
a young child), follows the group despite
attempts to drive him away.
On arrival, the samurai find the villagers cowering in their homes,
refusing to greet them. Feeling insulted by
such a cold reception, Kikuchiyo rings the village alarm bell,
prompting the villagers to come out of hiding.
The samurai are both pleased and amused by this, and accept him as a
comrade-in-arms. Slowly the samurai and
farmers begin to trust each other as they train together. Katsushirō
forms a relationship with Shino, a farmer's
daughter, who had been masquerading as a boy for protection from the
supposedly lustful samurai. However, the
six samurai are angered when Kikuchiyo brings them armor and
weapons, which the villagers most likely acquired
by killing injured or dying samurai. Kikuchiyo retorts in a rage
that samurai are responsible for battles,
raids, taxation and forced labor that devastate the villagers'
lives. By so doing, he reveals his origin as an
orphaned farmer's son. The samurais' anger turns to shame.
Three bandit scouts are spotted. Two are killed, while another
reveals the location of their camp. Against the
wishes of the samurai, the villagers kill the prisoner. The samurai
burn down the bandits' camp in a pre-emptive
strike. Rikichi, a troubled villager who helps the samurai, breaks
down when he sees his wife, who had
apparently been kidnapped and made a concubine in a previous raid.
On seeing Rikichi, she walks back into her
burning hut. Heihachi is killed trying to save Rikichi, whose grief
When the bandits finally attack, they are confounded by new
fortifications, including a moat and wooden fence.
Several bandits are killed according to Kambei's plan: The bandits
are allowed to enter the village singly, to
be hunted down and killed by groups of farmers armed with bamboo
spears. Gisaku refuses to abandon his mill on
the outskirts of the village and perishes with his family, who tried
to save him. A lone baby is rescued by
Kikuchiyo, who breaks down in tears, as it reminds him of his own
The bandits possess three Japanese matchlock firearms. Kyūzō
ventures out alone and returns with one. An envious
Kikuchiyo abandons his post—and his contingent of farmers—to bring
back another. He is chastised by Kambei
because, while he was gone, the bandits killed some of his farmers.
The bandits attack again, and Gorobei is
slain. That night, Kambei predicts that, due to their dwindling
numbers, the bandits will make one last all-out
attack. Meanwhile, Katsushirō and Shino's relationship is discovered
by her father. He hits her until Kambei and
the villagers intervene. Shichirōji calms everyone down by saying
the couple should be forgiven because they are
young and that before any battle, passions can run high.
The next morning in a torrential downpour, Kambei orders that the
remaining thirteen bandits be allowed into the
village. As the battle winds down, their leader, armed with a gun,
enters the women's hut, from where he shoots
Kyūzō. An enraged Kikuchiyo charges the hut; he is shot, but kills
the bandit chief before dying.
The three surviving samurai watch as the joyful villagers sing
whilst planting their crops. Kambei—standing
beneath the funeral mounds of their four comrades—reflects that it
is another pyrrhic victory for the
samurai: "In the end we lost this battle too. The victory belongs to
the peasants, not to us."
Influence: The Magnificent Seven (1960)
Seven Samurai influence can be most strongly felt in the
Magnificent Seven (1960), a film specifically
from Seven Samurai. Director John Sturges took Seven Samurai
and adapted it to the Old West, with the
replaced by gunslingers. Many of The Magnificent Seven's scenes
mirror those of Seven Samurai.
However, in an interview with R. B. Gadi, Kurosawa expressed how
"the American copy of The Magnificent
a disappointment, although entertaining. It is not a version of Seven
Samurai". Stephen Prince argues
that considering samurai films and Westerns respond to different
cultures and contexts, what Kurosawa found
useful was not their content but rather he was inspired by their
levels of syntactic movement, framing, form and