Japanese release poster
|Directed by||Akira Kurosawa|
|Produced by||Sojiro Motoki|
|Written by||Akira Kurosawa
|Music by||Fumio Hayasaka|
|Editing by||Akira Kurosawa|
|Distributed by||Toho (Japan)
Columbia Pictures (US)
|Running time||207 minutes|
Seven Samurai (七人の侍 Shichinin no Samurai ) is a 1954 Japanese period adventure drama film co-written, edited, and directed by Akira Kurosawa. The film takes place in 1587 during the Warring States Period of Japan. It follows the story of a village of farmers that hire seven masterless samurai (ronin) to combat bandits who will return after the harvest to steal their crops.
Seven Samurai is described as one of the greatest and most influential films ever made, and is one of a select few Japanese films to become widely known in the West for an extended period of time. It is the subject of both popular and critical acclaim; it was voted onto the top three of the Sight & Sound critics' list of greatest films of all time in 1982, and onto the directors' top ten films lists in the 1992 and 2002 polls.
A gang of marauding bandits approaches a mountain farming village, but their chief recognizes they have ransacked this village before, and decides it is best to spare it until the harvest in several months. A villager overhears this. The farmers go to their elder, who declares that they should hire samurai to help defend the village. Since they have nothing to offer but food, the elder tells them to "find hungry samurai."
Several men go to the city, but are turned away by every samurai they ask. They watch as an experienced samurai, Kambei, deftly rescues a young boy taken hostage by a thief. Impressed, a young samurai named Katsushirō asks to become his disciple. Kambei insists that he walk with him as a friend. The farmers are overjoyed when Kambei agrees to help them. With Katsushirō's assistance, he recruits four more masterless samurai: Gorobei Katayama, clever and good natured; Heihachi, a good-humored samurai with mediocre swordsmanship; Shichirōji, an old friend of Kambei's; and Kyūzō, a taciturn master swordsman. Although Kambei had judged that seven samurai would be necessary, time is running short. The villagers beg him to take Katsushirō and, after some prodding, he agrees. The jokester Kikuchiyo, whom Kambei had rejected, follows them, ignoring their attempts to drive him away.
When the samurai arrive, the villagers cower in their homes. The samurai feel insulted by their cold reception. Suddenly, the alarm is raised; the villagers, fearing that the bandits have returned, beg the new arrivals to protect them. Kikuchiyo, who raised the false alarm, rebukes the villagers for their poor behavior. The samurai accept him, bringing their number to seven. The villagers offer white rice to the samurai, the best they have, while they eat millet.
As they prepare, the two groups slowly come to trust each other. However, when the samurai discover that the villagers have murdered and robbed fleeing samurai in the past, they become angry. Kikuchiyo castigates his comrades for ignoring the hardships that the farmers have to overcome to survive, including harassment from the warrior class. This reveals his origins as a farmer's son to Kambei. The anger the samurai felt turns to shame.
They construct fortifications and train the farmers for battle. Katsushirō, the youngest samurai, begins a relationship with Shino, who had been forced to masquerade as a boy by her father to protect her from the supposedly lustful samurai.
As the time for the raid approaches, two bandit scouts are killed, while another is captured and forced to reveal the location of their camp. Three of the samurai, guided by Rikichi, strike preemptively. Many bandits are killed, but Heihachi is slain by gunfire. When a woman emerges from the bandits' burning house, she sees Rikichi and runs back inside to perish in the flames. Rikichi reveals that this was his wife, who had been kidnapped and raped.
When the bandits attack, they are confounded by the new fortifications. Several are killed attempting to scale the barricades or cross the moats. However, they possess three dangerous muskets. Kyūzō sets out on his own and returns with a musket. A jealous Kikuchiyo later abandons his post to get another musket, leaving his contingent of farmers leaderless. Although he succeeds, the bandits attack his post, overwhelming and killing some of the farmers. Kambei is forced to send reinforcements, leaving the main post undermanned when the bandit chief leads a charge against this position. Although they are repelled, Gorobei is shot and killed. Yohei is also slain.
Kambei's stratagem is to allow one bandit to enter through a gap in the fortifications, block the rest with a "wall" of spears, and kill the lone enemy. This succeeds several times.
On the second night, Kambei instructs them to prepare for a final, decisive battle. However, in the midst of planning Shino's father catches her with Katsushirō and beats Shino. Katsushirō hangs his head in shame while the rest of the Samurai and villagers look on. As it begins to rain, everyone goes back to their posts. When morning breaks, Kambei orders his forces to allow the remaining bandits in. Most of the attackers are killed, but their leader takes refuge in a hut unseen. In what is portrayed as a dishonorable act, he shoots Kyūzō from the hut, killing him. A despondent Katsushirō seeks to avenge his hero, but an enraged Kikuchiyo charges ahead of him, only to be shot himself. Kikuchiyo kills the bandit chief before dying. Kambei and Shichirōji sadly observe "we've survived once again".
Afterward, the three surviving samurai watch the villagers happily planting the next crop. They reflect on the relationship between the warrior and farming classes: though they have won the battle, they have lost their friends with little to show for it. "Again we are defeated," Kambei muses. "The winners are those farmers. Not us."
Seven Samurai 
- Takashi Shimura as Kambei Shimada (島田勘兵衛 Shimada Kanbei ), the leader of the group and the first "recruited" by the villagers, he is a wise but war-weary soldier.
- Isao Kimura as Katsushirō Okamoto (岡本勝四郎 Okamoto Katsushirō ), a young untested warrior. The son of a wealthy landowner, he left home to become a samurai against his family's wishes. After witnessing Kambei rescue a child who was taken hostage, Katsushirō wants to be Kambei's disciple.
- Yoshio Inaba as Gorōbei Katayama (片山五郎兵衛 Katayama Gorōbei ), a skilled archer recruited by Kambei. He acts as the second in command and helps create the master plan for the village's defense.
- Daisuke Katō as Shichirōji (七郎次). He was formerly Kambei's lieutenant. Kambei meets him by chance in the town, and he resumes this role.
- Minoru Chiaki as Heihachi Hayashida (林田平八 Hayashida Heihachi ), recruited by Gorōbei. An amiable though less-skilled fighter. His charm and wit maintain his comrades' good cheer in the face of adversity.
- Seiji Miyaguchi as Kyūzō (久蔵). He initially declined an offer by Kambei to join the group, though he later changes his mind. A serious, stone-faced samurai and a supremely skilled swordsman; Katsushirō is in awe of him.
- Toshiro Mifune as Kikuchiyo (菊千代), a would-be samurai (right down to the false noble birth certificate) who eventually proves his worth. He is mercurial and temperamental. He identifies with the villagers and their plight.
- Kokuten Kodo as Gisaku (儀作), the miller and village patriarch, referred to as "Grandad," who tells the villagers to hire samurai to protect themselves.
- Bokuzen Hidari as Yohei (与平), a very timid old man who shares some memorable comic scenes with Kikuchiyo.
- Kamatari Fujiwara as Manzō (万造), a farmer who fears for his daughter's purity when surrounded by the dashing samurai.
- Keiko Tsushima as Shino (志乃), Manzō's daughter, who falls in love with Katsushirō.
- Yoshio Tsuchiya as Rikichi (利吉), a hotheaded and relatively young villager. He has a painful secret concerning his wife.
- Yukiko Shimazaki as Rikichi's wife. She is unseen in the early part of the film, the secret of her whereabouts will lead to tragedy.
- Yoshio Kosugi as Mosuke (茂助). His house is one of the three outlying buildings that will have to be abandoned in order to save the twenty in the main hamlet.
- Shinpei Takagi as the bandit chief
- Shin Ōtomo as the bandit second-in-command
- Toshio Takahara as the bandit armed with a musket
- Masanobu Ōkubo as the bandit on the roof
The film was the first samurai film that Akira Kurosawa had ever directed. He had originally wanted to direct a film about a single day in the life of a samurai but later discovered a story about samurai defending farmers in his research. According to actor Toshiro Mifune, the film was originally going to be called Six Samurai, with Mifune playing the role of Kyuzo. During the six-week scriptwriting process, Kurosawa and his screenwriters realized that "six sober samurai were a bore—they needed a character that was more off-the-wall."
Kurosawa recast Mifune as Kikuchiyo and gave him creative license to improvise actions in his performance. After three months of preproduction, the film had 148 shooting days spread out over a year, four times the span covered in the original budget, which eventually came to almost half a million dollars. Toho Studios closed down production at least twice. Each time, Kurosawa would calmly go fishing, reasoning that the studio had already heavily invested in the production and would have to allow him to complete the picture. The film's final battle, originally scheduled to be shot at the end of summer, was shot in February in near-freezing temperatures. Mifune would recall later that he had never been so cold in his life.
Kurosawa refused to shoot the peasant village at Toho Studios and had a complete set constructed on the Izu Peninsula. Although the studio protested the increased production costs, Kurosawa was adamant that "the quality of the set influences the quality of the actors' performances.... For this reason, I have the sets made exactly like the real thing. It restricts the shooting but encourages that feeling of authenticity." He also began using multiple cameras to shoot his scenes in order to capture action sequences from various angles, a practice he would continue for the rest of his career.
Structural innovations 
According to Michael Jeck's DVD commentary, Seven Samurai was among the first films to use the now-common plot element of the recruiting and gathering of heroes into a team to accomplish a specific goal, a device used in later films such as The Guns of Navarone, Ocean's Eleven, The Dirty Dozen, Sholay, the western remake The Magnificent Seven, and Pixar's animated film A Bug's Life. Film critic Roger Ebert speculates in his review that the sequence introducing the leader Kambei (in which the samurai shaves off his topknot, a sign of honor among samurai, in order to pose as a monk to rescue a boy from a kidnapper) could be the origin of the practice, now common in action movies, of introducing the main hero with an undertaking unrelated to the main plot. Other plot devices such as the reluctant hero, romance between a local woman and the youngest hero, and the nervousness of the common citizenry had appeared in other films before this but were combined in this film.
Reception and legacy 
The single largest undertaking by a Japanese filmmaker at the time, Seven Samurai was a technical and creative watershed that became Japan's highest-grossing movie and set a new standard for the industry. Its influence can be most strongly felt in the western The Magnificent Seven (1960), a film specifically adapted from Seven Samurai. Director John Sturges took Seven Samurai and adapted it to the Old West, with the Samurai replaced by gunslingers. Many of The Magnificent Seven's scenes mirror those of Seven Samurai. The Magnificent Seven spawned several sequels and there was also a short-lived 1998 television series. It has also recently been reported that director Zack Snyder is developing a Star Wars movie loosely based on the plot of the film, though this has been denied by Snyder's representatives.
Seven Samurai is the highest reviewed movie at Rotten Tomatoes with the highest number of votes that is listed as an action/adventure film on the site. It is also ranked number two on Rotten Tomatoes' top 100 foreign films list.
In 1982, it was voted number three in the Sight & Sound critics' poll of greatest films. In the Sight & Sound directors' poll, it was voted at number ten in 1992 and number nine in 2002, in both cases being tied with Kurosawa's own Rashomon (1950). It also ranked number seventeen on the 2012 Sight & Sound critics' poll. Seven Samurai has also been ranked number one on Empire magazine's list of "The 100 Best Films Of World Cinema" in 2010. It was also voted the "Best Japanese Film ever" in a 1979 Kinema Junpo critics’ poll.
The film was voted number one in an audience poll of greatest films conducted by MovieMail in 2000. It is also the highest-ranked Asian film on the Internet Movie Database's "Top 250 movies" list.
Edited versions and DVD releases 
At three hours, twenty-seven minutes (207 minutes), Seven Samurai would be the longest picture of Kurosawa's career.
Toho Studios originally cut fifty minutes off the film when screening it for American distributors for fear that no American audience would be willing to sit through the entire picture.
A re-release version of 190 minutes was shown in the UK in 1991 and a near-complete 203 minute version was re-released in the U.S. in 2002. A Criterion Collection DVD version of the film is currently available containing the complete original version of the film (207 minutes) on one disc, and a second, more expansive Criterion DVD released in 2006 also contains the digitally remastered, complete film on two discs, as well as an additional disc of extra material. A region 4 DVD of the full 207 minute cut was released in 2004 by Madman Entertainment under its Eastern Eye label. A Blu-ray edition of the full length edition was released by the Criterion Collection on October 19, 2010.
Awards and nominations 
- Venice Film Festival (1954)
- Mainichi Film Award (1955)
- Winner - Best Supporting Actor - Seiji Miyaguchi
- Nominated - BAFTA Award for Best Film
- Nominated - BAFTA Award for Best Foreign Actor - Toshiro Mifune
- Nominated - BAFTA Award for Best Foreign Actor - Takashi Shimura
- Nominated - Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Black-and-White - So Matsuyama
- Nominated - Best Costume Design, Black-and-White - Kôhei Ezaki
- Jussi Awards (1959)
See also 
- List of films considered the best
- List of historical drama films of Asia
- Samurai 7- An anime inspired by this movie
- Because the Japanese language has no definite article, the question arises as to whether the proper English translation of the title is Seven Samurai or The Seven Samurai. While the former is the literal translation, either may be considered idiomatically correct.
- Fujiwara, Chris (2002-08-29). "Canon fodder - What it means to call Seven Samurai a great film". The Boston Phoenix.
- "The Sight & Sound Top Ten Poll 2002". Retrieved 2010-12-28.
- Heuberger, Sean. "The Campbellian and Musashian Samurai". Topics in Literature. Retrieved 19.5.2013.
- Toho Masterworks. Akira Kurosawa: It Is Wonderful to Create (DVD) (in Japanese).
- Toshiro Mifune interview, August 25, 1993. Criterion Collection DVD pamphlet
- "Behind the Camera on THE SEVEN SAMURAI".
- "An Appreciation of Akira Kurosawa's 'Seven Samurai'".
- Ebert, Roger (2001-08-19). "The Seven Samurai (1954)". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2008-10-17. More than one of
- "Zack Snyder to direct a Star Wars movie". 3 News NZ. January 15, 2013.
- Collura, Scott. "Zack Snyder Developing a Star Wars Film?". IGN.
- "Rotten Tomatoes best reviewed action movies.". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved November 2, 2011.
- "Best of Foreign". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved October 10, 27.[dead link]
- "The Top 50 Greatest Films of All Time". Sight & Sound. British Film Institute. 1 August 2012. Retrieved 5 August 2012.
- "The 100 Best Films Of World Cinema - 1. Seven Samurai". Empire.
- "Seven Samurai". Film Forum. Retrieved 2009-05-29.
- "Lists". Film Journey. Retrieved 2009-05-29.
- Shichinin no samurai (1954) at the Internet Movie Database
- "The Hours and Times: Kurosawa and the Art of Epic Storytelling".
- "Seven Samurai (1954) - The Criterion Collection". Criterion.com. Retrieved 2011-06-02.
- "NY Times: Seven Samurai". NY Times. Retrieved 2008-12-22.
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- Seven Samurai at the Internet Movie Database
- Seven Samurai at AllRovi
- Seven Samurai at Box Office Mojo
- Seven Samurai at Metacritic
- Seven Samurai at Rotten Tomatoes
- Roger Ebert on Seven Samurai
- Criterion Collection essay by Philip Kemp
- Criterion Collection essay by Kenneth Turan
- Criterion Collection essay by Peggy Chiao
- Criterion Collection essay by David Ehrenstein
- Seven Samurai (Japanese) at the Japanese Movie Database
- Seven Samurai at DVD Verdict