Seven Samurai

"Hailed as the greatest film in the history of Japanese cinema, Seven Samurai is director Akira Kurosawa’s undisputed masterpiece. Arguably the greatest of all jidai-gecki (or historical swordplay films), Kurosawa’s classic 1954 action drama has never been surpassed in terms of sheer power of emotion, kinetic energy, and dynamic character development. The story is set during the civil unrest of 16th-century Japan, as the cowering residents of a small farming village are seeking protection against seasonal attacks by a band of marauding bandits. Offering mere handfuls of rice as payment, they hire seven unemployed "ronin" (masterless samurai), including a boastful swordsman (Toshiro Mifune) who is actually a peasant farmer’s son, desperately seeking glory, acceptance, and revenge against those who destroyed his family. Led by the calmly strategic Kambei (Takashi Shimura, star of Kurosawa’s previous classic, Ikiru), the samurai form mutual bonds of honor and respect, but remain distant from the villagers, knowing that their assignment may prove to be fatal." (text taken from Amazon)
Year Released
Running Time
207 min
Average: 4 (1 vote)


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The Seven Samurai

Field of Interest/Specialty: Social Studies / Latin
Posted On: 05/31/2013

The Seven Samurai is film from 1954 directed by the now legendary Akira Kurosawa. The film takes place in the late 16th century in Japan during a period of civil unrest in which warlords are in a constant state of conflict. In this power vacuum, bandits are free to exploit common farmers who are defenseless. The film plays on universal themes such as young vs. old, urban vs. agrarian, soldier vs. farmer, and selfishness vs. selflessness.
The basic plot is that a town of farmers has been slated to be sacked by a group of bandits. The bandits intend to sack the village and steal the food that the small farming community has produced. The bandits plan a secret attack, but are overheard by a townsman who tells the village elder. The elder realizes that the townspeople are farmers and not soldiers and decides the best defensive course of action is to hire samurai as mercenaries to protect the town. An envoy is sent into the urban center to recruit the samurai. Eventually, seven samurai are selected to protect the village from the bandits. The next phase of the film deals with the relationship between the samurai and the townspeople. The youngest falls in love with a local girl and the samurai raid the bandit camp only to discover that they are up against enemies with muskets. This all occurs in the midst of the training of the town’s men and plans for defensive fortifications. The bandits raid and there are casualties on both sides. In the final battle, the remaining bandits and their leader are slain, but with casualties to both the townspeople and the samurai. Although the samurai are successful in defeating the bandits and defending the town, they realize that they have paid a great price for the safety of the farming community.
This is a great film because it is action packed and gives insight not only into the Japanese samurai class, but also the lives of common farmers. The film take place during an actual Japanese historical period and the problem that the farming community was experiencing could have been real. The film is also accurate in its portrayal of the dress and settings of the period. Perhaps the best educational tool that this film can offer is its depiction of a farming town in 16th century Japan. The film also gives insight into the diversity of the samurai. Often times, students think of the samurai as completely the same. Part of the fun of watching this film is appreciating the humanism of the romanticized samurai and enjoying the personal nuances of each samurai’s character. The film is appropriate for high school students, but does contain some combat scenes. If you are going to show this film, make sure that you have “a few” periods to kill. It is about three and a half hours long.