Really, what else is left to say about this film? It’s probably the best film in the career of arguably the greatest director that ever lived. That alone should be recommendation enough. Its influence on world cinema cannot be overestimated – if you have watched any action movie made in the last 50 years, chances are it drew from Seven Samurai in some fashion, either directly or through the usual chain of influences that all art relies upon. This is the crowning achievement of an absolute master of the artform at the very top of his game. Every modern director should watch it before they start filming anything – many actually do.

Although he’s often labelled as “that Japanese dude who did all the samurai films”, this was Kurosawa’s fifteenth film and the first to feature any. He would later revisit them with the likes of Throne of Blood (a haunting adaptation of Macbeth), The Hidden Fortress (which inspired George Lucas to make Star Wars), Yojimbo (which inspired Sergio Leone to make A Fistful of Dollars), Sanjuro (the underrated sequel to Yojimbo), Kagemusha (which won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival) and Ran (an epic adaptation of King Lear) – did I mention this guy was influential? – but his first visit to the genre remains his best.

The DNA of action cinema was forged here. It spawned everything else. The basic plot notion of a band of misfits being rounded up for a specific mission can be seen in a host of WWII vehicles like The Guns of Navarone and The Dirty Dozen, as well as the Bollywood classic Sholay and even more recent work like the early Pixar effort A Bug’s Life. Of course, its most obvious and direct descendant is the Western remake The Magnificent Seven, itself essentially the subject of various sequels and remakes. Kurosawa’s shadow is cast over all of them – not just in basic structure but in the individual relationships that play out across decades and genres.

It’s not just a showcase for his talents alone of course – his favourite leading man Toshiro Mifune is magnetic onscreen here. With much of his performance improvised, even his fellow actors can’t take their eyes off him. He’s a growling, almost animalistic presence – an unpredictable ball of anguish and truth. The final, epic combat scene (choreographed by Yoshio Sugino) – orchestrated on a purpose-built village that Kurosawa insisted should be constructed for authenticity – is one of cinema’s iconic set pieces. It’s the template for pretty much every major battle sequence that has followed. Shot from multiple camera angles and with driving rain, with death and nobility and sacrifice and heroism, it’s about as visceral as movies get.

The career high of the greatest director of all time10
Realising that every single scene has single-handedly influenced at least a dozen other movies10
Toshiro Mifune10
The final, 30-minute-long action set piece10
Best film ever made? Yeah... yeah, it probably is10
Bechdel Test Passes
  • n/a
Bechdel Test Failures
  • I can only think of one named female character
10Overall Score

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