Easily one of Akira Kurosawa’s greatest masterpieces and arguably his most accomplished work, Seven Samurai has influenced and inspired countless other movies, from The Magnificent Seven and Battle Beyond the Stars to A Bug’s Life and The Dirty Dozen, to name but a few. And although it has left an indelible mark upon filmmaking, it has yet to be surpassed. A simple yet epic action drama, Samurai centers on the residents of a small Japanese village circa the 1600s who seek protection against a band of marauding thieves by hiring seven masterless samurai who are more than willing to accept a suicide mission in exchange for a few handfuls of rice. The samurai get acquainted with the villagers but remain aloof, and the peasants in turn see their saviors as a means to an end, only slightly less dangerous than the bandits. Kurosawa pours a generous amount of character development in with the action, and his titular band of heroes is a wonderfully motley bunch, with the sagely Kambei (Takashi Shimura), the oafish, flamboyant, and bighearted Kikuchiyo (Toshiro Mifune in one of his greatest performances), and young acolyte Katsushiro (Isao Kimura) the most engaging of the seven. Combined with rousing action sequences, tense drama, and Kurosawa’s virtuoso style, the result is a sweeping, energetic portrait of courage and tenacity told with a flourish.