A crafty ronin comes to a town divided by two criminal gangs and decides to play them against each other to free the town.

Director:

Akira Kurosawa

Writers:

Akira Kurosawa (story), Akira Kurosawa (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
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Popularity
4,770 ( 318)
Top Rated Movies #127 | Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 4 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Toshirô Mifune ... Sanjuro Kuwabatake / The Samurai
Tatsuya Nakadai ... Unosuke - Gunfighter
Yôko Tsukasa ... Nui
Isuzu Yamada ... Orin
Daisuke Katô ... Inokichi - Ushitora's Rotund Brother
Seizaburô Kawazu ... Seibê - Brothel Operator
Takashi Shimura ... Tokuemon - Sake Brewer
Hiroshi Tachikawa Hiroshi Tachikawa ... Yoichiro
Yôsuke Natsuki Yôsuke Natsuki ... Kohei's Son
Eijirô Tôno ... Gonji - Tavern Keeper
Kamatari Fujiwara ... Tazaemon
Ikio Sawamura Ikio Sawamura ... Hansuke
Atsushi Watanabe Atsushi Watanabe ... The Cooper - Coffin-Maker
Susumu Fujita Susumu Fujita ... Homma - Instructor Who Skips Town
Kyû Sazanka ... Ushitora
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Storyline

Sanjuro, a wandering samurai enters a rural town in nineteenth century Japan. After learning from the innkeeper that the town is divided between two gangsters, he plays one side off against the other. His efforts are complicated by the arrival of the wily Unosuke, the son of one of the gangsters, who owns a revolver. Unosuke has Sanjuro beaten after he reunites an abducted woman with her husband and son, then massacres his father's opponents. During the slaughter, the samurai escapes with the help of the innkeeper; but while recuperating at a nearby temple, he learns of innkeeper's abduction by Unosuke, and returns to the town to confront him. Written by Bernard Keane <BKeane2@email.dot.gov.au>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Venice Festival Award Winner. See more »

Genres:

Action | Drama | Thriller

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Tatsuya Nakadai, who plays the flamboyant, pistol-waving Unosuke here, also plays the main villain role in the sequel, Sanjuro (1962). See more »

Goofs

The 2:00 AM meeting between the gangs was clearly filmed in broad daylight. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Farmer: Stop, you brat!
Traveler: Let me go, Father! This battle is the chance of a lifetime!
Farmer: Crazy fool! The chance to get killed! Why do you want to be a gambler? A farmer's place is in the fields.
Traveler: A long life of eating gruel - - to hell with that! I want good food and nice clothes. I'm gonna live it up and die young!
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Alternate Versions

The initial US release ran only 75 minutes, 35 minutes shorter than the original version at 110 minutes. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Saturday Night Live: Richard Pryor/Gil Scott-Heron (1975) See more »

User Reviews

 
Reinventing the Western
17 September 2002 | by OttoVonBSee all my reviews

After a string of classic masterpieces, Kurosawa confronted his influences head-on. Throwing John Ford's Western aesthetics into a blender and painting them pitch black. The results are Yojimbo and its legacy.

Yojimbo ("the bodyguard") is the tale of a flea-ridden wandering swordsman, Sanjuro (Toshiro Mifune, in his finest performance). He arrives at a gang-war ravaged town and starts hiring himself out to both sides, playing them off against another, in order to wipe all the scum out. Sound familiar?

Even though Yojimbo the film is a thrilling ride and very funny dark comedy, it is hard to imagine what a bombshell this was for audiences at the time of its release. It is as far removed as can be from the then squeaky-clean aesthetic of samurai films: you can almost smell the sweat and the grime of the sordid town and characters. The action is fast and furious, enhanced by Kurosawa's deft use of telephoto lenses and Masaru Sato's avant-garde score. With all that, Yojimbo was a massive kick in the pants of a fossilized genre.

It exploded beyond the confines of its own country and genre, forever influencing the very Westerns that had inspired it, particularly a new wave out of Spain and Italy at the time. One Sergio Leone copy/pasted the whole plot into his own revisionist Western and gave us the Dollars trilogy. The slightest of Spaghetti Western enthusiasts owes Kurosawa a debt of gratitude.

As with all truly great work, its greatness exists even devoid of context, and for all the historical precedents it set, all Kurosawa wanted to make was an entertaining film. That he bloody well succeeded is the least you can say about Yojimbo.


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Frequently Asked Questions

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Details

Country:

Japan

Language:

Japanese

Release Date:

13 September 1961 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Yojimbo See more »

Filming Locations:

Japan See more »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$15,942, 28 July 2002

Gross USA:

$46,808

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$46,808
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Perspecta Stereo (Westrex Recording System)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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