Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai is one of my go-to focus movies. Sometimes when I am in deep need of concentration, I imagine that I am Seiji Miyaguchi preparing for his early standoff in the film, the scene when Takashi Shimura convinces him to join the defense. Released in 1954, Seven Samurai was the first of many Kurosawa films that I have watched and stands as one of my favorite films, one of a very small number that I can always be happy going back to at any time.
The film is about the seven samurai that help a small village to withstand an onslaught by bandits. It is one of, if not the first film to include the modern trope of showing a set of heroes and their skillsets as they are recruited to benefit other people (see Avengers). This is the not the first action film, and it is not arguably the best action film (allowing for time), but the modern tone of action films would be drastically different if it had never been produced.
I cannot say for sure what it is about the film that hooks me so deeply (aside from its historic significance), as anyone can find better action films. Seven Samurai falls into the same category as older horror or sci-fi films insomuch that you have to remember where cinema was at the time that the film was made. There is a moment in the film when you can see a bald cap on one of the actors; today it would be a flaw. So yes, today you can find better action films. For the day, in the ‘50s, they were fewer and further between.
The existence of Seven Samurai elevated the existence of action films. More importantly, for a student of American film, many of the modern benefactors of cinema had their ideas of filmmaking formed based on the work of Akira Kurosawa. Perhaps more important than the film itself is the idea that Seven Samurai may not even be the best Kurosawa film. As masterpieces go, you have a great many, options among Kurosawa films, for your movie night, each equally as wonderful as the next.