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Seven Samurai

Akira Kurosawa's stunning, epic saga of seven samurai defending an apparently helpless village from raiding bandits in feudal Japan is one of the greatest adventure movies of all time. It's three hours long and still feels too short, as every single frame fits together perfectly. As an action movie it's unforgettable, as a character drama it is unsurpassed: the characters and scenes from this movie have been imitated and copied so many times they've become cliches, but this is where the cliches began. As if all this wasn't enough, it's beautifully filmed in black and white, with any scene suitable for framing. Kurosawa made a name for himself with Rashômon (and that movie is also well worth watching), but even if he had never made any other movies after Seven Samurai (and he made two dozen more, including The Hidden Fortress, Throne of Blood, Kagemusha, Yojimbo, Ran, and many others), his throne as the "emperor" of Japanese cinema would have been assured. This is one of those rare movies where every scene is important, and not one single moment drags. When I screened it for friends, after the final fade-out everyone simply sat and stared at the blank screen for nearly a minute.