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Yojimbo (1961)

Yôjinbô (original title)
Not Rated | | Action, Drama, Thriller | 13 September 1961 (USA)
A crafty ronin comes to a town divided by two criminal gangs and decides to play them against each other to free the town.


Akira Kurosawa


Akira Kurosawa (story), Akira Kurosawa (screenplay) | 1 more credit »

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Top Rated Movies #119 | Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 4 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Toshirô Mifune ... Sanjuro Kuwabatake / The Samurai
Tatsuya Nakadai ... Unosuke - Gunfighter
Yôko Tsukasa ... Nui
Isuzu Yamada ... Orin
Daisuke Katô 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 Kyû Sazanka ... Ushitora


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


Venice Festival Award Winner. See more »


Action | Drama | Thriller


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Release Date:

13 September 1961 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Yojimbo See more »

Filming Locations:

Japan See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Perspecta Stereo (Westrex Recording System)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


The film was so successful that Akira Kurosawa's next project - already in pre-production, and ultimately called _Sanjuro_ - had to be revised to accommodate Toshirô Mifune's title character. See more »


The wire used to pull the Yakuza's cut kimono off can be seen as he gets up from the ground. See more »


[first lines]
Farmer: [in Japanese] Wait, son.
Traveler: [in Japanese] Let me go, father. It's my chance.
See more »

Alternate Versions

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


Referenced in De Kijk van Koolhoven: Spaghettiwestern (2018) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Akira Kurosawa's masterpiece about a laconic masterless samurai who sells his services to two different warlords
9 August 2018 | by ma-cortesSee all my reviews

Set in Japan , 1860 , at a little town that is a den of wrongs . Sanjuro, a wandering samurai enters a rural town in nineteenth century Japan and he finds himself the location run by two parties commanded by Ushitora and Seibe and their hired thugs . The samurái sells his activities to both parts with devasting resulting for all ; as he then sets out to rid the town of all these ominous people .The noisy town is full of injustices , inequity , violence and killings , due to the hordes of gamblers and murderers that inhabit it. After learning from the innkeeper that the town is divided between two mobsters , he plays one side off against the other . As 2 clans vying for political power bid on the services of a silent masterless Samurai , a quiet Ronin . His efforts are complicated by the arrival of the wily Unosuke who often uses a bloody gun . There is a massacre , but the samurai runs away with the help of the innkeeper ; but while recuperating at a nearby temple, he learns of an abduction carried out by Unosuke, and goes back to the town to take on enemies .

This is a magnificent picture by Akira Kurosawa starred by his ordinary actor Toshiro Mifune , being his international breakthrough one . Yokimbo , the picture blends drama , violent fights , emotion , slaughters with high body-count and results to be pretty entertaining as well as thought provoking . It is incredibly detailed vision in its own right , as the impact of the action and combats on this trail-blazing adventure film opened the floodgates for the huge numbers of samurai films and subsequent Spaghetti Westerns that made fortunes for their producers in the sixties and early seventies . Dramatically staged sword-plays occur on and off throughout the plot . The known film Leone¨For a fistful of dollars¨is mainly cribbed from this Japanese samurái action classic ; however , some reviewers tell this Yojinbo bears little resemblance to Sergio Leone film . Very good acting by Toshiro Mifune as a Samurái who attempts to play the two warlords off against each other . This one made an international star out of Toshiro Mifune . At the beginning , Sanjuro seems to be a good Samurai , as being beaten after he reunites an abducted woman with her husband and son, then massacres his father's opponents. As well as Tatsuya Nakadai , still acting , as Unosuke, the son of one of the gangsters, who owns a revolver.

This fiercely-charging , uncompromising pictures was compellingly directed by Akira Kurosawa and being exhibited with subtitles or dubbed .After working in a wide range of genres, Kurosawa made this awesome film . The previous years saw the low-key , touching Living (1952) , the epic The seven samurais (1954), the barbaric , fascinating Shakespeare adaptation Throne of blood (1957) , a Macbeth's version , a masterful rendition that transports the story to Medieval Japan , and a fun pair of samurai movies Yojimbo (1961) and Sanjuro (1962) , and Rashomon , often credited as the reason the Academy created the "Best Foreign Film" category. When this film was released internationally to rave reviews, many speculated that Akira Kurosawa was influenced by Citizen Kane (1941) in the element of flashbacks that ultimately provide conflicting accounts of events. However, Kurosawa didn't even see Orson Welles's film until several years after . Rashomon won the top prize at the Venice Film Festival, and first revealed the richness of Japanese cinema to the West.Yet , there was a quieter side to Kurosawa's nature , expressed most succinctly on Living , The Lower Depths and especially the medical drama Red Beard . After a lean period in the late 1960s and early 1970s, though, Kurosawa attempted suicide . Other important movies were : The idiot based on Feodor Dostowieski , Drunken Angel , Scandal , A quiet duel , Tiger's tale , High and low . He survived, and made a small, personal, low-budget picture with Dodes'ka-den (1970), a larger-scale Russian co-production Dersu Uzala (1975) an epic tale of adventure in turn-of-the-century Siberia and , with the help of admirers Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas, the samurai tale Kagemusha (1980), which Kurosawa described as a dry run for Ran (1985), an epic adaptation of Shakespeare's "King Lear" . He continued to work into his eighties with the more personal Akira Kurosawa's Dreams (1990), and Madadayo (1993) and Rhapsody in August . Kurosawa's films have always been more popular in the West than in his native Japan, where reviewers have viewed his adaptations of Western genres and authors with suspicion , but he's revered by American and European film-makers, one of his least well-known films but most agreeable pictures is The Bad Sleep Well , a transposition of an Ed McBain detective novel , being remade many his pictures such as The seven samurais (1954), as The magnificent seven (1960),The Hidden Fortress (1958), as Star Wars (1977)as Yojimbo (1961) as For a fistful of dollars by Sergio Leone (1964), in fact Kurosawa's style was the biggest single influence on the Spaghetti Western sub-genre ; as his Samurai 'Western's were copied not only in America but also in Italy .

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