An Akira Kurosawa Movie Proves the Biggest Inspiration for Star Wars

In the cinematic tapestry of George Lucas’ legendary Star Wars saga, one luminary stands out — Akira Kurosawa’s “The Hidden Fortress.” Unleashed upon Japan 65 years ago, this cinematic marvel played a pivotal role in molding the narrative and visual components of the iconic Star Wars franchise.

Genesis of Influence

During his tenure in 1960s film school, George Lucas attended a screening of Kurosawa’s “Seven Samurai,” an encounter that left an indelible mark. Lucas was entranced by Kurosawa’s unique visual style and the potent storytelling inherent in the maestro’s work. In a 2001 interview with Criterion, Lucas expounded on how Kurosawa’s films, particularly “The Hidden Fortress,” shaped his approach to storytelling.

Parallel Narratives

While Lucas drew inspiration from diverse sources for the Star Wars trilogy, “The Hidden Fortress” offered a distinctive parallel. In the interview, Lucas disclosed that he chose to narrate the Star Wars story from the perspective of “the two lowliest characters.” This mirrors the dynamic of “Hidden Fortress,” where two rejected soldiers, Tahei and Matashichi, navigate a perilous world, echoing the humor and relatability of the droids C-3PO and R2-D2 in A New Hope.

The Characters and Their Journeys

The Hidden Fortress” unfolds the saga of General Rokurota Makabe, an aged samurai with a formidable reputation, entrusted with escorting Princess Yuki to safety. The unlikely camaraderie of Tahei and Matashichi injects humor and relatability, akin to the droids in Star Wars.

Coincidences or Inspiration?

While Lucas acknowledged certain similarities, such as the presence of a princess trying to escape enemy lines, he emphasized that these were more coincidental than intentional. However, parallels between the barren landscapes of Makabe’s hidden fortress and Obi-Wan Kenobi’s home on Tatooine, as well as the dramatic duel between Makabe and his old rival, General Hyoe Tadokoro, echo elements of Star Wars, notably the confrontation between Darth Vader and Obi-Wan.

Legacy and Enduring Influence

The Hidden Fortress” remains an essential piece of the puzzle that contributed to the pastiche of influences in Star Wars. The samurai-like code of the Jedi and the use of formidable swords in the Star Wars universe are clear nods to Kurosawa’s legacy. Beyond its influence on Lucas’ trilogy, “The Hidden Fortress” stands as a cinematic triumph, with visually stunning choreography and an enduring legacy among Kurosawa’s finest works.


As we commemorate the 65th anniversary of “The Hidden Fortress,” it’s crucial to acknowledge its profound impact on the Star Wars saga. Akira Kurosawa’s masterpiece not only served as a source of inspiration for George Lucas but also continues to be a cinematic gem that transcends cultural and temporal boundaries, leaving an indelible mark on the landscape of storytelling in film. Explore the interstellar echoes of “The Hidden Fortress” and witness the timeless bond between Kurosawa’s epic and the galaxy far, far away.

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