Among the more specific influences that guided Lucas as he made the Star Wars trilogy, one of the most important was the samurai films of Akira Kurosawa. Kurosawa’s classic samurai movies, such as The Seven Samurai (1954) and Yojimbo (1961), often feature members of the warrior class of samurai who try to live their lives according to the honorable code of bushido, the way of the warrior. The samurai of The Seven Samurai, for example, are very like Jedi Knights in that they are a separate caste devoted to justice and to protecting others. Obi-Wan’s robes (not to mention his Japanese-sounding name) seem to suggest those of the poor samurai of Kurosawa’s films, just as the Jedi’s two-handed lightsabers seem like a sci-fi version of the samurai’s katana.

Kurosawa’s influence on Star Wars is even more specific than that, however. Lucas has said in the past that the inspiration for the characters of C-3PO, R2-D2, Han Solo, and Princess Leia could be found in Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress (1958), in which two bumbling friends help a roguish hero rescue a brave princess from captivity. More specific still, Lucas includes a direct homage to Kurosawa in the scene in which Ben defends Luke in the Mos Eisley cantina. The shot of the ruffian’s arm on the floor, severed by Ben’s blade, is a reference to a similarly severed arm, filmed in the same way, in Kurosawa’s Yojimbo.

Another direct influence on Lucas, above and beyond the influence of the genre itself, was John Ford’s classic western, The Searchers (1956).The scene in which Luke approaches the burned-out farm and finds his aunt and uncle murdered is shot in such a way that it echoes a similar scene in Ford’s film, in which the young hero also returns to his family’s farm to find the buildings burned and his aunt and uncle murdered. Like Luke, the hero of The Searchers is drawn into a relationship with a relentless father figure, bent on evil. And like Darth Vader, the father figure in The Searchers, played unforgettably by John Wayne, experiences a last-second moral regeneration. Like the Star Wars trilogy, The Searchers is essentially a quest story, one in which the son must ultimately redeem the father, and it also approaches the grandeur of myth.