The classic film that inspired “Star Wars”

By Sandy Grossman & Ross Lelieur

Tiger Staff

The Hidden Fortress is not a film made for contemporary audiences.  With an agonizingly slow pace and constant sense of repressed silliness, many will find it unengaging at best.  But while it is not a masterpiece, there is little question that the film still holds immense artistic value, as well as cultural importance for the massive phenomenon it inspired, Star Wars.   

The plot of the film is undeniably basic, but not altogether in a way that detracts from the film’s quality. Two cowardly army deserters get embroiled in the very war from which they are attempting to flee from when they find themselves escorting a princess across enemy lines and back to her home. While there are no dubious morals or difficult choices, many will still be impressed with the simple, yet stylishly told tale of an ultimate redemption. The Hidden Fortress aims to leave the viewer with a feeling of having gone on a journey and seen its fulfilling conclusion, and does not aspire to anything more.  

Cosmetically, the hidden fortress bears little resemblance to the Star Wars saga, but careful attention to the story makes simple work of pinpointing how Star Wars essentially follows a template laid down by The Hidden Fortress. Many key plot points of the original Star Wars trilogy are clearly taken directly from those of The Hidden Fortress, just with the embellishments of the Star Wars universe.  This makes watching the movie and identifying parallels quite interesting, as many characters and events can be seen to exist in both films, just under different names or in different contexts.

The most obvious of these similarities is the use of two bumbling comedic characters to drive the plot. Both stories follow these unlikely heroes on a quest to save a princess and win the war that has divided their respective worlds. In the case of Star Wars, this simple saga is set against the backdrop of a massive galactic struggle, while in the case of The Hidden Fortress it plays out in the midst of a conflict between clans, vying for control of feudal Japan. While very different in setting and style, both films tell simple, yet engaging stories of redemption.