The Magnificent Seven Samurai

Original Japanese flavor

Chris: There's a job for six men, watching over a village, south of the border.
O'Reilly: How big's the opposition?
Chris: Thirty guns.
O'Reilly: I admire your notion of fair odds, mister.

So you're one of a group of farmers whose village is under attack by a gang of remorseless bandits. None of you know how to fight, so you leave to hire a group of warriors who are willing to defend you for the pittance you can pay, plus meals. So you come back with seven guys and... hey, Wait a minute, haven't we seen this somewhere before?

No, you haven't been reading TV Tropes for so long that everything is blending together. This is actually a relatively common plot device. Take the basic plot of a bunch of cool guys + awesome goal + clearly defined personality types + any other overtones of Seven Samurai you can think of and bam! Instant "team on a mission" story!

Because Seven Samurai contains many plot elements which are not exclusive to Japanese culture, it's easy to shift the basic narrative around and still get a workable movie angle. In fact, it's such a classically popular example of a narrative that many filmmakers don't even bother being subtle in the process of Homage- there's a lot more movies out there with exactly seven heroes doing this kind of plot than you'd expect.

The trope title and namers are Seven Samurai (Shichinin no samurai) and The Magnificent Seven, the latter of which is famous for both transferring the Kurosawa classic to the Old West (with Kurosawa's blessing) and being a classic in its own right. (A trivial note: Seven Samurai was originally released in the USA as The Magnificent Seven; the English title was changed to a direct translation of the Japanese title later to avoid confusion with the remake.)

The plot is pretty predictable, but always fun.
  1. The Hero will receive the Call to Adventure. He will then assemble a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits.
  2. The team finds that the people they are trying to protect are largely unwilling or unable to fight for themselves.
  3. The team successfully stands off the first attack.
  4. The people realize that they can defend themselves, and the team undertakes Training the Peaceful Villagers
  5. The team is forced to leave, whether due to the skepticism or wariness of the villagers or threats from the villains.
  6. The team decides to return.
  7. There is another attack; the people join in both enthusiastically and competently. Several of the team are injured or killed; the attackers are defeated soundly, but not always completely.
  8. The people indicate that they now can and will defend themselves when and if the attackers return. What remains of the team departs.

See also Training the Peaceful Villagers.


Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Samurai 7 obviously, in that it's stated premise is Seven Samurai With (Steam Punk) Mecha.
  • A three-part story arc in the anime version of Fist of the North Star 2 featured Kenshiro teaming up with a gang of post-apocalyptic cowboys clearly modeled after The Magnificent Seven. Even the group's name, "The Wasteland Seven", is taken from the Japanese title of The Magnificent Seven.
  • The third Crossbone Gundam manga, Steel Seven, has this built into it: remnants of the Jupiter Empire are building a super-massive colony laser in Jovian orbit with the intent of blasting Earth. The only method of getting to Jupiter in time to stop the weapon is a flying wing that can only carry roughly seven Mobile Suits, so The Hero goes around trying to recruit the best pilots he can find.
    • One of the good guys explicitly makes the reference, commenting "I love Kurosawa movies!" when the plan is discussed.
  • Inverted in GaoGaiGar, in the second half of the series the seven most powerful villains show up to challenge the heroes. The fan translation of the series even refers to them as the "Magnificent 7 Machine World Primevals".
  • Kinnikuman, the Planet Rakka mini-arc. The child-like Choujin Beansman comes to Earth to recruit Choujin to help save his people from the Space Samurai, and teams up with Terryman, Ramenman, Brocken Jr., Puyo Puyo, and Crystalman, with Kin forcing himself into the group. Together, they are the Magnificent Choujin 6!
    Kinnikuman: Hey, there are seven of us!
  • In Naruto the first major arc, the Land of Waves, quickly turns into this plot. Team 7 is hired to act as bodyguards for a cantakerous old man named Tazuna but instead of protecting him from ordinary bandits on the journey home, they discover he has been marked for death by Gatou, a shipping magnate and crime lord, who has taken over his impoverished country and wants to stop Tazuna from building a bridge to the mainland and thus break his economic tyranny, and has hired dangerous ninja assassin Momochi Zabuza and his gang of missing-nin to take him out. It ends with the people of Tazuna's village being inspired to make a stand against Gatou's army of hoodlums.
  • Monster Rancher episode "The Courageous Seven" loosely follows the standard formula. The biggest difference is that the village in distress needs to be protected more from a disaster caused by the bad guys.

    Comic Books 
  • Marvel Star Wars (the original Star Wars comic book), where immediately after they finished with the movie, the plot moves on to Han and Chewie leading six other fighters (including wanna-be Jedi Don Wan Kihotay and green carnivorous rabbit-man Jaxxom) in defense of a small village. And then Godzilla shows up. . . . .
  • Marvel Adventures: Avengers had an issue like this. In accordance with the series's early title theme of altering famous movie titles, this was called The Avenging Seven. It actually did include a little village beset by raiders, had someone travel far with the village's single most precious treasure, had an extended sequence of Training the Peaceful Villagers, and at the end the heroes were paid in three tons of food.
  • Although it should be obvious, Grant Morrison's Seven Soldiers series was a stealthy example of this plot. Seven heroes, check. Populace periodically ravaged by marauding raiders, check. Heroes working for little or no reward, check. Na´ve Newcomer Hero, check. Fraud hero, check. Fraud hero who is redeemed? Check. However, the narrative is so surreal and intentionally fragmented that the reader doesn't really realize the connection until it's Fridge Brilliance.
  • Ben Templesmith's Singularity Seven: Earth is forever changed one dark summer night when tiny alien machines known as nanites drift down from outer space. They transform a normal human into a god-like being known as the Singularity, who drives the remnants of humanity underground and to the brink of extinction. Now Earth's only hope lies in the hands of a Rag Tag Bunch Of Misfits of "Specials" - humans mysteriously immune to the nanites' destructive power.
  • Chris Claremont's Sovereign Seven. The seven in question were aliens, each a prince or princess of his or her homeworld, and each the sole survivor of that world. They banded together to protect the universe (and Earth in particular) from 'the Rapture'; the event that destroyed their homeworlds.
  • The ABC Warriors - they are even referred to as 'The Mek-Nificent Seven', both in-story and by fans.
  • Rawhide Kid: The Sensational Seven: When Wyatt and Morgan Earp are taken hostage by Cristo Pike and his pack of pistoleros, Rawhide has no choice but to put together a posse of the greatest western heroes in the Marvel Universe - to rescue the Earp brothers and bring Pike to justice. Enter: Kid Colt, Doc Holliday, Annie Oakley, Billy the Kid, Red Wolf and the most overrated gun in the West: the Two-Gun Kid!
  • Demon Knights: Writer Paul Cornell describes the book as "the medieval Magnificent Seven". #3 is titled "The Malificant Seven". Subverted by the end of the first arc - the village they were protecting is rubble, there are few if any survivors among the villagers, and the heroes' "victory" is that they live to fight again.

    Films — Animated 
  • A Bug's Life, where Flik the ant recruits a group of what he thinks are warriors to protect his colony, only to later realize that they're just circus performers.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Trope Namers are the Akira Kurosawa's masterpiece Seven Samurai, and its still excellent wild west remake The Magnificent Seven (which had sequels and a series).
  • Battle Beyond the Stars is The Magnificent Seven In SPACE. In fact Robert Vaughn played essentially the same character that he did in The Magnificent Seven — and even got to recycle some of his dialogue from the earlier movie! The Spanish dub was even titled The Magnificent Seven In Space
  • In The Seven Magnificent Gladiators, a bandit leader endowed with supernatural powers by his sorceress mother makes yearly raids on a peasant village. However, the women of the village come into possession of a magic sword, and go in search of a hero who is able to wield it and save their village from the evil bandit.
  • In Seven Swords, even warriors come together to protect a village from a diabolical General.
  • Dune Warriors: After the end of the world, Earth is a thirsty planet ruled by vicious warlords. One woman is brave enough to fight back; she bands together five warriors to save her town and their precious water.
  • Russian movie Dikiy vostok a.k.a. The Wild East. In this version of the famous plot a group of midget circus runaways decide to form their own community to flee the chaos but come under attack from Mongolian motorcycling ruffians. In response, of course, midgets hire seven tough guys to defend them.
  • The comedy film íThree Amigos!!, where the Mexican villagers recruit the heroes of silent westerns, not knowing they're just actors.
  • Galaxy Quest, where aliens recruit the cast of a popular science fiction show, not knowing they're just actors.
  • Arthur and his six Sarmatian knights in the 2004 King Arthur movie, with the Britons and the "Woads" as the villagers and the Saxons as the bandits. The scene after the battle of Badon Hill with the graves of the knights who fell is lifted straight from Kurosawa.
  • In the 1979 movie Seven (not be confused with the 1995 serial killer movie), seven hitmen are hired to kill seven mob bosses who planning a criminal takeover of Hawaii.
  • Kamen Rider Hibiki used this for its Non-Serial Movie, Kamen Rider Hibiki & The Seven War Oni. Though only loosely and even with a few twists.
  • Chopper Chicks In Zombietown! (a.k.a. Chrome Hearts). Riding around on their motorbikes, a gang of seven tough women bikers are the only thing that stands between a crowd of Zombies, which have been accidentally let out of their secure cave, and those still alive in the town.
  • The 13th Warrior, but with Vikings... An Arab poet finds he is the phropesised 23th warrior who will lead agroup of 12 Vikings to stop the Wendol: humanoid cannibals who appear as, live like, and identify with bears.
  • Star Trek: Insurrection: When the crew of the Enterprise learn of a Federation conspiracy against the inhabitants of a unique planet, Captain Picard begins an open rebellion, supported by six members of his bridge crew.
  • World Gone Wild, starring Bruce Dern, Michael Pare, and Adam Ant, is Seven Samurai set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland where water is the most precious commodity on earth.
  • Ironclad, (very) loosely based on the real defence of Rochester Castle against Prince John.

    Literature 
  • The "Losers' Club", in Stephen King's IT. The Losers are the group of misfit children who are united by their unhappy lives. They share the same misery and torment from being the victims of bullying at the hands of Henry Bowers and band together as they struggle to overcome the eponymous It.
  • The fifth The Dark Tower book, Wolves of the Calla, by Stephen King. The plot is not only lampshaded but the characters are Genre Savvy enough to know it's being lampshaded.
  • Dragonlance book Middle of Nowhere: The peace of a rural village is shattered by the sudden appearance of a band of renegade warriors seeking slaves. The farmers of Nowhere have no hope unless they can raise a company of champions to defend them, but the motley group of saviors who take up their cause—a shipwrecked sailor, a minotaur poet, a kender treasure hunter, a shamed half-ogre, a disgraced foot soldier, and an eccentric sorcerer—seem nearly as dangerous as the slavemasters.
  • Margaret Weis' Space Opera The Star of the Guardians eventually had a spin-off, Mag Force 7, about a team of crack mercenaries. Notably, two characters (Xris and Harry Luck) were name-for-name counterparts of the team members they were ripping off, while the other five team members were totally, completely different (such as a drug-using Camp Gay Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass poisoner).
  • Parodied and lampshaded out the wazoo in The Magnificent Seven Samurai Cats, one of the component stories of SamuraiCat Goes To The Movies.
  • BIONICLE: Raid on Vulcanus: When a map indicating a planned Bone Hunter attack on Vulcanus is found, Raanu, leader of the village, starts building up defenses to protect his village. Knowing that the Agori can't defend themselves, Gresh travels Bara Magna in search of other Glatorian who are willing to assist in the defense.
  • Robert B. Parker's Spenser novel Potshot fits this perfectly. The town of Potshot asks Spenser to rid them of a gang lead by a man called the Preacher. They agree to pay a healthy sum for the service, so Spenser forms a small private band of mercenaries composed of several associates, most of them criminals or people with criminal backgrounds.
  • The Eaters Of The Dead, the book upon which The 13th Warrior is based, is this nearly beat-for-beat as it retells a demystified Beowulf.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Blake's 7's original lineup was this, although one of them was a computer for budgetary reasons.
  • Seven Swordsmen TV series. In 1664, the Manchurians conquer the Central Plains and overrun China, establishing the Qing Dynasty. The Qing government issues an order for all pugilists to surrender or face death. Prince Dokado leads the imperial army to eradicate those who defy the order. The imperials kill many pugilists before arriving at Wu village, which houses rebels from the anti-Qing secret organisation Red Spears Society. Two villagers, Han Zhibang and Wu Yuanying, follow Fu Qingzhu to Mount Heaven to seek help from the reclusive swordsmith Shadow-Glow. Shadow-Glow allows his four students (Chu Zhaonan, Yang Yuncong, Xin Longzi and Mulang) to follow the trio on their heroic quest to save the Wulin from persecution. The seven men each receive a magical sword from Shadow-Glow and title themselves "Seven Swords".
  • The Battlestar Galactica episode "The Magnificent Warriors". After the Cylon's destroy two of the fleet's Agro ships and cripple the last remaining one, Adama hopes to swap an old energizer for seed on the the planet Sectar in Quadrant Zeta. Unfortunately Siress Belloby won't give up the energizer unless the commander courts her. Down on the planet, the inhabitants of the small Agro community of Serenity are looking for a new dispensable constable to hold off the Borays who raid the town each high moon.
  • MST3K episode "Angels Revenge". The movie focuses on seven women who decide to fight the local drug cartel after the brother of Michelle Wilson, a Las Vegas pop singer, is found severely beaten.
  • The Star Trek: Enterprise episode "Marauders" (especially given that there are seven main characters in this series) with a human mining colony being taught to fight against Klingons who are extorting their deuterium fuel.
  • Even more obviously, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine had "The Magnificent Ferengi". And it is funny as hell! Though technically, there's only six of them and they don't protect a village, they still engage in the classic "building up the team" and having each character be introduced with a particular character archetype, as well as the obvious Shout-Out in the title.
  • The "Heart of Gold" episode from Firefly. An interesting twist is that the "Village" to be defended is a whorehouse.
  • Inverted in The Black Adder episode "The Black Seal" as Edmund gathers the six most evil men in England (plus himself) to take over the kingdom.
  • Obviously, The Magnificent Seven. Seven men from the western United States band together and form the law in a town that, for better or for worse, needs their protection from the lawlessness of the west. They consist of an infamous gunslinger, an ex-bounty hunter, a smooth-talking con artist, a young eastern amateur, a womanizing gunman, a freed slave turned healer, and a former preacher seeking penance.
  • Kung Fu: The Legend Continues had an episode called "Dragonswing", where Caine and Peter assemble a team of Shao Lin alumni to help a friend rescue his girlfriend from the thugs who've taken over his Northwestern town. Robert Vaughn guest-starred as Rykker, a mercenary very similar to his Magnificent Seven character.
  • The Merlin episode "The Moment of Truth". Hearing that his village is being threatened by a warlord and his gang, Merlin travels home with Gwen, Morgana and Arthur, the latter doing his best to drill the peaceful villagers into a fighting force.
  • The Robin of Sherwood episode "The Swords of Wayland" - at least at first. The plot soon took the outlaws away from the village and in search of the stolen McGuffin.
  • Inevitably, The Musketeers did an episode in which the Musketeers return to defend Athos's ancestral home from the neighbouring lord and his lackeys.

    Tabletop Games 
  • There are at least two instances in the Legend of the Five Rings setting. One is the start of Toku's rise from farmer to general. The other were drawn together by a wandering monk to serve as living examples of Bushido. The Seven Thunders drawn from the Great Clans once a millennium or so to face down the Dark God Fu Leng may or may not fit a similar theme.
  • A 1991 article from Roleplayer, the long-defunct GURPS newsletter, covered this trope and its applications to the Tabletop RPG.
  • "A Fistful of Dwarfs", an article in the short-lived gaming magazine Visions detailing a "spaghetti Western" area of the Discworld, included this scenario. This being Discworld, of course, the villagers have a cast-iron contract for the warriors to sign, which specifies that warriors who die don't get paid and exempts the villagers themselves from the nastier bits of the movie.
  • The Fifth Edition Warhammer rulebook included suggestions for a 'Seven Knights' scenario, in which one player took seven Hero Units against an entire army on the other side.
    • In that edition of the game this amounted to a ridiculously easy win for the heroes unless the other player got lucky with the artillery.
    • The Scenario was revived in Sixth Edition in a much harder version TWICE. Once for the Storm of Chaos called Seven Sigmarites which is so unbalanced against the seven (due in great part to the relative weakness of the Empire army book's heroes at the time since the Empire was mainly a gunline army) your goal isn't to win, just to kill enough of the oncoming horde. The second scenario features a group of European knights lost deep in the jungle raiding native tombs who are systematically attacked and slain by native defenders for the Lustria setting. It's slightly easier due to the plethora of random stuff available to the heroes (they have been grave robbing) and due to the Rules for Lustria making single characters in a jungle much harder to find and kill.
  • Meanwhile in Warhammer 40,000, The Farsight Enclaves supplement for the Tau includes seven special characters that can be taken in place of Farsight's generic bodyguards, each with their own backstory. The fan nickname for them is the Seven Samurai. The book also contains a special scenario similar to the above-mentioned Warhammer ones, where a Tau army consisting of nothing but Farsight and the seven defending an outpost against an endless horde of Tyranids.

    Theatre 
  • The Seven Samurai is actually based on the third play in the Oedipus trilogy by Aeschylus, Seven Against Thebes, making this one Older Than Feudalism. Although this is also an aversion in that the titular seven brought his own army, they were attacking the city during a civil war, and very much painted as the villains in contrast to the city's defenders, who the play focuses on (and whoa are also seven, and thus qualify for this trope. Confused yet?).

    Video Games 
  • The video game Seven Samurai 20 XX. Written by Kurosawa's son. The game follows seven samurai as they fight off an immense army of mutants, cyborgs and other inhuman creatures in an attempt to bring about a regime of peace for those in need.
  • This trope shows up in the Bioware RPG Dragon Age: Origins, where the party defends a town against the undead. But due to the Arbitrary Headcount Limit, it's more like the Magnificent Four.
    • There are some all-out NPC battles in Dragon Age, and the NPC character types still (partially) fit. Alistair is, arguably, The Hero who makes the Heroic Sacrifice either by giving his life to kill the archedemon, or giving up his freedom to become king, The Lancer is Token Evil Teammate Morrigan, Sten is The Stoic and thus, also, The Quiet One who is also a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, Zevran is the (semi) Reluctant Warrior and Lovable Traitor who joins you after you defeat his band of assasin Tricksters, Wynne is The Obi-Wan, Leliana is Na´ve Newcomer so she says who likes to Pet the Dog, and Oghren is the Boisterous Bruiser Plucky Comic Relief. Shale shares the Deadpan Snarker with Morrigan, The Big Guy with Sten, and proves to be a very sardonic Plucky Comic Relief alternative to Oghren.
    • Bioware likes this trope so much that they built the party members of Mass Effect after it. Shepard is The Hero and The Leader. Kaiden is the Lancer. Ashley is the big guy. Liara is the smart guy. Wrex is the Old Guy (he is a couple hundred years old). Tali is the young guy. Garrus is... whatever's left.
      • If you see Tali and Liara as both being Smart Guys in different fields, then Garrus could be the Young Guy. Shepard becomes his mentor, after all, and his character development reflects what he picks up from your own behavior as a Paragon or Renegade.
      • The bulk of Mass Effect 2 is basically assembling an entire 10-person team (12 with the DLC) Magnificent Seven-style, with the added wrinkle of getting said team loyal to you and upgrading your ship and weapons before the main mission of going through the Omega-4 Relay. Though it is possible for people to die during the Suicide Mission, your primary goal is to take out the Collector base and bring everyone back alive.
  • Halo: Reach has some shades of this. Except it doesn't end very well...
  • Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker is about Costa Rica recruiting a heroic mercenary group to defend it from mysterious invaders, since it legally can't keep its own defence force.
  • The Western chapter in Live A Live has a few elements of this. An outlaw called the Sundown Kid and his rival, a bounty hunter named Mad Dog, arrive in Success Town, a place terrorized by a group of bandits called the Crazy Bunch, led by O. Dio, the last remaining survivor of the 7th Cavalry. The two decide to team up temporarily and help the town stand up to the bandits. The townsfolk agree to help, and they make a plan to prepare the town's defenses against an attack.
  • Throne of Darkness was inspired by the concept. The game is set in Yamato, a medieval version of Japan ruled by the shogun Tsunayoshi and the daimyōs of the four clans. To become immortal, Tsunayoshi transforms himself into the demon Zanshin, the Dark Warlord, who unleashes his army of darkness to conquer Yamato. Zanshin's forces sweep across Yamato one night, catching the clans by surprise and annihilating them. However, believing that the four daimyōs were killed, Zanshin recalls his soldiers prematurely, leaving one daimyō and seven of his retainers alive. As dawn breaks, the daimyō decides to counterattack, ordering his seven surviving samurai to destroy Zanshin and his minions.
  • The Greil Mercenaries of the Fire Emblem Tellius duology; it numbered seven members at least initially.

    Webcomics 

    Western Animation 
  • ReBoot uses this in the post-Time Skip episode "Icons". Matrix and Andraia find themselves in a rundown computer system and have to teach the inhabitants to win games to ensure the system's survival. When Matrix finds that the Tag Along Kid has brought their makeshift team to seven, he utters a sarcastic "magnificent".
  • Wakfu's fifth episode does exactly this, down to the title ("The Magnificent Five"). Though, to be honest, it actually is more of a parody of this trope, subverting most plot points common to other examples (the ending, for one).
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars has the episode "Bounty Hunters". It even mentions Kurosawa in the opening.
  • Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths involves the six 'core' Leaguers (the same from the series, less Hawkgirl, and with Hal Jordan as Green Lantern) join an alternate universe Luthor to save said alternate universe from evil versions of themselves.
  • Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers had a very deliberate Shout-Out to this in the form of "The Magnificent Kiwi." When you're dealing with a Space Western, this plot's going to show up.
  • Kappa Mikey has an episode where the five crew members are called by a little boy to save their playground from a garbage man intent on turning it into a landfill. The boy is under the impression that they are heroes instead of actors, and the LilyMu crew is under the impression that it's all a publicity gig!
  • Samurai Jack does this one solo in a jungle-set episode. Jack meets a friendly bunch of high-jumping simians who share food with him, and are then attacked by a rival group of apes. Jack drives them off, and teaches the friendly apes to defend themselves with bamboo staves, in exchange for lessons on how to "jump good."
  • Super Robot Monkey Team Hyperforce Go! has the episode "The Stranded Seven", in which Chiro and the Robot Monkeys find themselves helping a group of cat people fend off mantis monsters known as Mantidons. In this case, the seventh member could very likely be the (broken) Super Robot, established in the previous episode to have a conscience of its own.


Alternative Title(s):

Magnificent Seven, Magnificent Seven Samurai