The Magnificent Seven

The Magnificent Seven
The Magnificent Seven

Original film poster
Directed by John Sturges
Produced by John Sturges
Written by William Roberts
Walter Newman (uncredited)
Walter Bernstein (uncredited)
Starring Yul Brynner
Eli Wallach
Steve McQueen
James Coburn
Robert Vaughn
Charles Bronson
Horst Buchholz
Brad Dexter
Music by Elmer Bernstein
Cinematography Charles Lang
Editing by Ferris Webster
Studio The Mirisch Company
Distributed by United Artists
Release date(s) October 23, 1960 (1960-10-23) (USA)
Running time 128 min.
Country United States
Language English
Budget $3,000,000

The Magnificent Seven is an American Western film directed by John Sturges, and released in 1960. It is a fictional tale of a group of seven American gunmen who are hired to protect a small agricultural village in Mexico from a group of marauding Mexican bandits. The opening credits state that it is based on The Japanese Film Seven Samurai Toho Company Ltd., a 1954 film by Akira Kurosawa.

The seven American gunmen were played by Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, Robert Vaughn, Brad Dexter, and Horst Buchholz. Their main adversary, the bandit Calvera, was played by Eli Wallach. The film's musical score was composed by Elmer Bernstein.



A Mexican village is periodically raided by bandits led by Calvera (Eli Wallach). As he and his men rode away from their latest visit, Calvera had promised to return for more booty and loot the village again.

Desperate to prevent this, the leaders of the village travel to a town just inside the American border to buy weapons with which to defend themselves. While there, they approach a veteran gunslinger, Chris (Yul Brynner). He suggests that they hire more gunfighters for their defense instead, stating that such men would be cheaper than guns and ammunition. They ask him to lead them, but Chris turns this down, telling them that a single man is not enough. They keep asking him, and then he finally agrees. Chris recruits six other fighting men even though the pay offered is not very much.

First to answer the call is the hotheaded, inexperienced Chico (Horst Buchholz), but he is rejected. Harry Luck (Brad Dexter), an old friend of Chris, joins because he believes Chris is looking for treasure. Vin (Steve McQueen) signs on after going broke from gambling. Other recruits include Bernardo O'Reilly (Charles Bronson), a gunfighter of Irish-Mexican heritage who is also broke, cowpuncher Britt (James Coburn), fast and deadly with his switchblade, and Lee (Robert Vaughn), who is on the run and needs someplace to lie low until things cool down. Chico trails the group as they ride south and is eventually allowed to join them.

Even with seven, the group knows they will be vastly outnumbered by the bandits. However, their expectation is that once the bandits know they will have to fight, they will decide to move on to some other unprotected village, rather than bother with an all-out battle. Upon reaching the village the group begins training the residents. As they work together the gunmen and villagers begin to bond. The gunfighters enjoy a feast prepared by some of the women but they realize that the villagers are starving themselves so that the gunfighters will have enough to eat. They then stop eating and share the food with the village children. Chico finds a woman he is attracted to, Petra (Rosenda Monteros), and Bernardo befriends the children of the village, although he can never imagine himself as one of the villagers themselves.[1] Although these paternal tendencies will have fatal consequences, the villagers come to respect and even admire him.[2] Lee, meanwhile, struggles with nightmares and fears the loss of his skills.

Calvera comes back and is disappointed to find the villagers have hired gunmen. After a brief exchange, the bandits are chased away. Later, Chico, who is Mexican himself, and thus blends in, infiltrates the bandits' camp and returns with the news that Calvera and his men will not simply be moving on, as had been expected. They are planning to return in full force, as the bandits are also broke and starving, and need the crops from the village to survive.

The seven debate whether they should leave. Not having expected a full-scale war, some of the seven as well as some of the villagers are in favor of the group's departure but Chris adamantly insists that they will stay. They decide to make a surprise raid on the bandit camp but find it empty. Upon return to the village they are captured by Calvera's men who have been let into the village by those villagers fearful of the impending fight. Calvera spares the gunfighters' lives because he believes that they have learned that the farmers are not worth fighting for and because he fears American reprisals if they are killed.

Calvera has them escorted out of town and then contemptuously returns their guns and gunbelts.

Despite the odds against them, and despite their betrayal by the villagers, all of Chris' group except Harry decide to return and finish the job the next morning (Harry refuses to go back and face what he believes is certain death against such unfavorable odds). During the ensuing battle Harry returns in the nick of time to rescue Chris from certain death but is shot and fatally wounded. Bernardo is shot and killed protecting children he had befriended; Lee overcomes his fear of death and kills several men before he is shot dead. Britt is also slain but not before sticking his switchblade into the ground where he falls. Seeing the gunmen's bravery the villagers overcome their own fear, grab whatever they can as weapons, and join the battle. The bandits are routed and Calvera is shot by Chris. Puzzled, he asks why a man like Chris came back but dies without an answer. The Old Man in village is saying goodbye to them and claims: "You're like the wind - blowing over the land and... passing on...¡Vayan con Dios!" As the three survivors leave Chico decides to stay with Petra. Chris and Vin ride away, pausing briefly at the graves of their fallen comrades. Chris observes, "The Old Man was right. Only the farmers won. We lost. We'll always lose."



Producer Lou Morheim originally bought the rights to Seven Samurai, with plans to have Anthony Quinn as lead; according to Variety Brynner "got the rights away from Quinn" and brought Sturges into the project as director, based on the latter's work on Gunfight at O.K. Corral.[3] In spite of Morheim's involvement, Sturges "insisted on sole producer credit"; both Morheim and Quinn brought suit over the events, with Morheim settling for an associate producer credit and Quinn denied the $630,000 in damages he sought.[3]

Script credit was also a subject of contention. Walter Bernstein, a blacklisted scriptwriter, was commissioned by Morheim to produce the first draft "faithfully" adapted from the original script written by Shinobu Hashimoto, Hideo Oguni and Akira Kurosawa; when Mirisch and Brynner took over the production, they brought on Walter Newman, whose version "is largely what's on screen."[3] When Newman wasn't available to be on-site during the film's principal photography in Mexico, William Roberts was hired, in part to make changes required by Mexican censors. When Roberts asked the Writers Guild of America for a co-credit, Newman asked that his name be removed from the credits.[3]


Filming began on March 1, 1960, on location in Mexico, where both the village and the U.S. border town were built for the film.[citation needed] The first scene shot was the first part of the six gunfighters' journey to the Mexican village, prior to Chico being brought into the group.[citation needed]

The film was shot in Panavision;[4] an anamorphic format.


The film's score is by Elmer Bernstein. The original soundtrack was not released at the time until reused and rerecorded by Bernstein for the soundtrack of Return of the Seven. Electric guitar cover versions by Al Caiola in the US and John Barry[5] in the UK were successful on the popular charts. [6] A vocal theme not written by Bernstein was used in a trailer.[7]

In 1994 James Sedares conducted a re-recording of the score performed by The Phoenix Symphony Orchestra (which also included a suite from Bernstein's score for The Hallelujah Trail, issued by Koch Records; Bernstein himself conducted the Royal Scottish National Orchestra for a performance released by RCA in 1997, but the original film soundtrack was not released until the following year by Rykodisc (Varèse Sarabande reissued this album in 2004).

  1. Main Title and Calvera (3:56)
  2. Council (3:14)
  3. Quest (1:00)
  4. Strange Funeral/After The Brawl (6:48)
  5. Vin’s Luck (2:03)
  6. And Then There Were Two (1:45)
  7. Fiesta (1:11)
  8. Stalking (1:20)
  9. Worst Shot (3:02)
  10. The Journey (4:39)
  11. Toro (3:24)
  12. Training (1:27)
  13. Calvera's Return (2:37)
  14. Calvera Routed (1:49)
  15. Ambush (3:10)
  16. Bernardo (3:33)
  17. Surprise (2:08)
  18. Defeat (3:26)
  19. Crossroads (4:47)
  20. Harry's Mistake (2:48)
  21. Calvera Killed (3:33)
  22. Finale (3:27)

Elmer Bernstein's score has frequently been quoted in the media and popular culture. Starting in 1963, the theme was used in commercials in the USA for Marlboro cigarettes. A similar-sounding (but different) tune was used for Victoria Bitter beer in Australia. The theme was included in the James Bond film Moonraker.

Other uses include in the 2004 documentary film Fahrenheit 9/11; in the 2005 film The Ringer; as entrance music for the British band James, as well as episodes of The Simpsons that had a "western" theme (mainly in the episode titled "Dude, Where's My Ranch?"). The opening horn riff in Arthur Conley's 1967 hit "Sweet Soul Music" is borrowed from the theme.

The Mick Jones 1980s band Big Audio Dynamite covered the song, as Keep off the Grass. In 1995 The KLF also did a drum and bass cover of the main title as The Magnificent: it was released under the group alias One World Orchestra on the charity compilation The Help Album.

In 1992, the main theme of The Magnificent Seven came into use on a section of the Euro Disneyland Railroad at Disneyland Paris. Portions of the theme play as the train exits the Grand Canyon diorama tunnel behind Phantom Manor, enters Frontierland, and travels along the bank of the Rivers of the Far West.


Howard Thompson of The New York Times called the film a "pallid, pretentious and overlong reflection of the Japanese original"; according to Thompson, "don't expect anything like the ice-cold suspense, the superb juxtaposition of revealing human vignettes and especially the pile-driver tempo of the first Seven."[8] According to Variety, "Until the women and children arrive on the scene about two-thirds of the way through, The Magnificent Seven is a rip-roaring rootin' tootin' western with lots of bite and tang and old-fashioned abandon. The last third is downhill, a long and cluttered anti-climax in which The Magnificent Seven grow slightly too magnificent for comfort.[9]

At the 33rd Academy Awards, the score was nominated for an Best Score of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture, losing to Ernest Gold's score for Exodus. The Magnificent Seven was listed at #8 on AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores.

The film has grown greatly in esteem since its release, largely due to its cast of superstars. It is the second most shown film in U.S. television history, behind only The Wizard of Oz. The film is also 79th on AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills.

Differences from Seven Samurai

Although The Magnificent Seven is modeled so closely on Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai (also originally released in the USA under the title "The Magnificent Seven") that they share even some dialogue (in different languages), there are several notable differences:

  • Samurai's villagers are sent to town to hire swordsmen. In this remake, the villagers are sent to town originally to buy guns. Chris tells them that in fact, it will be cheaper to hire gunmen than to buy guns. Howard Hughes in Stagecoach to Tombstone says that the original screenplay for The Magnificent Seven followed Seven Samurai on this point, but was changed on the insistence of the Mexican censors concerned about the degree to which the Mexican peasants in the film were portrayed as dependent upon American saviors. The change allowed the peasants to be depicted as willing to defend themselves on their own, turning ultimately to American aid only because of practical concerns.[10]
  • In Samurai the reason of using a total of seven ronin was based on tactics. In Return of the Seven, Chris says "luck" is why seven gunmen are needed; implicitly it's the same reason in all the films.
  • Katsushiro, the aspiring young samurai, and Kikuchiyo, the would-be samurai whose hatred for the farmers hides a painful past, are combined into the single character, Chico. Unlike Kikuchiyo, Chico is not killed at the climax of the film.
  • The combination of Katsushiro and Kikuchiyo opens a slot for the Robert Vaughn/Lee character - a gunfighter who has lost his nerve. His pursuit of perfection in his gunplay does mirror Kyuzo.
  • The Katsushiro and Kikuchiyo combination also opens a slot for the character of Harry Luck, the gunfighter who is convinced there is some financial gain in protecting the village. There is no comparable character in the original (though his first scene mirrors Gorobei's first appearance), all the samurai take the job knowing there is nothing more to gain from the job than what's promised.
  • Another combination of sorts takes place with Bernardo O'Reilly - his first appearance is based on Heihachi's debut (chopping wood perfectly, until he hears about the opposition they face) while his scenes with the children place him closer to Kikuchiyo. Incidentally, Charles Bronson (Bernardo) would later co-star with Toshiro Mifune (Kikuchiyo) in the movie Red Sun.
  • In the original, the samurai make a pre-emptive strike against the bandits' campsite, losing one of their own in the process. Thus, when the bandits attack the village, the samurai are short one man, and three more are killed in the battles. In this version, that attack takes place after Calvera's band are initially driven off, and they find that the camp is abandoned.
  • In Seven Samurai, the village is fortified to keep the bandits out until the climactic battle. In the remake, Chris states that the new walls were built to trap the bandits inside the village.
  • The bandit leader Calvera plays a much larger role than any of the unnamed bandits in the original.
  • Chico and Katsushiro both fall in love with a farmer's daughter, but in Seven Samurai, Katsushiro's relationship with the girl leads to a dramatic confrontation, and by the end the girl recognizes the impossibility of bridging the class divide and must ignore the samurai once the fighting is over. In The Magnificent Seven, Chico's relationship never results in scandal, and he stays behind to be with the peasant girl, purposefully rolling up his sleeves in order to start laboring.
  • In Seven Samurai, the village elder is killed by the bandits when he refuses to abandon his house, which is an outlying house that the Samurai determined could not be protected. In The Magnificent Seven, the village elder likewise refuses to abandon his house but suffers no repercussions for it.
  • In Seven Samurai, when Kikuchiyo attempts to impress the other samurai by deciding on his own to infiltrate the bandit camp, he is sharply rebuked. He believes he deserves praise because of the success and daring nature of his mission. Instead, Kambei berates him for failing to operate as a member of the team, which Kambei stresses is paramount in a war effort. In The Magnificent Seven, Chico receives no such reprimand upon returning from his reconnaissance mission to the bandit camp, and in speaking about it later, he says that he is certain that the other gunmen were impressed by what he did.
  • In The Magnificent Seven, neither the villagers nor the gunmen initially expect a battle to the death with bandits, resulting in internal conflict when it becomes clear that such an assault is pending and not all are in favor of risking their lives. This leads to the fearful villagers betraying the gunmen in order to prevent the deadly engagement, thus allowing Calvera to capture the men. Only at the very end of the film, after the climactic battle has already begun, do those villagers who had been against the battle finally take up arms and join in the fight against the bandits. By contrast, Seven Samurai features no such competing factions among the villagers and samurai. Although the villagers in Seven Samurai are also portrayed as frightened of the samurai and momentarily regretful for hiring them, all involved know from the outset that there ultimately will be a full-scale siege of the village. As such, after the initial acceptance of the samurai into the village, the villagers and samurai remain united throughout, with all of the villagers fully participating in the conflict from the beginning.

Sequels, remakes and adaptations

The film's success inspired three sequels:

None of these were as successful as the original film. The film also inspired a television series, The Magnificent Seven, which ran from 1998 to 2000.

The plot of The Magnificent Seven directly inspired the 1980 sci-fi film, Battle Beyond the Stars, which included actor Robert Vaughn as one of the seven mercenaries hired to save a farming planet from alien marauders.

The 1986 comedy Three Amigos directly parodies many aspects of The Magnificent Seven, from the hiring of a team of Americans to defend a small Mexican village, to the training of the villagers by the mercenaries, to the megalomaniacal over-the-top character of the Mexican gang leader.

Stephen King has acknowledged that the plot of his 2003 novel Wolves of the Calla, in which the gunslinger Roland Deschain and his allies defend a small village from a raiding party child thieves, borrows many elements from The Magnificent Seven.


  1. ^ Patrick McGee "From Shane to Kill Bill: rethinking the Western". Published by: Wiley-Blackwell, 2007, 262 pp. ISBN 1405139641, 9781405139649 (p. 144)
  2. ^ Yardena Rand "Wild Open Spaces: Why We Love Westerns". Published by: Maverick Spirit Press, 2005 - 208 p. ISBN 1932991441, 9781932991444 (p. 111)
  3. ^ a b c d Robert Koehler (May 8, 2001). "The Magnificent Seven (MGM Home Entertainment release)". Variety. Retrieved 2011-08-01. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ p.14 Billboard 27 Feb 1961
  6. ^ p.226 Cusic, Donb The Cowboy in Country Music: An Historical Survey with Artist Profiles 2011 McFarland
  7. ^
  8. ^ "On Japanese Idea: Magnificent Seven, a U.S. Western, Opens". The New York Times. November 24, 1960. Retrieved 2011-08-01. 
  9. ^ "Magnificent Seven". Variety. Retrieved 2011-08-01. 
  10. ^ Hughes, Howard (January 2008). Stagecoach to Tombstone: The Filmgoers' Guide to the Great Westerns. I. B. Tauris. p. 125. ISBN 978-1845115715. 

External links

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