Kurosawa's magnum opus, this film is so much more than a group of samurai defending a village from bandits. It's an examination of class/caste, a noble attempt to uphold the social contract even in chaotic times, and the devastating fallout that occurs when old paradigms fail. Brilliant film.
I've chosen the final film in the Human Condition trilogy to represent the full trilogy. Watching this series is like slowly plodding through hell (which is what it feels like the main character, Kaji, is doing the entire time.) By the end of that long march you will have a brand new perspective on World War II and possibly a new perspective on life as well. These are hard films to watch, but the journey and the drama make it well worth it.
Abandoning his earlier, all too optimistic attitudes about heroism and individualism, Kurosawa explores the importance of the social contract and loyal service to the group/clan in the interests of the greater good. In that vein you could say it's his "most Japanese film", as he was often criticized for adopting too many western ideas. It's certainly the Kurosawa film that's most packed with subtext, metaphors, and symbolism. You can study this film endlessly and still not grasp all its concepts.
The single greatest film of the Shaw Brothers / Chang Cheh era of kung fu films (but not as well known as the Five Deadly Venoms series.) It is both an action piece and a simple, but well told revenge story. Chinese martial artists vs invading Japanese ninjas. Go! Watch it now!
Shakespearean action and tragedy via epic Chinese period piece. This film is not as famous as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and was considered by many to be "too over the top", but I love that about it.
I've seen quite a few Asian films that have tried to convincingly mix the eastern aesthetic with the aesthetic of the "wild west." This is the only one that succeeded, in my opinion. Great action/adventure romp.