Stand Up and Fight: The Princess Figure in ‘The Hidden Fortress’ and ‘Star Wars’

Star Wars fans and critics alike have been drawing parallels between The Hidden Fortress and Star Wars since it premiered; each story is told from the perspective of the lowest two characters, they utilize transitional horizontal wipes between scenes, two former best friends must fight as bitter enemies, the list goes on. Lucas even considered Toshiro Mifune to play the part of Ben Kenobi, and has admitted the large influence that The Hidden Fortress and other Kurosawa films had on his own work. When I first watched The Hidden Fortress, the parallels that immediately struck me most were the similarities between Princess Yuki and Princess Leia.    

In both Akira Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress (1958) and George Lucas’ Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977), a princess plays a significant role. Kurosawa’s Princess Yuki resides in the titular “hidden fortress,” patiently awaiting her chance to move to more friendly Hayakawa territory, while Princess Leia is captured by Darth Vader while on her way to transmit plans to help the rebel alliance defeat the imperial empire. Both princesses have moments playing both the damsel in distress and the badass; however, Kurosawa and Lucas deal with these character archetypes in different ways.

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