Seven Samurai takes place in a very dangerous world.
There's no order, people make their own rules, and living and dying are usually day-to-day concerns. In that world, morality and ethics may feel like luxuries that no one can afford. The movie likes to stress how morality and ethics are still important in environments like that, maybe even more important. But it also doesn't make false promises about how well they'll hold up, and demonstrates that sometimes, being a good person doesn't make a whit of difference. Samurai traditionally lived by a very specific code of ethics—bushido—but Kurosawa examines the breakdown of moral codes in times of war and chaos.
Questions About Morality and Ethics
Which morals do the samurai apply to their situation? Which ones are they willing to set aside for survival's sake?
What kinds of ethics are the samurai supposed to embody? How successfully do each of them demonstrate those ethics?
Do the farmers have any sort of ethics? How do they differ from those of the samurai?
Who, in the end, is the most ethical character in the movie? Why that character? How much does he or she suffer for those ethics?
Chew on This
Ethics matter more than ever when the chips are down and things look bleak.
Ethics are a burden in tough times like the ones in the film, and need to be dropped, or at least be flexible, in order to survive.