Yojimbo (played by Toshiro Mifune for the 4th tim)is a ronin who takes a job, but he really doesn't know what it involves. He is to go to a mountain pass and wait for a message. On the way he meets a woman, Okuni, who is fleeing from an abusive husband and leaves he leaves her at an inn. At the inn, Yataro, a gambler stops in. Gentetsu, a former doctor lives out in the barn. A wounded officer, Ibuki, then brings in a tied up fugitive named Tatsu. The inn is suddenly getting crowded and then Yojimbo returns.
Yojimbo and Yataro then have a fist fight over the way Yataro treated a girl. Mifune is better with a sword in his hand and the fight looks phony and comic. They both get up laughing and later drink sake together.
Yojimbo waits for something to happen at the inn while the patrons interact with each other. The officer bullies the patrons while Yojimbo takes it all in. Two officers appear from the district office and want to take Ibuki and Tatsu with them. Yojimbo sees through their ruse: they were accomplices of Tatsu. he strikes one down but one gets away on a horse. Yojimbo says that the rest of the gang will soon return.
Ibuki then recognizes Yataro as a person who was marked as a criminal by his father because of o fight he had gotten in to at his village with the son of an official. Ibuki then tries to hire Yojimbo to protect him from the returning gang, but Yojimbo refuses.
Okuni's husband comes to the inn and she refuses to return with him. He then wants to challenge Yojimbo but he has already left. Then Tatsu's gang shows up at the inn to rescue him and Matsu then beats the injured Ibuki. Matsu has a message tatooed on his arm. It's three dice, and it's some kind of message. The gang leader, after reading the message, kills Matsu. The gang then goes out to the barn and sees Gentetsu who is their leader. Some group will be coming through the pass the next day, on April 2nd.
Gentetsu comes in to the inn and tells everyone that he is going to kill them all at dawn the next day. Yojimbo then returns to the inn. Yojimbo shows Gentetsu the note he received on taking the job, and Gentetsu then tells Yojimbo that he is the samurai that had been hired to help him. Gentetsu then tells Yojimbo what is really going on. A caravan will be coming through the pass tomorrow carrying salted barracuda, but they will also be carrying the Shogun's gold. The plan is to kill them all and take the gold.
Gentetsu tells Yojimbo that he would like him to kill all the people in the inn. Yojimbo says: "I've slain many, but I've never killed anyone who didn't deserve it." Later when they are talking Gentetsu strikes at Yojimbo, but Yojimbo deflects the blow. Gentetsu tells him that he was only testing him.
When it comes time for Yojimbo to kill the people in the inn, he lines them up, but then the porters appear at the pass. Yojimbo takes the people out back and then locks them safely in a shed. Yojimbo then tells Gentetsu that he has received a message from his employer to kill Gentetsu. The conspiracy turns again.
Gentetsu and his men attack the convoy but it is a decoy, they are just carrying sandbags. Gentetsu escapes capturs by jumping down a cliff which starts an avalanche. As Yojimbo is about to be captured Ibuki orders the men to let him go and Yojimbo walks off down the road alone. We then see Yojimbo, at a later time, killing the man who had ordered all this havoc to begin with.
A good movie directed by Hiroshi Inagaki, the director of the Samurai Trilogy. It was the last film he directed. It was also Toshiro Mifune's last appearance as Yojimbo. The movie suffered from the different twists and turns it took as it was hard to decide who the good guys and who the bad guys were. Even the people involved didn't really know where they stood. But overall, a pretty good samurai flick.