Yojimbo the Bodyguard (Yōjinbō) is a movie that was released in 1961. It was directed by Akira Kurosawa and starred Toshrio Mifune as Yojimbo, the wandering bodyguard. The movie is set in 18th century Japan, when Samurai still lived and wandered the lands. Kurosawa has said that a lot of his influence came from American westerns, something that is very clear in Yojimbo.
Yojimbo is about a ronin, which is a masterless samurai. Many samurai at that time had a master or lord that they would answer to. Those that did not were forced to wander the lands. The samurai code prevents them from doing harm and actually forces them to try to solve any dilemmas that they find.
Sanjuro Kuwabatake, the ronin, wanders into a town and discovers that there are two distinct groups in the town and both are fighting for control. He realizes that he can make a lot of money if he sells his services to both sides. The trick is to keep the other side from knowing what he is doing. He soon gets into trouble and lands in jail. He escapes from the prison and is determined to end the battle once and for all.
Yojimbo was actually remade in 1964. Sergio Leone brought it to America and cast Clint Eastwood as the Man with No Name. Eastwood later went on to star as the Man with No Name in various other western movies that became very popular. With A Fistful of Dollars, though, it turned out that Leone made the movie before he got the rights to do so. When you remake a movie, you have to get permission and rights to do so. Leone missed that step. The crew that was responsible for Yojimbo brought a lawsuit against Leone which stopped the movie from being immediately released. It was not until three years after the movie had been made that A Fistful of Dollars was allowed to be released.
Zatoichi is a very popular character in Japan. He is a blind swordsman that wanders around trying to right the wrongs that are created. In 1970 a movie was made called Zatoichi Meets Yojimbo. Mifune plays a character named Sasso. It has been heavily debated whether Mifune plays the same man in Zatoichi Meets Yojimbo as he does in Yojimbo, but most fans believe that he is the same man, even though his mannerisms are very different.
In 1996 another movie was made named Last Man Standing. It starred Bruce Willis and has been stated to be an official remake of Yojimbo even though it is set in the gangster era.