Aside from the similarities of plot between these two films, the productions themselves bear a similarity with an iconic actor/director team. Sergio Leone/Clint Eastwood and Akira Kurosawa/Toshiro Mifune are names that are inescapably linked in the history of film. Leone and Eastwood brought a reinvigoration to the western through their Man With No Name Trilogy (A Fistful of Dollars 1964, For a Few Dollars More 1965, and The Good The Bad and the Ugly 1966. Kurosawa and Mifune are known for having forged the golden age of Samurai films with films like Rashomon (1950), Seven Samurai (1954), and Yojimbo (1961). To complete the chain of influence, it’s interesting to note that Kurosawa’s films were heavily influenced by early American westerns, and that Leone’s films were heavily influenced by Kurosawa’s samurai films. This leaves us with Leone ripping off Kurosawa in 1964 by (unofficially) remaking Yojimbo into A Fistful of Dollars.
There are many interesting cultural distinctions between the two films. Yojimbo features one of the gang leaders as having a wife who influences some of his decisions. This female presence is erased in Fistful with the same suggestions coming from a different, male, advisor. In Yojimbo, the gang leaders run the Sake and Silk industries while in Fistful its Liquor and Guns. This leads to another major plot change. In both films the two sides agree to cooperate due to government investigation, but in Yojimbo it’s because they want to ensure a soon coming silk fair rather than Fistful’s fear of being caught for a massacre.