A number of people, when they discuss this Kurosawa film along with The Seven Samurai and his other films, treat it like a bastard at a family reunion. Apparently, they were expecting a "HIGH DRAMA" or "BADASS" movie. If they were, then they deserve to be disappointed.
The Hidden Fortress is NOT an epic that gives great insight into the code of the samurai or other such nonsense. It's a fun romp through the misadventures of several bungling "heroes": Two greedy, cowardly peasants, a knight very similar to the young Obi-Wan Kenobi, and a bitchy, aloof Princess Yuki of Akizuki (a name that sounds like something from Dr. Seuss). They are trying to smuggle the Akizuki treasury (gold bars hidden in firewood) and the princess to safety. But greed, lust and stupidity keep getting in the way.
This movie is more of an old-style caper film than a samurai epic. The dumb, double-dealing characters are more from The Lavender Hill Mob than MacBeth. What makes the characters more interesting is that the two peasants don't hold a monopoly on greed and harebrained "cunning plans" that would make Baldric from The Black Adder proud, and the knight and the princess don't hold all the courage and nobility cards, either. In fact, the two peasants come up with a plan that literally saves their necks.
The way the film is told from the point of view of the two lowliest characters was quite novel and an obvious influence on George Lucas when he made the first Star Wars. The Hidden Fortress is a great movie in its own right, though. One shot in particular will stick in your mind. At the beginning you see a wounded samurai on foot getting cut down by horsemen. It is stark, shocking and weirdly beautiful.
To people with open minds without preconceived notions of what should and should not be in a Kurosawa film, The Hidden Fortress is a great movie.