Sergio Leone is known as the patriarch of the Spaghetti Western genre. Leone is a Roman-born director who started his career directing sword-and-sandal epics, but soon he turned to Westerns. His Dollars Trilogy changed the genre forever. It is worth to mention that Leone had never been to the American West until after he had already made a name on the Western film.
Leone made many trademarks which are oft-imitated to this day, such as wide shots, extreme close-ups with incredible clarity and depth, memorable rogues and prominent scores. The Spaghetti Western was definitely born out of his style, and the genre on the whole owes a credit to Leone’s filmography. We made a list of the best Westerns directed by Sergio Leone, highlighting the elements which made his best movies so deserving of praise almost half a century after they have been released.
Once Upon A Time In The West (1968)
This movie has provided an epic conclusion to an epic Western trilogy, and Once Upon a Time in the West stays the ultimate epic tale which influenced many Western classics in the decades since. Charles Bronson turned down roles in the Dollars Trilogy just to seek the role of Harmonica, the enigmatic protagonist.
However, the more brilliant role is with Henry Fonda, who had been known as the handsome good guy in earlier Westerns. He played the role of purely evil Frank, and later many people asked why Fonda didn’t play a role of villain before. This tale is a battle between two men, and during the final shootout, the reveal approaches an epic grandeur which no Western movie has ever reached before or since.
The Good, The Bad And The Ugly (1966)
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, the culmination of the Dollars Trilogy in 1960s, is a movie which many people consider to be the greatest Western film of all time. The Man with No Name, played by Clint Eastwood, is joined by the villainous Angel Eyes, played by Lee Van Cleef, and the petty thief Tuco, played by the indomitable Eli Wallach. Separately they are, as the title suggests, the good, the bad and the ugly. However, under careful direction of Sergio Leone, together they are nothing short of brilliant.
A Fistful Of Dollars (1964)
A Fistful of Dollars is the first movie of the Dollars Trilogy, which has so many iconic moment, and for that reason it is easy to see why the movies which followed become so successful with such a great foundation to build upon. Because of his performance as the casual, cigar-chewing cowboy Joe, Clint Eastwood became a true star. At first, Eastwood refused Leone’s movies on the grounds that the character were too similar, but later he made a career out of Westerns in the following years.
The plot of this movie is relatively simple. Thanks to the fast-drawing gunslinger of Eastwood, two warring families are further pitted against each other. However, the first Western movie of Leone was real in a way that the genre hadn’t seen before – The streets were sandy, the men were poorly-shaven and sweaty, the taverns were full of sin and smoky. Since then, almost every Western movie followed this formula.
For A Few Dollars More (1965)
The Dollars Trilogy is one of the most important trilogies in the movie history. Even though connected in a somewhat loosen sense, the themes of one movie resonate through the others. All three movies taken as a whole paint a beautiful and formidable portrait of the American West. There are many ways in which this movie exhibits more sophisticated technique and passion than either the successor or the predecessor.
Gian Maria Volonte, the antagonist of the movie, proved himself to be a worthy match for the Man with No Name. Today, many trilogies peter out after the first movie. This trilogy presents strength throughout, and For a Few Dollars More is an excellent movie even without the bookends.