5 Reasons Once Upon A Time In The West Is The Best Spaghetti Western (& 5 Reasons It’s The Good, The Bad And The Ugly)
From the characters to the actors, we put Once Upon a Time in the West against The Good, The Bad and The Ugly for the title of best Spaghetti Western.
The so-called Spaghetti Western was a revolutionary and highly influential genre that came about in the 1960s. The films of the genre saw Italian directors taking on the American Western stories which made for epic – and often beautiful – films, some of which are ranked among the best films of all time.
Two of the most iconic films in the genre are Once Upon a Time in the West and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, both directed by Sergio Leone. The films both serve as pillars for the genre, but which is a better representation of how special the Spaghetti Western genre can be? Let’s take a look at how these two masterpieces compare to each other.
10 Once Upon A Time In The West: Opening
The opening sequence in Once Upon a Time in the West is a beautiful short film all by itself. The extended sequence introduces three intimidating gunmen who wait for a train at an abandoned station.
The sequence shows Leone’s immense talent for building tension as well as how he does not feel the need to rush a sequence along. It also makes for a great introduction for the gunslinger Harmonica (Charles Bronson), immediately showcasing him as a true badass. It’s a scene that draws you in and makes you want more.
9 The Good, The Bad And The Ugly: The Civil War
The American Civil War is often mentioned to some extent in Westerns, but it rarely becomes a significant part of the story despite being such a significant event of the time. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly uses the war as a fantastic setting for this story of treasure seekers.
It’s interesting to see a film in which the country is at war while this Western adventure is going on. The characters are out for their own desires even with all the fighting around them. It also makes for a thrilling scene when the characters find themselves in the midst of a battlefield.
8 Once Upon A Time In The West: The Story
Often times the story in the Spaghetti Westerns takes a backseat to the stunning visuals rather than the storytelling. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly has a story that works well enough to benefit the film, but Once Upon a Time in the West is actually a fairly interesting story.
The way the film brings its characters together is done very effectively even while you don’t know what it is building to. But as more and more is revealed, the plot takes shape and we become even more invested in the characters and their outcome. Though a simple story, it is gripping from beginning to end.
7 The Good, The Bad And The Ugly: Clint Eastwood
Clint Eastwood was actually having a hard time finding a career in American-made Western films before Leone found him. Eastwood appeared in Leone’s first two films in the so-called Dollars Trilogy before creating one of his most iconic and breakout performances as Blondie in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
Eastwood perfected the ice-cold hero who doesn’t seem to get riled by anything and can intimidate anyone with just a stare. Though a man of few words, Eastwood makes for an instantly iconic hero in the genre.
6 Once Upon A Time In The West: Henry Fonda
While Eastwood’s hero is the standout of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, it is the villain who steals the show in Once Upon a Time in the West. Frank is a ruthless, cruel and cold-blooded killer that adds tension to any scene he’s in.
To make the character even more interesting, he is played by Henry Fonda who was, up to that point, always known for his noble characters. From his unforgettable introductory scene, Frank is established as a man who will show no mercy and not think twice about killing.
5 The Good, The Bad And The Ugly: The Trio
Both of Leone’s films feature a memorable set of key characters, but The Good, the Bad and the Ugly edges out for the memorable trio of characters at the center of its story. Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, and Eli Wallach play the three characters referenced in the title and they are each perfect in their roles.
They all get their own memorable introduction and quickly establish themselves as interesting characters who could be at the center of their own films. It makes for some great entertainment once the characters come together to share the screen.
4 Once Upon A Time In The West: Unlikely Allies
Though the trio at the center of Once Upon a Time in the West might not be quite as memorable as The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, the way the three heroes come together is part of the fun of the story.
Jill McBain is a woman whose family was murdered by Frank, Cheyenne is an outlaw framed for the crime and Harmonica is a mysterious gunslinger with a vendetta against Frank. Together, they form an uneasy alliance against their common enemy and slowing form a strong partnership.
3 The Good, The Bad And The Ugly: The Score
Perhaps Leone’s most important collaborator in his career was Ennio Morricone. The famed composer worked on many of Leone’s films and added so much excitement, emotion, and power to them through his incredible music.
Though both films feature brilliant soundtracks, the main score for The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is one of the most iconic film scores of all time. It is a tune that has become synonymous with the Western genre and sets the film off on the perfect note as soon as it begins playing.
2 Once Upon A Time In The West: Harmonica’s Flashback
Along with all the cool action and interesting visuals, Leone’s films can also deliver a stunning emotional wallop. Once Upon a Time in the West builds to its climax gradually and deliberately. When it reaches the final showdown, we get to see why Harmonica has a grudge against Frank.
The flashback shows Frank gleefully watching as young Harmonica tries to hold his father up who has a noose tied around his neck. Frank smiles as the boy falls and his father hangs. The moment is a masterful and effective payoff.
1 The Good, The Bad And The Ugly: The Standoff
As great as that flashback is in Once Upon a Time in the West, nothing beats the final showdown in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. As the three main characters reach the spot where the treasure is said to be buried, they square off in a three-way showdown.
The moment is a masterclass in direction and editing with Morricone’s score building and building until the tension is almost unbearable. It has gone down as one of the most famous film scenes of all time and it’s not hard to see why.