Obsessed with Tarantino’s western revisionist dramas are we? But what laid the inspiration for Tarantino’s widely popular genre might still be unknown to many cinephiles. The template for the current revisionist cinema is borrowed from the works of Spaghetti westerns aficionados. Which you will realize once you watch the great epics of the genre mostly acclaimed to Sergio Leone, the legend of Spaghetti Westerns.
If you haven’t broached this group yet, here is what you can start with. Or rather you must start with!
- Once Upon A Time In The West
IMDb rating: 8.5/10
Waging in all the classic vices of the genre, Once Upon a Time In The West sits at the pinnacle of the Spaghetti westerns. Well because everything right from Ennio Morricone’s score to the film’s visual impact is extraordinary. From an efficient blend of corruption, injustice and violence spawns a brutally honest tale of the old west. Henry Fonda’s Frank is a sadistic killer hired by a crippled railroad kingpin to seize the property of a prime railroad owner. The attempt of seizing the land goes foul as, after the death of the owner, the property is lawfully transferred to his wife who is now under the protection of Charles Brosnan’s Harmonica. Sergio Leone’s magnum opus is a vicious jumble of alliances and betrayals. Not to mention the riveting performances by Brosnan and Fonda. The film is without a doubt the best western ever made.
- The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly
IMDb rating: 8.8/10
TGTBTU is an epic stemming from the conflict in the wake of the civil war. For the uninitiated, this film is tantamount to the first port of call before making it to others in the genre. The magnificent film brings together three parties to track an allied treasure. The reluctant team-up unleashes a wild skirmish resulting in one of the classic and genius western stories ever made.
- For A Few Dollars More
IMDb rating: 8.3/10
The quintessential tale of western partnership sets a platform for Sergio Leone’s famous trilogy. The movie surpassed its predecessor in every capacity but essentially not the successors. Lee Van Cleef and Clint Eastwood is probably the best onscreen chemistry ever created with a pair of western gunslingers. Topping a fine storyline, as usual, was Morricone’s trademark score. The film’s climax unarguably beats the buildup and is the best pay-off amongst many others in the genre.
- The Great Silence
IMDb rating: 7.7/10
Sergio Corbucci manages to create a masterpiece tale with the backdrop of The Great Blizzard of 1899. The elements of a cold disaster worked hand in glove with the cold nature of the protagonist who loses his voice with the brutal assassination of his parents. Hungry for revenge he sets out to bring the killers to justice teaming with Mormon outlaws and a young African American woman. The movie managed to stand out with setup and story painted in stark contrast to its contemporaries. Tarantino’s Hateful Eight contains a eulogy of the opening scene of this film.
- The Big Gundown
IMDb rating: 7.4/10
A symbol of American imperialism brewed by Sergio Donati brings out the shady truth of politics that prevailed in the era. Jonathan Corbett(Lee Van Cleef) is a lawman who is presented with a chance to run for Senate for he has displayed an unprecedented mastery of skills at work. But before that, he is assigned with bounty killing of an alleged rapist by the power broker throwing the bone. In pursuit of his bounty, the lawman finally discovers the truth of impacts of political order on the underprivileged and that his target may not be guilty after all. A rather unusual blend of socio-political themes presented to the viewers by some extraordinary performances, The Big Gundown went on to become a classic post many years after release.
- A Fistful Of Dollars
IMDb rating: 8.0/10
The beginning of what shall forever remain an iconic trilogy in the history of westerns, A Fistful of Dollars may not be as charged as it’s sequels but deserves special mention for being a Kickstarter to the regime of western spaghetti. The movie follows a tale of a cynical gunman, Joe, who flaunts his ostensible allegiance to two rival gangs but is loyal to none. Clint Eastwood’s performance as Joe is the most iconic role of his career. The story borrows the mold of Kurosawa’s Yojimbo but Leone’s treatment definitely brings out a stunning original that now serves as inspiration itself.
- Duck, You Sucker! (A Fistful Of Dynamite)
IMDb rating: 7.7/10
A rather underrated film of Sergio Leone, this happens to be the second film of the Dollar trilogy. In the final act, Leone soars down the focus to a single character. The movie finds its roots in the Mexican revolution of 1910 with a classic transformation of an outlaw to a revolutionary storyline. Although unlike other westerns, the film is less political and more of an emotionally charged affair, navigating the essence of friendship during a volatile phase of Mexican history.
- A Bullet For The General
IMDb rating: 7.1/10
Set in the backdrop of the Mexican Revolution the movie follows the life of El Chuncho, a militant turned revolutionary. Guiding his path of transformation is a prisoner of government forces. The film is a poignant account of political drama, deception and conflicts weighed against the power of conscience and trust. With a heartfelt performance by Gian Maria Volontè, the feature is considered one of the best among the genre of Zapata Westerns.
- Django (1966)
IMDb rating: 7.3/10
Django is one of the classic western spaghetti films, very much in the Sergio Leone mold. A soldier of the Union Army begins his journey across the south with a coffin. Of course, there is a lot of action along the way when the cowboy hero has to face off against multiple enemies across the Mexican border. Drawing subtle inspiration from A fistful of Dollars, the film explicitly mimics the classic Kurosawa style film making and continues to have a cultural impact years later.