Although initially they were seen as foreign western films for their inferior production quality, but with time spaghetti westerns made a mark on western cinema and broadened western audience’s taste.
Spaghetti Westerns have a special place in the town of western movies. Spaghetti western era has given us the films which are counted as The Best western films. The good, the bad and the ugly, Once upon a time the west, Django are a few names that are etched deep in western mainstream cinema.
And not only many great films, but also many talented artists were discovered by Spaghetti westerns. How can we forget that Clint Eastwood became a mega-star only because of his spaghetti westerns trilogy. Credit goes to the master, Sergio Leone.
What it had to do with Spaghetti?
Well. Spaghetti Western is a nickname for a sub-genre of western films that emerged in the mid-1960s. Most of these Spaghetti Westerns were produced by Italian studios and were shot in Tabernas Desert of Almeria, Andalucia region of Spain which resembles American Southwest. So the term Spaghetti western film was coined.
The advantages of making westerns that way were significant:
- Low cost of production
- Similar Western backdrop
- Easy availability of Italian and Spanish bandits (actors to amuse your blood seeking taste)
Western Spaghetti cinema movies were easily distinguishable from traditional western movies because of their high violence.
But that violence was first of its own kind. More stress was laid on stylizing this brutal violence. Audience developed a taste for this violence of Spaghetti western films slowly but surely.
A period from mid 1960s to mid 1970s was the golden period for Spaghetti films. During this period their influence on western movie genre can’t be denied.
Let’s start from bottom to top of our The Best Spaghetti Films list!
20. The Mercenary – (1968) by Sergio Corbucci
The film starts with Kowalski sporting his don’t-mess-with-me image. He catches a dice cheater, makes him eat the dice and says, “When you get them back, I suggest you don’t use them again.” Sounds good?
19. Face To Face – (1967) by Sergio Sollima
Spaghetti films are known for glorifying the dark side of human nature. In Face To Face, same happens to aTuberculosis suffering History Professor Brad Fletcher ( Gian Maria Volonte) from England. With a hope to have some fresh air he heads west only to find the biggest twist of his life.
18. Ace High – (1968) by Giuseppe Colizzi
Name of this Spaghetti flick itself suggests that it has something to do with gambling. But more than that, this is an amazing revenge story with lots of chasing around.
The story revolves around six characters mainly. Cacopoulos (Eli Wallach), Cat (Terence Hill) , Hutch (Bud Spencer), Drake (Kevin McCarthy), Paco Rosa (Livio Lorenzon) and Thomas (Brock Peters). Ace High picks up where Colizzi’s God Forgives..But I Don’t (1967) wrapped up with the explosive death of bandit Bill San Antonio.
17. A Bullet For The General – (1966) by Damiano Damiani
Mexican revolution is used as backdrop among many western films. Not only it goves these movies a historical touch, but also employs a lot of extra actors (as rebels, soldiers and Mexican people). Jokes apart, Mexican revolution’s influence on western cinema is rooted deeper than any other backdrop.
16. The Big Gundown – (1966) by Sergio Sollima
If cars would have been invented back then in the Old West, Spaghetti Western film production would have caused the major fuel consumption. Why? Every second Spaghetti western movie is enriched with chase-n-hunt sequences. Well, being a fan of those deadly hunts and a environment friendly western films lover, I am glad they used horses which are very eco friendly.
I know you have got it. Yeah, this Spaghetti western film is about a man hunt. But a very inquisitive one I must say. The story is of a bounty hunter Jonathan Corbett, who is a terror for all the bandits of Texas. For his lawful services to the state, he is offered with the candidacy to Senate of the United States.
15. Sabata – (1969) by Gianfranco Parolini
Spaghetti films portrayed the growth of old west, rail road construction, bounty hunters in a larger-than-life style and a brutal way than traditional western films. This style and brutality could never be achieved without Spaghetti stars like Lee Van Cleef. Lee in this movie is as great as ever, tight lipped but loaded with wicked comments and weapons of destruction.
Death Rides A Horse, what else can be more stylish than that? The title of this Spaghetti Western Movie is itself capable of keeping you on the edge of your comfy couch. But this classic movie doesn’t thrive on its title only; it has more to offer your blood-seeking western taste.
13. Keoma – (1976) by Enzo G. Castellari
A half-breed named Keoma (Frank Nero) returns to his town after American Civil War just to find it in ruins by plague and terror of landlord Caldwell (Donald O’Brian). With beautiful experiments with sound and camera angles, Keoma captures you by heart and tells a story which is brutally violent but far more imaginative than usual Spaghetti flicks.
12. Red Sun – (1971) by Terence Young
In western movies here comes the glorious East too. In this East-meets-West western film, a train carrying a Japanese diplomat to the United States is ambushed and robbed by two outlaws Gauche (Alain Delon) and Link (Charles Bronson). They steal a priceless golden sword along with money.
11. Trinity Is Still My Name – (1971) by Enzo Barboni
No kidding.. some of the popular Spaghetti films have funny bones too. This Spaghetti western movie ranks high due to its popularity rather than that famous Spaghetti violent touch. This sequel to Trinity Is My Name (which was a major success on European box-office), carries the same tnicely. Trinity (Terence Hill) and Bambino (Bud Spencer) are together again.
10. Django – (1966) by Sergio Corbucci
A strange man enters the town dragging a mysterious coffin behind him. This Spaghetti western film became an inspiration for many other western movies later on and was imitated several times on silver screen. Character of Django played by Frank Nero remains a legend in the crowd of gunslingers from Spaghetti movies.
9. They Call Me Trinity – (1970) by Enzo Barboni
Trinity is an all time relaxed but the fastest gun around. They Call Me Trinity is a fun packed Spaghetti Western movie which is very unusual in aggressive and violent natured Spaghetti movies. Trinity (Terence Hill) and Bambino (Bud Spencer) are brothers of unmatched qualities. Together they roam around and crack a few laughs with their comic skills.
8. My Name Is Nobody – (1973) by Sergio Leone, Tonino Valerii
My Name Is Nobody is a mix of Sergio Leone and Trinity style. It has both the flavors to offer you; the deadly sting of Spaghetti films and the laughter of Trinity series. While Henry Fonda comes in traditional western film package and Trance Hill will remind you of silent era of comedy.
7. Campaneros – (1970) by Sergio Corbucci
Rejoice folks! You have got many reasons to do that with this Spaghetti western movie. Campaneros offers more than you expect. Firstly, a dream cast of Frank Nero, Thomas Milian, Jack Palance and Fernando Rey. Secondly, a compelling music score by Ennio Morricone (My God! Here I go again). Thirdly, Sergio Corbucci on director’s chair. Now tell me, how often you do get this kind of master-blaster packages?
6. The Great Silence – (1968) by Sergio Corbucci
Sergio Corbucci’s masterpiece “Il Grande Silenzio” aka “The Great Silence” is different from Corbucci’s earlier masterpiece “Django” (1966), which was a violent Spaghetti Western, but The Great Silence is also full of dark humour. Corbucci’s new treatment of making the thin line between Good and Bad more blurry, is outstanding. For the first time we see the outlaws as victims and bounty hunters as villains. A brutal saga of misery, greed and selfishness has never been told in such a ‘mute’ way.
5. A Fistful of Dynamite – (1971) by Sergio Leone
John Malloy is an Irish IRA explosives expert, on the run from British authorities in Mexico. Juan Miranda is a Mexican bandit with a dream of hitting the large bank his father once failed to rob. When the two meet, Juan sees John’s explosives experience as the ticket to rob the bank, but John is hard to persuade until Juan uses his ‘special’ persuasion talent.
4. A Fistful Of Dollars – (1964) by Sergio Leone
A mysterious and deadly drifter rides into a town torn by war between two gangs, the Baxters and the Rojo’s. Instead of fleeing as everyone expects him to, this merciless man schemes to play from both the sides, whoever pays him better, until there’s no one left to pay him.
3. For A Few Dollars More – (1965) by Sergio Leone
Two bounty hunters, one is a young man with lot of courage and second one is an old veteran with lot of experience. They join hands to capture an escaped bandit who is planning to rob a major bank in El Paso. Now that’s the only chance the duo has got to catch the bandit. They devise a plan to accomplish this mission and in the end, one of the bounty hunter reveals his real motive behind this hunt.
2. Once Upon A Time In The West – (1968) by Sergio Leone
Whoa! We are almost at the top of our list of The Best Spaghetti western movies from the West. And writing about Once Upon a Time in the West gives me same sheer pleasure I feel while watching it every time. All the magic cultivated by Sergio Leone is in the WAY this movie is made and the lively and fresh treatment of the story. Enough said.
1. The Good, The Bad and The Ugly – (1966) by Sergio Leone
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly stands out in every aspect of a western movie. Be it direction, acting, characters, background music, dialogues or camera-work, no other spaghetti western comes even close to this movie. It’s entertaining, it’s violent, it’s hilarious..it has everything a classic western movie should have. Don’t tell me you haven’t seen it yet!
Other Mentionable Spaghetti Western Movies
- Day Of Anger – (1967) by Tonino Valerii
- Run, Man, Run – (1968) by Sergio Sollima
- Cemetery Without Crosses – (1969) by Robert Hossein
- Django Kill… If You Live, Shoot! – (1967) by Giulio Questi
- Four of the Apocalypse – (1975) by Lucio Fulci
- Storm Rider/The Grand Duel – (1972) by Giancarlo Santi
- China 9, Liberty 37 – (1978) by Monte Hellman and Tony Brandt
- Hellbenders – (1967) by Sergio Corbucci
- The Return Of Ringo- (1965) by Duccio Tessari
- Boot Hill – (1969) by Giuseppe Colizzi
So wasn’t that fun going through the list of 20 Classic Spaghetti films? I feel the same way.