5 Essential Spaghetti Westerns
The term “Spaghetti Western” refers to a subgenre of Western films made by Italian filmmakers from the early 1960s to the late ‘70s. Also known as "western all’italiana" (Italian-style Western), the genre reached its peak in the late ‘60s, garnering worldwide popularity. Spaghetti Westerns featured anti-heroes for protagonists, desert landscapes, non-traditional music scores, and plenty of violence.
In 1964, Italian filmmaker Sergio Leone had a vision to reimagine his image and create movies paired with American actors. Leone wrote and directed “A Fistful of Dollars” and it became an unlikely box office smash hit. As American cowboys became national icons, Italians filmmakers created an enduring subgenre of the arts. Here are 5 top Spaghetti Westerns you need to watch:
A Fistful of Dollars
The movie that started it all and revolutionized the Spaghetti Western subgenre. Clint Eastwood plays “The Man With No Name" as he enters the Mexican village of San Miguel during a power struggle with the Rojas Brothers. The film even included many Italian comedians. With Clint Eastwood as the lead and the original film score, written and produced by Ennio Morricone, the film was a major success.
Once Upon a Time in the West
When a piece of land was up for grabs in the American West, a robber baron Morton played by Gabriele Ferzetti is looking to acquire it. Featuring Henry Fonda as Morton’s henchman, he goes out to scare the landowner, killing him instead. A mysterious gunslinger played by Charles Bronson comes into town to settle the score. This movie was the start of a “Once Upon a Time '' trilogy.
The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly
A movie that Martin Scorsese claimed to be one of the most influential westerns ever made, Clint Eastwood returned to play a mysterious stranger named Joe in the American Southwest during the Civil War. He was partnered with Mexican outlaw Tuco, played by Eli Wallach, and the two formed a very uneasy relationship. After an escape attempt went awry, Tuco tries to have Joe killed but ultimately reunite to fight outlaws and the Union army.
As a modern-day Spaghetti Western, Jamie Fox plays the titular character of Django, a name that has been said throughout the subgenre’s history. The movie was directed by Quentin Tarantino taking place two years before the American Civil War. Django is paired with a German bounty hunter named Dr. King, played by Christopher Waltz. The duo travels together, eventually landing on plantation owner Calvin Candie’s property, played by Leonardo Di Caprio. Django discovers his wife is still being held as a slave on the plantation. The movie won an Oscar for Best Actor in a Supporting Role and Best Screenplay.
Directed by Duccio Tessari, this Spaghetti Western takes place as Governor Don Diego’s town is taken over by martial law at the hands of outlaw Huerta. Diego acts as if he is not being compliant to martial law, but is secretly trying to stop Huerta. Diego, played by Alain Delon, puts on the mask and becomes Zorro, partnering with Hortensia to take down Huerta.
Assistant Editor for America Domani, AJ Forrisi is a Brooklyn-based writer and photographer. His work focuses on food, travel, sports, landscapes, and urban scenes. You can find him on Instagram @aj.photo.works.