Italian Westerns – Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)

Best Western Movies

Italian Westerns was an unexpected genre and for awhile it was not taken seriously. Noone suspected that it would produce some of the best Western movies that would be among top movies of all time.

Once Upon a Time in the West is consistently found in the critics’ lists of top 100 movies ever created, along with another classic of Italian Westerns – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, which was made by the same director.

Filmed largely in Italy and Spain, with Italian crew, filmmakers and story writers, this gem of classic Western movies is an outsider’s view on the Wild West.

Italian Westerns - Once Upon a Time in the West

Italian Westerns - Film Details

Once Upon a Time in the West
original title C'era una volta il West



Directed by:

Story by:



Sergio Leone

Sergio Leone, Bernardo Bertolucci and Dario Argento

English Dialogue by:

Michael Knox

Italian Westerns - Movie Ratings


Like it

Rotten Tomatoes:

98% critics reviews

94% viewers reviews


8.7/10 critics and viewers movie reviews

Italian Westerns – Plot Teaser

In late 19th century in Arizona, a woman arrives to her new husband’s house and discovers that the man and his children have been murdered.

She has to face the culprit – a cold-blooded killer Frank - with the help of the lone avenger Harmonica and the bandit Cheyenne who have their own unfinished business with Frank.

Italian Westerns – Film Review

What happens when you get names like Sergio Leone, Bernardo Bertolucci, Dario Argento and Ennio Morricone on a project? Either a complete disaster or a masterpiece.

When Once Upon a Time in the West was released in 1968, it was an instant smash hit in Europe and Asia. In Paris, the film ran continuously for over 2 years becoming the most popular of all Spaghetti Western movies.

In America… it was an instant flop. According to American audiences, unlike other best Western movies, the film was rather slow and incomprehensible, partially because the footage was cut by over 20 minutes by the studio. American movie critics called it “absurd”, “quite bad”, “tedious” and “a serious bore”. This would change. By the 1980s the film had the biggest cult following of all classic Western movies.

Three things will forever remain imprinted in your mind once you watch this treasure of Spaghetti Western movies – Henry Fonda’s face, actor Charles Bronson’s face and Ennio Morricone music, which became synonymous with Spaghetti Western music.

Curious enough, Sergio Leone, the film’s director, did not speak English at the time. He had to work with English-speaking actors through an interpreter. In order to convey what he envisioned for the movie, he would create the atmosphere on the set by playing Ennio Morricone music, which the composer wrote in its entirety before the filming started – an unusual practice in film industry.

Director Sergio Leone was very enthusiastic about classic Western movies since childhood and studied historical documents thoroughly to get a clear idea of the Old West. As a result, the movie was completely different from glamorous Hollywood Western classic movies. He called Once Upon a Time in the West a “fairy-story with a documentary realism”. The violence, the dust, the dirt, sun-burnt faces, clothes, interiors, guns – everything was created to make the movie look like the Wild West the way it really was.

The film is full of visual and verbal clichés from the best Western movies and was designed to be a tribute to the genre, in particular to John Ford’s classic Western movies. Ironically, many of these films have been forgotten.

The following film directors expressed their love and appreciation for this film: Martin Scorsese, Ang Lee, Stanley Kubrick, Quentin Tarantino, John Carpenter, John Milius, Paul Schrader and many others.

Spaghetti Western Movies – Movie recommendation

The movie is almost 3 hours long. Unlike other best Western movies, it is not fast-paced when it comes to action, but it holds your attention firmly in its grip until the film title comes across the screen ...which uncharacteristically happens at the very end of the movie.

Once Upon a Time in the West, one of the top movies of all time, is a must-see if you want to understand where the greatest contemporary action film directors get their ideas and inspiration from.

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