A spaghetti western is a subgenre of the Western, which was popularized in Italy during the mid-1960s.
The term refers to low budget Western films produced in Europe between 1963 and 1978 that were influenced by Italian culture and often featured American actors dubbed into European languages.
BEST SPAGHETTI WESTERN MOVIES
What Are Spaghetti Western Movies?
Spaghetti westerns are a subgenre of the western that emerged in the 1960s.
Spaghetti westerns were typically low-budget affairs filmed on location in Spain or Italy and directed by Italians. Sergio Leone was one of the foremost spaghetti western filmmakers.
They’re characterized by their irreverent humor, violence, and anti-authoritarianism.
What Is A Spaghetti Western?
Spaghetti Westerns are a genre of Italian Western film that were popular in the 1960’s and 1970s. They have their roots in Sergio Leone’s Once Upon A Time In The West, which was released in 1968.
This movie is considered to be one of the greatest films ever made and it set off an international wave of imitation films from Europe, Japan, China and America that lasted until about 1980.
In these movies, oftentimes there is a man with no name (a drifter), who enters a town where two gangs are fighting for control and becomes involved in the power struggle by taking on a job as a hired gun.
Along the way, he meets various women who either help or hinder him along his journey to find justice or revenge
A spaghetti western is a genre of Italian-made Westerns that emerged in the 1960s. The term was coined by American critic and historian Harry M. Caudill to describe this type of low-budget, high levels of violence, and gritty style of Western films.
Here’s our introduction to spaghetti westerns covering the history and evolution of the genre:
Best Spaghetti Western Movies
The spaghetti westerns are often regarded as the “low budget” version of the Hollywood Western. They were made in Europe, primarily Italy and Spain, between 1960-1980.
Spaghetti westerns tell a story of revenge in an arid landscape where life is cheap and violence is brutal.
The Good, The Bad And The Ugly (Sergio Leone, 1966)
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly is a film by Sergio Leone. It was released in 1966 and the story follows three gunslingers who compete with each other to find buried treasure.
In the 1960s, Hollywood was undergoing a change. The old studio system had been crumbling for some time and studios were now looking at independent filmmakers to keep them afloat in an era of changing tastes.
Sergio Leone’s “The Good, The Bad And The Ugly” is one of the best examples of this new style that emerged from this shift.
For A Few Dollars More (Sergio Leone, 1965)
For A Few Dollars More is an iconic western that follows two bounty hunters, one played by Clint Eastwood and the other played by Lee Van Cleef.
These two men are hired by a ruthless businessman, Colonel Douglas Mortimer (played by Christopher George) to track down his former partner in crime and now fugitive Juan El Matador (played beautifully by Eli Wallach).
A Few Dollars More is the second film in the “Man With No Name Trilogy” by Sergio Leone. Set at a time when America was still divided, it tells the story of two outlaws who team up to try and steal a cache of gold from their former Confederate army comrades.
The movie’s opening scene sets up one of its key themes- greed. In this scene, two men are arguing about an old woman’s cow, which has wandered onto their property.
One man wants to kill it because he thinks she’ll come back for her cow, but his partner suggests they milk it first so as not to waste any meat or milk production before slaughtering it later on (a sentiment that will be echoed throughout the rest of the film).
Django (Sergio Corbucci, 1966)
Django is a 1966 Italian Spaghetti Western film directed by Sergio Corbucci. The screenplay was written by Franco Rossetti, who also wrote the screenplays for Corbucci’s previous Django films.
Django is a spaghetti western that features the titular character as a gunslinger who was freed from slavery after his wife and son are killed. The film stars Franco Nero in the title role of Django, alongside Loredana Nusciak as his wife, both of whom were to become icons of the genre.
The story revolves around one man’s quest to find his wife from Mississippi who has been sold into slavery.
The movie begins with Django (Franco Nero) being captured by slave traders in Texas while he is looking for his wife Broomhilda (played by Loredana Nusciak). He manages to escape but not before killing all of the slavers except for King Schultz (Eduardo Ciannelli), who turns out
Sergio Corbucci’s 1966 film Django is a spaghetti western. The film stars Franco Nero as the titular hero, a gunfighter who gains his name by killing a man whose last word was “Django”.
His quest for revenge sees him come across many people from all walks of life: including bounty hunters, slave traders, and Mexican bandits.
The Mercenary (Sergio Corbucci, 1968)
Sergio Corbucci’s The Mercenary is an iconic film that was released in 1968. It stars Franco Nero as a man who joins the Mexican army to pursue his lost love but instead finds himself caught in the middle of a revolution.
In the film, a mercenary named Jack Beauregard (Tony Musante) is hired by the wealthy Mr. Smith to assassinate Fidel Castro.
The assignment sounds simple enough; however, before he can carry out his mission, he discovers that there are many other mercenaries involved who want to take down Castro and make their own fortune.
Once Upon A Time In The West (Sergio Leone, 1968)
In the late 1800s, America was still a young country. Settlers were moving west to farm and mine for gold. With more people than ever before on the frontier, tensions between Native Americans and settlers were high.
The West was in a state of change: with all these new settlers coming in; it’s as though there’s an air of inevitability that something bad will happen soon. It is this sense of foreboding that Sergio Leone captures so well in his epic masterpiece Once Upon A Time In The West (1968).
Sergio Leone is one of the most influential filmmakers in Hollywood. His films are known for their use of violence, tension, and memorable characters.
The film Once Upon a Time In the West (1968) has been deemed his magnum opus by many critics and fans alike.
Once Upon A Time in The West is not only a Western film but a cinematic masterpiece that has been hailed as such since its release.
A Fistful Of Dollars (Sergio Leone, 1964)
A Fistful Of Dollars is a 1964 spaghetti western film directed by Sergio Leone, written by A.B. Stonehill, and starring Clint Eastwood as the Man With No Name.
The story follows three bounty hunters who are searching for a cache of gold buried near a village being terrorized by an outlaw gang, led by Tuco (Eli Wallach). The film was shot on location in Spain and Italy with interiors filmed at Rome’s Cinecittà Studios.
The film A Fistful of Dollars was directed in 1964 by Sergio Leone and stars Clint Eastwood. The film is often cited as the first spaghetti western, a genre that would go on to influence other filmmakers and create an entirely new sub-genre of films within Hollywood.
The first film in Sergio Leone’s “Dollars Trilogy” is a classic, and it’s one of the best Westerns ever made. The story follows Clint Eastwood as he arrives at a small town to find that the place has been terrorized by three outlaw gangs.
It doesn’t take long for him to get involved with these groups, as they each have their own ideas about who should be running things around town.
Day Of Anger (Tonino Valerii, 1967)
Day of Anger (Italian: I giorni dell’ira) is a 1967 Italian spaghetti Western film directed by Tonino Valerii. It was shot at the Fert Studios in Turin, Italy between December 1966 and February 1967. The film stars Giuliano Gemma and George Hilton.
The story is set in the days of the American Civil War, in which two soldiers from different sides of the conflict are forced to join forces to survive after being ambushed by a group of bandits.
The two men – Confederate Captain Bill Carson (Giuliano Gemma) and Union soldier Joshua Brown (George Hilton) – have been enemies for as long as they can remember.
That is until they are captured by a gang led by the sadistic vaquero Noonan. With the help of an old prospector, they manage to escape and begin their flight across the desert on horseback.
But Noonan will not give up so easily…
Death Rides A Horse (Giulio Petroni, 1967)
Death Rides A Horse (Giulio Petroni, 1967) Death Rides a Horse (Italian: Il giustiziere sfida la città) is a 1967 Spaghetti Western film directed by Giulio Petroni and starring Lee Van Cleef. It was the final film of actor Bud Spencer, who plays one of the villains in the movie.
The original Italian version was titled “Il giustiziere” (“The Gunslinger”), while the international English release title is “Death Rides a Horse”.
The film’s German version title is “Der Tod reitet immer noch” (“Death Always Rides”). The film tells the story of a young man who comes to the aid of his friend in his time of trouble.
His friend, however, has made an enemy of the local gunfighter, whom our hero now must face. The gunfighter is also known as “the man with no name”, as he does not reveal his identity to anyone.
When asked, he replies “My name is Legion”. He confronts our hero at every turn and tries to kill both him and his friend.
Navajo Joe (Sergio Corbucci, 1966)
The 1966 Italian film, Navajo Joe is a story set in the American Southwest and tells of a Navajo Indian who has been wronged by whites. The protagonist, Navajo Joe (played by Burt Reynolds) returns to his tribe after being away for many years.
He finds out that his father was killed and he sets off on a quest for revenge against the men responsible for this crime.
Sergio Corbucci’s 1966 spaghetti western “Navajo Joe” is a visually stunning, yet under-appreciated film. The opening scene of the film features an intense gun battle between Navajo Joe (Burt Reynolds) and some American soldiers.
The film has been criticized for its portrayal of Native Americans as violent savages and the use of stereotypical imagery such as braves on horseback wearing feathers.
The Return Of Ringo (Duccio Tessari, 1965)
The Return of Ringo (Italian: Il ritorno di Ringo) is a 1965 Italian spaghetti western film directed by Duccio Tessari. It was filmed on location in Almería, Spain and stars Giuliano Gemma.
The screenplay by Sandro Continenza, Alfredo Giannetti and Luciano Vincenzoni was loosely based upon Akira Kurosawa’s Japanese film Yojimbo.
After the success of the film A Fistful of Dollars, this film and others were released as unofficial sequels to the earlier film, including For a Few Dollars More, A Pistol for Ringo and The Bounty Killer. A sequel titled Shotguns Don’t Argue was released in 1966, also starring Gemma.
The plot deals with a man who returns home after the American Civil War to find his wife kidnapped by Mexican bandits.
The Big Gundown (Sergio Sollima, 1966)
The Big Gundown (Sergio Sollima, 1966) film The Big Gundown (Italian: La resa dei conti, “The Settling of Scores”), also known as Run, Man, Run, is a 1966 Italian spaghetti western directed by Sergio Sollima.
The film stars Lee Van Cleef as bounty hunter Jonathan Corbett and Tomas Milian as Cuchillo Sanchez (aka “Knife Sanchez”), the Mexican bandit whom he pursues.
The film’s score is by Ennio Morricone. It was shot in Almería (Spain), Mexico and Italy. This was the first spaghetti western scored by Ennio Morricone to feature his trademark whistle theme for the main character.
This theme would reappear in many of Morricone’s later westerns such as A Fistful of Dynamite (also starring Van Cleef) and Once Upon a Time in the West. Morricone also composed several jazz pieces for this film, a rarity for him at the time.
A Pistol For Ringo (Duccio Tessari, 1965)
A Pistol For Ringo (1965) Duccio Tessari’s first Spaghetti Western, A Pistol for Ringo (1965), was released in the U.S. in 1966 with the title The Return of Ringo. The film played on television as “Return to Ringo” and has been (incorrectly) released on video as such. It is also known as “A Gun for Ringo.”
It stars Giuliano Gemma, Fernando Sancho, George Martin and Lorella De Luca. The film was shot in Almeria, Spain. The plot revolves around a wounded Union soldier named Montgomery Brown, who is mistakenly identified by Mexico’s General Garcia as Confederate Colonel Moredo.
Garcia asks Brown to lead a company of men across the border and take back a town that has been taken over by Mexicans led by Pepe, the Loco (Sancho). Brown accepts the offer because he knows that if he does not comply, he will be executed by the general’s firing squad.
Brown joins up with El Vasco (Martin), an outlaw who has agreed to join Garcia’s forces in exchange for his freedom at journey’s end.
The Dirty Outlaws (Franco Rossetti, 1967)
An outlaw masquerades as a blind man’s son to trick him out of a cache of gold.
A gang of bandits appears in town to rob a payroll coach but takes the blind man’s gold as well, which leads to a battle between the outlaw and the gang.
The Great Silence (Sergio Corbucci, 1968)
The 1968 film The Great Silence is a Western that has been called an “anti-Western.” It was written and directed by Sergio Corbucci, who had previously worked with the director on classic films like Django (1966) and Companeros (1970).
The Great Silence is a 1968 revisionist Spaghetti Western film directed and co-written by Sergio Corbucci. The film stars Jean-Louis Trintignant as Silence, a mute gunfighter with a grudge against bounty hunters, assisting a group of outlawed Mormons and a woman trying to avenge her husband (one of the outlaws).
The film features an Ennio Morricone score that includes an unused theme that would later be employed in Tarantino’s Kill Bill: Volume 2 (2004). The film was the last western directed by Corbucci and starred Trintignant.
It is regarded by some as one of the best spaghetti westerns ever made.
The Grand Duel (Giancarlo Santi, 1972)
Since the early days of cinema, there have been countless films depicting duels. In fact, the first ever film was a duel. And since then, filmmakers such as Sergio Leone and Akira Kurosawa have made their names on epic battles between good and evil.
In 1972 director Giancarlo Santi released “The Grand Duel”, which is set during the tumultuous years of post-revolution Mexico (1911-1920).
The story revolves around two friends who are struggling to survive amidst violent conflict: one with his ideals intact and another who has succumbed to greed and corruption. These two men find themselves
Giancarlo Santi’s The Grand Duel (1972) is a highly stylized and symbolic film that explores the themes of power, violence, and fear.
Shoot The Living, Pray For The Dead (Giuseppe Vari, 1971)
Shoot the Living and Pray for the Dead is a 1971 Italian Spaghetti Western film directed by Giuseppe Vari. It was shot on location in Spain and Tunisia with a budget of approximately $125,000.
The title is based on a code used by dispatch riders in the American Civil War, indicating that they would shoot soldiers from the other side if they were alive, but pray for them if they were dead.
Tepepa (Giulio Petroni, 1968)
A movie about the Mexican Revolution of 1910, with Tomas Milian as a revolutionary and John Steiner as the evil banker who hires the mercenary (played by Orson Welles) to kill him.
Beautiful photography, beautiful color, beautiful music and a marvelous cast, a very Italian cast indeed: Tomas Milian plays Mexican with a Neapolitan accent.
The film has two casts in fact: the Italian cast, with Tomas Milian, John Steiner, Orson Welles and Lou Castel is wonderful. The second cast, the one of the Mexican revolutionaries, is less good.
The photography is quite good but very Italian-looking: it looks like an Italian western of the seventies indeed. The Tepepa theme song is played on guitar by Ennio Morricone himself at the beginning of the movie.
I like this film very much but I can understand why it didn’t do well at all at the time of its release: it’s too different from any other western that was ever made before or after 1968.
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The Ugly Ones (Eugenio Martin, 1966)
The Ugly Ones is a spaghetti western film directed by Eugenio Martín.
The film marked the debut of Tomás Milián in the western genre and was the first film score of composer Stelvio Cipriani. It was also the first Spanish western to receive a state funding for the “artistic interest of the work”.
The film was based on the 1958 novel The Bounty Killer by Marvin H. Albert.
The notorious bounty hunter, Luke Chilson, pursues Mexican fugitive Jose Gomez. He follows him through the desert and arrives in a Mexican village where Gomez manages to turn the peasants against his pursuer. Unaware of the danger, Chilson finds himself trapped.
Viva Django! (Ferdinando Baldi, 1967)
Viva Django (also known as Django, Prepare a Coffin) is a 1968 spaghetti western film directed by Ferdinando Baldi.
The film stars Terence Hill in the title role, which was previously played by Franco Nero in Sergio Corbucci’s original film.
Viva Django! is unique among the plethora of films that capitalized on Corbucci’s in that it is not only a semi-official, legitimate follow-up but was also originally intended to star Nero.
It was shown as part of a retrospective on Spaghetti Western at the 64th Venice International Film Festival.
Machine Gun Killers (Paolo Bianchini, 1968)
In the waning days of the Civil War, Richard Gatling, creator of the gatling gun, offers his invention to the Federal Government. But Gatling is kidnapped by two assassins – under the employ of Tarpas.
They also steal his new invention and kill three Union government agents.
Soon after, the Pinkerton Agency sends out Cpt. Chris Tanner (himself a former secret service agent) to find Gatling and recover the weapon.
What Is The Difference Between A Western And A Spaghetti Western?
When you think of spaghetti westerns, what comes to mind? Clint Eastwood in a poncho with an itchy trigger finger?
A dusty town on the frontier full of cowboys and bandits? The iconic theme song from Ennio Morricone?
The term “spaghetti western” is used to describe a subgenre of the Western film. The most famous example of this genre was Sergio Leone’s A Fistful Of Dollars, which helped launch Clint Eastwood into stardom. What exactly defines a spaghetti western?
While there isn’t an exact definition, it can be seen as a type of Italian-made film with typically low budgets and minimalist settings that focus on action rather than dialogue or plot development.
Spaghetti Westerns, or Italian Westerns as they are also known, were a genre of movies that came out in the 1960s and 1970s. The films typically featured an Italian actor playing a lead role against a backdrop of American Old West scenery.
They would often have more explicit violence than their counterparts in Hollywood.
Westerns will usually feature cowboys from America’s Wild West era while Spaghetti Westerns will generally be set in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s with an emphasis on gunfights and outlaw behavior.
Although both genres follow similar storylines (such as good versus evil,) there are some small differences between them such as setting, tone, and style of filming which make each one unique.
The term “spaghetti western” is often used to describe a category of Italian-made Western films. The fact that these movies are made in Italy could lead one to believe they are just an imitation of the genre, but there’s more to it than meets the eye.
Why Are Spaghetti Westerns Called Spaghetti Westerns?
Spaghetti Westerns are often called spaghetti westerns for a few reasons. One reason is that they were made in Italy, and the word “spaghetti” was used to describe Italian-made westerns (as opposed to Mexican or American).
Another reason is that many of these movies were very low budget, so producers would skimp on things like food which would lead them to pasta dishes being served at the set.
Finally, there’s an idea of how some directors filmed scenes with long shots and close-ups which might make it seem as though spaghetti noodles are just out of focus in this type of shot.
The term “spaghetti western” was later popularized by Sergio Leone — the director who helped make Clint Eastwood into one of Hollywood’s most iconic stars — who coined it as a way to distinguish these more artful films from their Hollywood contemporaries.
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