Retro Relapse: Top 50 Spaghetti Westerns of All-Time

RETRO RELAPSE is a series of older articles from various places where I used to write before Talking Pulp.

*Originally written in 2015.

Spaghetti westerns are better than westerns, at least in my opinion. Sure, there are fantastic American-made westerns but as a whole, the Italian-Spanish (sometimes German) films are superior. There is more grit, more bad ass shit and a level of violence that adds realism and authenticity to a genre that has typically been family friendly in the U.S.

The greatest film of all-time is a spaghetti western. And many of the other greatest films ever also fall into this genre.

I have spent the last several months watching a lot of these films. I have always been familiar with the greats but I had to delve deeper into the more obscure reaches of the genre. A special shout out goes to the Spaghetti Western Database for the hours of research I was able to accomplish in mostly one place. Also, thanks to Amazon, Hulu and YouTube for providing several of these films. The rest were an adventure to track down.

This list is the result of my hundreds of hours of film watching.

1. The Good, The Bad and the Ugly
2. Once Upon A Time In the West
3. The Great Silence
4. The Big Gundown
5. For A Few Dollars More
6. Django
7. A Fistful of Dollars
8. The Mercenary
9. Face to Face
10. Django Kill… If You Live, Shoot!
11. A Bullet For the General
12. Compañeros
13. Duck, You Sucker! (A Fistful of Dynamite)
14. Day of Anger
15. Keoma
16. Sabata
17. Return of Ringo
18. Death Rides A Horse
19. Cemetery Without Crosses
20. My Name Is Nobody
21. The Grand Duel
22. A Genius, Two Partners and A Dupe
23. A Pistol for Ringo
24. If You Meet Sartana, Pray For Your Death
25. The Dirty Outlaws
26. Django, Prepare a Coffin (Viva Django)
27. Run Man Run
28. Tepepa
29. Navajo Joe
30. Four of the Apocalypse
31. Massacre Time
32. Shoot the Living, Pray for the Dead
33. Mannaja
34. Django Strikes Again
35. The Return of Sabata
36. A Few Dollars For Django
37. Light the Fuse… Sartana Is Coming
38. Machine Gun Killers
39. Beyond the Law
40. Ace High
41. The Bounty Killer (The Ugly Ones)
42. Trinity Is Still My Name
43. Hellbenders
44. Django the Bastard
45. God Forgives, I Don’t
46. Minnesota Clay
47. God’s Gun
48. They Call Me Trinity
49. Ringo and His Golden Pistol (Johnny Oro)
50. Arizona Colt

Film Review: Face to Face (1967)

Also known as: Faccia a Faccia (Italy), Cara a Cara (Spain)
Release Date: November 23rd, 1967 (Italy)
Directed by: Sergio Sollima
Written by: Sergio Sollima, Sergio Donati
Music by: Ennio Morricone
Cast: Gian Maria Volontè, Tomas Milian, William Berger, Jolanda Modio, Carole André, Gianni Rizzo, Lidya Alfonsi

Produzioni Europee Associati (PEA), Arturo González Producciones Cinematográficas, Butcher’s Film Service, Peppercorn-Wormser Film Enterprises, 112 Minutes, 93 Minutes (English version)

Review:

Face to Face is the second of three spaghetti westerns directed by Sergio Sollima. It also stars Tomas Milian, as do all of Sollima’s western movies. Opposite of Milian is Gian Maria Volonte. The cast is then rounded out by William Berger.

Needless to say, there are three great spaghetti western actors in this picture. In fact, it almost plays like it is Sollima’s version of The Good, The Bad and the Ugly.

The story sees two characters come together. One is a bandit, the other is a pacifist college professor. As the story evolves, the bandit starts to turn from his ways and becomes tired of the senseless violence. The professor, on the other hand, grows into becoming a revolutionary bandit and leader. The third character has a secret agenda that plays out wonderfully – assisting in the transformation of both of the main characters throughout the tale.

Sollima weaved together a near perfect tapestry with Face to Face. The plot is solid, the landscapes are vast, the acting is top notch and the action is fierce. The film also benefits from a nice score provided by Ennio Morricone.

This isn’t my favorite Sollima western, that would go to The Big Gundown but this is a stellar film, nonetheless. It belongs alongside the great films in the upper echelon of spaghetti western pictures.

Rating: 8/10

Film Review: Run, Man, Run (1968)

Also known as: Corri uomo corri (Italy), Big Gundown 2
Release Date: August 29th, 1968 (Spain)
Directed by: Sergio Sollima
Written by: Sergio Sollima, Pompeo De Angelis
Music by: Bruno Nicolai, Ennio Morricone
Cast: Tomas Milian, Donal O’Brien, Linda Veras, John Ireland, Chelo Alonso

Mancori-Chretien, Ital-Noleggio Cinematografico, 120 Minutes

run_man_runReview:

When I wrote my review for The Big Gundown, I mentioned that it would be cool to see the buddy formula continue between Tomas Milian and Lee Van Cleef. Well, there was officially a sequel and this is it.

The downside is that Lee Van Cleef is not in this movie. But at least we still get to see the continued adventures of Milian’s Cuchillo. Also, it does have a buddy adventure element to it with the addition of Donal O’Brien’s character but it still isn’t Van Cleef.

This film is the third and final spaghetti western from director Sergio Sollima. It is also his worst of the three. It is still a pretty fun and entertaining movie but it is mostly a rehash of the far superior The Big Gundown and a lot less thought provoking and impressive than Face to Face.

Tomas Milian is always great on-screen and he always killed it in spaghetti westerns. His performance here is no different but unlike most of his other films where he is surrounded by other great legends of the genre, he truly has to carry this film on his own. While he is perfectly capable of that, it just feels like something is missing when you’re used to seeing him have someone as equally as talented to bounce lines off of.

The movie also features a nice score from Ennio Morricone. He isn’t credited with the music due to some legal issues.

Run, Man, Run is fun and certainly worth a watch, especially for fans of The Big Gundown but don’t expect anything exceptional like Sollima’s previous western work. However, at the end of the day, this picture still sits well above the combined average of quality for the genre.

Plus, Cuchillo is a really fun character.

Rating: 7/10

Film Review: The Big Gundown (1966)

Also known as: La resa dei conti, lit. The Settling of Scores (Italy)
Release Date: November 29th, 1966 (Spain)
Directed by: Sergio Sollima
Written by: Sergio Donati, Sergio Sollima, Franco Solinas, Fernando Morandi
Music by: Ennio Morricone
Cast: Lee Van Cleef, Tomas Milian, Walter Barnes

Produzioni Europee Associati, Tulio Demicheli P.C., United Artists, Regia Films Arturo González, Columbia Pictures, 110 Minutes (Italy/Spain), 89 Minutes (USA – Theatrical)

biggundown31Review:

The Big Gundown is directed by the third Sergio of spaghetti westerns, Sergio Sollima. While he has only done a few cowboy movies, unlike Sergio Leone and Sergio Corbucci, his work is still top notch.

The film stars one of my all-time favorites, Lee Van Cleef. He is backed up by the talents of Tomas Milian, who was superb in Django Kill… If You Live, Shoot!, Face to Face, Run, Man, Run, Tepepa and Compañeros.

I thought I had seen this film before, albeit a long time ago, but I was mistaken. I must have confused it for one of the many other Van Cleef spaghetti westerns. I have been a fan of Ennio Morricone’s score of this film for years, although I didn’t know which film those songs were from until I watched this picture. Anyway, the film score is one of the best I have ever heard from a musical standpoint. The editing of the audio is a bit disjointed here and there but the music is still well used and executed.

Van Cleef and Milian’s relationship in this film is perfect. In many ways, it is similar to that of Blondie and Tuco from The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, except Milian’s Cuchillo is less of a bastard and Van Cleef’s Corbett is more of a straight laced good guy. Other than Angel Eyes in The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, this may be my favorite Van Cleef role. As for Milian, it is the most entertaining character I have ever seen him do. And Milian is an under-appreciated actor who contributed a lot to the spaghetti western genre, this film is proof of his greatness.

Sollima did a fantastic job of shooting this film. It feels truly large, as the landscapes and geography are mesmerizing and alluring. The cinematography is perfect and this may be the best shot spaghetti western that isn’t a Leone picture. Some shots in this picture were truly art. From a visual quality standpoint, I would say that it is above the more critically adored pictures of Sergio Corbucci. That could also have a lot to do with it being digitally remastered and on Blu-ray.

The Big Gundown is truly one of the best westerns ever made. There are few films that are as much fun as this. Where the Leone films are very serious and artistic and the Corbucci films are “balls to the wall” violence and badassery, this Sollima film is a good marriage of both with a solid lightheartedness added in. Also, it is a perfect balance of action and narrative, where it doesn’t beat you over the head with too much action, it also doesn’t find itself becoming too dragged out between the high energy bits.

The journey and the camaraderie in this movie is stellar. The film leaves you wanting more and wondering if these two men would ever cross paths again. Sollima could’ve done a slew of Corbett and Cuchillo buddy cowboy movies but he just made this solitary film. I certainly would’ve been game for more.

This is as close as you can get to a perfect spaghetti western that doesn’t star the Man With No Name. I recently watched The Great Silence and considered that to be the greatest spaghetti western not directed by Leone but this film also belongs in that company.

Plus, it has the best opening credits sequence I have ever seen in any film. That shit was intense.

Rating: 9/10