The Spaghetti Western is one of the most iconic movie subgenres of all-time. Spaghetti Westerns originated in Italy during the 1960s under the tutelage of the great Sergio Leone – who garnered international acclaim for his “Dollars Trilogy” starring Clint Eastwood. Between 1964 and 1978, Italy produced dozens of Spaghetti Westerns, most of which were shot at the country’s famed production studio Cinecittà. The Spaghetti Western has become a symbol for international illusions of the American west, sweeping vista shots, and climatic shootouts – needless to say, Spaghetti Westerns have had an enormous impact on cinema and world culture. So without further ado, let’s answer the question: what is the best Spaghetti Western of all time?

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Spaghetti Western List

16. Sabata (1969)

Famous Spaghetti Westerns  •  Sabata

Sabata is definitely one of the more ridiculous Spaghetti Westerns on this list. The film features acrobatics, cheesy parlor tricks, and dummy-money bags in spades. Lee Van Cleef stars in the title role as a bandit with otherworldly gun skills.

Director Gianfranco Parolini previously directed the somewhat acclaimed Spaghetti Western If You Meet Sartana, Pray for Your Death – and went on to direct two more “Sabata” films after the original.
65%
directing
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acting
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Story
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sound
69%
OVERALL SCORE
  • Solid Cast
  • Some Parlor Tricks
  • Props
  • Meandering Plot
  • Some Amateur Dir.
  • N/A

Best Spaghetti Western Movies of All Time

Conclusion

Sabata is an ultra-cheesy Spaghetti Western that probably won’t entice ardent critics of the genre.

Italian Westerns, Ranked

15. Death Rides a Horse (1967)

Spaghetti Western Movies  •  Death Rides a Horse

Most Spaghetti Westerns were panned by critics at the time of their release. This point is perhaps best proven by Roger Ebert’s review of Death Rides a Horse — a movie which he called “bad… a bad movie indeed” in his one-star review.

But today, Death Rides a Horse is considered a classic of the genre. It’s certainly cheesy, and its story could be better — but there’s something invaluable in dissecting the film’s penchant for visceral action. 
75%
directing
70%
acting
60%
Story
85%
sound
73%
OVERALL SCORE
  • Van Cleef
  • Plot Vehicle
  • Framing
  • Too Stoic Protagonist
  • One Dimensional
  • N/A

Old Spaghetti Westerns

Conclusion

Giulio Petroni’s Death Rides a Horse often makes us feel just as indifferent to the violence onscreen as the film’s protagonist does. Ultimately, some filmmakers have come to regard it as one of the best action movies of all-time.

List of Spaghetti Western Films

14. Keoma (1976)

Spaghetti Western List  •  Keoma

Keoma was one of the last great Spaghetti Westerns. Franco Nero stars in the film as a part-white, part-Native American Union soldier who returns home to find it in an unfamiliar state.

By 1976, Spaghetti Westerns had largely dissipated in popularity — but Keoma was a surprise box-office success. And it was a sort of strange thing that Keoma had any success at all considering it was much more lucid than many of its contemporaries.

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Story
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81%
OVERALL SCORE
  • Innovative
  • Thematic Plot
  • Franco Nero
  • Poor Score
  • Little Obtuse
  • N/A

Best Spaghetti Western Films

Conclusion

Keoma utilized different camera shots and techniques that weren’t typically found in Spaghetti Westerns to great effect.

Best Spaghetti Western Movies With Ringo

13. The Return of Ringo (1965)

Best Spaghetti Western Movies of All Time  •  The Return of Ringo

The Return of Ringo is a by-the-books Spaghetti Western that helped establish the style of the genre along with A Fistful of Dollars and A Pistol for Ringo

The film is a loose interpretation of Homer’s Odyssey – a story that is widely believed to be a genesis for the Hero’s Journey story structure. The Return of Ringo set the precedent that Spaghetti Western movies had no issue going back to the classics for inspiration.

90%
directing
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acting
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Story
65%
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OVERALL SCORE
  • Innovative
  • Thematic Plot
  • Franco Nero
  • Poor Score
  • Little Obtuse
  • N/A

famous Spaghetti Westerns

Conclusion

The Return of Ringo saw writer/director Duccio Tessari working at a high-point in his prolific career.

Best Spaghetti Westerns of All Time

12. My Name is Nobody (1973)

List of Spaghetti Western Films  •  My Name is Nobody

Just five years after Henry Fonda had to be convinced to star in Once Upon a Time in the West, he returned to the Spaghetti Western genre for Tonino Valeri’s My Name is Nobody.

In the years since the film’s release, an authorship controversy has sprouted with some arguing that Sergio Leone was more involved in the shooting than he was previously thought to be. All in all, My Name is Nobody is a minor work in the Spaghetti Western genre — but it has enough star power to rank here.

80%
directing
85%
acting
75%
Story
85%
sound
81%
OVERALL SCORE
  • Henry Fonda
  • Fun Tone
  • Costuming
  • Can Get Cheesy
  • Some Editing
  • N/A

List of Spaghetti Western Films

Conclusion

My Name is Nobody marked the beginning of the end for Leone’s Spaghetti Westerns, both in quality and popularity.

Best Spaghetti Western Films of the ‘60s

11. A Bullet for the General (1966)

Best Spaghetti Westerns  •  A Bullet for the General

A Bullet for the General is a surprisingly nuanced story of friendship and power aspirations during the Mexican revolution. Franco Solinas – the screenwriter of The Battle of Algiers – was credited as a consultant on the A Bullet for the General script, which received acclaim for its timely themes relating to the spirit of revolution.

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Story
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sound
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OVERALL SCORE
  • Nuanced Story
  • Rich Themes
  • Solid Cast
  • Sparse Mise en Scene
  • Cheesy Sound FX
  • N/A

Best Italian Westerns

Conclusion

A Bullet for the General replaces big set-pieces with intimate drama to near expert effect.

Top 10 Spaghetti Westerns

10. The Mercenary (1968)

Top 10 Spaghetti Westerns  •  The Mercenary

The Mercenary is an action-drama that falls into the Spaghetti Western sub-genre, the Zapata Western. The Zapata Western is defined as a film that revolves around Mexican revolutions through the vantage of bandits and American frontiersman.

Sergio Corbucci served as the director of the film, which follows a mercenary who becomes embroiled in a conflict during the Mexican revolution. The Mercenary makes a great companion piece to one of Marlon Brando’s best movies, Viva Zapata!

85%
directing
85%
acting
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Story
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sound
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OVERALL SCORE
  • Expressive Prod. Design
  • Fun Action
  • Political Undertones
  • Narratively Unrefined
  • Simple Protagonist
  • N/A

Best Spaghetti Western Movies

Conclusion

The Mercenary isn’t Corbucci’s best Spaghetti Western, but it’s a more than enjoyable romp for fans of the genre. 

Spaghetti Western List of Best Movies

9. Companeros (1970)

Italian Westerns About the Mexican Revolution  •  Companeros

Sergio Corbucci’s 1970 film Companeros is one of the most iconic films of the Zapata Western sub-genre. The film stars Franco Nero as a Swedish mercenary who gets involved in a conflict between Mexican revolutionaries and the army.

Today, it’s considered one of Corbucci’s best works. Companeros is a pretty formulaic Western that’s slightly elevated by some masterful Spaghetti Western music from Ennio Morricone. 

80%
directing
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Story
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sound
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OVERALL SCORE
  • Morricone’s Score
  • Satisfying Ending
  • Good Action
  • Formulaic Story
  • Some Acting
  • N/A

Top 10 Spaghetti Westerns

Conclusion

Companeros is one of Corbucci’s most famous Western films and an icon of the Zapata subgenre.

Lee Van Cleef Spaghetti Western

8. Day of Anger (1967)

Lee Van Cleef Spaghetti Western  •  Day of Anger

Want to see Spaghetti Western icon Lee Van Cleef deliver carnage to just about everyone he comes across? Look no further than Tonino Valeri’s Day of Anger. Spaghetti Westerns are known for having lots of violence, but perhaps no character deals violence as indiscriminately as Van Cleef’s does in Day of Anger.

And it’s a good thing he is so violent because the movie would be quite dull without it. It’s not hard to see the influence of Day of Anger in many of Quentin Tarantino’s best movies.

90%
directing
85%
acting
80%
Story
80%
sound
84%
OVERALL SCORE
  • Strong Opening
  • Shootouts
  • Cast
  • Unrefined
  • Sometimes Plodding
  • N/A

Old Spaghetti Westerns

Conclusion

Days of Anger is a classic style-over-substance Spaghetti Western but enjoyable nonetheless.

Clint Eastwood Spaghetti Westerns

7. For a Few Dollars More (1965)

Clint Eastwood Spaghetti Westerns  •  For a Few Dollars More

Sergio Leone’s second film in the “Dollars Trilogy,” For a Few Dollars More, is a slightly meandering Spaghetti Western epic that features classic performances from Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef. 

For a Few Dollars More is widely regarded as the worst of the “Dollars Trilogy,” but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad movie. Quite the contrary, many argue that it’s an essential film within the genre.

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Story
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OVERALL SCORE
  • Strong Cast
  • Spaghetti Western Music
  • Leone’s Direction
  • More of the Same
  • Thin Story
  • N/A

Clint Eastwood Spaghetti Western Movies, Ranked

Conclusion

For a Few Dollars More is an action-first Spaghetti Western that features more shootouts than moments of character-drama.

List of Spaghetti Western Films

6. Django (1966)

Famous Spaghetti Westerns  •  Django

For filmmakers, Django is perhaps the most influential Spaghetti Western ever made. Sergio Corbucci’s genre-defining classic made violence the star of a picture for one of the first times in cinema history.

Franco Nero plays the titular role of Django — a drifter who becomes embroiled in a deadly conflict on the Mexican border. The character of Django inspired 30+ indirect sequels and accrued a cult following in worldwide cinema circles. 

85%
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85%
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Story
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OVERALL SCORE
  • Expressive Violence
  • Sound Effects
  • Camera Movement
  • Bad English Dub
  • Cliched
  • N/A

Top 10 Spaghetti Westerns

Conclusion

It’s no secret that Django is one of Quentin Tarantino’s favorite movies, but did you know that he casted Django actor Franco Nero in his 2012 movie Django Unchained?

Lee Van Cleef Spaghetti Western

5. The Big Gundown (1966)

Lee Van Cleef Spaghetti Western  •  The Big Gundown

Sergio Sollima’s best Spaghetti Western, The Big Gundown, stars Lee Van Cleef as a bounty hunter who’s tasked with tracking down a suspected murderer and rapist. But things aren’t as they seem in The Big Gundown, which makes it one of the more nuanced takes on frontier justice you’ll find in the genre.

This film set the stage for other Spaghetti Western movies to create emotionally-charged stories — but sadly very few followed its lead.
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Story
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OVERALL SCORE
  • Clever Framing
  • Story-Arc
  • Great Performances
  • Some Sound FX
  • Bad Dub
  • N/A

Вpaghetti Western List of Best Movies

Conclusion

The Big Gundown isn’t exactly innovative with its narrative but it’s more full-featured than other Spaghetti Westerns.

Clint Eastwood Spaghetti Westerns

4. A Fistful of Dollars (1964)

Clint Eastwood Spaghetti Western Movies  •  A Fistful of Dollars

A Fistful of Dollars is the film that started it all for Spaghetti Westerns. That’s not to say it was the first story about the American West though — there were hundreds of stories written about the West dating all the way back to 1839 — and dozens of films made on the subject matter from 1899 onwards.

But Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars is the film that established the stylistic principles of Italian Westerns. It’s also the film that made Clint Eastwood an international star.

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OVERALL SCORE
  • Pioneering Direction
  • Iconic Costuming
  • Visual Storytelling
  • Unoriginal Plot
  • Rough Around Edges
  • N/A

Famous Spaghetti Westerns

Conclusion

With A Fistful of Dollars, Sergio Leone pioneered a cinematic subgenre by riffing on Akira Kurosawa’s classic Yojimbo.

Best Spaghetti Western Movies

3. The Great Silence (1968)

Famous Spaghetti Westerns  •  The Great Silence

The Great Silence swapped out desert vistas and busy saloons for a snow-swept setting shot in the Dolomites. The result was a Spaghetti Western with a decidedly different visual look than its contemporaries.

Thematically, The Great Silence is very similar to other Spaghetti Western movies of the era — but its visual grandeur makes it stand out. In the end, you won’t find many (or any) Spaghetti Western like The Great Silence.

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OVERALL SCORE
  • Beautiful Exteriors
  • Subtext
  • Unique Setting
  • Various Endings
  • N/A
  • N/A

Best Spaghetti Western Movies

Conclusion

The Great Silence is one of the most revered Spaghetti Westerns of all-time for its subversive take on genre conventions.  

Best Spaghetti Westerns of All Time

2. Once Upon a Time in the West (1967)

Best Spaghetti Western Movies  •  Once Upon a Time in the West

Let’s give a shoutout to cinematographer Tonino Delli Colli for his work on Once Upon a Time in the West because it’s one of the most beautifully shot films of all-time. Even the best cinematographers today don't hold extreme close-ups like Delli Colli did.

Once Upon a Time in the West is a revenge-tale that’s told through the perspectives of a wide cast of characters. Hollywood legends Charles Bronson and Henry Fonda star in the film across each other as two gunslingers, vying for survival in a quickly-changing desert landscape.

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OVERALL SCORE
  • Morricone’s Score
  • Amazing Cinematography
  • Bronson and Fonda
  • Simple Story
  • N/A
  • N/A

Best Spaghetti Western Movies Ever Made

Conclusion

Once Upon a Time in the West is only hindered by a story that’s too simple to go on for as long as it does – but don’t let that deter you from enjoying one of the all-time great Spaghetti Westerns.

Greatest Clint Eastwood Spaghetti Westerns

1. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)

What is the best Spaghetti Western?  •  The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Western masterpiece The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is the best film of the genre. From sweeping shots of desert sands to extreme close-ups of Clint Eastwood, Leone captures the good, the bad and the ugly that pervaded the American west.

Make no mistakes about it: Leone’s direction might come across as obtuse to modern audiences — but there’s something irrefutably masterful about his cinematic eye. If you ask a group of critics “what is the best Spaghetti Western of all time?” you’re more than likely going to hear the seven words The Good, the Bad and the Ugly quite a few times.

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OVERALL SCORE
  • Morricone’s Score
  • Visual Detail
  • Immersive Sound
  • Familiar Story
  • N/A
  • N/A

Best Spaghetti Western Movies of All Time

Conclusion

All in all, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly epitomizes all the best aspects of the Spaghetti Western genre.

UP NEXT

Best Modern Western Movies, Ranked

The Western genre didn’t begin or end with Spaghetti Westerns. In fact,  it’s been producing films for upwards of 100 years! Westerns that take place in modern settings or focus on contemporary sensibilities have been dubbed “Neo-Westerns.” In this next article, we rank the best Neo-Westerns of all-time. 

Up Next: Best Neo-Westerns →
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4 comments

  1. How about a fistful of dynamite or duck you sucker? With rod steiger and James viburnum by sergio Leone, great movie!

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