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Essential Top 20 Films

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These twenty films were voted by our community as the essential films of the genre. More information on our voting procedure, and where to find those that didn't make the top 50, you'll find at the bottom of the page. For an introduction to the genre, please visit our Introduction.

1 THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY, Sergio Leone (1966)

Ennio Morricone's theme is world-known, even to people unaware of its origins. This lengthy, but beautifully balanced western is held by most to be THE spaghetti western. The three-way show down between Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef and Eli Wallach is legendary.

Community vote score: (2.926 points)

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2 ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST, Sergio Leone (1968)

Made to be the spaghetti western to end all spaghetti westerns, Leone's opus is both a hommage to the American western and as through and through Italian as can be. He turned Henry Fonda into a badboy and let Ennio Morricone give themes to all the characters, played also by Charles Bronson, the unforgettable Claudia Cardinale and Jason Robards. The harmonica is just as famous as the coyote howl of our No.1.

Community vote score: (2.518 points)

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3 FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE, Sergio Leone (1965)

Clint Eastwood returns as the man with no name, in one of the most exciting representatives of the genre and the map that cemented Sergio Leone as the king of spaghetti western. Ennio Morricone's score is amazing, as are stars Klaus Kinski and Lee Van Cleef.

Community vote score: (2.396 points)

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4 THE GREAT SILENCE, Sergio Corbucci (1968)

Its wintery setting, gloomy score (by Ennio Morricone), and the grim violence add to the atmosphere of this famous western by the "other" Sergio, starring Klaus Kinski as the villain and Jean-Louis Trintignant as the mute anti-hero.

Community vote score: (1.911 points)

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5 A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS, Sergio Leone (1964)

This is where it all started, the movie that got the ball rolling. Leone's remake of Akira Kurosawa's Yojimbo put the then unknown TV actor Clint Eastwood on the map and established his style and the use of extraordinary music by Ennio Morricone.

Community vote score: (1.613 points)

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6 DJANGO, Sergio Corbucci (1966)

Violence is a trademark of the genre. Corbucci upped the anti with ears bitten off priests and citizens slaughtered with a machine gun, but the skilled pistolero with the army coat and the coffin are what makes this a cult favorite.

Community vote score: (1.561 points)

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7 THE BIG GUNDOWN, Sergio Sollima (1966)

This is one of three spaghetti westerns of the third Sergio, pitting Lee Van Cleef against genre stalwart Tomas Milian in a cat and mouse hunt that ends as epic as could be, with one of the most remarkable opening credit theme songs ever recorded.

Community vote score: (1.422 points)

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8 THE MERCENARY, Sergio Corbucci (1968)

Some films are not only famous, they are also cult favorites and draw a crowd of followers (even though it has yet to reach a wider audience on proper home video releases in the US and the UK). This is one, with Franco Nero in one of his greatest roles, an unforgettable soundtrack by Ennio Morricone and the late Jack Palance at a particular best.

Community vote score: (1.093 points)

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9 DEATH RIDES A HORSE, Giulio Petroni (1967)

Gunslinger mentor and trainee, a very popular theme in the genre, here depicted by Lee Van Cleef and John Phillip Law, with a beautifully haunting score by Ennio Morricone.

Community vote score: (964 points)

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10 FACE TO FACE, Sergio Sollima (1967)

This is actually the second of his three westerns, and it is as much a metaphor of violence as it is a showcase for actors Tomas Milian and Gian Maria Volonte trying to top each other. Community vote score: (960 points)

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11 COMPANEROS, Sergio Corbucci (1970)

This is Corbucci's second revolutionary tale next to The Mercenary, and it is somewhat of a modification of it, again starring Franco Nero but this time with Tomas Milian in the role of the peasant. Community vote score: (921 points)

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12 DUCK, YOU SUCKER!, Sergio Leone (1971)

Leone's own revolutionary western pits Rod Steiger and James Coburn against armored tanks and the Mexican army, in a very explosive film.

Community vote score: (880 points)

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13 A BULLET FOR THE GENERAL, Damiano Damiani (1966)

In another revolution-themed entry from the early years, Gian Maria Volonte as El Chuncho is played by a young American agent in order to kill a revolutionary leader. A great story of comraderie and betrayal, with brilliant acting and beautiful music.

Community vote score: (818 points)

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14 DAY OF ANGER, Tonino Valerii (1967)

In this revered classic, Lee Van Cleef takes on a young protege played by Giuliano Gemma but must face him in the end...

Community vote score: (642 points)

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15 KEOMA, Enzo G. Castellari (1976)

In its late phase, only few directors have managed to churn out quality films on decent budgets. Veteran director Castellari teamed up with icon Franco Nero in what is a very gloomy but gripping western tale.

Community vote score: (563 points)

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16 CEMETERY WITHOUT CROSSES, Robert Hossein (1968)

The French director's singular endeavor into the genre is also one of the most revered. This sinister tale of revenge and death boasts with incredibly atmospheric scenes, great music and exceptional acting and directing. A small gem if you so will.

Community vote score: (557 points)

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17 MY NAME IS NOBODY, Sergio Leone/Tonino Valerii (1973)

As the genre turned into its self-parody phase, Leone conceived a self reflective western pitting the established Terence Hill against acting titan Henry Fonda. Controversial in it's mixture of comedy and deeper meaning about the decline of the west it was not the last SW, but nonetheless a fitting end for an already dying genre.

Community vote score: (528 points)

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18 RETURN OF RINGO, Duccio Tessari (1965)

Elegantly directed by Ducio Teassari this is one of the early classics and one of the early successes of the genre. Following the storyline of Homer's Odyssey, Gemma (in his best role) returns home after the civil war to win back his wife and house.

Community vote score: (451 points)

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19 DJANGO KILL, IF YOU LIVE, SHOOT!, Giulio Questi (1967)

Questi's very bizarre and only entry in the genre might not find too many friends but is a well-directed film with many memorable moments, as well as a great deal of elements found in exploitation cinema.

Community vote score: 439 points)

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20 RUN MAN RUN, Sergio Sollima (1968)

Tomas Milian runs for his life, this time not from a bounty hunter but for his honor, lots of gold and a promise. An adorable film but maybe the weakest of the three films Sollima made. But it has a scene in the snow!

Community vote score: (382 points)

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  • Followed by these:


21. If You Meet Sartana, Pray for Your Death G. Parolini, 1968 (341 points);

22. Blindman F. Baldi, 1971 (313 points);

23. Sabata G. Parolini, 1969 (269 points);

24. Navajo Joe S. Corbucci, 1966 (240 points);

25. And God Said to Cain A. Margheriti, 1969 (229 points);

26. Mannaja S. Martino, 1977 (219 points);

27. $10,000 Blood Money R. Guerrieri, 1967 (212 points);

28. Light the Fuse ... Sartana is Coming G. Carnimeo, 1970 (205 points);

29. Tepepa G. Petroni, 1968 (201 points);

30. A Pistol for Ringo D.Tessari, 1965 (190 points);


31. Massacre Time L. Fulci, 1966 (158 points);

32. God Forgives, I Don't G. Colizzi, 1967 (142 points);

33. Bandidos M. Dallamano, 1967 (141 points);

34. The Grand Duel G. Santi, 1972 (131 points);

35. Four of the Apocalypse L. Fulci, 1975 (130 points);

36. Matalo! C. Canevari, 1970 (130 points);

37. California M. Lupo, 1977 (127 points);

38. El Puro E. Mulargia, 1969 (127 points)

39. Ace High G. Colizzi, 1968 125 points);

40. Johnny Hamlet E.G. Castellari, 1968 (119 points);


41. The Forgotten Pistolero F. Baldi, 1969 (115 points);

42. Kill and Pray C. Lizzani, 1967 (115 points);

43. A Bullet for Sandoval J. Buchs, 1969 (96 points);

44. Django the Bastard S. Garrone, 1969 (95 points);

45. Death Sentence M. Lanfranchi, 1968 (95 points);

46. Trinity is Still my Name E. B. Clucher, 1971 (95 points);

47. They Call Him Cemetery G. Carnimeo 71 (93 points);

48. The Specialists S. Corbucci, 1970 (91 points);

49. Vengeance A. Margheriti, 1968 (90 points);

50. Shoot the Living and Pray for the Dead G. Vari, 1971 (89 points);




Information on this list: