Essential Top 20 Films
Overview | Essential Top 20 | Quentin Tarantino's Top 20 | Alex Cox' Top 20 | Howard Hughes' Top 20 | Alternative Top 20 | Staff favorites | Hall of Fame | Best title sequences | Top 20 Soundtracks
These films were voted by our community as the essential films of the genre. More info 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. For an "annotated" article, check out Scherpschutter's The Top 20 Essential Spaghetti Westerns, Part 1 and Part 2.
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: (3.929 points)
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: (3.433 points)
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: (3.332 points)
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: (2.597 points)
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: (2.178 points)
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: (2099 points)
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: (2.067 points)
THE MERCENARY, Sergio Corbucci (1968)
Some films are not only famous, they are also cult favorites and draw a crowd of followers. 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: (1.495 points)
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: (1.318 points)
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: (1.303 points)
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: (1.219 points)
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: (1.188 points)
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: (1.150 points)
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: (958 points)
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: (857 points)
CEMETERY WITHOUT CROSSES, Robert Hossein (1968)
The French director's endeavor into the genre is 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: (854 points)
RETURN OF RINGO, Duccio Tessari (1965)
Elegantly directed by Ducio Tessari 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: (741 points)
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: (706 points)
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: (579 points)
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: (429 points)
- Followed by these:
21. If You Meet Sartana, Pray for Your Death G. Parolini, 1968 (401 points);
22. Blindman F. Baldi, 1971 (370 points);
23. $10,000 Blood Money R. Guerrieri, 1967 (340 points);
24. Tepepa G. Petroni, 1968 (333 points);
25. And God Said to Cain A. Margheriti, 1969 (331 points);
26. Sabata G. Parolini, 1969 (324 points);
27. Navajo Joe S. Corbucci, 1966 (313 points);
28. Mannaja S. Martino, 1977 (295 points);
29. A Pistol for Ringo D.Tessari, 1965 (282 points);
30. Bandidos M. Dallamano, 1967 (266 points);
31. Massacre Time L. Fulci, 1966 (223 points);
32. El Puro E. Mulargia, 1969 (214 points)
33. God Forgives, I Don't G. Colizzi, 1967 (210 points);
34. California M. Lupo, 1977 (206 points);
35. Kill and Pray C. Lizzani, 1967 (202 points);
36. Light the Fuse ... Sartana is Coming G. Carnimeo, 1970 (201 points);
37. Four of the Apocalypse L. Fulci, 1975 (175 points);
38. The Forgotten Pistolero F. Baldi, 1969 (175 points);
39. Vengeance A. Margheriti, 1968 (170 points);
40. The Grand Duel G. Santi, 1972 (167 points);
41. Johnny Hamlet E.G. Castellari, 1968 (165 points);
42. The Hellbenders S. Corbucci 66 (164 points);
43. Matalo! C. Canevari, 1970 (141 points);
44. Arizona Colt M. Lupo 66 (139 points);
45. Django the Bastard S. Garrone, 1969 (136 points);
46. The Bounty Killer E. Martin 66 (134 points);
47. Ace High G. Colizzi, 1968 130 points);
48. Shoot the Living and Pray for the Dead G. Vari, 1971 (123 points);
49. The Specialists S. Corbucci, 1970 (125 points);
50. Dead Men Ride A. Florio 71 (113 points);
Information on this list:
- About the points system: The top 20 films from each list were scored using the following formula: #1=25 points; #2=21 points; #3=19 points; #4= 17 points and then down to #20=1 point
- The complete list (last update January 2023): https://forum.spaghetti-western.net/t/vote-for-our-official-top-20/190/3176
- Compiled from meanwhile 200 Top-20-lists (post yours!), this is a dynamically changing list of the most important Spaghetti Westerns as rated by our community.
- Related: This list on YouTube
- Related: This list is also on TheMovieDB and on Letterboxd