Once Upon a Time in the West / C’era una volta il West (Sergio Leone, 1968)

So… I watched this movie. I see that pretty much everyone can come to the conclusion that this movie is a masterpiece, through and through, above all else, a true, cinematic classic. Seeing that, I was persuaded into watching this, and ended up sad - because I didn’t really like it that much. :frowning:

I saw in this thread (and on IMDb sometimes) that a lot of people can say the characters are pretty damned good and have a lot of depth. Well, the characters are what did it for me, in all honesty, for I think they’re all a bit wooden compared to some of the other characters I’ve seen from this director i.e. Angel Eyes or Tuco - especially Tuco - or Mortimer, or hell, both of Gian Maria Volonté’s characters).

I gather that Cheyenne, primarily from his bouncy leitmotif, was supposed to be the sorta-kinda comic relief character of the titular folks, but he had a few good lines here and there. Didn’t really see anything to laugh at overall. His death also came out of nowhere for me, completely forgot about what caused it by the time he was dying. Harmonica was… Harmonica.

Jill was pretty darn disappointing for me. Being a female, I was kinda hoping for some action out of her, maybe some good lines here or there, or hell, just a commanding presence would’ve sufficed. But… I don’t know. She was called “remarkable” by Cheyenne and I’d argue he only said that because he liked her and not because she is actually remarkable. I think the only thing remarkable about her is her crazy luck. I also think there wasn’t much digging in regards to her grief? Like, a big scene was dedicated to it, but the movie jumped on from that kinda quick imo. I expected her to be pretty fucked up after that - for the whole runtime even, but… I don’t know, maybe I’m just picky. I did expect a lot more out of her though. (also I got irritated with all the unnecessary shots of her, seriously - I think @LankyGringo mentioned something about the unnecessary shots.) Her romance with Harmonica came out of nowhere too, like I ain’t really see any tension between them. The most we got was the scene when she was in the tub, but… I’m a romance writer - that felt cheap - I don’t know!

Frank was Frank - think I only liked him a little bit because it was Henry Fonda and “oh look at that casting subversion 'cause he’s usually the good guy! Neat!”, you know?

Speaking of villains, I really liked Morton. Not only is his leitmotif absolutely beautiful (shout out to Ennio Morricone!), but his character was kinda relatable in a sense that he had a very strong drive to reach his goal, doing whatever it took to get what he wanted - including evil. But with evil comes a heartbreakingly fitting fate; he’s the villain, so he gets a deserving death, but this time, it hurt. He had a simple dream (at least for him) - to see the Pacific. And all he got was a dirty pond in the middle of nowhere. It was sad… dare I say, the only moment I really felt something - gah…

I feel bad I didn’t like it because it’s a Leone movie for Christ’s sake! I should love it, and anything he touches is gold, right? But… I don’t know - I just felt meh the whole time. The characters were meh to me, there was a message in there apparently but I didn’t catch it because by the last twenty minutes, I was just staring at the screen like:


So… yeah. I can say for a fact that I adored the score (Ennio Morricone is definitely G.O.A.T’ed, RIP.), the cinematography, and I actually did like Frank - but even then, I kinda hoped for more revealing into his psyche through Morton because I felt like they were trying to do that (notice Morton was physically weaker, but his mind was still very very strong. Remember that scene?). But alas…

Should I give this film another try? :sweat_smile:

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Maybe you should go watch White Comanche with William Shatner and Joseph Cotten then as many Demofilo Fidani movies as you can find (not that I dislike all of Fidani’s movies). After that, come back and give this one another chance. You may develop a greater appreciation. :laughing:

In all honesty though, I do think you make some very valid points. Not everyone can see the same movie the same way and openly sharing opinions on the films is part of what makes this site fun.


Could the problem here be the use of the term masterpiece, it simply builds up such enormous expectations that can’t be filled, and often leaves the viewer scratching their head, asking ‘what was that all about!?’

I was fortunate to see the film in 1984 in a cinema showing a pristine uncut print on a huge screen … I was blown away by what I was seeing and hearing - My feelings about this film are that it’s all about the visuals and the music. The fantastic experience of seeing the film as it should be seen, makes me feel that watching on TV is doing the movie an injustice.

I don’t think the characters bear over analysis, and I agree that there are some aspects that don’t really work in the traditional narrative sense - the only thing I’d say about Jill’s lack of distress at the funeral is that she’s a prostitute that has very likely married McBain for his money? … If you remember after that scene she goes through the house looking for some fortune, and she doesn’t make the connection that her late husband’s plan was to build the town of Sweetwater, where the trains would have to stop, and he would clean up selling land and leases etc.

The film is really about looking at vast desert vistas, feeling the tension of imminent violence and hearing haunting music that romanticizes the west … as opposed to the dreadful unromantic hardships that was very likely the reality.


I think Once upon… gets better the more you see it. I remember not liking it that much when I saw it the first time. Maybe because I was expecting something like Dollar trilogy and the mood was very different here.
Scenes like Cheynne’s “surprise death” makes sense when you watch the film again.


No need to feel bad, if you don’t like you don’t like it. There is still a good chance you may like it more in some years, but if not, it’s still ok. There are so many other films to enjoy …

I think every film fan has his share of classics which he does not really like, and I could name you some classics too which I don’t get, and I know that other people do enjoy them, people who agree with me completely on other films.

And for Leone, just remember that in his heydays, he got very often bad reviews. And it is easy to understand for me why, and it also easy to understand why nowadays people mostly adore his films. And it is not because people today have better taste or are more intelligent …

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Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, it’s my favourite movie of all time… Not because of characters but the movie making, the score, the perfection that Leone achieved… If someone else doesn’t feel the same… Cool, the world of cinema (spaghetti or otherwise) would be boring if we all liked the same things

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I agree with Bill San Antonio… Way back on this tema i was not keen at all and sort of found it difficult to get to grips with… But the more you watch it the more it gets to you and enjoy. Great acting by all

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As Stanton said, there’s no need to feel bad. Actually, I don’t think it would be a good thing at all if everyone on this forum didn’t disagree with the majority over at least one title. That’s what makes us individuals instead of some kind om homogeneous cult.

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Life would be all too easy if everyone blindly agreed with you.


You know… that elaboration of that scene helped out actually! I get that now. And yes, I think the frequent term of “masterpiece” may have done it. Matter of fact, it did, because I have a habit of being skeptical and questioning everything, lmao.

I do agree that the music and the graphics (for lack of a better term, lol) were awesome tho. But Leone very clearly had a knack for cinematography, and Ennio Morricone was just fuckin’ outstanding like that. :grin:

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I actually do wonder why the opinion on Italian-made westerns has changed so much. I may call it “critic guilt” lol, or just opinions changing with the times. Did America not have a phase going at the time of these movies’ creations? “Anything American-made is best”? I thought that that may have something to do with it. :thinking:

Even though the pace is fairly slow, there’s a lot of back story and detail which probably doesn’t register on the first or even second viewing - It’s good that you shared your thoughts and hopefully you’ll get more out of it the next time … if there is one? :wink:

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There just might be! …but first, I got to take @LankyGringo’s suggestion up on White Comanche. Morbid curiosity kicking in. :laughing:

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You’ll be sorry! :wink: