SWs with themes of pacifism and anti-violence

SWs are filled with violence but what about Spaghs that have the theme of “violence isn’t the answer”?

Day of Anger: Our young protagonist, Scott Mary, is treated like crap by everyone in his hometown because he’s an orphan (mother was a prostitute and no one knows who his father is). When an experienced gunslinger arrives, Scott wants to learn how to be a tough guy. In the end, after shooting up the whole town and losing the old man he cared about, Scott realizes that becoming a gunslinger was a bad idea, throws away his gun in anger and walks away hand in hand with his only friend, the town drunk.

Two Guns for a Coward: The protagonist, Gary McGuire (was that even his name XD), hates violence due to a childhood trauma. I like the film but personally don’t like the ending because Gary just starts killing without remorse and everything is back to normal right after that. The scariest moment in the film is when Gary accidentally kills a man in a fistfight and realizes how easy it is to kill a man… And 5 minutes later he’s shooting everyone

The Great Silence: It’s a violent film, but every character hates El Tigre and his gang because they’re violent monsters. There’s also the text saying that the bloodshed in that town won’t be forgotten and the memory of those killed will live on. Another interesting thing is how the outlaws are almost angels compared to the bounty hunters, who are supposed to be the good guys. The outlaws just wanted to take responsibility of their crimes and be taken in via peaceful actions.

Compañeros: The professor was a pacifist, right? That way Compañeros does have themes of pacifism though it’s not that obvious if you look at the film and its kill count.

Do you guys have any recommendations or know spaghs that would fit into this category?


This is an interesting topic. Generally, with spaghetti westerns, it is the pacifist that discovers that violence is the answer. :laughing:


It’s been a few years since I’ve seen it, but I think Cemetery Without Crosses may fit the bill. Great topic, very interested to hear what some aficionados on the site can come up with.


Sonny and Jed comes to mind.



Sonny starts off wanting to be a bandit, but after living the lifestyle and realizing how terrible Jed is, she seemingly leaves the life behind in the end.


I always though Sonny just goes along with Jed’s crime spree because she wants some adventure in her life … but when she discovers what a bastard he is, she eventually decides she’s had enough … I didn’t get the impression she was sorry for her part in their banditry ? But then it’s a while since I’ve seen it, so I could have missed something :wink:


Peter Lee Lawrence would play a pacifist character in “Raise Your Hands Dead Man” and “A Gun for 100 Graves” but it doesn’t last long as he ends up using a gun and resorts to killing the bad guys.

In “Son of Django”, the protagonist doesn’t kill the man who killed his father but leaves it up to the town to arrest him. Guy Madison plays as a reverend who used to be a gunfighter but leads a life of peace instead until he ends up helping out the protagonist by using a gun again. Madison also plays a similar character in “Reverend Colt”.


This is a really interesting question indeed. But i think the most obvious example where pacifist themes are at least brought up would, as suggested in the first thread post, would be Companeros, where Xantos represent pacifist sentiments. But Corbucci wasn’t exactly a pacifist himself and even though his portrayal of the professor is empathetic, he pits those non-violence beliefs against what we understand are likely more in line with his personal views: His confrontation with his loyalists in the cave near the climax is the most overt example (although the more slapstick-like “give me one single case where violence is absolutely necessary - yours” scene carries this as kind of a subtext). Despite this, there’s no moralization at the end where Xantos learns to accept violence as a method. Instead, he maintains his anti-violence stance (“his gun was unloaded”) and the viewer is left perfectly able to sympathize with him more by the end.

All in all, while those questions raised by the film are not answered outright, it’s still remarkable how nuanced the handling of such themes are by genre standards. It’s also one of those things which raises it above The Mercenary for me (although Duck You Sucker is far more cynical and anti-romantic than any of the former two)

Although it seems like Corbucci’s personal conclusion is that if the other side use violence and have no qualms about killing, the only alternative to violent action is to get killed, which means that pacifism can’t always be the answer. It’s quite similar to the common saying that Hitler could never have been defeated without violence. I recall reading a book by someone where this was countered by “Which mentality allows people like Hitler [or, for that matter, Putin] to rise to power in the first place?”

Wise words, very wise…


Ah great call with Los Companeros! Professor Xantos is a big reason why I love the film so much and why I also hold it in higher regard than The Mercenary. He stands as a nice foil to the Spaghetti Western heroes who always resort to violence as the answer.


Isn’t “Duck, You Sucker” in its core a film against violence? It tells us right at the beginning the revolution is an act of violence. Then it goes on to say the revolution/violence destroys families and corrupts friendships. The violence breeds more violence, the result being basically indistinguishable from the situation before. So, violence isn’t a way out, it’s only a desperate, destructive means with little to no ‘redeeming value’.

Or am I stretching things here?


You’re not stretching anything, I think. Leone was tired of the idealization of violent revolutions which was quite common in student circles at the time, and wanted to show what it’s really like; It’s just as bad as any war or conflict, with huge personal and material losses on both sides (this anti-war and anti-idealization stance is also clearly visible in GBU, where the focus lay not on which side is good or evil, but the senseless waste of humanity that comes with any war no matter who wins). The movie does also in big part serve as a way to handle the traumatic memories Italy had from the Second World War and the Nazi occupation, which gives it an even darker flavor compared to other Zapatas.

But it’s not just a simple-minded anti-revolution film the way other films from the time are simple-mindedly pro-revolutionary. The sympathies still lay clearly with the revolutionaries and the little people against the oppressors, and it’s not portrayed as bad to fight for a better life. The edge really isn’t pointed against left-wing ideals at all, but against the naive image of what a violent revolution means both on a personal and societal level.


Good analysis John. I think there’s a similar examination of the waste that comes from war in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, particularly in the bridge scene.


Been awhile since I’ve seen it, but The Fury of Johnny Kid seems to take a fairly anti-violence stance, particularly when you consider the original-uncut ending.

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Most ‘pacifist’ films have loads of violence as it’s a kind of have you cake and ea h it.

Virtually all war films are described as anti-war. The higher the body count the more anti war they are.


That’s true, to quote Blood Meridian: “The good book does indeed count war an evil, said Irving. Yet there’s many a bloody tale of war inside it.”

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