Blondie (The Good) is a professional gunslinger who is out trying to earn a few dollars. Angel Eyes (The Bad) is a hit man who always commits to a task and sees it through, as long as he is paid to do so. And Tuco (The Ugly) is a wanted outlaw trying to take care of his own hide. Tuco and Blondie share a partnership together making money off Tuco's bounty, but when Blondie unties the partnership, Tuco tries to hunt down Blondie. When Blondie and Tuco come across a horse carriage loaded with dead bodies, they soon learn from the only survivor (Bill Carson) that he and a few other men have buried a stash of gold in a cemetery. Unfortunately Carson dies and Tuco only finds out the name of the cemetery, while Blondie finds out the name on the grave. Now the two must keep each other alive in order to find the gold. Angel Eyes (who had been looking for Bill Carson) discovers that Tuco and Blondie met with Carson and knows they know the location of the gold. All he needs is for the two to lead him to it. Now The Good, The Bad and The Ugly must all battle it out to get their hands on $200,000 worth of gold.
During the American Civil War, three men set off to find $200,000 in buried gold coins. Tuco and Blondie have known each other for some time now having used the reward on Tuco's head as a way of earning money. They come across a dying man, Bill Carson, who tells them of a treasure in gold coins. By chance, he tells Tuco the name of the cemetery and tells Blondie the name of the grave where the gold is buried. Now rivals, the two men have good reason to keep each other alive. The third man, Angel Eyes, hears of the gold stash from someone he's been hired to kill. All he knows is to look for for someone named Bill Carson. The three ultimately meet in a showdown that takes place amid a major battle between Confederate and Union forces.
Set during the Civil War, three men search for a fortune in gold. One of these men is Angel Eyes, a cold blooded hired killer who was hired by a man to locate his partner who vanished with the gold but he doesn't tell Angel Eyes why he wants him. But Angel Eyes finds out while looking for the man and tells the man who hired him what he found out. But he kills him so he can get the gold himself. The other two men are Tuco and a guy he calls Blondie. Tuco is a bandit. Blondie captures him and turns him in for the reward. But when Tuco is about to be hung, Blondie saves him and they go off and do it somewhere else. After their latest attempt, Bloncie tells Tuco they've taken it as far as they can. He leaves Tuco and doesn't give him his share. Tuco tracks him down and makes walk across the desert. Later they come across a stagecoach filled with men who are dead wearing Confederate uniforms, Tuco finds a man dying who just happens to be the man Angel Eyes is looking for. He tells Tuco about the gold but before he could tell Tuco where it is he passes out. So Tuco goes to get some water but when he comes back, the man is dead. But Blondie is there and Tuco thinks the man told him where the gold is. So he nurses him back to health. They put on the uniforms and take the stagecoach. They come across some soldiers who they thought were Confederate but were actually Union so they take them prisoner and bring them to the Fort. Angel Eyes is there, an officer. When he learns Tuco took the identity of the man is looking for, he assumes he knows about the gold. So he talks to Tuco and he "gets" him to tell him about the gold but Blondie is the one who knows where it is. So he brings Blondie to him but he's not intimidated. So he agrees to take him to where the gold is. So the three of them head off to get the gold. But can they trust each other.
Three different men of three different tempers and tastes get involved in a long and full-of-adventure battle in order to find a fortune in gold. While the first man who is an ex-bounty hunter and a forgiving person knows the name of the cemetery which the gold is buried in, the second who is a fast-tempered greedy man knows the name on the grave. But the third person, a cruel cold-blooded murderer, knows none; so he has to reach the gold in his own way of finding something.
A $200,000 shipment of Confederate gold is ambushed by Yankees in the Southwest making it open season for huge news for every grifter, bad guy and bounty hunter in the area. Blondie, Angel Eyes and Tuco are Good, Bad and Ugly, respectively. Each one of the three has a key portion of the puzzle leading to the location of the gold. But, none of them ever learned to share.
A bounty hunting scam joins two men in an uneasy alliance against a third in a race to find a fortune in gold buried in a remote cemetery.
- The film tells the story of three men who pursue, often at the expense of others, information about the location of a buried treasure of coins. The first character introduced in the movie is Tuco Benedicto Pacifico Juan Maria Ramirez (the Ugly) - called Tuco - (Eli Wallach), who has a bounty on his head for numerous crimes. Tuco has a partnership with Blondie (The Good, played by Clint Eastwood) in which the latter turns him in for the reward money which the two then split after Blondie saves Tuco from hanging at the last moment. Meanwhile, a third character called Angel Eyes (Lee Van Cleef, playing the Bad) has learned of a hidden trunk of gold owned by a Confederate soldier named Bill Carson. He sets off to find the gold.
Soon, Blondie grows tired of his relationship with Tuco, and leaves Tuco in the desert with no water. Tuco survives and is intent on exacting revenge on his former partner. He finds Blondie, and turns the tables by planning to abandon him in the desert. However, before Tuco can complete his torture in the New Mexico desert, a runaway stagecoach full of dead and dying Confederate soldiers appears. Bill Carson, the man with knowledge of the whereabouts of the gold, dying from thirst, persuades Tuco to get him a drink by disclosing the name of the graveyard where the loot is located. As Tuco goes for the water, Carson dies, but not before revealing the name on the grave to Blondie.
Dressed in the uniforms of the dead soldiers, Tuco takes Blondie, near death, to a local Catholic mission run by his brother, a priest. While Blondie recovers, Tuco and his brother (Luigi Pistilli) confront each other about the mistakes each has made in life. After leaving the mission, the two, still impersonating Confederate soldiers are captured and taken to a Union prison camp. Angel Eyes has followed the trail of Bill Carson to the prison camp and is posing as a Union Sergeant.
Angel Eyes and his colleague Wallace beat and torture Tuco until he reveals the location of the cemetery. When Angel Eyes learns that only Blondie knows the name, he changes tactics. He proposes a partnership, and accompanied by five or six other killers, they leave to find the coins. Tuco escapes while being transported from the camp by train, in the process killing Wallace. At the nearest town, Tuco encounters a bounty hunter (Al Mulock) he had wounded at the beginning of the film, who seeks his revenge. As Tuco shoots the bounty hunter, Blondie, who is in the same town with Angel Eyes, recognizes the sound of Tuco's gun, seeks him out, and he and Tuco resume their old partnership. Together they kill Angel Eyes' gunmen along the main street, but Angel Eyes himself escapes.
Tuco and Blondie stumble on a battle between the Union and the Confederates, fighting for a bridge of questionable strategic value. Since the cemetery is on the other side of the bridge, they decide to destroy it and force the soldiers go somewhere else to fight. While they are setting up the dynamite, Tuco reveals that the cemetery is called Sad Hill and Blondie reveals that the coins are buried in a grave marked by the name of Arch Stanton (Adam S. Gottbetter).
On the other side of the river Tuco deserts Blondie by horseback and finally enters the nearby graveyard.
Tuco frantically searches around the graveyard for the grave of Arch Stanton. Eventually Tuco finds it, but before he can begin digging he's held at gunpoint by Blondie, who in turn is held at gunpoint by Angel Eyes, who has finally caught up to both of them. However, Blondie reveals that Arch Stanton's grave contains only a decomposing corpse.
Blondie then leads the three of them into an empty patch of land in the middle of the cemetery. He writes the name of the real grave under a stone which he places in the center.
At the conclusion of a three-way shootout, Blondie shoots Angel Eyes and Tuco finds his gun empty, having been unloaded the previous night by Blondie. Blondie then reveals that the real location of the coins is a grave marked "Unknown" right next to Arch Stanton. Tuco digs up the loot from the grave only to find himself once again staring down the barrel of Blondie's gun, who now holds a noose in his hand. After placing Tuco into the noose, fastening it to a nearby tree and making Tuco stand on the unstable wooden cross of one of the graves, Blondie takes half the coins and rides away while Tuco cries for help. In a dramatic twist, Blondie turns around to shoot the rope above Tuco's head, as he used to do in their times of partnership, freeing him one last time before riding off as Tuco screams in rage.