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Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)
"C'era una volta il West" (original title)

PG-13  |   |  Western  |  21 December 1968 (Italy)
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Ratings: 8.6/10 from 196,421 users   Metascore: 80/100
Reviews: 554 user | 164 critic | 8 from

Epic story of a mysterious stranger with a harmonica who joins forces with a notorious desperado to protect a beautiful widow from a ruthless assassin working for the railroad.



(screenplay), (screenplay), 3 more credits »
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Title: Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)

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Complete credited cast:
Paolo Stoppa ...
Sheriff - Auctioneer
Frank Wolff ...


Story of a young woman, Mrs. McBain, who moves from New Orleans to frontier Utah, on the very edge of the American West. She arrives to find her new husband and family slaughtered, but by whom? The prime suspect, coffee-lover Cheyenne, befriends her and offers to go after the real killer, assassin gang leader Frank, in her honor. He is accompanied by Harmonica, a man already on a quest to get even. Written by DrGoodBeat / edited by statmanjeff

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


There were three men in her life. One to take her... one to love her... and one to kill her.



Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for western violence and brief sensuality | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:




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Release Date:

21 December 1968 (Italy)  »

Also Known As:

Once Upon a Time in the West  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$5,000,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


(international) | (1970) | (theatrical) | (Europe) (theatrical)

Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


For the opening sequence where the three dusters waited for the train, filmmakers lightly coated the face of Jack Elam with jam and began filming close-ups while letting a fly out of a jar filled with flies, attempting to get Elam's reaction as one would land on his cheek. See more »


During Harmonica's confrontation with Frank towards the end of the movie, his hair appears to have grown significantly from earlier in the film; however, when he enters the house to talk to Jill, his hair is short again. See more »


[first lines]
Cattle Corner Station Agent: Hey. Hey-hey-hey-hey, if you want any tickets, you'll have to go around, eh, to, eh, the front of, eh, eh... oooh, well, I s'pose it'll be all right. The hell am *I* doin' around here if they walk in and can do as they damn please?
See more »

Crazy Credits

The film's title does not appear until the end of the final scene. See more »


Referenced in Toy Story 2 (1999) See more »


Danny Boy
(1913) (uncredited)
Written by by Frederick Edward Weatherly
Hummed and sung a cappella a bit by Simonetta Santaniello
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

No western has ever come close to this one....and no western ever will.
23 June 2002 | by (Leiden, Netherlands) – See all my reviews

I can't quite find the words to even come close to describing the pure brilliance of this movie. When this movie was made, the western genre was dominated by the big hollywood studios. The western was taken by these studios and transformed into an opportunity to portray classic superheroes like John Wayne and Burt Lancaster in their fight against all sorts of smalltime crooks and outlaws in smalltime stories and smalltime towns. It was a genuine effort to portray 'Americanism', the American Way, along with a romanticised view of the west as 'Frontier country' where good always triumphed over bad and where the life was hard but honest. It was the American Way.

And then came this film. The title, 'Once Upon A Time In The West' must have seemed to mean nothing more than 'just another western' to the unexpecting viewers at the time. Oh boy were they wrong. With this movie, Sergio Leone singlehandedly redefined the western genre and no American western would ever match the brilliant spirit in which it was made. While the story is basically the same as in any other western, it is the WAY in which it is presented that so clearly distances this western from others. Whereas other westerns are simply stories that are designed to entertain, this movie is an emotional masterpiece that will move your heart. Sergio Leone takes the ordinary western and replaces words with looks, and conversations with feelings and emotions. With his brutal but honest portrayal of the sheer hardness of life and death in those times he thoroughly destroys the old romantic idea of the west as a 'generally-hunky-dory-kind-of-scene with the occasional bad guy and indian' and replaces it with an eerie, dark, hot and dry place where life is cheap and only the strongest will survive.

I cannot adequately convey in words the way in which Sergio Leone deepens and defines the characters by pure means of visual persuasion. It starts with the three gunman in the beginning of the movie, waiting for some reason at a train station for someone or something that obviously is going to be on the next train. No explanation, no conversation; not a word is said. Even the stationmaster is ushered into captivity without a single audible threat. Then comes the waiting... Any other director would have skipped directly to the moment of arrival, but Sergio Leone takes minutes of boredom and translates it into a visual feast, deepening the characters that are portrayed and making them more human, more real to the viewer, while at the same time encompassing us with a deep dark sense of foreboding. This way in which the story is not just augmented but in times completely replaced by the sheer visual drama, is perfected by the absolute fantastic music, directed by Ennio Morricone. Who needs words and explanations when the combined forces of cinematic mastery and heart-tearing music are not just able to carry the story, but pick it up and push it up to such heights of excellence that it has no equal in it's genre?

Another great feat that adds to the power of this movie is the minimalistic way of portrayal of the characters as real, emotional people. Not a single word is said that isn't required for the understanding of the story, yet the characters feel more true than those in movies where whole conversations are added merely to explain their motives. Instead of words, the camera focuses on the that you can simply read the emotion off their faces. Often no explanation is given other than than a mere facial expression. No superheroes or supercriminals, just real, desire-laden, traumatised, obsessed people that act upon motives inherently understood by the viewer.

All in all this is without a single doubt in my mind the greatest western of all times, and even though Sergio Leone has made many more mindblowing, heart-shattering westerns like this one, like 'A Fistful of Dynamite', 'The Good The Bad and The Ugly', and 'For a Few Dollars More', none could equal 'Once Upon A Time In The West' in sheer magnitude of perfection. Western has never been the same since....

I only wish I'd have been there in 1969 when the movie was new and see it, for the first time with fresh innocent eyes and an unexpecting mind..just like 2001: A Space Odyssey (also of 1969, a year of legends).

A tip for those who have never seen this movie: Bribe, beg, borrow, or steal yourself into possession of a Videobeam and Hifi-audio equipment if you can't find a cinema that is showing this movie. Turn the audio up WAY HIGH (never mind the neighbors) and prepare never to be the same again.........

I (obviously) gave this movie a 10 because no matter how hard I try I can't find anything less than perfect about it.

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