8.5/10
297,988
715 user 151 critic

Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)

C'era una volta il West (original title)
PG-13 | | Western | 4 July 1969 (USA)
Trailer
3:02 | Trailer
A mysterious stranger with a harmonica joins forces with a notorious desperado to protect a beautiful widow from a ruthless assassin working for the railroad.

Director:

Sergio Leone

Writers:

Sergio Donati (screenplay by), Sergio Leone (screenplay by) | 3 more credits »
Reviews
Popularity
807 ( 309)
Top Rated Movies #49 | 4 wins & 5 nominations. See more awards »

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Photos

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Claudia Cardinale ... Jill McBain
Henry Fonda ... Frank
Jason Robards ... Manuel 'Cheyenne' Gutiérrez
Charles Bronson ... Harmonica
Gabriele Ferzetti ... Morton - Railroad Baron
Paolo Stoppa Paolo Stoppa ... Sam
Woody Strode ... Stony - Member of Frank's Gang
Jack Elam ... Snaky - Member of Frank's Gang
Keenan Wynn ... Sheriff - Auctioneer
Frank Wolff ... Brett McBain
Lionel Stander ... Barman
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Storyline

Jill McBain travels to the wild frontier; Utah - where she and her new husband planned to settle down. Upon arrival, she finds him and his children dead. There's a lot of land, and potential, but there's those who want to take it - at any cost. Even if it means killing a man and his kids. Written by DrGoodBeat / edited by statmanjeff

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

There were three men in her life. One knew her past. One wanted her land. One wanted revenge. See more »

Genres:

Western

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

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

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The first draft of the script was 436 pages long. See more »

Goofs

Brett McBain orders his daughter Maureen to cut the bread in thicker slices, because 'they're throwing a party'. Maureen argues that she cuts them as thick as usual. In real 19th century life the rich actually ate their bread in very thin slices, because cheese, meat and other toppings were far more expensive than the bread itself. Poor people ate thick slices of bread to save on toppings. See more »

Quotes

[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?
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Crazy Credits

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

Alternate Versions

The 2003 Paramount DVD 2-disc release called the "Special Collector's Edition" used the altered ending score (over the end credits) for both the English 5.1 Surround track and what is listed as the "English Restored Mono" track. See more »

Connections

Referenced in The Way of the Dragon (1972) See more »

Soundtracks

Finale
Vocals: Edda (Edda Dell'Orso)
Choir: Cantori Moderni Di Alessandroni
Composed, Orchestrated and Conducted by Ennio Morricone
Published by Universal Music Publishing Ricordi srl
(P) 1969 Sergio Leone Productions
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User Reviews

 
No western has ever come close to this one....and no western ever will.
23 June 2002 | by danikenSee 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 characters...so 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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Frequently Asked Questions

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Details

Country:

Italy | USA

Language:

English | Italian

Release Date:

4 July 1969 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

There Was Once the West See more »

Filming Locations:

Bavispe, Sonora, Mexico See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$5,000,000 (estimated)

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$112,911
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (extended) | (1970) | (theatrical) | (U.S. theatrical)

Sound Mix:

Mono | Dolby Digital (2003 DVD release)

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »

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