Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)



Critic Consensus: A landmark Sergio Leone spaghetti western masterpiece featuring a classic Morricone score.

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Movie Info

In Sergio Leone's epic Western, shot partly in Monument Valley, a revenge story becomes an epic contemplation of the Western past. To get his hands on prime railroad land in Sweetwater, crippled railroad baron Morton (Gabriele Ferzetti) hires killers, led by blue-eyed sadist Frank (Henry Fonda), who wipe out property owner Brett McBain (Frank Wolff) and his family. McBain's newly arrived bride, Jill (Claudia Cardinale), however, inherits it instead. Both outlaw Cheyenne (Jason Robards) and lethally mysterious Harmonica (Charles Bronson) take it upon themselves to look after Jill and thwart Frank's plans to seize her land. As alliances and betrayals mutate, it soon becomes clear that Harmonica wants to get Frank for another reason -- it has "something to do with death." As in his "Dollars" trilogy, Leone transforms the standard Western plot through the visual impact of widescreen landscapes and the figures therein. At its full length, Once Upon a Time in the West is Leone's operatic masterwork, worthy of its legend-making title. ~ Lucia Bozzola, Rovi
PG-13 (for western violence and brief sensuality)
Action & Adventure , Drama , Western
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
Paramount Pictures


Henry Fonda
as Frank
Claudia Cardinale
as Jill McBain
Jason Robards
as Cheyenne
Charles Bronson
as Harmonica
Frank Wolff
as Brett McBain
Keenan Wynn
as Sheriff
Marco Zuanelli
as Wobbles
Jack Elam
as Knuckles
John Frederick
as Member of Frank's Gang
Dino Mele
as Harmonica as a Boy
Claudio Mancini
as Harmonica's Brother
Salvo Basile
as Member of Cheyenne's Gang
Aldo Berti
as Member of Frank's Gang
Luigi Ciavarro
as Older Sheriff's Deputy
Livio Andronico
as Bit part (uncredited)
Marilu Carteny
as Extra (uncredited)
Spartaco Conversi
as Member of Frank's Gang
Show More Cast

Critic Reviews for Once Upon a Time in the West

All Critics (55) | Top Critics (8)

There is something touching and maniacal about the two-and-three-quarter- hour result.

Full Review… | June 18, 2013
The New Republic
Top Critic

'Once Upon a Time...' now looks like an over-cooked mess of style, metaphor and reference.

Full Review… | July 23, 2009
Time Out
Top Critic

No excerpt available.

Full Review… | June 5, 2008
Top Critic

The Western is dead - or so they tell us. Long live Leone's timeless monument to the death of the West itself, rivalled only by Peckinpah's Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid for the title of best ever made.

Full Review… | January 25, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

Leone (1921-1989) is here at the peak of his epic powers.

September 29, 2005
New York Observer
Top Critic

If only the first 10 minutes of Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West still existed, this most hyperbolic of oat operas would still be acknowledged as one of the genre's greatest exhumations.

Full Review… | September 27, 2005
Village Voice
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Once Upon a Time in the West

Leone's ultimate Western is this classic operatic elegy for the dying genre - a perfect masterclass of cinema with unforgettable scenes from beginning to end, memorable dialogue, an evocative use of silence, outstanding performances and a wonderful score.

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer


Sergio Leone goes a long way with Once Upon a Time in the West. Perhaps too long.

Once Upon a Time in the West isn't exactly a race down the track and running 2 hours and 45 minutes doesn't help its cause. There are a lot of scenes that are drawn out, especially in the beginning, that do not need to be. Granted, the cinematography is solid, but story-wise it hurts. The film is nearly an hour in before it even feels like it starts to go somewhere.

The action is far and few in between. Sure, a Western, or any film for that matter, can live without bullets flying, but this picture needs it. The buildup is there; however, when the guns start shooting it is over as quickly as a bullet reaches its target.

The mystery and confidence behind Charles Bronson is fascinating, which leads to a fantastic character. Henry Fonda and Jason Robards do a good job of rounding out the trio of expert gunmen. Claudia Cardinale is a stunning presence that just grabs the eyes every minute she is on screen.

Once Upon a Time in the West has its moments and influences, but it also has its flaws. Watchable, if only once.

JY Skacto
JY Skacto

Super Reviewer


I'd maintain that westerns are not specifically my cup of tea, and I'd also maintain that, occasionally, I do enjoy them. Its music is remarkable, but the same can't be said for all the performances. If you too are running out of options, stop running.

familiar stranger
familiar stranger

Super Reviewer

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