Top Ten Films #8: Once Upon a Time in the West

Once Upon a Time in the West

This week I’ll be revealing my top ten favourite films, posting one each day with a few paragraphs about what they mean to me. If anyone wishes to share their favourites I’d be happy to hear from you. Today is #8.

8) Once Upon a Time in the West (1969)

Once Upon a Time in the WestSergio Leone’s western classic is one of the finest of its genre. As with many masterpieces the film’s critical acclaim came slowly with a poor box office return when it was first released. Today it is mentioned in the same breath as other great Westerns such as Unforgiven and The Searchers.

There is so much to admire in Once Upon a Time in the West beginning with its stellar cast. Claudia Cardinale is a tough heroine in what is largely a man’s world, Henry Fonda is brilliant as the merciless killer Frank, Jason Robards brings some light relief as the outlaw Cheyenne, while Charles Bronson brings a dominant presence to the screen as the mysterious Harmonica.

Sergio Leone manages to weave two engaging storylines together with Harmonica’s pursuit of Frank sandwiching the central plot – the desires of a greedy businessman to acquire the hotly disputed McBain Farm with Frank playing the part of the bloodthirsty enforcer. Though the eventual face off between Harmonica and Frank is important, it never intrudes heavily on the main story until this element of the film has been resolved.

Leone’s film was one of the first that made me appreciate the more technical aspects especially the camerawork. The concluding section revealing Harmonica’s reasons for hunting Frank and the sweeping camera taking in the barren wasteland of the west is one of my favourite moments. Over 40 years on Once Upon a Time in the West remains a stunning cinematic experience.

Top Ten so far:

8) Once Upon a Time in the West (1969)

9) House of Flying Daggers (2004)

10) Spirited Away (2001)

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Dave Brown

I was born in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, England and have always been a bookworm and enjoyed creative writing at school. In 1999 I created the Elencheran Chronicles and have been writing ever since. My first novel, Fezariu's Epiphany, was published in May 2011. When not writing I'm a lover of films, games, books and blogging. I live in Barnsley, with my wife, Donna, and our six cats - Kain, Razz, Buggles, Charlie, Bilbo and Frodo.
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