Film / A Fistful of Dollars

"When a man with a .45 meets a man with a rifle, the man with a pistol will be a dead man."
Ramón Rojo

A Fistful of Dollars is the 1964 (originally unauthorized) remake of the Japanese film Yojimbo. It's the first in what's known as The Dollars Trilogy by Western fans, and was followed by For a Few Dollars More and The Good The Bad And The Ugly.

The Man With No Name (played by Clint Eastwood and called "Joe" by the coffin maker) wanders into a small poverty-stricken town on the Mexican border dominated by two feuding crime gangs, the Rojos and the Baxters, and he decides to play the clans against each other, ostensibly so that he can profit from their conflict. The opportunity arises in the form of a Mexican shipment of gold passing through the town. However, his sympathies for Marisol, a hostage of the Rojos gang, leads to a change in plans with near-fatal consequences for the Man With No Name.

The gunfight at the end is the most famous part of the film. Back to the Future Part III directly homages it, among other Shout Outs to this movie.

This Spaghetti Western provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Affably Evil: The Baxters. Unlike the Rojo Brothers, they are much more affable and less brutal in nature.
  • Animated Credits Opening: Which, by the way, calls the film "Fistful of Dollars" - no "A".
  • Anti-Hero: Joe
  • Arc Words: "When you shoot to kill, aim for the heart." Ramon takes his mantra a little too seriously.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Essentially what defines Ramon's over-reliance to heartbound kill shots with his rifle. Sure, he could just end Joe then and there, but if it's not as stylish as a shot to the heart, why bother?.
  • Ax-Crazy: Ramon. He is extremely obsessed with a woman, is widely paranoid, and tortures and kills in cold blood. He is a dangerous psychopath and many a massacre brings an insane Slasher Smile to his face.
  • Badass: In his own way, The Man With No Name is perhaps the most dangerous man who ever lived.
    • He's a psycho, but Ramon, as played by Gian Maria Volonte, is pretty badass as well.
  • Badass Beard: Joe. Notable in Joe's case as traditional Western heroes up to this point tended to be clean-shaven.
  • Badass Cape: Joe's poncho, which is an iconic part of his character.
  • Badass Grandpa: Silvanito.
  • Badass Mustache: Ramon.
  • Bandito: The Rojos.
  • Bang Bang BANG: when "Joe" is recovering from his beating, he does some pistol practice. In a modestly sized room, and every other shot seems to be a PEEYOW! ricochet.
  • Berserk Button: You can laugh at him and otherwise abuse him all you want, but Joe will end you if you dare laugh at his mule. And Heaven help you if you happen to be in the area when he catches up with anyone who makes that mistake, as that fourth Baxter learned the hard way.
  • Big Bad: Ramon.
  • Black and Grey Morality: To begin with, The Man With No Name is only interested in driving the Rojos and Baxters into open warfare for the Dollars of the title. Subverted when TMWNN gets Marisol and family away from the Rojos; not only does he gain nothing from this, it very nearly gets him killed.
  • Blasting It out of Their Hands: Joe towards Ramon, though it's clearly a display of bravado rather than mercy (and the gun was empty anyway).
  • Bloodless Carnage: Compare the machine-gun massacre scene in this movie with the final shootout of The Wild Bunch.
  • Blood from the Mouth: Ramon, when Joe finally gets to shoot him.
  • Blood Knight: Ramon.
  • Bulletproof Vest: Joe fashions one out of scrap metal before the film's climax, giving him a chance against Ramon and his rifle.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Ramon's ability to make perfect heartshots to a suit of armour. His rifle's bullets don't penetrate it and also cannot penetrate Joe's boiler plate.
  • The Chessmaster: Joe. He instigates conflict between the gangs while taking pay from both sides.
  • Coffin Contraband: Joe uses this tactic to escape from San Miguel without the Rojos noticing—specifically, he is the contraband. He stops only to watch the Rojos utterly annihilate the Baxters in their search for him.
  • Cold Sniper: Ramon.
  • Crippling the Competition: The bad guys stomp on Joe's hands while beating him. Except they stomped on the wrong hand.
  • The Cuckoolander Was Right
    Joe: Crazy bellringer was right. There's money to be made in a place like this.
  • Deadpan Snarker: It's a movie starring Clint Eastwood, so take a guess...
  • Determinator: After finding out Joe was responsible for getting Marisol and her family out of the town, Ramon has Joe beaten to a bloody pulp. Yet he was still able to not only make it out of the room he was locked into alive, but also able to take a few more henchmen down and set the Rojo home on fire.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Ramon makes Marisol his whore just because he thinks her husband owes him on account of a past gambling incident.
  • The Dragon: Esteban.
  • The Dreaded: Ramon.
  • The Drifter: The classic Western example.
  • Dub Name Change: In the original Italian, Don Miguel was known as Don Benito.
  • Enemy Civil War: The Man With No Name deliberately starts this between The Baxters and The Rojos.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Don Miguel looks shocked when Esteban shoots Consuela. Heck, even Ramon is a little shocked.
  • Evil Genius: Ramon. He's the only one of the villains who has a clue about Joe, and seems to be the Rojos' planner as well.
  • Evil Laugh: Many of the Rojos let out a few when they massacre the Baxters. Those who don't have a Slasher Smile at the very least.
  • Evil Matriarch: Mrs. Baxter is the real brains in her family.
  • Evil vs. Evil: The Rojos vs The Baxter, though the Baxters are more corrupt than evil.
  • False Flag Operation: The Rojos pretend to be American soldiers to steal the gold shipment from the Mexican Army. They've already killed the Americans and position the bodies to make it look like they killed each other.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Ramon.
  • The Family That Slays Together: The Rojo brothers and the Baxters are both family gangs.
  • Feuding Families: The Baxters and the Rojos, though it's The Man With No Name's manipulations that brings the feud to a boil.
  • A Fistful Of Rehashes: The Trope Namer, and itself a Western rehash of Yojimbo, as mentioned below.
  • Five-Bad Band: The Rojos:
    • Big Bad: Don Miguel, the eldest of the Rojo brothers and technically in charge.
    • Dragon-in-Chief/Evil Genius: Ramon Rojo, the most capable and intelligent. Essentially the reason why the Rojos are so dangerous.
    • The Dragon: Esteban, who is a Rojo brother but subordinate to Ramon.
    • The Brute: Chico, the resident Giant Mook, who typically guards the compound whenever the Rojo brothers are out on "business."
    • The Dark Chick: Rubio, Ramon's Mook Lieutenant, who serves as a golf caddy for Ramon (whenever Ramon's not using his rifle, Rubio's holding it). There's a whole video on Youtube showing Ramon shouting for Rubio.
  • Foreign Remake: Again, of Yojimbo. The writers didn't credit Kurosawa at first, and as a result he had to sue them. He wound up being awarded the East Asian distribution rights for Fistful — which wound up making him more money than most of his own movies.
  • For the Evulz: This is the only reason in Ramon. He is just an inhuman bastard who enjoys killing and robbing.
  • Gatling Good: The Rojos steal some gold from the Mexican army, largely thanks to being able to mow down about 100 soldiers with an old time Gatling Gun.
  • Giant Mook: Chico
  • Giggling Villain: Esteban
  • Guile Hero: The Man depends as much on his cunning as his phenomenal skill as a pistolero, spending most of the first half of the movie playing both gangs against each other expertly.
  • The Gunslinger: If you have to ask, you've never seen the film (or any other Clint Eastwood western).
  • The Heavy: Ramon
  • Hollywood Healing: Not as bad as Yojimbo, as Clint Eastwood's character does take some time to recover from his injuries.
  • Improvised Armour: The metal chest piece.
  • Irony: At the start of the film, Joe is giving Piripero most of his business. Unfortunately for Piripero, Joe's cleared out most of his customers by the end of the film. Though, the bodies pile up at a fast enough rate at one point that they just don't bother with coffins anyway.
  • Jerkass: Ramon and Esteban Rojo
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Joe, in his treatment of everyone who's not a Rojo or Baxter.
  • Kick the Dog: Ramon, when he massacred a Mexican army unit in his first appearance and when he brutally tortures Silvanito.
  • Knight Errant: Joe, in his treatment of Marisol.
  • Mob War: Engineered by The Man, of course.
  • Murder Is the Best Solution: Ramon sets up two mass murders within several days rather than try more subtle methods or be content to accept an enemy's surrender.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: For much of the movie, the Man With No Name is only out to make some quick cash, and while he's doing that he's all but invincible in fights and plays all the other characters for suckers. It's only when he tries to do something nice by helping Marisol and her family escape that the bad guys get wise to him ...
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Joe receives one from Chico, Rubio, and Esteban after Marisol escapes.
  • No Name Given: The coffinmaker refers to him as Joe. Might as well.
  • Not So Above It All: Don Miguel, who is typically the Only Sane Man of the Rojos, is seen laughing while they massacre the Baxters, though he doesn't kill any of them.
  • Oh Crap!: Ramon's reaction every time Joe gets up from his heart shots.
  • One Bullet Left
  • Only in It for the Money: Joe. In his words: "That crazy bellringer was right. There's money to be made in a place like this." Though, he does offer a good amount of his earnings to the family he rescues from the hands of the Rojos.
  • Only Sane Man: Silvanito, the bartender, who at first reluctantly befriends Joe.
  • Pet the Dog: The protagonist saves a family caught in between the troubles of the two Gang of Hats, making him seem less amoral. The family is so damn thankful, Joe practically has to shoo them in order for them to leave. And with good reason: dire consequences would befall both if they don't.
  • Power Trio: The Rojo Bros.
    • Ego: Ramon, who is Ax-Crazy but calculating.
    • Superego: Don Miguel, who is the most reasonable of the three.
    • Id: Esteban, the most impulsive of the three brothers.
  • Prematurely Marked Grave: The local undertaker looks the protagonist over before leaving. Another character comments that the one hard look is all that the coffinmaker needs, because there has been so much business.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: After verifying that John Baxter wasn't kidding when he surrendered, Ramon tells him to take up his surrender terms with his wife and says, "Maybe she won't be too happy," before shooting him.
  • Railing Kill: Ramon kills a Baxter this way.
    • Esteban dies this way when Silvanito shoots him in the bar balcony.
  • Recycled In Space: Yojimbo WITH COWBOYS! Not that there's anything wrong with that.
  • Revenge Before Reason: At the end of the movie, Joe has killed all of Ramon's associates, tricked him into using up all the bullets in his rifle, and shot the rifle out of his hands for good measure. Instead of just shooting the defenseless Ramon, however, he empties his own gun and throws it on the ground, just so he and Ramon can have a who-can-pick-up-their-gun-reload-it-and-shoot-the-other-guy-first contest just to further humiliate him.
  • Revolvers Are Just Better: Ramon attempts to subvert this in the page quote. It doesn't go well. He is trying it with Clint after all... which is usually a bad idea. The movie really plays with the trope, though. Joe doesn't win the shootout because his revolver is inherently better than Ramon's rifle. He wins because he utilises his weapon's strengths to exploit the weaknesses of Ramon's.
  • Shaped Like Itself: Combined with Overly Narrow Superlative. The poster proclaims "A Fistful of Dollars is the first motion picture of its kind. It won't be the last!" Especially ironic since it was a remake of Yojimbo.
  • Shout-Out: In a musical sense. Quite a few of the musical cues (that don't use mariachi trumpets) sound straight out of a samurai movie—seemingly a nod to the film's inspiration.
    • According to the commentary on the DVD, the opening was this to James Bond
  • Showdown at High Noon: Played with: not one is the classic one on one facedown.
  • Siblings in Crime: The Rojo brothers.
  • The Slow Walk: Eastwood's final showdown with the Rojos.
  • Smoking Is Cool
  • The Sociopath: Ramon and Esteban Rojo.
  • South of the Border: Though some action involves American soldiers as well.
  • Spaghetti Western: the Trope Codifier.
  • Squashed Flat: Chico is killed when Joe rolls a massive barrel on top of him. He's not quite flat, but he's quite dead.
  • The "The" Title Confusion: As noted above, in the opening credits the title is simply Fistful of Dollars.
  • Token Good Teammate: Don Miguel seems more like Reasonable Authority Figure than the Ax-Crazy Ramon and Giggling Villain Esteban. Doesn't stop Joe from killing him too (he's to the far right in the final standoff.
  • Weapon of Choice: Revolvers vs. Rifles is actually a plot point.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Completely accidental, but you get the feeling Joe was more annoyed at hitting a bystander than punching out a lady.
    • Esteban guns down Mrs. Baxter without a second thought.
    • There's also the quite shocking moment where The Man With No Name punches a woman in the face, thinking she was a man trying to kill him. Good luck finding a movie these days that will show the hero doing that even by accident.
  • Would Hurt a Child: To demonstrate how horrible that is Ramon, he has the children of the kidnapped mother (a 6 years old kid) threatened to death if she is not given.
  • You Were Warned: When suggesting the "brilliant" idea of shooting Joe in the back for that first hundred, Esteban is told outright, "Just shoot him in the back, and it's all settled, eh? Well, what if your gun twitches just a little?" Joe wasn't the one to kill him at the end, but Esteban tries for that back shot, his shotgun twitches in the windowsill just a little, and he gets blown away for his troubles, as foretold.

Alternative Title(s): A Fistful Of Dollars