Film / The Great Silence

The Great Silence or Il grande silenzio is a 1968 Italian spaghetti western directed by Sergio Corbucci. It is considered Corbucci's greatest film and has a reputation for being one of the bleakest westerns ever. It plays with a lot of western tropes, such as the usual protagonist of few words actually being a mute, and intentionally provoking his enemies into drawing first.

Contrast with Sergio Leone's For a Few Dollars More. Nicolas Winding Refn's Valhalla Rising and Only God Forgives can be seen as Spiritual Successors.


  • Corrupt Hick: The sheriff in the flashback to Silence' past who slits his throat to prevent him from speaking ever again.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: Inverted as Loco kills Silence after one of his henchmen wounds him, only for Pauline to attempt to avenge him, leading to her death at Loco's hands as well.
  • Dissonant Serenity: Loco is played by Klaus Kinski, and is therefore characterized by this trope.
  • The Dog Shot First: Played with. Despite being known as a bounty hunter-killer, Silence stays on the right side of the law by provoking those he intends to kill into drawing first, so that he is technically acting in self-defense.
  • Downer Ending: At least in the original version which Sergio intended. Silence, Pauline, and the rest of the villagers were all gunned down by the bounty hunters. However, it's averted in the alternate ending, due to Sergio being pressured to do so for Asian and South African markets because of the original depressing bleak ending.
  • Evil Counterpart: Loco to Silence. While Silence only shoots people in self-defense, Loco kills even those he has promised to let live if they surrender. The contrast between the two becomes even clearer when you think that Loco has the choice of taking his targets alive but he chooses to kill them anyway. Silence on the other hand completely refuses to shoot anyone who doesn't try to shoot him first.
  • Fingore: Within the first few minutes Silence establishes an M.O. of shooting men's fingers off so that they can never use guns again.
  • Genre Blind: The sheriff apparently does not even suspect that Loco's request to relieve himself might be a trap.
  • Honor Before Reason:
    • Silence will only shoot in self-defense. He does not seem to be very far-sighted in defining self-defense as 'the moment the other guy draws on me', so he passes off many opportunities to kill Loco or the guy making moves on his girl.
    • Pauline is clearly aware of the fact that Loco's demand for Silence to show up for a duel is a trap, and that he will kill all the people there after he kills Silence regardless of whether Silence shows up or not. Regardless, Silence still shows up to his death.
  • I Lied: Loco loves to shoot people after promising to spare them if they surrender themselves.
  • Kill 'em All: After Loco kills Silence and Pauline, who attempts to avenge his death, Loco's gang kills all the poor people and leaves.
  • Morally Bankrupt Banker: Literally.
  • Ray of Hope Ending: It's stated that the massacre came as such a shock that it led to the end of bounty hunting as a legal profession, so while The Hero Dies and so does most of the cast, the villains' victory is short-lived and pyrrhic.
  • Reality Ensues:In the climax, despite being his right hand wounded, Silence still arrives to take on Loco in a duel. However before the duel begins, Loco's men shoot Silence several times including his left hand. When Silence does finally draw, Loco easily kills him and then slaughters all of the other main characters. The movie makes it clear the hero doesn't always win and going into a gunfight with a ruthless gang of killers with your hand badly injured is going to be a serious disadvantage especially since they will not necessarily fight fair.
  • Senseless Sacrifice: Silence is wounded in his shoulder, is handicapped by his right hand being burned and calmly walks up to a building in which six bounty hunters are holed up. To drive the point home, the first thing that happens in the final scene is a bounty hunter shooting Silence's left hand through a window, totally crippling him.
  • The Speechless: The main character never speaks due to having had his throat cut.
  • Too Dumb to Live: The sheriff is not exactly the brightest guy in town. There are times when Loco and the banker exchange glances as he impulsively tries to establish his authority.