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Spaghetti Western

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The Man with No Name, Django, Trinity and Sartana are not your good old Wild West Cowboys. And not quite "heroes", actually.

"Perhaps it is the subtly foreign flavor of the spaghetti trilogy, and especially the masterpiece 'The Good, the Bad and the Ugly,' that suggests the films come from a different universe than traditional Westerns. Instead of tame Hollywood extras from central casting, we get locals who must have been hired near the Spanish locations—men who look long-weathered by work and the sun. Consider the legless beggar who uses his arms to propel himself into a saloon, shouting, 'Hand me down a whiskey!'"

A sub-genre of The Western, so called because they were produced by Italian studios (and tended to feature quite a bit of violence). These movies were typically shot in Spain, since the Tabernas Desert looks similar to Hollywood's idea of the Old West. Since Spanish extras were readily available, Spaghetti Westerns often featured "Mexican" characters and themes, often focusing on The Mexican Revolution, border problems, or Mexican banditos. There was a whole sub-sub-genre dedicated to politically-oriented westerns about the Mexican Revolution called the Zapata Western.

Spaghetti Westerns were originally scorned for their low budgets, fading Hollywood stars, and rougher and harder look at common Western tropes, although in general very few of these Westerns were especially political or informed enough about American history to be actual deconstructions, and few of them ended up critically Vindicated by History outside of Sergio Leone's films. Nonetheless, their greater violence and rougher and harder aesthetic gave spaghetti westerns an integrity entirely at odds with the glossy and stagey Hollywoodian Westerns and, in time, the visual aesthetic of the Spaghetti Westerns later became staples of the genre. Most notably, the Spaghetti Westerns provided the staging grounds for the last great icon of the Western genre: actor/director Clint Eastwood, who was a TV and B-Movie actor in America before his appearance in Sergio Leone's films made him into a major movie star.

Some well-known Spaghetti Westerns:

Others include:

Works influenced by the Spaghetti Western include:

  • Fist of the North Star is a classic Japanese Manga/Anime that has been deeply influenced by the directorial style of Sergio Leone, right down to the violence-torn desert wasteland setting (albeit a futuristic one) and the mournful musical style of Ennio Morricone in its more thoughtful scenes.
    • Taken even further by another post apocalyptic anime, Combat Mecha Xabungle. The desert landscape and several characters dressed like cowboys or banditos give the show a Wild West feeling, but according to maps, at least the ones shown in its Super Robot Wars appearances, the action takes place in Southern Europe.
  • Jo Jos Bizarre Adventure Steel Ball Run, being a story about the friendship between two violent, amoral and cynical cowboys questing across the desert of the final frontiers, is a super-powered (and fabulous) love letter from Hirohiko Araki to For a Few Dollars More, part of the blood-soaked and tragic Dollars Trilogy by Sergio Leone.
    • Point in fact, The Man With No Name played by Clint Eastwood in said trilogy is the primary inspiration in appearance and attitude for Kujo Jotaro, the protagonist of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders, the third part of the saga. Upon finding out this, Eastwood met and befriended Araki, becoming a fast fan of the Jojo Franchise.
  • In what may be the Spaghetti Western tradition coming full circle, the Tabletop Card Game Bang! was created by an Italian designer and set in the Wild West.
  • The comic book miniseries Blaze of Glory: The Last Ride Of The Western Heroes turns the simplistic, heighted-reality westerns produced by Marvel Comics into this. All the famous gunslingers are now either retired, running from the law or in the case of the Outlaw Kid and Kid Cassidy of Gunhawks fame, just flat-out crazy. The story is meant to be a swansong for most of these characters, and the title is not for show.
  • Borderlands features vast desertscapes, dangerous fauna, a band of Anti-heroes, a population of Axe-Crazy convicts, the occasional small town and loads and loads of guns, oh and a big fat treasure at the end of the story, either sought or disbelieved by all.
    • Borderlands 2 has a side mission where a search for some treasure ends with a shootout between the PC and two NPCs over a grave...
  • The 2011 film Rango is practically a love letter to this genre of film, featuring numerous shout outs in its plot to films of days gone past, mimicking the cinematography typical of its genre and even featuring a cameo of an animated version of the Man With No Name as the "Spirit of the West".
  • The Mandalorian is essentially a space-themed version of a Spaghetti Western complete with all the familiar tropes of the genre such as a desert setting, Mexican Standoff, seedy locales filled to the brim with criminal activity and the protagonist is almost always referred to by his nickname.
  • Sukiyaki Western Django
  • Flying Swords of Dragon Gate is a Chinese Wuxia film staring Jet Li that is openly influenced by the melancholic and violent world of Sergio Leone; being set in the mournful and windswept deserts of Shing Jiang province really helps.
  • The Quick and the Dead is basically a Martial Arts Tournament (think Enter the Dragon) fought with quick-drawn revolvers. Made by Americans, yes. But its corrupt, wind-swept and decaying wasteland punctuated with a mournful Ennio Morricone inspired soundtrack hits the genre's nail right on the head.
  • The Good, The Bad, The Weird is a more humorous and action-packed Korean Remake of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, set in the 1930s Manchuria.
  • Kelly's Heroes is basically a Spaghetti Western set in World War 2 France, complete with Clint Eastwood!
  • Quentin Tarantino loves the genre and has often referenced/pastiched it.
    • Kill Bill has several shout-outs, including reusing a lot of music from this genre.
    • Inglourious Basterds has a number of spaghetti western elements to it, specially how the opening at the Lapadite farm plays out ("Once Upon a Time... in Nazi-Occupied France").
    • Django Unchained follows the genre a lot more closely, considering it actually is a Western (Tarantino prefers calling it a "Southern").
    • The Hateful Eight, while very much not in the style of a Spaghetti Western and being more of a Whodunnit, takes several important cues from the genre.
    • Once Upon a Time in Hollywood's protagonist is the sort of fading Hollywood star who seriously considers starring in spaghetti Westerns. (During a Time Skip in the main narrative, he actually does.)
  • The Boktai game series features a number of spaghetti elements, most notably its gunslinging protagonist, Django. The second game in the series was by far the most heavily influenced by the genre, but then the influences were downplayed significantly for the third game as well as the In Name Only follow-up Lunar Knights.
  • The second act of Red Dead Redemption is one of these, complete with a Mexican setting, Black-and-Grey Morality, and the increasing prominence of John Marston's Anti-Hero side.
  • Wild Guns takes a lot of inspiration from spaghetti westerns while also tossing in lots and lots of robots.
  • El Tigre contains many characters, plots, and themes inspired by the genre. The most notable is Sergio, an Italian kid who moved to Mexico in hopes of being a cowboy.
  • The Cowboy Bebop episode "Cowboy Funk" is an Affectionate Parody of the genre (and of The Western in general).
  • GUN×SWORD is what happens when giant robots arrive in a spaghetti western.
  • Alongside fairy tales, Puss in Boots: The Last Wish was greatly influenced by the genre according to the director, especially The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, featuring a Travel Montage, a Mexican Standoff in the climax, and three parties (Puss, Goldilocks and Jack Horner) racing against each other for a great treasure. A track is even called "The Good, Bad, and Goldi".
  • Samurai Jack, while not a direct inspiration, borrows heavily from the genre, especially the Dollars Trilogy: a lone warrior of few words, known only by his nickname, passes quietly through various places, defeats the bad guy and then moves along. Phil Lamarr even described his voice for Jack as being a Japanese Clint Eastwood.
  • Kaiketsu Zubat, a Tokusatsu series nominally set in contemporary Japan, has much of the action taking place in a dusty Old West-fantasy Japanese countryside where organized villains terrorize isolated towns and a cowboy-hatted guitar-toting hero wanders along to defend the townsfolk. The bad guys are shown to be ultraviolent, with no qualms about bombing school buses, gunning down old men, and beating and torturing women and children. In return the hero (haunted by the villains' murder of his best friend) dishes out remorseless violence of his own, intending to find and kill the murderer himself. Soundtrack and musical cues are a pastiche of Morricone-style guitar work.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender "Zuko Alone": Anti-Hero traveling incognito comes to a lawless village on the frontier, a place oppressed by local soldiers little better than bandits and populated by apathetic/ungrateful townsfolk. Violence and resentment ensue, and he rides off as isolated and frustrated as before. Unusually for this style, the audience not only knows more about the traveler than the townsfolk do, but we learn even more about his backstory in this episode.
  • The Magic School Bus Rides Again has a literal spaghetti western episode in the form of the aptly-named "The Good, the Bad and the Gnocchi".
  • Gunfighter: The Legend of Jesse James is a spag-Western in Light Gun Game form, with the players assuming the role of Jesse to battle a villainous sheriff and his army of bandidos.
  • Jonah Hex's was inspired by the popularity of Eastwood and Spaghetti Westerns and created to break from the mold of the morally upright cowboy comics characters that proceeded him. Various issues of his 2005 series would also make many references to Spaghetti Western films whether in the form of title homages or Whole Plot References.
  • Tequila & Boom Boom is a rare video game example. It is an Adventure Game designed in Italy complete with Anti-Hero Tequila and plenty of surrounding desert straight out of a Sergio Leone film.
  • The first half of Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath is a spaghetti western with an alien twist to it, though the second half of the game shifts away from it.