- Alternative Character Interpretation: Just why exactly did Joe/The Man With No Name feel compelled to insert himself into the feud between the Rojos and the Baxters? Was it really all because the plight of the family reminded him of something tragic from his past, or was he guided by some other force? His mysterious persona leaves it open to all sorts of interpretations.
- In fact, the mystery annoyed TV network execs so much that when the film premiered on TV an opening was filmed with Harry Dean Stanton acting as a marshal hiring Joe to take care of the Rojos in exchange for a reduced prison sentence. Since Clint Eastwood himself was not available an actor roughly matching his size and build was given a rough replica of his costume and filmed with a hat over his face to cover for the fact that he wasn't Eastwood.
- And You Thought It Would Fail: Basically Jolly Films' attitude towards the movie: they viewed Fistful as a cheap write-off to reuse sets and costumes from a previous Western, Gunfight at Red Sands. They also initially gave it a limited release, partly due to the legal troubles over its resemblance to Yojimbo, dumping it as the second feature on double bills. Eventually it became a hit in Italy through word-of-mouth, which earned it an international release, a sequel, a prequel, and a fistful of legal troubles.
- Awesome Music: Do the words Ennio Morricone mean anything to you?
- Chaotic Neutral: Joe, who bounces between Chaotic Neutral and Chaotic Good.The Rojos on one side of town, the Baxters on the other, and me right in the middle. Crazy bellringer was right, there's money to be made in a place like this."
- Complete Monster: Ramon Rojo, in his first appearance, along with his gang brutally massacres a Mexican army unit to steal their gold. He kidnaps a woman and forces her to live with him, claiming that her husband was cheating him at cards. He slaughters the rival Baxter family as they try to surrender to him, tortures "Joe" for helping the woman he kidnapped escape, and, towards the end, has Silvanito tortured when he thinks he might be hiding Joe and is about to hang him when Joe interrupts. He is also the brains of a gang of illegal rum-runners who keeps a stranglehold on the life of a small town.
- Evil Is Cool: Ramon, being an Expy of Unosuke, may be Ax-Crazy, but he sure is tough.
- Faux Symbolism: The movie is rife with subtle religious imagery. The dinner party at the Rojos, for instance, is cleverly made to resemble Da Vinci's 'Last Supper'. Marisol's escape with her family is vaguely reminiscent of Mary and Joseph's Flight to Egypt, with both children being named Jesus, and Joe's torture brings the Flagellation of Christ to mind.
- Genre Turning Point: For the Spaghetti Western. Contrary to a persistent belief, Fistful was not the first Italian Western, a subgenre which went all the way back to the silent era (Leone's father Vincenzo even directed a few in the late 1910s). In addition, Hollywood Westerns were extremely popular in postwar Italy, and there had been a small but steady trickle of Westerns made by Italian filmmakers during the '50s and '60s, albeit in nowhere near the numbers they would after Fistful. That said, most Spaghetti Westerns prior to Fistful were merely copies of American Westerns, and generally of poor quality. Leone (along with Bruno Bezzetto, who began making West and Soda two years prior) was the first director to give the subgenre its distinct, iconic style, Gray and Grey Morality and lasting cultural impact.
- Magnificent Bastard: The Man with No Name. See the main page for details.
- Memetic Badass: Though fans are fully aware the Man With No Name is being facetious about his mule, it is nevertheless popular to take the joke at face value. Illustrations of how the mule strikes fear into the hearts of his enemies, or more comically how fans who downvote clips from the movie should apologize to his mule before he gets the "wrong idea" are not uncommon.
- Memetic Mutation: The Man With No Name's Poncho, Hat and Cigar.
- Moral Event Horizon:
- Ramon Rojo (the Big Bad) is undeniably evil, not only prevails this territory when he forces (and tries to rape) a woman to live with him and threatens to kill her young son if she is not given, his most monstrous moment was having massacred the entire Baxter family, including the matriarch, and Ramon just laughs killing every family member, as do his thugs.
- His brother Esteban crosses it by killing the matriarch herself as she curses them for killing everyone, especially her unarmed husband and son who were trying to surrender to save their skins. Both of his brothers react with subdued shock, and when even Ramon looks visibly creeped out by someone else's atrocity, that's a MEH right there.
- Narm Charm: "Joe" demanding an apology on behalf of his mule would be utterly laughable if it wasn't part of one of the most badass Establishing Character Moments of all time:"My mistake. Four coffins."
- Nightmare Fuel: Ramon Rojo is easily the most terrifying character in the whole film.
- Overshadowed by Controversy: The film's nature as an unauthorized Yojimbo remake and the lawsuit that resulted from this generally see more discussion nowadays than the film itself.
- Signature Scene: There are three scenes generally in contention for this.
- First is the Establishing Character Moment for Joe. He rides into town, only to be insulted and harassed by a trio of Baxter's men. He goes to settle with them, passing the undertaker along the way and telling the old man to prepare three coffins. He picks a fight with the Baxter men, (who have since been joined by a fourth) easily guns them all down with the Quick Draw that would make Clint Eastwood famous, then walks away, telling the undertaker to make it four coffins.
- The most popular choice is the final showdown with the Rojo brothers and their men. Joe sets off some dynamite out of town then lets the wind carry it into town, seeming to just appear out of the smoke. He then baits Ramon, the only truly dangerous member of the group, into wasting all his ammo on the hidden bulletproof vest he has under his poncho. After that he wipes the group out, temporarily sparing Ramon only so he can defeat Ramon one on one while throwing Ramon's insistence on the superiority of the rifle in Ramon's face.
- The darkhorse choice would be the Rojo brothers slaughtering the Baxters, if only because of how shockingly brutal and gut wrenching it is, arguably moreso than in Yojimbo.
- What an Idiot!: Ramon and his men freak out over Joe's apparent inability to die when Ramon shoots him repeatedly with his rifle, yet it never occurs to Ramon to try shooting Joe in the head, nor does it occur to him or his men to just open fire indiscriminately when Joe reveals he was wearing a crude bullet proof vest the whole time.
- Sort of a justified trope as in an early scene, Joe calls out Ramon for not doing a head shot during a practice shoot. Ramon believes that to really kill a man you must aim for the heart. Joe counted on it and called him on it during the aforementioned bulletproof vest scene. There's also the fact that at the time, a truly bulletproof vest was almost unheard of.
YMMV / A Fistful of Dollars