Lists are great. They inspire discussion, create arguments, and tend to spiral off into fun new lists. When you do a list about the “BEST” of anything it goes from being fun to becoming a hotbed for arguments. There’s no such thing as a definitive list but I’ve decided to pull from my rather extensive life of film watching and put it to good use.
This is not the “film critic’s top 100” list. There’s no guarantee Citizen Kane or The Bicycle Thief will be in the top echelon or even on the list. This is the 100 movies I would put my name on as my top 100. If I died tomorrow this would represent the 100 films I find most vital, special, or ones that bonded to whatever it is that makes me me. I’m not including documentaries, though that might make for a nice supplemental list.
The first 80 will be in no particular order. The last 20 will be in very particular order. One a day, you have my word.
#89 – Once Upon a Time in the West
Why is it here:
Many of Sergio Leone’s movies deserve love. Ample amounts, especially considering their effect in delivering Clint Eastwood to us like a beacon in the darkness. But this one, featuring not one iota of Clint, is his masterwork. An epic, dusty bit of perfection that is in the discussion not only for best Western ever made but also the best usage of the widescreen frame ever made. The composition of Leone’s shots here elevate a formulaic but extremely effective revenge and betrayal plot into something much more. It just oozes coolness and must’ve been an amazing time at the movies in 1968. It’s a foundation many subsequent films int he genre have wisely cribbed from and you cannot do better than the Charles Bronson/Henry Fonda combo. Especially when Woody Strode, Jack Elam, Jason Robards, and Keenan Wynn only make it better. And Claudia Cardinale is a babe of the highest order.
Moments to savor:
The introduction of a truly mean Henry Fonda as he gives a ginger child a goodbye. Charles Bronson at his coolest. Woody Strode vs. Charles Business. The hanging sequence. Damn near every close-up or vista. The pacing of the climax. The patience running throughout the film. Nothing is rushed. Jack Elam vs. Fly.
It’s a long, deliberate movie but damned if I don’t watch it all the way through whenever it’s on.
This movie did more for the harmonica than anything this side of Bob Dylan. To watch this flick is to be immersed in shots that planted seeds into the minds of so many of our favorite filmmakers. To many The Searchers is their numero uno but for me this is the old school Western that owns all.