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80

Generally favorable reviews - based on 8 Critics What's this?

User Score
9.1

Universal acclaim- based on 69 Ratings

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  • Starring: ,
  • Summary: Sergio Leone's monumental epic is as big as its Monument Valley locations, as grand as its fine, distinguished cast, as tough and bawdy as every kid imagines the Old West. (Paramount)
Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 6 out of 8
  2. Negative: 0 out of 8
  1. 100
    Leone brought back a masterpiece, a film that expands his baroque, cartoonish style into genuine grandeur, weaving dozens of thematic variations and narrative arabesques around a classical western foundation myth.(Review of Original Release)
  2. An additional treat is seeing Hollywood good guy Henry Fonda playing one of the nastiest curs in the West. Once Upon a Time in the West is one of the great films in cinema history. (8/30/2000 Review)
  3. Reviewed by: Staff (Not credited)
    100
    Sergio Leone's masterpiece. In Once Upon a Time in the West, Leone pulls together all the themes, characterizations, visuals, humor, and musical experiments of the three "Dollars" films and comes up with a true epic western. It is a stunning, operatic film of breadth, detail, and stature that deserves to be considered among the greatest westerns ever made. (Review of Original Release)
  4. Reviewed by: Staff (Not credited)
    70
    Henry Fonda and Jason Robards relish each screen minute as the heavies, and Charles Bronson plays Clint Eastwood's 'man with no name' role. (Review of Original Release)
  5. 63
    Good fun, especially if you like Leone's way of savoring the last morsel of every scene. (Review of Original Release)
  6. The biggest, longest, most expensive Leone Western to date, and, in many ways, the most absurd... Granting the fact that it is quite bad, Once Upon the Time in the West is almost always interesting, wobbling, as it does, between being an epic lampoon and a serious hommage to the men who created the dreams of Leone's childhood. (Review of Original Release)
  7. Reviewed by: Phil Hall
    50
    Alas, the big screen also magnifies the problems with Once Upon a Time in the West. Specifically, Leone’s insistence on style trumped the need for substance. The film is basically a B-Western stretched an agonizing 165 minutes.

See all 8 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 9 out of 10
  2. Negative: 0 out of 10
  1. Aug 19, 2010
    9
    Family has house & plot of land, authorities want it, hired guns get involved, Mother of family returns, a real good hoe-down.
    Another one of
    Sergio Leone's masterpieces & if pushed would say as good as The Good, The Bad & The Ugly. (apart from the showdown at the end, you can't top that!!)
    The setting & characters are brilliant & then, of course, with the genius of Ennio Morricone's score on top.
    As with most Leone films there's a lot of Italian/Spanish extras so quite a bit of lip-syncing but the performances by Henry Fonda, Claudia Cardinale, Charles Bronson & especially Jason Robards are magnificent.
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  2. Dec 30, 2013
    9
    An epic about the expansion and construction as the frontier pushed toward the pacific, interlined with one man's journey to make someone pay for what he did in the past.

    From the outset, Leone makes it clear that his focus on portraying the life and environment of the West would supersede any need to tell the story. His self appointed task of showing all the mundane happenings and goings on of this world is well achieved. A train station is shown where the typical protagonist of a Western, who never has a name, engages himself in a shoot-out while in search for a man named Frank.

    Focus shifts to McBain and his family who owns a land in the middle of nowhere. He is clearly suspicious about something that is going to happen and we are rewarded with what it is almost immediately. During this conflict we are introduced to this Frank that the first man was searching for.

    A woman enters the story right around here who becomes more involved in the plot as the movie progresses, so is another character by the name of Cheyenne. She suddenly finds herself the centre of attention among outlaws and rail-road companies. The treatment of women is summed up quite clearly the way men behave with her. She is initially a woman who is well dressed and of a noble birth by all accounts and if even that could not gain her even the lowest level of respect, nothing could. The latter is the more engaging of any characters in the script, and thank God for his presence.

    As the plot thickens, the mysterious man looks for Frank, Cheyenne seeks to clear his name in an incident involving multiple killings, and Frank helps his partner acquire land in the path of the envisioned rail-road to the pacific. The first two decide to stick around and help Jill with something that would honour the memory of the man who was killed, while Frank does all he can to take the land he needs to build the rail-road.

    Frank asks the man twice who he is, to which he lists the names of some of the men he has killed. It is not enough that Frank should die. He needs to suffer while thinking about why this man wants to kill him. To this purpose he is even saved by this man. And surely enough, when Frank cannot take it any more, he himself goes after the man to find out the reason. At this point we finally learn the secret.

    I felt like the movie lost steam an hour and a half into it and after that it felt like a task just to finish watching it. It was a narrative mess. The Man has every intention to come across as mysterious and awe-inspiring, but I found it frustrating after a while. He seemed to be content with wasting other people's (including the audience) time. I found Cheyenne much more interesting.

    The dialogue was sparse. Only Cheyenne knew how to say things that would make people laugh and keep humoured, which was essential given the length of the movie. The plot develops linearly but Leone decided that it wasn't doing it for him and jumbled up everything. Some plot jumps took place, one of which infuriated me the most. The cinematography captured the bleak landscape of the West. The score was slow paced and introduced tension during the key moments. The set design depicted the life at the frontier with the wooden towns, horse-drawn carriages, sweaty people, all that.

    Considered the greatest of Leone's work, I could not agree in good conscience. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly was a hell of a lot more fun and had engaging characters, even though it had a fraction of the budget for this movie, proving once again that great movies need not be created through extravagance. Here, the characters seemed bland for the most part. They seemed not to know where they had to move in service to the story and wandered around aimlessly. There was not a single scene that cut it out for me. The only thing that Once did better was portray the daily life and toil of ordinary people in the west.

    The movie failed to make a major impact on my emotions and senses right until the last shoot-out, which speaks for Leone's idea of greatness_ bore people so much that they have to see the timer several times to make sure the movie is headed forward. While it can be argued that the movie depicted the general life in the west quite effectively, I for one feel that story always trumps the need for grand style and an urge to make some kind of a statement. There's no doubt that the setting needs to be strong, but the characters need to be much stronger, which in turn should give way to the plot.
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  3. Jan 30, 2014
    9
    Classic. Only second to Good the Bad and the Ugly as far as westerns go. Anyone who enjoys a good western, in the unlikely event they haven't seen this one, needs to see it. Expand

See all 10 User Reviews