I grapple with Sergio Leone’s legacy.
On the one hand he had obvious talent, but on another I feel like most of his films were missing some necessary element that, if present, could have shot the film into true greatness. I think he hit that mark once, and yet I know I’m in a certain level of minority on this. Four of his seven films are on the IMDb’s Top 250 list, indicating that a whole lot of people really love his films a whole lot.
There’s definitely entertainment value to be had across his whole body of work (save his first credited film which is just a slog through and through), but this is one case where I’m largely on the outside of appreciation looking in.
Below is the list of Leone’s films, and do check out my other definitive rankings to appreciate their definitiveness.
“The screenplay he inherited and worked on was a mess, and he seems to have done it no favors at that stage. He filmed the movie competently with an eye to the physical elements in the absence of anything terribly compelling on the storytelling front, but it simply wasn’t enough to save a fatally flawed film.”
6. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
“There’s definitely entertainment to be had, but it’s all mired in the middle of a story that never comes close to gelling, especially in its second half. Robbing itself of any narrative drive or even a basic point, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly becomes a tedious struggle.”
“This is a film of great moments. I’m not entirely convinced that they coalesce into an actually good film, but I’m consistently entertained every time I watch it. And that, really, is all the movie really endeavors for, entertainment.”
“It’s rough and tumble, but A Fistful of Dynamite…or Duck, You Sucker…or Once Upon a Time…The Revolution (my favorite is probably the first, but I wish it had the third to make the second trilogy of Leone’s career slightly more cohesive) is an entertaining and surprisingly emotionally resonant film. It also feels like a slight step backwards while also stepping forward at the same time for Leone as a filmmaker.”
3. Once Upon a Time in the West
“I don’t think Once Upon a Time in the West quite rises to greatness, a key emotional beat doesn’t work and Leone’s style occasionally gets in the way of things, but it’s a consistently entertaining and intelligent work by a filmmaker who suddenly discovered the art of telling a story rather than just having great individual moments strung together. Leone really grew here as a filmmaker.”
“Still, that stylishness is infectious. Combined with the more appropriately built story to match, For A Few Dollars More represents Leone really growing as a filmmaker, finding the groove of the kinds of stories he wanted to make and how he wanted to make them. It’s an entertaining romp through the Old West as seen by an Italian in Spain, and it’s a good old fashioned time at the movies.”
1. Once Upon a Time in America
“A director well known for genre thrills in one particular genre, the Western, enters another, the gangster land epic, and knocks it out of the park. The extended lead up to production, the long filming period, and the extended running time of the film allows for a depth of emotion that is really rather remarkable. This is the crown jewel of Leone’s body of work, a film of maturity that builds off of the director’s greatest strengths while leaving behind all of his weaknesses.”
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