Best Directors Of Spaghetti Westerns

Wednesday, April 20 by D.A. Barber

"Spaghetti Western" is the nickname most screen junkies use for a genre of cowboy films that hit the theaters between 1960 and 1978, and tagged with that nicknamed because the best directors of Spaghetti Westerns were Italians. The films were shot in inexpensive locations in Italy that resemble the American Southwest, and used mostly non-English speaking actors. English was dubbed in later, sometimes with unintentional comical results.

American audiences probably know Spaghetti Westerns best from the movies with Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef. But many such films never made it to U.S. theaters. The best directors of Spaghetti Westerns were the “Three Amigo’s” of the genre: Sergio Leone, Sergio Sollima and Sergio Corbucci, regarded as the three greatest Spaghetti Western directors of all time.

  1. Sergio Leone. Leone is the best known Spaghetti Western director. His style included intense close-up shots and overly-timed long shots. Clint Eastwood appeared in three of Leone's films: “A Fistful of Dollars” (1964); “For a Few Dollars More” (1965); and, “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”(1966). Sergio also directed “Once Upon a Time in the West” (1968) and “Duck, You Sucker” (1971) as well as co-directing the two comedy westerns “My Name is Nobody” (1973) and “A Genius, Two Partners and a Dupe” (1975).
  2. Sergio Corbucci. Corbucci is considered the second best Spaghetti Western director, with thirteen films in all. Corbucci’s early Spaghetti Westerns included “Minnesota Clay” (1965) and “Johnny Oro” (1966), but “Django” (1966) was his first real film hit. Other films of note include “Navajo Joe” (1966), “The Hellbenders” (1967), “The Great Silence” (1968) and “Companeros” (1970).
  3. Sergio Sollima. One of the most respected Spaghetti Western directors, Sollima brought a good dose of social commentary to his films. Though he directed only three westerns, each is regarded a high-point of the genre. Sollima’s first was “The Big Gundown” (1966). His next western, “Face to Face” (1967), had a creepy psychological slant followed by the classic Zapata flick, “Run Man, Run” (1968).
  4. Ferdinando Baldi. Baldi, a former College Professor on Greek Tragedy, directed and co-wrote ten Spaghetti Westerns. His first was “Texas Adios” (1966). His next was the musical, “Little Rita of the West” (1967). Baldi went on to make the box office hit, “Django, Prepare a Coffin” (1968) and “The Forgotten Pistolero” (1969). Finally, he directed what has become known as the first “Spaghetti Western Fantasy,” “Get Mean” (1976), and the first 3D Spaghetti Western, “Comin' at Ya!” (1981).
  5. Enzo G. Castellari. Castellari directed ten Spaghetti Westerns, eight of which he co-wrote. After “Any Gun Can Play” (1967) became a box-office hit in Italy, he did an odd western adaptation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, “Johnny Hamlet” (1968). But his most important work is considered to be “Keoma” (1976).
  6. Giulio Petroni. Petroni’s “Death Rides a Horse” (1967) was his first Spaghetti Western and regarded today as a revenge-genre classic. He went on to direct “Tepepa” (1968), “Night of the Serpent” (1969) and the comedy “Life is Tough, eh' Providence?” (1972).
  7. Duccio Tessari. Tessari’s two “Ringo” films, “A Pistol for Ringo” (1965) and “Return of Ringo” (1965) made him the second highest grossing Spaghetti Western director during those early days. Tessari later directed “Don’t Turn the Other Cheek” (1971) and “Zorro” (1975).
  8. Tonino Valeri. Valeri spent most of his career as Sergio Leone’s assistant director on such films as “For a Few Dollars More” (1965). He broke-out on his own and directed “Taste of Killing” (1966) and then directed and co-wrote the classic “Day of Anger” (1967). Valerii hooked-up with Sergio Leone again in 1973 to co-direct “My Name is Nobody.”