Spaghetti western films, a dark variation on traditional westerns made by Italian filmmakers, changed how many moviegoers looked at the western genre. Instead of clear-cut heroes and villains, spaghetti western films often featured anti-heroes at their center, silent men whose motivations ar unknown, and who often shoot first and ask questions later. Spaghetti western films utilized predominantly European casts, but some American stars made their bones in spaghetti western films, most notably Clint Eastwood, who came to be known for his turn as the Man With No Name in the films of Sergio Leone. Here are the essential spaghetti western films any movie fan should know.

  1. "For a Few Dollars More" - The second film in the Man With No Name trilogy from Sergio Leone, sequel to "A Fistful of Dollars," is actually superior to the first film. It has Eastwood's nameless gunman teaming with vengeful bounty hunter Lee Van Cleef to infiltrate and destroy a gang of Mexican bandits. Each man has his own motivations, which play out as the movie unfolds. Full of action, double-crossing, stylish cinematography and great music from Ennio Morricone, it is tops among spaghetti western films.

  2. "A Fistful of Dollars" - The first film in the trilogy sets the stage, introducing the most iconic character in spaghetti western films, Clint Eastwood's Man With No Name. Based on Akira Kurosawa's wandering samurai film "Yojimbo," an influence on all spaghetti western films, it has the Man With No Name entering a town where two factions war over money and territory. For profit, he seeks to play both sides against the middle, though his plan does not work out exactly, resulting in bloody beatings and gunfights like fans of western films had not yet seen.

  3. "Django" - Sergio Leone was not the only director making iconic spaghetti western films. "Django" was the work of another Italian director, Sergio Corbucci, and stars Franco Nero as a wandering gunman who drags his own coffin behind him, fatalisticall knowing that he will meet his end soon enough. He tangles with Mexican bandits and the KKK in this stylishly surreal entry in the history of spaghetti western films.

  4. "A Bullet for the General" - Damiano Damiani's classic spaghetti western film is a radical political tract set during the Mexican revolution, with bandits and revolutionarie fighting over a cache of stolen arms. While not for all tastes, it is an interesting film that says as much about the sixties spaghetti western era as it does about the Mexican Revolution itself.

  5. "The Good, The Bad and the Ugly" - The conclusion to Sergio Leone's classic trilogy also closes out our list of essential spaghetti western films. Eastwood and Van Cleef again team up, with Eil Wallach thrown into the mix as the iconic villain Tuco. Eastwood and Van Cleef form an uneasy alliance to try and beat Tuco to a fortune of gol buried beneath a cemetery in this classic of spaghetti western films.