AFI Movie Club: THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY
One of the definitive westerns of all time, THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY was the third collaboration between director Sergio Leone and AFI Life Achievement Award recipient Clint Eastwood – following A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS and its sequel, FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE. Collectively, the three films are commonly referred to as “the Man with No Name” trilogy after Eastwood’s taciturn character.
Watch Danny Trejo announce the film:
Movie Trivia About THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY
DID YOU KNOW? In an interview with American Film magazine, director Sergio Leone was asked what he saw in star Clint Eastwood. He replied that, “when Michelangelo was asked what he had seen in the one particular block of marble, which he chose among hundreds of others, he replied that he saw Moses. I would offer the same answer to your question – only backwards. I reply that what I saw, simply, was a block of marble. Eastwood moves like a sleepwalker between explosions and hails of bullets, and he is always the same – a block of marble. Clint, first of all, is a star.”
DID YOU KNOW? Director Sergio Leone tried to make the film as accurate to the historical time period as possible by doing research at the Library of Congress and being inspired by Civil War photographer Mathew Brady. However, the film isn’t entirely historically accurate. While the film depicts the use of dynamite, it wasn’t invented until 1867.
DID YOU KNOW? Of the iconic cheroot favored by his character in the “Man with No Name” trilogy, star Clint Eastwood has since said that they were an inspiration that he himself brought to the set. “I went out and bought a bunch of cigars that I thought would look good in a Western,” he said. “I had no idea they’d taste so vile! But I brought those along with me and I gave them to props and we cut them all up. I made a slew of them that I carried around in my pocket: different lengths to match up with different scenes.”
DID YOU KNOW? THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY features some extreme close-up shots that have become definitive of the western genre and the tense showdowns that are so famously featured. In an interview with NPR, star Clint Eastwood said that his iconic squint wasn’t necessarily planned. “That was just the sunlight,” he said. “They bombed me with a bunch of lights and you’re outside and it’s 90 degrees and it’s hard not to squint.”
DID YOU KNOW? To conceive the film’s iconic themes, composer Ennio Morricone said in an interview that, “I come from a background of experimental music which mingled real sounds together with musical sounds, so I used real sounds partly to give a kind of nostalgia that the film had to convey. I also used these realistic sounds in a psychological way. With THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY, I used animal sounds – as you say, the coyote sound – so the sound of the animal became the main theme of the movie. I don’t know how I had this idea. It’s just according to your experiences, and following the musical avant-garde.”
DID YOU KNOW? According to co-star Eli Wallach, when he was first approached about joining the production of THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY, he wasn’t yet familiar with director Sergio Leone’s work – and when told that the film would be a “spaghetti western,” Wallach thought the combination was “an anomaly…like Hawaiian pizza.” Wallach, however, did his due diligence and, looking at Leone’s previous projects, was ready to sign on.
-Roger Ebert said of THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY that, “the rule is that the ability to see is limited by the sides of the frame.” What do you think that means? Do you notice anything else about how the film is shot?
-What distinguishes the “good,” the “bad” and the “ugly” from one another? How do they earn their titular designations?
-How is THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY definitive of the western genre? In what ways is it different from genre entries that had come before?
-Why is the American Civil War significant to the plot? To the themes of the film?
-What aspects of THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY have taken on a life of their own beyond the film? Can you think of any times – outside of the film itself – that you’ve encountered references to its enduring aesthetics or sensibilities?
-How would you rate THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY?
In this exclusive video from the AFI Archive, Clint Eastwood talks about what makes a good western:
New to AFI Movie Club? Want to learn more?
AFI has created a global, virtual gathering of those who love the movies. Each day’s film is accompanied by fun facts, family-friendly discussion points and material from the AFI Archive to enrich your viewing experience.
Learn more in our FAQ section.