A Fistful of Dollars (1964)

fistful of dollars poster 1964 movie
8.0 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 8/10

Good start to the Man with No Name Trilogy

Gets a bit long in the middle

Movie Info

Movie Name: A Fistful of Dollars

Studio:  Jolly Film/Constantin Film/Ocean Films

Genre(s): Western/Action/Adventure

Release Date(s):  September 12, 1964 (Italy)/January 18, 1967 (US)/June 11, 1967 (UK)

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

fistful of dollars man with no name costume clint eastwood

What’s my name? Wouldn’t you like to know?!?!

A stranger (Clint Eastwood) has arrived in the small border town of San Miguel which is ruled by two families.  The stranger sees opportunity in the situation and realizes that playing the families of the Rojo brothers (Johnny Wels, Sieghardt Rupp, Antonio Prieto) against John Baxter (W. Lukschy) and his kin could be a money making bonanza.  The stranger is playing a dangerous game and getting paid and getting out could be deadly.

Directed by Sergio Leone, A Fistful of Dollars (Per un pugno di dollari aka For a Fistful of Dollars) is a spaghetti western.  Following Leone’s The Colossus of Rhodes in 1961, the film is an adaptation of Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo (1961) which caused a lawsuit by Kurosawa and heralded the rise of the spaghetti western.  The film initially was given negative reviews but became a classic.

fistful of dollars clint eastwood man with no name beaten

I’ve had better days…

While The Man with No Name trilogy peaked with its finale The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, it has a strong start here with A Fistful of Dollars.  Though essentially a remake, the movie manages to diversify itself from the original source material to make its own thing…and in its wake, it created its own genre within the western world.

The story is a pretty basic mock-up of Yojimbo.  The man with no name comes in, sees opportunity, and pits criminal against criminal.  Unlike the straight-up criminals he is manipulating, he has a code of ethics that does ultimately dictate his actions.  Though the stranger might walk away with money, justice is more important…it is a rather classic take of an antihero.

The movie is known for being Clint Eastwood’s first starring role.  He had appeared in other films, but A Fistful of Dollars helped to make him a star.  He works with his grim look and gritty approach to the character who is basically a stock figure (literally with no name), but Eastwood gives him dimension.  He’s the type of guy you want on your side in a fight, but you have to earn his allegiance.

fistful of dollars ending shoot out

Do you feel lucky, punk?

Westerns traditionally have a certain pacing and look, but spaghetti westerns upended that approach.  Faster and more ruthless, the spaghetti westerns have a real style unto themselves.  A Fistful of Dollars isn’t the most extreme of these style of westerns, but it demonstrates a starting point.  I’m not a big western fan.  I love the look of westerns, but the storytelling, pacing, and style often bother me…spaghetti westerns are a beast of their own.

A Fistful of Dollars is a nice kickstart to Leone’s big run as a director.  While he wasn’t the most proficient director, he had a look and a style that distinguished him.  Leone is a director I often wish had gotten the chance to make a few more movies…just to see what he’d do.  His pairings with Eastwood for this series were magic, and provided a visionary look at a westerns.  Leone followed A Fistful of Dollars with the second entry in the Man with No Name trilogy For a Few Dollars More in 1965.

Related Links:

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966)

Yojimbo (1961)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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