A Fistful of Dollars
A fistful of dollars11-192x300
Directed by Sergio Leone
Produced by Arrigo Colombo

Giorgio Papi

Written by Story:

A. Bonzzoni

Víctor Andrés Catena

Sergio Leone

Screenplay: Victor Andrés

Catena Jamie

Comas Gil

Sergio Leone

Starring Clint Eastwood

Marianne Koch

Gian MariaVolonté

José Calvo

Joseph Egger

Antonio Prieto

Mario Brega

Wolfgang Lukschy

Sieghardt Rupp

Benny Reeves

Music by Ennio Morricone
Distributed by United Artists


Release date(s)

Italy:October 16, 1964

United States:January 18, 1967

Running time 100 minutes
Country Italy


Language Italian
Budget $200,000 (est.)
Followed by For a Few Dollars More

A Fistful of Dollars (Italian: Per un pugno di dollari) is a 1964 Italian-Spanish Spaghetti Western film directed by Sergio Leone and starring Clint Eastwood alongside Gian Maria Volonté, Marianne Koch, Wolfgang Lukschy, Sieghardt Rupp, José Calvo, Antonio Prieto, and Joseph Egger. Released in Italy in 1964 then in the United States in 1967, it initiated the popularity of the Spaghetti Western film genre. It was followed by For a Few Dollars More (1965) and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966), also starring Eastwood. Collectively, the films are commonly known as the "Dollars Trilogy" or "The Man With No Name Trilogy". This film is an unofficial remake of the Akira Kurosawa film Yojimbo (1961), which itself drew inspiration from earlier Westerns. In the United States, the United Artists publicity campaign referred to Eastwood's character in all three films as the "Man with No Name".

As one of the first Spaghetti Westerns to be released in the United States, many of the European cast and crew took on American sounding stage names. These included Leone himself ("Bob Robertson"), Gian Maria Volonté ("Johnny Wels"), and composer Ennio Morricone ("Dan Savio").

A Fistful of Dollars was shot in Spain, mostly near Hoyo de Manzanares close to Madrid, but also (like its two sequels) in the Cabo de Gata-Níjar Natural Park in Almería province.


A stranger (Clint Eastwood), arrives at the little Mexican border town of San Miguel. An innkeeper, Silvanito (José Calvo), tells the Stranger about the bitter feud between two families vying to gain control of the town: on the one side, the Rojo brothers, consisting of Don Miguel (Antonio Prieto) (the eldest and nominally in charge), Esteban (Sieghardt Rupp) (the most headstrong), and Ramón (the most capable and intelligent, played by Gian Maria Volonté); on the other, the family of the town sheriff, John Baxter (Wolfgang Lukschy). A stranger, Joe (Eastwood), with innkeeper Silvanito (José Calvo), watches as Mexican soldiers bring a shipment of gold through San Miguel.The Stranger, spying an opportunity to make money from the situation, decides to play both families against each other. His opportunity comes when a detachment of Mexican soldiers escorting a shipment of gold passes through the town. The gold is ostensibly being delivered to a troop of American soldiers in exchange for weapons, but following the Mexican troops out of town, the Stranger witnesses them being massacred by members of the Rojo gang, dressed in American uniforms and led by Ramon Rojo. The Rojos take the gold.

The Stranger takes two of the bodies to a nearby cemetery and sells information to both sides that two Mexican soldiers survived the attack. Both sides race to the cemetery, the Baxters to get the "survivors" to testify against the Rojos, the Rojos to silence them. The factions engage in a fierce gunfight, with Ramon managing to "kill" the "survivors" and Esteban capturing John Baxter's son, Antonio. While the Rojos and the Baxters are fighting, the Stranger searches the Rojo hacienda for the gold, but accidentally knocks out Ramón's beautiful prisoner and unwilling mistress, Marisol (Marianne Koch), when she surprises him. He takes her to the Baxters, who in turn arrange to return her to the Rojos in exchange for Antonio.

During the exchange, the Stranger learns Marisol's history from Silvanito: "... a happy little family until trouble comes along. And trouble is the name of Ramon, claiming the husband cheated at cards, which wasn't true. He gets the wife to live with him as hostage." That night, while the Rojos are celebrating, the Stranger rides out and frees Marisol, shooting the guards and wrecking the house in which she is being held in order to make it appear as if it was attacked by the Baxters. The Stranger tells Marisol, her husband, and their son to leave town, at the same time giving them some money to tide them over. Marisol asks the Stranger, "Why do you do this for us?", and for the first and only time the Stranger provides an insight into his actions: "Why? Because I knew someone like you once. There was no one there to help. Now get moving".

Discovering that he freed Marisol, the Rojos capture and beat the Stranger, but he escapes, killing Chico (Mario Brega) in the process. Believing the Stranger to be protected by the Baxters, the Rojos set fire to the Baxter home and massacre all the residents as they are forced to flee. Among the dead are John Baxter, his wife, Consuelo (Margarita Lozano), and Antonio. Now the only gang left in San Miguel, the Rojos confront and beat Silvanito, whom they think is hiding the Stranger.

The Stranger returns to town, where he faces the Rojos in a dramatic showdown. With a steel chest plate hidden beneath his clothing, he taunts Ramon to "aim for the heart" as Ramon's rifle shots bounce off. Killing all present except Ramon, the Stranger challenges Ramon to reload his rifle faster than he, the Stranger, can reload his pistol. He then shoots and kills Ramon. Esteban Rojo, unseen by the Stranger and aiming at him from a nearby building, is shot dead by Silvanito. The Stranger says his goodbyes and rides from the town.


  • Clint Eastwood as Joe, the foreigner ("The Man with No Name")
  • Gian Maria Volonté (as Johnny Wels) as Ramón Rojo
  • Marianne Koch as Marisol
  • José Calvo (as Jose Calvo) as Silvanito
  • Joseph Egger (as Joe Edger) as Piripero
  • Antonio Prieto as Don Miguel Rojo
  • Sieghardt Rupp (as S. Rupp) as Esteban Rojo
  • Wolfgang Lukschy (as W. Lukschy) as John Baxter
  • Margarita Lozano (as Margherita Lozano) as Donna Consuelo Baxter
  • Bruno Carotenuto (as Carol Brown) as Antonio Baxter
  • Mario Brega (as Richard Stuyvesant) as Chico
  • Daniel Martín as Julián
  • Aldo Sambrell (as Aldo Sambreli) as Rubio
  • Benito Stefanelli (as Benny Reeves) as Dougy
  • Lorenzo Robledo: Baxter's member


A Fistful of Dollars was at first intended by Leone to reinvent the western genre in Italy. In his opinion, the American westerns of the mid to late 1950s had become stagnant, overly-preachy and unbelievable, and, because of this, Hollywood began to gear down production of such films. Leone knew that there was still a significant market in Europe for westerns yet also realised that Italian audiences of the time were beginning to laugh at the stock conventions of both the American westerns and pastiche work of Italian directors hiding under pseudonyms. His approach was to take the grammar of the Italian film and transpose it into a western setting.

Eastwood was not the first actor approached to play the main character. Originally, Sergio Leone intended Henry Fonda to play the "Man with No Name". However, the production company could not afford to engage a major Hollywood star. Next, Leone offered Charles Bronson the part. He too declined the role, arguing that the script was bad. Both Fonda and Bronson would later star in Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West (1968). Other actors who turned the role down were Steve Reeves, Ty Hardin and James Coburn. Leone then turned his attention to Richard Harrison, who had recently starred in the very first Italian western, Gunfight at Red Sands (Duello nel Texas). Harrison, however, had not been impressed with his experience on his previous film, and refused. The producers later established a list of available, lesser-known American actors, and asked Harrison for advice. Harrison suggested Eastwood, whom he knew could play a cowboy convincingly. Harrison later stated, "Maybe my greatest contribution to cinema was not doing Fistful of Dollars, and recommending Clint for the part."

The film was shot in Spain, and although it was not the first western shot in such a manner and the film itself was evidently a tribute[citation needed] to Akira Kurosawa's Yojimbo (1961), the film would become a benchmark in the Spaghetti Western genre that evolved from the mid 1960s.

Eastwood was instrumental in creating the Man with No Name's distinctive visual style. He bought the black jeans from a sport shop on Hollywood Boulevard, the hat came from a Santa Monica wardrobe firm and the trademark black cigars came from a Beverly Hills store. On the anniversary DVD for The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, it was said that while Eastwood himself is a non-smoker, he felt that the foul taste of the cigar in his mouth put him in the right frame of mind for his character.

Leone reportedly took to Eastwood's distinctive style quickly, and commented that "I like Clint Eastwood because he has only two facial expressions: one with the hat, and one without it."

Because A Fistful of Dollars was an Italian/German/Spanish co-production, there was a significant language barrier on the set. Leone did not speak English, and Eastwood communicated with the Italian cast and crew mostly through stuntman Benito Stefanelli, who also acted as an unofficial interpreter for the production and would later appear in Leone's other pictures.

A Fistful of Dollars became the first film to exhibit Leone's famously distinctive style of visual direction. This was influenced by both John Ford's cinematic landscaping and the Japanese method of distension, perfected by Akira Kurosawa. Leone wanted an operatic feel to his western and so there are many examples of extreme close-ups on the faces of different characters that function like the arias in a traditional opera. They focus the attention on a single person and that countenance becomes both the landscape and dialogue of the scene. This is quite different from the Hollywood use of faces where the close-up was treated as a reaction shot, usually to a piece of dialogue that had just been spoken. Leone's close-ups are more akin to portraits, often lit with Renaissance-type lighting effects and are pieces of design in their own right.


The film's music was written by Ennio Morricone, credited as Dan Savio. Morricone recalled Leone requesting him to write "Dimitri Tiomkin music" for the film. The trumpet theme is similar to Tiomkin's El Degüello theme from Rio Bravo (1959) (that was called Un dollaro d'onore in Italy) while the opening title whistling music recalls Tiomkin's use of whistling in his Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957). "Some of the music was written before the film, which is unusual. Leone's films were made like that because he wanted the music to be an important part of it, and he often kept the scenes longer simply because he didn't want the music to end. That's why the films are so slow - because of the music." Though not used in the completed film, Peter Tevis recorded lyrics to Morricone's theme for the film. As a movie tie-in to the American release, United Artists Records released a different set of lyrics to Morricone's theme called Lonesome One by Little Anthony and the Imperials.


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