Rating the Eurowesterns: What the Ratings Mean

There were some 500-700 euro-westerns made in roughly the 15 years after 1962 (as well as a small number in the century before 1962). The films listed here are the best products of an unusually fruitful popular film cycle.

As for my ratings, I believe the genre only produced a handful to truly great films. The others are rated in relation to these films on a “Spaghetti Western scale.” In a sense,  I ask to questions when I rate a film:

1)  How good is it compared to the genre’s 3 best films (Once Upon A Time In The WestThe Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, and A Bullet For The General)? By ‘good’, I am thinking of acting, writing, direction, and score. This criteria applies to all films, regardless of genre.

2)  Based on the conventions of the genre, did this movie leave me satisfied as a Eurowestern fan? This criteria distinguished the Eurowesterns from other genres. Those elements that make a good French New Wave art film are the not the same elements that make a good Eurowestern. What are we, the audience, expecting from these films? Does it deliver?

3) How historically important is the film to the development of the genre? Which films caught the audience’s attention, driving the film cycle of the 1960s and 1970s?

4) How would a non-genre fan respond to this movie? Is this a movie with a wide appeal or would it appeal more to genre fans familair with its conventions?

It seems silly to rate all movie genres on the same scale. What point is there in comparing, say, Carl Dreyer’s Joan of Arc to Arizona Colt? These movies were meant to entertain and to provide surprising variations of the basic formula. Some were fairly decent films, but a great many more were very entertaining ones.

How do my ratings work? The order of the films doesn’t matter too much. However, if two films have the same SW Rating, then they are considered to be of similar quality.  I use 1/4 stars to distinguish movies at a slightly finer level. Two movies may both be ‘good’, but perhaps I think one is just a little better than another. Also, sometimes I want to signal that there is a movie that I really like but that I don’t think is necessarily very good. To indicate movies that I am fond of for some reason, I use a ‘*’.

9.25 to 10 stars: Great Cinema. These movies transcend the genre and have influenced the following generations of filmmakers. These movies are part of cinema’s DNA. Examples: Once Upon A Time In The West and The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly.

8 to 9 stars: Genre Classics. These movies remain within the limitations of the genre, but they are the classics that defined it. They continue to influence contemporary popular culture and are of interest to audience beyond Eurocult film fans. Examples: The Great Silence, The Return of Ringo, The Big Gundown, Massacre Time.

7 to 7.75 stars: The Good. These movies exemplify the Eurowestern and are usually popular among genre fans. Some are appealing to non-genre audiences, but others are an acquired taste. Examples: Sabata, Viva Django, The Silent Stranger, and Gatling Gun.

6 to 6.75 stars: High Average. These movies follow genre conventions pretty closely and some are popular among genre fans, but they suffer from poorer execution or budgets. They are enjoyable but necessarily ‘good.’ Most are an acquired taste. Examples: W Django!, El Rojo, and Ringo Face of Revenge.

5 to 5.75 stars:  Low Average. These movies are follow genre conventions, but are generally less enjoyable. They tend to be a bit dull in comparison with the films rated more highly. They are definitely an acquired taste. Examples:  Shoot the Living, Pray For the Dead, and Django Meets Sartana.

3 to 4.5 stars: The Bad. These movies tend to sleepwalk through genre conventions, stringing together situations from better movies in a more or less coherent fashion. Usually very quickly made, their shoestring budgets hamstring any attempts at competent filmmaking. However, they may actually be more enjoyable than films rated in the 5 range. Examples: Twilight Avengers, Rattler Kid, Ballad of Django, and Thirteenth Is a Judas.

1 to 2.5 stars: The Ugly. This the lowest circle of genre hell, the most stunningly incompetent films in the genre. Their badness usually has to be seen to be believed . . . and yet each of these movies will have its defenders. Examples: Cipolla Colt, Finders Killers.

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