A Fistful of Dollars

Movie review by
Charles Cassady Jr., Common Sense Media
A Fistful of Dollars Movie Poster Image
Guns galore in intro "spaghetti Western" serving.
  • NR
  • 2007
  • 102 minutes
Popular with kidsParents recommend

Parents say

age 11+
Based on 6 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 12 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive messages

Though the Man With No Name cleans up the town of all its criminal elements (and he goes out of his way to protect their innocent victims), the character's ruthless attitude, avarice, and easy way with a gun made even TV networks uneasy in the 1960s. Most of the supporting characters are supposed to Mexican (but are played by a melange of Europeans).

Violence

Lots and lots and lots of shooting, with six guns, rifles (and a machine gun). There's no blood, but plenty of bodies. Another man killed with a flung knife. There is a firebombing, and characters are tortured with severe beatings. Eastwood strikes a woman unconscious by mistake.

Sex

A married woman is held hostage by a murderous suitor, but he doesn't lay a finger on her.

Language

Villains told to go to hell.

Consumerism
Drinking, drugs & smoking

Saloon drinking, and Eastwood and others have cigarettes clenched in their teeth a lot of the time.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this is more violent than many of the Hollywood Westerns that preceded it -- though ones that came after were worse. Lots of men (and one woman) die, even if we don't see bullets leaving exit woods. A little boy is tormented by being fired at (but not hit) by bullies, and the hero suffers an excruciating beating. One character uses a plate of metal under his poncho as an effective bulletproof vest -- a real don't-try-this-at-home detail.

User Reviews

Adult Written bytrojan51 April 9, 2008
Educator and Parent of a 3, 10, 13, and 15 year old Written bytheprincessmommy May 24, 2012

Some Concerns, but Approved for My Boys

Although this is a very violent movie, I approved it for my 13 and 10 year old boys. Unlike most westerns, the main character was not out for revenge. He was... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written bydawtpbwv July 18, 2011

A F F O D review

it's perfectly fine
Kid, 12 years old January 6, 2013

Cool, Italian Western introduces Clint Eastwood.

This is a good movie. It was made by an Italian, which introduces the "spaghetti western" genre. This movie contains dramatic and suspenseful music fr... Continue reading

What's the story?

A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS is set in a grim Mexican border town called San Miguel. Into its dusty streets rides an American who would become known as The Man With No Name (Clint Eastwood). After getting bullied by some gunmen (who also harass a little boy by shooting at him), TMWNN learns from a friendly saloon-keeper that San Miguel makes its money buying guns and ammunition cheaply, then selling it to the Indians up north. Moreover, there are two factions involved, frequently killing each other: the corrupt sheriff/mayor Baxter and his family, and a rival gang led by the Rojo brothers. TMWNN hires on with the Baxter gang, then with the Rojo gang, studying their methods and informing each criminal boss about the other's movements, turning them against each other.

Is it any good?

There's no shortage of violence and guns here. In the 1960s, Italians, Spanish, Germans, and even Israelis started making their own Westerns, sticking to the classic iconography of gun duels, saloons, and desperadoes on horseback, but without the censorship codes of Hollywood. In the case of Italian director Sergio Leone, there was not just an elevated level of violence, but also a then-groundbreaking filmmaking style, with an emphasis on long, tense close-ups of the actors' faces, widescreen camera compositions, and hauntingly unusual music by Ennio Morricone. Westerns had been jokingly called "horse operas" before. Leone made them something close to real opera, and his style was much imitated.

It also helped that Leone was recommended the lean, little-regarded young actor Eastwood to play his recurring unnamed hero (Morricone originally wanted Henry Fonda or James Coburn), triggering another illustrious career. Though he doesn't come across as all that horrible these days, The Man With No Name was so disturbing to American tastes that when A Fistful of Dollars first aired on U.S. television, the studio hastily shot a prologue (with an Eastwood stand-in with his back to the camera) to explain that he's got a higher purpose than profit -- he's really an undercover lawman being sent on a mission to clean up the town, by guile and stealth. That little addition is missing from the home-video release versions of A Fistful of Dollars. Instead there's just a scrap of incidental dialogue to indicate that the gunslinger empathizes deeply with the victims in San Miguel, not the victimizers.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why the nameless Clint Eastwood character caused such a ruckus in the 1960s. Is the Man With No Name truly "amoral," as many commentators have called him? What are his motives? Is it a clue when he tells a family he's rescuing that he knew someone who needed help once, when no help came? You can use this movie to get kids interested in the Japanese classic it remakes, Yojimbo.

Movie details

Our editors recommend

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality and learning potential.

Learn how we rate