A Fistful of Dollars

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

Parents say

age 11+
Based on 8 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 19 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.

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User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 11 and 13-year-old Written byawillcox December 6, 2019

First time CSM let us down

This film is more violent than it's rated here. Yes, there's not a lot of gore, but there is a lot of violent death, and particularly sadistic murders... Continue reading
Adult Written byahmed aiman 99 April 20, 2019

Leone at his coolest!

The final duel is simply one of the tensest final scenes I've ever seen! But aside from it, the shootouts and gun fights are surprisingly boring, monotonou... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byDinosaurReviews May 28, 2018

Very violent, but a good western

This movie is a classic 1964 western by Sergio Leone and introducing Eastwood to fame, but it isn't for kids. There's more blood than the common sense... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byNsgolf18 April 29, 2020
Great movie, this shouldn’t be rated R, a PG-13 is way more accurate.

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

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