A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is a lengthy, violent Western, considered adult material when first released because of the mass-killing, swearing, and the frank acknowledgement of prostitution, death, and greed. There's a strong futility-of-war theme in the bloody Civil War carnage. A character who became a clergyman rather than an outlaw is scolded for cowardice, and the film seems to support that judgment. There are repeated stunts involving characters who nearly get hung, only to escape at the last second when bullets cut the rope, as well as some cavalier playing with dynamite.
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What's the story?
In THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY, Clint Eastwood's character is an opportunistic gunman in Civil War-era Texas who saves grubby bandit Tuco (Eli Wallach) from bounty-hunters -- only to turn Tuco in himself for the reward money, then rescue the condemned man over and over again, for further bounty. Tuco gets tired of this routine and almost kills his partner -- but then they each hear different clues to the hiding place of a fortune in Union Army gold. They must reluctantly keep each other safe while searching for the treasure, against the backdrop of ever-escalating bloodshed between North and South. Moreover, another outlaw, a vicious freelance murderer nicknamed Angel Eyes (Lee Van Cleef, who, rather confusingly, played an entirely different character in For a Few Dollars More), has already been looking for the gold, and he gains a sergeant's rank in the Union Army as he follows the other two men.
Is it any good?
Director Sergio Leone brilliantly displays his flamboyant, larger-than-life filmmaking style here. He puts an emphasis on long, tense close-ups of the actors' faces; widescreen camera compositions; wry humor; quick explosions of action; and surreal music by Ennio Morricone. He also tells a dense, multi-layered story that worked well for a lot of viewers in the Vietnam era as a statement on greed and violence; The treasure hunt between the three main characters gets overtaken by the greater menace, that of the Civil War that chews up so many young lives -- making even the hardened Man With No Name morally repulsed at the slaughter. But not so repulsed that he doesn't still have a plan to get the gold.
Reckoned by some fans as the best Western ever, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is the sweeping, stirring finale in a loose trilogy of trendsetting Italian-made horse operas starring Clint Eastwood as the Man With No Name (you actually were told his name in the previous For a Few Dollars More, but never mind). It's unnecessary to see the other movies to follow this one.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what makes The Good, the Bad and the Ugl a Western classic. You can compare it to countless other sagebrush tales in which the good guys and the bad guys were a lot more one dimensional.
How does the Man With No Name's feelings for Tuco (or other people) change throughout the story? Does it really seem to concern the Civil War, or do the battle scenes recall more recent military ops you can think of?
You might talk about "spaghetti Westerns" in general and the movies they influenced, right up to Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End.
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