The Greatest Movie Death? ‘Once Upon a Time in the West’

By  · Published on October 27th, 2014

Paramount Pictures

Editor’s Note: In the spirit of spooky time, the filmmakers behind The ABCs of Death 2 have all chosen their favorite movie deaths of all time, and Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado have agreed to shed some light on why they chose theirs. Take it away, Keshales and Papushado…

There are million ways to die in the west, especially in Spaghetti westerns but the best way to go is being shot by the late and great Sergio Leone.

This director really knows how to turn death into a huge spectacle of emotions. His death scenes are films within a film and the opening scene of Once Upon a Time in The West is the pinnacle of his work. For oh so many minutes Leone builds great tension by placing three gunmen in a train station. They all wait for their prey: Harmonica (Charles Bronson). It’s a long wait, and Leone stretches the time and our patience.

By the time Harmonica gets out of the train we almost want to shoot him ourselves for having us wait so long. And then it happens. It’s quick and abrupt – the complete opposite of the build up. The composition is great, the pacing is spot on, but what makes this death scene the best in the history of cinema is the dialogue between the gunmen and Harmonica:

Harmonica: Did you bring a horse for me?

Gunman: Well…looks like we shy one horse.

Harmonica: You brought two too many.

The best lesson in subtraction we’ve ever had!

Check out an illuminating conversation about shoving politics into horror with Keshales and Papushado here.

Read our review of The ABCs of Death 2 here.

It’s out on VOD now and hits select theaters on Halloween.

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