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John Carpenter says this Western is so good it nearly killed the genre

John Carpenter has made some of the best movies of all time, and he has some big opinions about how some of the best Westerns impacted the genre's future.

Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West is one of the best Westerns ever made

It’s always worth listening to John Carpenter when it comes to the best movies of all time. After all, the best John Carpenter movies span genres and generations. He’s not just the guy who made Halloween; he’s one of the best directors of all time.


And it turns out that John Carpenter has some big opinions when it comes to the best Westerns ever made. Specifically, he thinks the enormous success of Sergio Leone’s 1968 epic Once Upon a Time in the West almost put an end to the genre.

Starring Henry Fonda and Charles Bronson, the movie follows a bloody tale of violence and revenge over the course of nearly three hours of screen time. Few would dispute its status as one of Leone’s crowning achievements, alongside some of the best Clint Eastwood movies.

When asked about the decline of the Western towards the end of the 20th century, Carpenter told Rotten Tomatoes that “television did it to death and then, as brilliant as they were, the Italian Westerns parodied it to death”.

He added: “I remember seeing Once Upon A Time in the West, and it was a jaw-dropping movie. I couldn’t believe that movie. But after that, what are you going to do? I mean, you can’t do a gunfight any better than Henry Fonda and Charles Bronson. You cannot do it any better. You cannot; there’s nothing you can do. You cannot do a revenge story — Bronson’s whole journey in that — any better. What are you going to do?”

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Carpenter pointed out that the “traditional Westerns” of that era would subsequently give way to “left-wing Westerns” like the Kevin Costner movie Dances With Wolves. In Carpenter’s eyes, he still doesn’t think we’ve come close to matching the past glories of the genre.

Certainly, it would take a brave person to claim that Once Upon a Time in the West is anything other than an outright classic. For more from one of cinema’s most beloved genres, find out why the Yellowstone creator thinks nobody makes Westerns and the classic Western that Morgan Freeman thinks is one of the best movies.

To bring things a little more up to date, we’ve got detailed guides to the new movies coming your way in 2024.