The opening scene from Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) may very well be the greatest opening scene of any film ever. And I mean ever, I can’t even think of anything remotely close, save maybe the insane shoot-out from The Wild Bunch (1968) (a film which will be featured prominently in this series). In fact, the opening scene of this film is actually so good that it ultimately makes the rest of an excellent film seem anti-climactic. And while this film features Henry Fonda in his only role as a villain, which he plays brilliantly, and Charlie Bronson is an ass kicker with a harmonica, the opening scene is not only the greatest scene of any Leone film—which is saying a lot— but quite possibly one of the all time best. The only problem with it is that it comes too early in the film and doesn’t last long enough. Between the fly in the gun barrel, the plank wood train depot, the insane close-ups, and the impeccable pacing, this may be cinema at its most playfully gripping.
Hat tip to Luke Waltzer for sending in this request almost immediately after I tweeted the series. Which means I do accept requests, but they are run through a very stringent filter that only the best or worst scenes will survive 🙂