The Good, The Bad and the Ugly: Summary & Characters

Instructor: Benjamin Truitt

Benjamin has a Bachelors in philosophy and a Master's in humanities.

The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly is a spaghetti western set during the Civil War that follows three unsavory characters, played by Clint Eastwood, Eli Wallach, and Lee Van Cleef, who compete and cooperate in their quest for $200,000 in hidden Confederate gold.

The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly: Summary and Characters

When you have to shoot, shoot. Don't talk. - Tuco in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Clint Eastwood as The Man With No Name
Clint Eastwood as The Man With No Name

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly was the third western made by Italian director Sergio Leone. The film became the best-known and most popular spaghetti western (western movies made by Italians) in film cinema, and is a classic in the tradition of anti-hero, gritty westerns. Released in America in 1967 during the height of the Vietnam War, the film was a hit and has had a lasting influence on culture and filmmaking.

Characters

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly follows the quest of three characters to find hidden Confederate gold. The main characters, played by Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, and Eli Wallach, form uneasy alliances and intense rivalries as they race against each other for the upper hand in finding the prize.

Clint Eastwood

Clint Eastwood plays the 'man with no name', who is called 'Blondie' throughout the film and is the title 'good' character. A cigar-smoking figure with no given backstory and a tendency to speak in single sentences, Blondie appears in the desert to apprehend Tuco, a wanted bandit and the 'ugly' character, for a reward, only to then spring him from his noose so that he can gather the reward in another town. Blondie is a shrewd and calculating figure throughout the film and is judicious in his use of force. However, he has a soft side that is seen in a scene where he covers a dying soldier with his jacket and shares a cigar with the dying man.

Eli Wallach
Eli Wallach

Tuco, played by Eli Wallach as the 'ugly' character of the film, is a Mexican bandit who is wanted in at least 14 counties for a variety of unsavory behaviors. (In one scene, the 32 charges against him range from murder to misrepresenting himself as a Mexican general to illegal postal pick-up). Wallach plays Tuco as a walking contradiction since Tuco has no regard for killing and stealing, yet is quick to cross himself after a murder and to cry out if he is ever crossed. His sociopathic lust for gold determines who is friend or foe, and his sense of pride makes him a man who always remembers and relishes in punishing any slight against him. We learn from an encounter with Tuco's brother at a monastery that he left home at a young age from a place where his choices were bandit or the clergy for a career. Tuco maintains in his argument with his brother that Tuco's choice to be a bandit was the harder one.

Lee Van Cleef
Lee Van Cleef

'The bad' character in the film is played with cunning danger by Lee Van Cleef. Nicknamed 'Angel Eyes' at some point in his career as a hitman-for-hire, Van Cleef's character is a man whose only loyalty is to his pay. We meet Angel Eyes when he comes to fulfill his obligation to find out the name of a man who hid a cash box of gold. Angel Eyes shares dinner with his target before brutally killing him and his oldest son after accepting an offer to kill his original employer. As Angel Eyes explains, he always does the job he is paid for. After dispatching his employer following the revelation of the lost cash box, Angel Eyes sets out to find the gold and use any means at his disposal to obtain it. Angel Eyes is the most dangerous character, capable of using the mantle of authority for his own personal ends as when he appears as a Union officer and tortures Tuco to discover the cemetery where the gold is buried.

Summary

Set against the backdrop of the Civil War in the territory that would become New Mexico, The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly follows the pursuit of three unsavory characters in search of hidden Confederate gold. After a few successful cons where Tuco and Blondie collect and split the reward money on Tuco's head, Blondie decides that this partnership isn't going to make him any richer. He abandons Tuco and sets off on his own while Tuco threatens him as Blondie rides away.

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