After cutting short a bounty hunting scam, The Man With No Name 'The Good' (Clint Eastwood) - this time called Blondie - leaves Tuco 'The Ugly' (Eli Wallach) for dead in the harsh desert. However when both men learn a different piece of information leading to a $200,000 treasure, they are forced to work together again for the money.
On their journey they are both hampered and aided by a third party - Sentenza 'The Bad' (Lee van Cleef) - who also wants his share of the reward. The whole story takes place against the background of the American civil war.
Many people have described this film as the best Western ever made. Without a doubt, as a standalone film, The Good, The Bad And The Ugly is simply superb. The complex relationships between the three protagonists had me on the edge of my seat throughout the film, never knowing if they were going to work together or kill each other in cold blood.
The soundtrack too is utterly iconic. While I associated the predecessor's tones with cowboy music, I often associate the whole Western genre with The Good, The Bad And The Ugly's backing tune. It has also become quintessential as the accompanying music to any stand off, whether it be in a parody or simply on the school playground.
Any fan of the series will know that Eastwood's character appears alongside van Cleef's character in For A Few Dollars More. This would be my only criticism of The Good, The Bad And The Ugly, as this previous relationship has been forgotten (or is cleverly disguised in the fickleness of the characters) as they both appear to not know the other exists.
As a result of the latter paragraph, I have literally spent days deliberating over whether to mark the film down. It did make the film more confusing for me - but only as I'd seen the previous two films in the trilogy. But, crucially, Sergio Leone's trilogy is rarely marketed as a trilogy set piece and the films can be watched standalone. Anyone who watches The Good, The Bad And The Ugly by itself will happily watch the film in sweet ignorant bliss of my character confusion.
So, as a standalone film, The Good, The Bad And The Ugly is the pinnacle of Sergio Leone's Western renaissance. Simply brilliant.