A mysterious, mouth organ playing man, Harmonica (Charles Bronson), arrives by train. He agreed to meet Frank (Henry Fonda) at a railway station. Frank doesn't show. Instead he sent three of his men. The stranger shoots them and takes their horses.
Click here to see the rest of this review
Rancher McBain expects a bright future. With his family, the widower lives on his ranch Sweetwater, he hopes will be worth a lot of money soon. The new railway will cross Sweetwater's lands, because of the water well. McBain recently remarried and is expecting his new wife Jill (Claudia Cardinale) to arrive. He is making preparations for a party in her honor. The first uninvited guest to arrive however is Frank, who shoots the whole family.
Jill arrives at the station and on her way over to McBain's ranch, she meets gentleman-bandit Cheyenne (Jason Robards), and the man with the mouth organ. On her arrival at the ranch, Jill finds the whole family murdered. The ranch is now hers and she decides to stay and live there. The next day Cheyenne comes to visit. He suspects that Jill is next on the hit list.
Meanwhile Frank is at his employers, the invalid railway tycoon Mr. Morton, who wants to extend the railway towards California. Morton thinks that Frank has been too thorough, killing the McBain family. Furthermore, it was all in vain, since now there is a widow. Frank says the problem will be solved soon.
After Cheyenne left, Harmonica comes to visit Jill. She goes to Wobbles, the Frank's go-between, sent by Harmonica. She says she has a message for Frank. Wobbles claims he doesn't know Frank, but when Jill leaves, he immediately goes to Morton. Harmonica and Cheyenne follow him. Frank manages to take Harmonica prisoner, learns from his men that the attempt on Jill failed, and decides to go there himself. Cheyenne is there too. He takes out Frank's remaining men and liberates Harmonica.
The relationship between Frank and Morton has deteriorated. Morton doesn't want anymore killing and says it's better to buy Jill's land. Frank suggests Jill to auction off her ranch. The auction is not going very well, as buyers are being intimidated by Frank. Then Harmonica bids 5000 dollar and hands Jill back the ranch.
Frank shows up at the ranch. A duel between Frank and Harmonica ensues. Harmonica thinks back of the first time he met Frank. He was still a kid and Frank killed his brother, while little Harmonica had to play the mouth organ. Frank loses the duel, but before he dies, Harmonica gives him back the instrument. Finally Frank understands who he is.
Now his brother has been revenged Harmonica leaves. Jill admits to Cheyenne that she hopes the mysterious hero will return some day. Cheyenne warns her not to associate with men like himself and Harmonica.
Best part of story, including ending:
The story details the ruthlessness of business people in the Wild West.
Best scene in story:
The gun fight between Harmonica and Frank, where he finally realizes who Harmonica is.
Opinion about the main character:
His enigmatic character, proving to be trustworthy to the right people.