As spaghetti westerns, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly and Navajo Joe, deviate from the typical characteristics of the classical western. Most noticeably, the films are extraordinarily violent. From the opening scenes, the films demonstrate merciless and indiscriminate killing, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly features the first of many shootouts while Navajo Joe shows the massacre of an entire Indian village and scalping of an innocent woman. The murderous characters’ lacks of compassion seem to stem from complete simplemindedness, demonstrating no mental capacity for thoughts other than revenge or financial gain.
From a cultural studies perspective, spaghetti westerns like the The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly and Navajo Jo provide an Italian critique of the American classical western, and correspondingly, American society itself. The films take aspects from the classical western and exaggerate them to demonstrate, with unmistakable clarity, the foolishness and barbaric nature of the behavior. Since the classical western is a reflection of American culture, the Italian mockery of the genre also ridicules Americans. The evidence within both films of the characters’ greed and prioritization of money over all else provides a sharp jab at the American free market. Furthermore, the careless killing appears to scorn the nation’s quick use of violent force.