The film is known for Leone's use of long shots and close-up cinematography, as well as his distinctive use of violence, tension, and highly stylised gunfights. The plot revolves around three gunslingers competing to find a fortune in aburied cache of Confederate gold amid the violent chaos of the American Civil War (specifically the Battle ofGlorieta Pass of the New Mexico Campaign in 1862), while participating in many battles, confrontations, and duels along the way. The film was the third collaboration between Leone and Clint Eastwood, and the second with Lee VanCleef.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly was marketed as the third and final instalment in the Dollars Trilogy, following A Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More. The film was a financial success, grossing over $25 million at the box office,and is credited with having catapulted Eastwood into stardom. Due to general disapproval of the spaghetti Western genre at the time, critical reception of the film following its release was mixed, but it gained critical acclaim in later years, becoming knownas the "definitive spaghetti Western".
In 2002, the film was restored with the 14 minutes of scenes cut for US release re-inserted into the film. Clint Eastwood and Eli Wallach were brought back in to dub their characters' lines more than 35 years after the film's original release.Voice actor Simon Prescott substituted for Lee Van Cleef who had died in 1989. Other voice actors filled in for actors who had since died. In 2004, MGM released this version in a two-disc special edition DVD.
The film's title has entered the English language as an idiomatic expression. Typically used when describing something thoroughly, the respective phrases refer to upsides, downsides and the parts that could, or should have been done better,but were not.