One of my favourite ever movie scenes is the "Ecstasy of Gold" last-but-one scene from Clint Eastwood's The Good The Bad and The Ugly, directed by Sergio Leone. If you've never seen this film, then hopefully the clip below should tempt you into watching it. It's one of Quentin Tarantino's favourite films and the scene below is used to open shows by the band Metallica. It's a near perfect match of cinematography, music and narrative, without the need for words.
At this point in the film, the three main characters have reached the final stage of their hunt for buried gold, having undertaken a journey of epic proportions. The gold is buried under one of the graves in a Civil War graveyard, with the graves arranged in concentric circles. Finally, Tuco (the ugly) finds the graveyard and he runs through it, trying to locate Arch Stanton's grave where he has been told the treasure is buried. The irony of his joy, found among hundreds of pointlessly killed soliders, always chokes me up. The music is both sad and glorious. Tuco starts running round in circles, literally - getting increasingly desperate - the graveyard is so enormous - can he ever find the grave he needs? The camera begins to spin around so the graves are blurred, while Tuco appears to be standing still while running. And finally, as Ennio Morricone's haunting music swells to a crescendo, just when you think he's never going to get anywhere - he spots the right grave. Or is it? What follows is a Mexican standoff that can only be resolved by a three-way shoot-out and a payoff which harks right back to the beginning of the film. It was Clint's last spaghetti western - the end of his trilogy. And a perfect high to go out on.