Winning streak: The Colossus of Rhodes (1961), A Fistful of Dollars (1964), For a Few Dollars More (1965), The Good, The Bad and the Ugly (1966), Once Upon a Time in the West (1968), Duck, You Sucker! (1971), Once Upon a Time in America (1984)
His filmography isn't as long as most others on this list, but Sergio Leone didn't need a double-digit number of movies to cement his legacy. Along with his trusted collaborator, and frequent leading man, Clint Eastwood, the Italian auteur popularized an entire sub-genre, the "Spaghetti Western," with a series of hard-body gunslinger pics that, to this day, rank amongst the best of all guy-friendly cinema.
With Eastwood as "The Man with No Name" and composer Ennio Morricone's unforgettable scores, Leone's trifecta of low-budget but high-quality and seductively psychological cowboy pistols-and-spurs flicks (A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, and The Good, The Bad and the Ugly) represent the best of the Old West, a truth that modern-day directors like Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez would attest to with vigor.
Before he teamed up with Clint, however, Leone's first movie was in a whole other realm of fiction: the sword-and-sandal category. The Colossus of Rhodes, Leone's first turn as a director, about Greek warriors fighting to protect a statue of the god Apollo, doesn't get much love, but give it a look and you'll realize that it's ripe with promise and host to a few rousing action set-pieces.
Five years before he passed away in 1989, Leone unveiled what has become a criminally overlooked example of first-class Mafia cinema, Once Upon a Time in America. Maybe the film's challenging 269-minute running time is to blame, but the massive accomplishment, starring James Woods and Mob flick regulars Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci, rarely pops up in conversations with The Godfather, Scarface, and Goodfellas, but it certainly should.