From the flute-inspired music that floats over the first episode to the Man With No Name who takes only the most dangerous bounties, the influences of Sergio Leone's classic Westerns on The Mandalorian are obvious and reverent. That the "Dollars Trilogy" was inspired by the Kurosawa film Yojimbo isn't a coincidence either. Creator Jon Favreau chose both Westerns and samurai films to shape the series as a nod to Star Wars creator George Lucas, who took Eastern and Western influences to create his epic space-western.
The Mandalorian follows a nameless bounty hunter making his way in the Outer Rim, a lawless frontier far away from any centralized government. The series takes place five years after the Empire has fallen in Return of the Jedi, turning the galaxy into the Wild West. It's available to stream exclusively on Disney+. Here are 10 must-see classic films that inspired the hit series.
10 THE DOLLARS TRILOGY
To see the antihero on which the Mandalorian is based, watch Sergio Leone's sprawling Spaghetti Western saga dubbed the "Dollars Trilogy." It includes A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, and of course, The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly.
The famous series of films starred Clint Eastwood as The Man With No Name, a bounty hunter known for his economic words and his skill with a gun. Eastwood made the character a Western icon, a man who has no qualms with killing but whose humanity is sparked by a woman's peril, or in the Mandalorian's case, a baby Yoda.
9 LONE WOLF AND CUB
Based on a popular manga of the same name, Lone Wolf and Cub was turned into a series of Japanese films in the '70s. The films follow Ogami Ittō (Tomisaburo Wakayama) who, whenever a disgraced lord committed seppuku, cut off their head following the ritual. When a rival clan blames him for the Shogun's murder, he must go on the run.
They slaughter his entire family except for his infant son, Daigorō, whom he must safeguard on their perilous journey to clear his name. Ogami must become an assassin while keeping his baby safe, pushing the boy around in a pram filled with hidden weapons.
8 THE BIG COUNTRY
While there are many homages to Westerns in The Mandalorian, there is none quite so salient as the scene involving the Mandalorian attempting to tame his mount. He's landed on a planet to collect a bounty, but the only way to reach the mark is via an unruly creature.
The trope of a cowboy earning his spurs by riding a wild stallion conveys a time-honored tradition in displaying manliness in the Old West. A great example of it occurs in The Big Country when a city-slicker played by Gregory Peck has to ride the stallion "Old Thunder." The scene in that film bears a striking resemblance to the scene in The Mandalorian, including a wise older character giving guidance.
7 THE SEARCHERS
In the classic John Ford Western The Searchers, John Wayne plays a war hero trying to settle down after a life of violence and bloodshed. When Comanches kidnap his brother's family, he vows to take vengeance, traveling deep into Comanche territory to look for survivors.
There are several moments in The Mandalorian when the Mandalorian is traveling through red canyons and perching on cliff faces, or finding appropriate sniper cover, mimicking The Duke's quest in the film. Wayne's main reason to take on the tribe is to try to get to his niece, whereas at one point during Episode 3 the only reason the Mando guns down an entire bunker full of stormtroopers is because they were holding baby Yoda.
George Lucas's original Star Wars trilogy owes much of its plot to Kurosawa films like The Hidden Fortress, so it's a fitting homage that Jon Favreau looked into other films in the famous Japanese filmmaker's filmography to mine material. The most obvious film he took inspiration from is the '60s classic Yojimbo.
Yojimbo tells the tale of a ronin samurai (Toshirô Mifune) who enters a small town in feudal Japan where two businessmen vie for control of the gambling trade. He contracts his services as the bodyguard for both businessmen, setting the machinations in place for a gang-war between the two rivals. It inspired the events of Sergio Leone's "Dollars Trilogy", and The Man With No Name character.
5 THE MAD MAX TRILOGY
After the collapse of the Empire at the hands of the Rebel Alliance, the galaxy descended into chaos. The Mandalorian takes place five years after Return of the Jedi when there is no central government, lawlessness is rampant, and the "kill-or-be-killed" mentality is key to survival.
As the Mandalorian makes his way in the galaxy, frequenting inhospitable areas in the Outer Rim, we learn that resources are scarce. His contracts pay him just enough to get fuel. He operates alone, trying to stay out of the way of gangs of outlaws who would take what little he has. Watch the Mad Max Trilogy to see a similar anti-hero make his way in a post-apocalyptic dystopian society of chaos and violence.
4 3:10 TO YUMA
3:10 to Yuma is a remake of a classic '50s Western, about a down on his luck rancher (Christian Bale) desperate for the bounty of a known outlaw (Russell Crowe). The films' primary focus is the rancher's struggles about bringing a known criminal to justice via the 3:10 train to Yuma. The outlaw has revealed himself to be a surprising ally on their perilous journey.
Just as the rancher has a moral crisis, so does the Mandalorian. He treats his bounty like the payload it is, but over the course of the journey to bring it to his boss, it saves his life, meaning he can no longer simply turn it over to his employer. Like the rancher finds a way to save the outlaw, so does the Mandalorian find a way to save his mark.
3 INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE
There is a treasure-hunting quality to The Mandalorian, so it's no surprise it takes components from George Lucas's other hit franchise Indiana Jones. One of the most riveting parts of The Mandalorian series involves a scene with a Jawa Sandcrawler, only ever seen from a distance in the Star Wars films.
Jawas have stripped the Mandalorian's ship for parts to be traded, forcing him to give chase. His assault on the Sandcrawler is reminiscent of the scene in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, where Indy dangles precariously on the side of a tank as it veers into red canyon walls. As he climbs along the outer hull, gunmen appear (much like the Jawas) to try to deter his success.
2 STAR WARS EPISODE II: ATTACK OF THE CLONES
In The Mandalorian, viewers are introduced to beskar, the metal that's been used to make Mandalorian armor for thousands of years. The beskar was taken in the purge of the Mandalore system by the Empire and is thus stamped with the Imperial cog.
If you want to see beskar armor in action, watch Episode II: Attack of the Clones, where it's worn by bounty hunter Jango Fett. It was Fett's genetic material that was used to make the clone soldiers used in the Grand Army of the Republic, which then became the foundational ranks for the Empire's first stormtroopers. The Empire has been exploiting Mandalorians for decades.
1 STAR WARS EPISODE V: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK
To fully understand The Mandalorian, you need to have a passing knowledge of Boba Fett, the monosyllabic Mandalorian first introduced in Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. He is a bounty hunter with a formidable reputation, is economic with his words, and is known for taking the most dangerous contracts in the galaxy.
Sound like anyone we know? The Mandalorian character was based on Boba Fett, although Fett is not a true Mandalorian, as he grew up a clone on the planet of Kamino. The Mandalorian, by contrast, is very ingrained in the culture of his people and their traditions from the Mandalore homeworld.