¡Three Amigos!

Three Amigos

Theatrical release poster
Directed by John Landis
Produced by
Written by
Music by Elmer Bernstein
Cinematography Ronald W. Browne
Edited by Malcolm Campbell
Distributed by Orion Pictures
Release dates
  • December 12, 1986 (1986-12-12)
Running time
103 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $25 million[2]
Box office $39.2 million[3]

¡Three Amigos! is a 1986 American western comedy film directed by John Landis and written by Lorne Michaels, Steve Martin, and Randy Newman. Martin, Chevy Chase, and Martin Short star as the title characters,[4] three silent film stars who are mistaken for real heroes by the suffering people of a small Mexican village and must find a way to live up to their reputation.


In 1916 the cruel bandit El Guapo and his gang of thugs are collecting protection money from the small Mexican village of Santo Poco. Carmen, daughter of the village mayor, searches for someone who can come to the rescue of her townspeople. While visiting a small church she watches a silent film featuring "The Three Amigos" and, believing them to be real heroes, sends a telegram to Hollywood asking them to come and defeat El Guapo and offering a substantial sum which she cannot afford, believing that, as in the film, they would nobly refuse payment for their deeds. However, the message is edited by the telegraph operator to accommodate her meager funds, rendering it ambiguous.

Meanwhile, Lucky Day, Dusty Bottoms, and "Little" Ned Nederlander are Hollywood silent film actors who portray the heroic Amigos on screen. When they demand a salary increase, studio boss Harry Flugleman fires them and evicts them from their studio-owned housing. Shortly afterward, they receive Carmen's telegram and its offer of generous payment, but misinterpret it as an invitation to perform in a show with a famous Mexican actor.

After breaking into the studio to retrieve their costumes, the Amigos head for Mexico. Stopping at a cantina near Santo Poco, they are mistaken for associates of a fast-shooting German pilot who is also looking for El Guapo and who had arrived just before they did. The Amigos perform a show at the cantina, singing "My Little Buttercup", and leave the locals puzzled. The German's real associates then arrive at the cantina, proving themselves adept with their pistols. A relieved Carmen picks up the Amigos and takes them to the village, where they are put up in the best house in town and treated respectfully.

The next morning, when three of El Guapo's men come to raid the village, The Amigos, thinking they are merely performing, do a Hollywood-style stunt show. The Amigos then discuss payment as they are to believe the movie shoot is over and their job is done. The bandits ride off, making everyone think that the Amigos have defeated the enemy. In reality, the men inform El Guapo of what has happened, and he decides to return in full force the next day to kill the Amigos.

The village throws a wild celebration for the Amigos and their (supposed) victory. The next morning, El Guapo and his gang come to Santo Poco and call out the Amigos. The Amigos, once again thinking they are meant to play-act, perform another Hollywood style stunt show to try to scare El Guapo out of town. Realization breaks when Lucky gets shot in the arm by El Guapo's right hand man Jefe, and the Amigos fearfully explain to the bandits that they are not real gunfighters. El Guapo allows them to live as his men loot the village and kidnap Carmen, and the humiliated Amigos flee.

Observing the devastation left in the village, and with nothing to live for, Ned persuades Lucky and Dusty to become real-life heroes and go after El Guapo. Their first attempt to find his hideout fails when, following directions from the locals, the Amigos arrive at the Singing Bush and Dusty accidentally kills the Invisible Swordsman meant to show them the way. Nevertheless, they spot an airplane and follow it. The plane is flown by the German, who has brought a shipment of rifles for the gang with his associates' help.

Preparations are underway for El Guapo's 40th birthday party, and he plans to forcibly seduce Carmen. The Amigos try to sneak into the hideout with mixed results: Lucky is caught and chained up in a dungeon, Dusty crashes through a window into Carmen's room, and Ned gets his spurs stuck in a piñata hanging overhead.

As Lucky frees himself and Dusty sneaks out only to be captured, Ned falls loose and is also apprehended. The German, having idolized Ned's quick-draw and gunspinning pistol skills since childhood, challenges him to a shootout. Ned wins, killing the German, and Lucky holds El Guapo at gunpoint long enough for Carmen and the Amigos to escape — first on horseback, then in the German's plane.

Returning to Santo Poco with El Guapo's entire army in pursuit, the Amigos rally the villagers to stand up for themselves and plan a defense stand-off. The bandits arrive in the seemingly empty village, only to find themselves suddenly being shot at by Amigos from all sides and falling into hidden water-filled trenches dug by the villagers. Eventually all of El Guapo's men either desert him or die in the gunfire, and he receives a fatal wound. As he lies dying, the villagers, all armed and wearing replicas of the Amigos' costumes, step out to confront him. El Guapo congratulates them on their victory, then shoots Lucky in the foot and dies laughing.

The villagers offer to give the Amigos all the money they have, but the Amigos refuse it, saying (as in their movies) "Our reward is that justice has been done". The Amigos give the villagers the "Amigo Salute" and then ride off into the sunset.



The film was written by Martin, Michaels, and Randy Newman. Newman contributed three original songs: "The Ballad of the Three Amigos", "My Little Buttercup", and "Blue Shadows", while the musical score was composed by Elmer Bernstein. It was shot in Simi Valley, California, Coronado National Forest, Old Tucson Studios, and Hollywood.

John Landis was on trial over the Twilight Zone tragedy during the editing of ¡Three Amigos!, and the studio heavily edited the film down after he submitted his final cut.[5]

Since he is a co-screenwriter, Martin had been attached to the project since 1980 and he, Dan Aykroyd, and John Belushi were originally going to play the Three Amigos. At one point, Steven Spielberg was slated to direct; he wanted Martin, Bill Murray, and Robin Williams to portray Lucky, Dusty, and Ned respectively.[6] Landis has said that Rick Moranis would have been cast as Ned had Short been unavailable.[7]

Martin developed tinnitus after filming a pistol-shooting scene for the film.[8]

Deleted scenes

Several deleted scenes were included in the Blu-ray release.[9] An alternate opening featured the peaceful village of Santa Poco being rampaged upon by El Guapo and his men, prompting Carmen's search for help. Extended sequences of the Three Amigos at the studio mansion and backlot lead-in to another deleted subplot involving an up-and-coming rival actress at the studio, Miss Rene (Fran Drescher).[7]

A deleted scene featuring Sam Kinison as a mountain man was lost,[7] as were most of Drescher's other scenes.[9]


Elmer Bernstein wrote the score for ¡Three Amigos! and Randy Newman wrote the songs.

  1. "Ballad of the Three Amigos"
  2. "Main Title"
  3. "Big Sneak"
  4. "My Little Buttercup"
  5. "Santo Poco"
  6. "Fiesta and Flamenco"
  7. "Guapo"
  8. "Return of the Amigos"
  9. "Blue Shadows on the Trail"
  10. "Singing Bush"
  11. "Amigos at the Mission"
  12. "Capture"
  13. "Guapo's Birthday"
  14. "Chase "
  15. "Amigos, Amigos, Amigos"
  16. "Farewell"
  17. "End Credits"


Box office

With an estimated budget of $25 million, ¡Three Amigos! had a domestic gross of $39,246,734.[3]

Critical response

¡Three Amigos! received generally mixed reviews from critics. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 44% of 34 film critics gave the film a positive review, with a rating average of 5 out of 10.[10] Film critic Roger Ebert awarded the film one out of four stars and said, "The ideas to make Three Amigos into a good comedy are here, but the madness is missing."[11] Janet Maslin of The New York Times gave the film a mixed review, writing that it was "likable" but lacked a "distinctive style", and then certain jokes are crafted with "enjoyable sophistication".[12] Caroline Wetsbrook of Empire awarded the film three out of five stars and wrote that it was "good-natured enough to sustain its ultimately thin premise".[13]

Despite this, the film has since been reviewed more favorably and has become a cult classic. Neil McNally of the website Den of Geek noted that the film was "unfairly overlooked" when first released, and praised the performances of Martin, Chase, and Short; the comedic scriptwriting of Landis; and the "sweeping, majestic" score by Bernstein.[14] The film was ranked #79 on Bravo's list of the "100 Funniest Movies".[15]

See also


  1. "THREE AMIGOS (PG)". British Board of Film Classification. December 19, 1986. Retrieved March 24, 2016.
  2. "¡Three Amigos! (1986) - Box office / business". IMDb. Retrieved 18 May 2015.
  3. 1 2 "Three Amigos (1986) - Box Office Mojo". Retrieved 18 May 2015.
  4. ¡Three Amigos! at the Internet Movie Database
  5. Michael Reuben. "Three Amigos! Blu-ray". Blu-ray.com. Retrieved 18 May 2015.
  6. Evans, Bradford (17 February 2011). "The Lost Roles of Bill Murray". Retrieved 25 May 2015.
  7. 1 2 3 Evans, Bradford (2011-12-15). "The Lost Roles of Three Amigos". Split Insider. Retrieved 2013-07-08.
  8. "Tinnitus Sufferers and You Do you hear that?!". Dallas Ear Institute. Retrieved 3 September 2015.
  9. 1 2 Three Amigos 25th Anniversary Edition (Blue ray). 2011.
  10. "Three Amigos!". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved December 20, 2012.
  11. Roger Ebert's review of Three Amigos on Chicago Sun-Times' website
  12. Maslin, Janet (12 December 1986). "Movie Review - - FILM: 'THREE AMIGOS'". The New York Times. Retrieved 23 June 2016.
  13. "Three Amigos! Review". Empire Online. 3 March 2006. Retrieved 23 April 2016.
  14. McNally, Neil (20 November 2012). "Looking Back at Three Amigos". Den of Geek. Retrieved 23 June 2016.
  15. Fraley, Jason. "BRAVO 100 Funniest Movies". Bravo. The Film Spectrum. Retrieved December 20, 2012.
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