July 04, 2014 at 04:00 AM EDT

In recent years, Eli Wallach was often the best part of bad movies such as The Holiday (2006) and Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010). But to countless movie lovers, the character actor — who died on June 24 at the age of 98 — will forever be known as Tuco in 1966’s The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. While Clint Eastwood shoulders the weight of being the spaghetti Western’s protagonist, Tuco gets to have all the fun. (In fact, Wallach’s vital, almost unhinged performance seems remarkably in tune with the modern-day antiheroes of, say, Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones.) Tuco becomes the wild, brutal heart of a wild, brutal movie. A Tony award-winning Method actor, Wallach brought so much life to all his work, including his noteworthy roles in The Magnificent Seven (1960) and The Godfather: Part III (1990). (He was even great as the voice of Mr. Freeze on the Batman TV show.) But if you could paint with emotion, then Tuco would be his Jackson Pollock. How sad to lose such an artist. How lucky to have had him with us for almost a century.

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