22 September 2011

7 Western movies I really like

This is a list of my top 7 Western movies in no particular order. There are a dozen or so that did not make the list and that are still decent. But I wanted to make this a "single post movie recommendation" so 7 is what there is room for.

The magnificent seven (no pun intended)
A Western take on the Akira Kurosawa movie about the 7 samurai, in this case gunmen, hired by a small town to protect them from a local group of bandits making everyday life a misery. Not the most original story, but then again I never found westerns to be about telling an original story but rather about interesting characters and atmosphere. If done right and made believable it is awesome, if done half assed you get stuff like Young Guns (and that atrocious soundtrack). The 7 gunmen, greatly outnumbered by the outlaws still manage to kick ass and protect the village against all odds.

The magnificent seven has a great lineup, Steve McQueen, Eli Wallach and Charles Bronson among others. Like any good western it has a highly and instantly recognizable theme song that just re-assures you that you are in for a good time of good time

3:10 to Yuma (2007)
Usually don't like remakes, but I really found this movie to my liking.  Christian Bale as a simpleton farmer "doing the right thing" no matter what cost as he risks his neck trying to deliver the criminal played by Russel Crowe to the nearby train station from which Crowe will be transported to prison. There is a nice dynamic between the cocky and self assured character played by Crow, the in over his head farmer played by Bale and the second in command of Crowe's old gang played by Ben Foster.

Crow psyches Bale's character throughout the journey and his entire self confidence is really getting under the skin of Bale. What started out with Bale taking the job of escorting the outlaw to earn a few bucks turns into a quest to do the right thing against all odds by not giving in to the threats and dangers.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the coward Robert Ford

The most "artsy" movie of the bunch, it's a slow moving highly visual experience and a great character study of Robert Ford played and wonderfully portrayed by Casey Affleck. Movie starts out with Affleck wanting to become a part of Jesse James gang, James being an idol of his. Affleck is treated like shit and rightly so because he is so annoying in both the way he speaks and acts that you just want to punch him in the face yourself. However as the movie goes along things start to change and you can see how the characters evolve and understand them much better. Brad Pitt plays Jesse James but Casey Affleck really steals the movie in the end.

Superb visual style and perfect choice of musical score sets and holds the mood throughout the movie. This movie is not action packed so viewers should not expect a lot of shootouts and explosions.

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
The best movie out of Sergio Leones "Dollars trilogy" and a movie with probably the most recognizable theme song ever made, at least within the Western genre. The "Good" played by Clint Eastwood and the "Ugly" by Eli Wallach come upon a shot up army stage coach with only a single soon to be dead survivor. As the soldier is dying he tells them about a buried treasure, one of them learns about the location of the graveyard and the other the name off the grave where the treasure is buried. As such the Good and the Ugly, though being enemies, have to keep each other allive in order to actually find the treasure. This does not stop them from trying to double cross each other. On their travel towards the graveyard they come across a third person, the "Bad" played by Lee van Cleef is also aware of the treasure and starts following the two other characters hoping to claim it for himself.

In my opinion the second best movie Sergio Leone made.

Once upon a time in the West
This movie is in my opinion Leone's best movie. It is a great revenge story that you are not even fully aware off before the movie nears its end. The haunting snippets of the main theme played on a harmonica by the main character called "Harmonica" (played by Charles Bronson) will send chills down your spine when you hear it explode for the first time in the deadly conclusion of the movie.

The story for the most part is about a woman who married a dirt farmer, thinking he was much more successful. As she arrives at his farm she finds him and his kids murdered. Having no place to go she stays at the farm but is soon threatened by a band of ruffians hired by a railroad owner who wants her land so he can build a railroad cheap through it. Harmonica and a second gunfighter "Cheyenne" take it upon themselves to protect the widow. The main bad guy in the movie is excellently played by Henry Fonda and the widow is played by Claudia Cardinale who looks ridiculously good in this movie.

Released around the same time as "Wyatt Earp" I always liked this movie a lot more. It has a more narrow and focused view off the Wyatt Earp story and concentrates on the events in and around Tombstone rather than the whole Earp legend. While both movies had their qualities, it is hard to beat the intensity of Kurt Russel as Wyatt Earp and the fantastic (imo his best) performance Val Kilmer delivers as Doc Holliday. The bad guys, Curly Bill played by Powers Boothe and Johnny Ringo played by Michael Biehn also deliver an edgy pair of characters.

This movie could easily only feature Doc Holliday and it would still work, it is not possible to describe the awesomeness of Val Kilmers acting in this role. The scenes he shares with Michael Biehns "Johhny Ringo" are pure gold. Where the "Wyatt Earp" was out to tell the entire story of Earp's life, Tombstone zooms in on the "good stuff"  and highlights the badass gunfight, lust for revenge and asswhooping.

Clint Eastwood plays an ex outlaw turned unsuccessful farmer. One day, after failing to impress on his kids with his inadequate farming skills he is visited by the "Scofield kid" (not associated with the Prison break Schofield's) who wants to hire his help to catch a man who had disfigured some whores. The whores had set up a bounty for a 1000 dollars, and Clint's character figures that he could do with some money as he is a crap farmer. On their way to the town they pick up Clint's old friend played by Morgan Freeman. As they arrive in town they are soon introduced to the ruthless ass of a sheriff played by Gene Hackman who holds the town in fear by his psychopathic outbursts of anger and delight in dealing out pain and death. After beating the shit out of Clint and killing Freeman, he thinks order is restored to his little town.

Little does he know that he just fucked with the wrong guy as Clint mends his wounds and then returns back into down sporting a "I will kill all of you sons of bitches and I will enjoy doing so" face and delivers some highly satisfactory revenge.


  1. I like your choices but what about Outlaw Josey Wales or the Wild Bunch? Those two top my list.


  2. Great list, I'm loving all of these, but I suspect you'll be getting a lot of "what abouts???".

    Such as, what about Silverado? What about Winchester '73?

  3. they are all good, i love the good the bad and the ugly, their not on your list but,the quick and the dead and a fist full of dinimite are allso good ones :-)

  4. "Outlaw Josey Wales" and "the Wild Bunch" fell short, but I like them as well. I actually like "The quick and the dead" as well, Sharon Stone was pretty good in that one.

    Not seen Winchester '73, I saw Silverado a long time ago so I just vaguely remember what it's about.

    Fistful of dynamite was OK, actually have that one on a 2disch special edition DVD mainly to see the bonus material which was quite interesting. But I found something was missing in that movie, it could be that the story wasn't as compelling as in the other "simpler" Leone movies.

  5. Thanks for this - recently re-watched Tombstone and I absolutely agree about Val Kilmer's portrayal!


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