As you already know if you read yesterday’s post, I recently watched Once Upon a Time in the West and really enjoyed it. It got me thinking about other westerns that I enjoy, so I decided that I would do a top 5 list of my favorite westerns. If you are a fan of westerns, I am sorry already. I have not watched a lot of what many would call essential westerns, but I am working my way through them. However if you are new to the genre, then my picks would serve as a good starting point for you, because I have only scratched the surface of the western genre and these picks are obviously good.
5. The Man With No Name Trilogy
A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More and the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly are three films that got me energized to see older westerns. Each story is tight, gripping, and beautifully shot. I love Clint Eastwood’s mannerisms in the films that made them famous. Also, the poncho looked awesomely comfortable. I wonder if I could get one that looked like that and look as cool as he did. Probably not.
4. High Noon
This film surprised me. I thought I was in store for a mediocre western but was walloped with a great, quiet film. The story is the typical good vs. evil and the showdown that is created between the two forces. However, this film is more of a comment of the time it was made then on the west. It was made during what was called the Red Scare that rocked Hollywood. The film was about standing up to people who are oppressing you, even if you are the only one and this was the black listed writer’s message to the Hollywood forces. Of course it went on to be one of the most talked about westerns of all time and it won Best Actor Oscar for Gary Cooper.
3. The Proposition
This Australian story is one of the examples of a well executed neo-western. Set in the uncomfortable setting of the Australian outback during a time when outlaws ran wild, a law man apprehends two of these criminals and in a way to get at the mastermind contracts him to kill his older brother. As usual nothing goes as planned for the lawman or the criminals involved. When I watched this film for the first time, I became aware of an acute sense of thirst. This film feels dry and harsh and wretched. All of these qualities are to the film’s advantage. The struggle to try and tame criminals and this rough outback all seem fruitless in the end. Oh and the soundtrack is awesome if you like Nick Cave.
2. Once Upon a Time in the West
This epic had me tuned in and alert for almost three hours. That is pretty hard to do with my insane ability to fall asleep at a drop of the hat. However I was engaged and interested in what the characters were going to do next. Everything I said in my review yesterday, I feel is still true, but I also feel that I can forgive it for everything that this film does right. The opening sequence gun fight to the ending where a man you have been rooting for the whole time dies, I felt was amazing.
I am cheating here by putting a television series on the list, but so what. This series is amazing. I love experiencing this time in American history with these multitude of characters. I like to listen to the sing song of the character’s dialogue. I am invested in where these characters went on their journey and am interested in learning more. They should definitely bring this series back, if only to have Al Swearengen cuss.
This is the part where I admit my shortcomings. Films I haven’t seen that are considered western classics:
– Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
– Most of John Wayne films (Shoot me if you like, but I have a slight aversion to the man.)
– Pat Garret and Billy the Kid
– The Wild Bunch or Magnificent Seven
– Anything the Clint Eastwood did that wasn’t with Leone
I also haven’t seen Meek’s Crossing which I can’t wait to see. If you haven’t heard of it look it up and then rent it. I am sure it is amazing.
3:10 to Yuma
True Grit (the remake. I thought the original to be too sanitized)
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford