What with The Hateful Eight coming out last weekend, and The Revenant releasing shortly after, 2016 is already shaping up to be the year of the Westerns. I for one couldn't be happier. As a big fan of the Western genre I'm glad to see a revitalization finally happening. Appropriately I've decided to do a countdown of the 10 best Westerns ever made.
10. 3:10 to Yuma I'm usually one to slam a remake if it's covering a classic. But this is one of the rare occurrences where the remake actually surpasses the original. Christian Bale is cast perfectly as the father who wants to prove something to his son. And Russell Crowe gives one of my favorites performances as a dirty gang leader. The final gunfight at the end of the movie will convince anyone this is a classic.
9. Django Unchained Director Quinten Tarantino's seventh film is a Western/Southern movie about a freed slave on a bloody path of revenge. Great dialog, great gunfights, and even greater performances from Leonardo DiCaprio and Christoph Waltz make this an essential Western of the last ten years.
8. For a Few Dollars More Director Sergio Leone is the undisputed King of Spaghetti Westerns, and while his first entry in the "man with no name" trilogy is a great effort, Leone really hits his stride here with the second installment. The director has a commanding understanding of tension and how to build it. The final duel is one of my favorite in movie history; haunting and poignant.
7. The Magnificent Seven Sure it's a remake of Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai, but the movie has a unique identity all it's own. Great casting, direction and one of the most instantly recognizable scores of all time make this not only one of the best Westerns, but one of the most classic movies.
6. The Searchers For me, this will always be John Wayne's seminal Western. Stagecoach is classical, but its dated and almost doesn't hold up with today's standards. The Searchers does; it's well acted with great direction and cinematography. Director John Ford is the man behind all classic Westerns, with this being his best entry.
5. Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid One of the first "buddy" movies, Robert Redford and Paul Newman star in this loosely based true story of two Western outlaws. It's hard to watch this movie and not feel compelled to crack a grin at the undeniable chemistry between the two stars. It's a Western that's funny, dramatic, and still relevant.
4. The Wild Bunch So many Westerns end in a shoot-out, but none will ever measure the sheer brutality and epicness of this one. The Wild Bunch is a must watch Western for the performances, the top notch pacing and the aforementioned climax. A freaking classic.
3. Once Upon a Time in the West Most people will dismiss this movie as being "slow," "boring" and being lost in the "I don't get it" category. This is in fact one of the finest crafted Westerns ever made. All the drawn-out scenes make for one of most visually stunning and tension building movies ever. Charles Bronson is an awesome mysterious gunslinger who is looking for revenge, and Henry Fonda is a perfectly casted merciless badass gun for hire. This would be Sergio Leone's greatest Western, if it wasn't for my top pick.
2. Unforgiven A love letter to Westerns, and at the same time debunking of all its romanticism and myths. Unforgiven has characters that don't wait to duel at high noon. These are characters that will shoot you straight in the back, and not apologize for it. Clint Eastwood is a retired gunslinger that falls back into his old ways looking for some easy money. A great cast and masterful direction make this a finely crafted movie.
1. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly The one and only. The most recognizable and classic Westerns. And for good reason. This is Sergio Leone's masterpiece; an epic in every sense of the word. Revenge, betrayal, and redemption are just some of the themes touched upon. Clint Eastwood leads a cast with Lee Van Cleef and Elie Wallach as show stealers. The final gunfighter is so iconic, so beautifully directed, that it makes everything by comparison seem, well, disappointing. My undisputed pick of greatest Western of all time.
Was this gunslinger's list a hit or a miss? What are your favorite Westerns?
Do you have a list of movies that you want to recommend? Now you have a place to do it.
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