I have been posting quite a bit of serious stuff the last month or so. Today, I thought I’d do something for fun.
Some of you know that I am a movie nut. I love to watch them. One of the lost genres of film is the western. There hasn’t been a really good western in quite awhile. Here are my top five westerns that I’ve seen (there’s a lot of older ones I haven’t seen like “Once Upon a Time in the West” and “High Noon” that I am sure would make my list):
5. True Grit (1969)
Who doesn’t love John Wayne? (It is un-American not to!) He got an Oscar nod for portraying the surly, hard-drinking Marshal Rooster Cogburn. This movie just works. The villains are great. Wayne’s supporting cast is fantastic.
(This movie was remade in 2010 with Jeff Bridges as Rooster Cogburn. I might watch it one day, but no one touches the Duke.)
4. A Fistful of Dollars (1964)
Sergio Leone made a lot of westerns, and he made three featuring Clint Eastwood as The Man with No Name, but none are as great as “A Fistful of Dollars.” There is just something about Eastwood’s unflappable character, his iron jaw and his unwavering aim. Anytime this movie is on, I have to watch it.
(Bruce Willis started in a loose remake of this film called “Last Man Standing”. In some ways, it is a better film, but it also isn’t a western.)
3.The Magnificent Seven (1960)
An adaptation of Akira Kurosawa’s samurai masterpiece Shichinin no samurai (“Seven Samurai” in English), this movie set the bar for ensemble westerns. Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, Robert Vaughn, James Coburn – all the tough guys of 1960 were in this film. Every drop of blood shed in the film is thick with testosterone. The themes of nobility and redemption put this movie high in my rankings even though it has some cheezy moments.
(This was remade in 1998 starring Michael Biehn in Yul Brynner’s role. For me, Biehn will always be Johnny Ringo from “Tombstone”, so I haven’t watched the remake.)
2. Tombstone (1993)
Val Kilmer steals the show with his sarcastic, borderline psychotic Doc Holiday. While Kurt Russell is the star, there is a solid performance from everyone. Sam Elliott and Bill Paxton play Virgil and Morgan Earp with just the right level of grit and naivety, respectively. Jason Priestly gives a great performance as the foppish Billy Breckenridge. Dana Delaney, Michael Biehn, Jon Tenney – everyone puts in the performance of a lifetime. But Val Kilmer rises above them all.
(In the same year, Kevin Costner directed an ode to himself in a trenchcoat called “Wyatt Earp”. Do NOT confuse these two films.)
1. Unforgiven (1992)
I had a tough time deciding between “Unforgiven” and “Tombstone” but I had to give the number one slot to Clint Eastwood’s magnum opus. Everything about this film works. The mood is so dark and so hard, and the climax of Eastwood’s icy rage has no parallel in westerns. The film won four Academy Awards, including Best Director (Eastwood) and Best Picture. It is the golden standard of westerns.
So, there you have it.
What do you think? Agree? Disagree?