10 Westerns You Should See

June 3, 2024
2 mins read

Westerns. I love Western movies. Hold on to your 10-gallon hats, because I’m doing a speedrun through 10 reviews.



“Once Upon A Time In The West”

Great show, skirts right to the edge of being a weird Western like “High Plains Drifter” but never crosses the line. Some of the pacing could have been tightened up a bit and, strangely, some of the scenes needed a little more time, like when Morton confronts Frank at his camp. But that’s just nitpicking.




“McLintock!”

Wayne’s idealized version of the West he loved so much is the setting for a “Taming of the Shrew.” A mark against it is you can see the early rot of “multiculturalism” starting even back then with the benign and helpful Jewish shop owner. I had the idea it was a slapstick comedy but it was more “Wild West” comedic vaudeville in nature than just physical farce and slapstick vaudeville, like The Three Stooges. Wayne is in fine form, here, too. Fun show.




“The Outlaw Josey Wales”

Red Dead Redemption 2: DLC, The Motion Picture. Fantastic show from start to end.




“El Dorado”

Another classic by John Wayne. From IMDB: “Cole Thornton, a gunfighter for hire, joins forces with old friend, Sheriff J.P. Hara. Together with an old Indian fighter and a gambler, they help a rancher and his family fight a rival rancher who’s trying to steal their water.”




“Rio Bravo”

The first part feels a lot like “El Dorado” but this is a far more complex story than that. Character development, character progression, redemption, honor, loyalty, dealing with one’s own limits, and a touch of romance. This is masterful Western storytelling.




“Open Range”

Costner pulls out the stops and it’s great a movie. Duvall is especially good in his role as Boss.




“Stagecoach” (1939)

Topnotch, highly recommended. So many tropes were either jelled with this one or came out of it, like the harlot with a heart of gold, or the country doctor who is a lush but comes through in a pinch, or the guy that has a code of honor he lives by even if he doesn’t follow society. Again, we have character development and progression. Stunts were great. And a banker gets arrested.




“The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance”

It’s a John Wayne movie. It’s a Jimmy Stewart movie. The thing that holds the two types together is Lee Marvin’s ruffian character. Both leading men are almost too old for their parts but the black and white covers that. Despite being cheaply made — compare with other movies in the genre or early 1960s — it’s done well.




“High Noon”

Gary Cooper’s comeback movie is a Western Noir, because one of the key elements of a classic Western — redemption of someone — is completely missing here. Cooper’s character is battling against his increasing cynicism of the townsfolk, and his final act is to toss away his symbol of authority into the dust. Grace Kelly was miscast here; she’s stunning, but too refined and big city for this sort of thing. Katy Jurado, who plays Helen Ramírez, is smoldering and is perfect in her role, which she plays to a T, outshining even Kelly here, as the woman who knows which way the wind is blowing and rides it to keep ahead of troubles, a complete mercenary.




“Hell or High Water”

Modern Western. Cowboys. Indians. Outlaws. This is show is damn good. If you haven’t seen it, do so. Pine and Foster’s dysfunctional brother dynamic is worth it alone, but add in Bridges as the soon-to-retire Marshal hunting them down while always ribbing his half-Comanche half-Mexican partner, the plot of the boys robbing Midland Bank branches to pay off the predatory loan from them, all the side characters, and the whole Texas look and feel, and this is simply a must see.

I liked the brothers, I liked the Marshals, and pitting them against each other without losing the charm of either is plain good writing.

And the dialog is perfect. “These concealed carry permits sure complicate a bank robbery, don’t they?”

The ending is just (chef’s kiss).

2 Comments

  1. Some 64 years later, I still get a thrill watching the “Magnificent 7”! A roaring opening theme, beautiful scenery, extraordinary cinematography, a great cast, one of the best musical scores ever, etc. Perhaps the best moral Western of all time. With a little comedy mixed in! The remake was pathetic & the sequels in ’66, ’69 & ’72 mediocre. The comments viewers at youtube make says it all! One of my favorites, “these guys knew how to act.”

    • “these guys knew how to act.”

      And I find that true for a lot of Westerns, even the so-so ones. The guys involved were dedicated to making the movie work and gave it their all.

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