Favorite Westerns

Talk about some of your favorite Western–or what I used to call them when I was a kid: “Cowboy movies.” Here are some of mine.

Shane. I think that many modern viewers might find this boring, as there are slow parts to the film. But I just love the climax–and the scene after the final showdown gets to me every single time. (There is a pain and longing in that kid’s voice that is so piercing.) Alan Ladd is great in this. The story of an gunfighter trying to abandon his violent ways for a life of quiet, but can’t is very appealing, and this is the best version of that.

The Wild Bunch. Sam Peckinpah’s classic. There are also some slow parts in this film, too, but what sustains the movie and keeps my interest is the characters and their relationship–a relationship defined by a code of honor among men. The ending is something I’ve always wondered about as a kid–namely, what if the good guys tried something like it. It’s one of the best endings in any Western I’ve seen. Ride the High Country is another good Peckinpah film that has that same code of honor running through the film.

There are a bunch of John Wayne films that are really impressive–both as films and because of Wayne’s performances. I’m thinking of Red River, which has a pretty complex relationship, along with a solid adventure story; Stagecoach, which may be old, but the story is good, with it’s twists and action scenes. (Josh Weedon made a sort of remake in the first episode of his Firefly series.); and The Searchers. Wayne plays a complex, dark character in this. Beautifully shot and surprisingly intense at times.

El Dorado. With John Wayne, Robert Mitchum and a young James Caan (might have been his first role). For some reason, this came on TV a lot when I was a child, and my brother and I really liked this one.

Mitchum plays a drunken sherrif of a town controlled by an evil cattle ranch. Duke is a friend of Mitchum’s who comes into town to help his friend regain his strength and clean up the town. Not a great film, but fun.

Silverado. Again, not a great film, but one that was entertaining. I liked the characters and their backstories and/or abilities (Danny Glover, good with the rifle).

Appaloosa This is recent film with Ed Harris (also directing the film), Viggo Mortensen and Renee Zellwegger. The characters and story avoid what you would normally expect. A smart and pretty exciting buddy film.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid Speaking of buddy films, it doesn’t get when Paul Newman and Robert Redford team up. I gotta admit that there are some dorky things in the film (the whole “Rain drops Keep Falling on my Head” sequence) and the ending is a bit of a letdown. But there’s a very good chase in the film and there’s some really good dialogue that only adds to the Newman-Redford chemistry.

3:10 to Yuma, the original with Glenn Ford, who delivers a terrific performance. He’s the Devil as tempter par excellence. The ending is a bit of a disappointment–so much so that it justifies a remake.

One classic I didn’t care for: High Noon The concept is cool, but the film is kinda boring. I’m also not a big Gary Cooper fan.

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