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Author Topic: Definitive or Must Have Western Films  (Read 52205 times)

Offline Heisler

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Definitive or Must Have Western Films
« on: January 01, 2015, 10:20:03 PM »
So I'm looking to expand my western movie collection.  While I know we all have our favorite western films this time around I'm looking for those definitive western films. Along the lines of a director's best western film, an actor or actress' best western film. The only restrictions are:
1) You have to tell me why you picked that film so state whether its for the director or the actor. You can only name a director, actor or actress once. So for instance you could name Clint Eastwood twice, once for his best (or defining) western role and once for the best (or defining) western film he directed. He could still appear in other films you have selected.
2) Don't just throw a list out there, I want to know why I should consider hunting down that film.
3) You can name as many movies as you like as long as they fulfill the 1st restriction.

It's NOT denial. I'm just very selective about the reality I accept. -- Calvin (Calvin and Hobbes)
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Re: Definitive or Must Have Western Films
« Reply #1 on: January 01, 2015, 10:44:01 PM »
The Big Country Gregory Peck delivers a masterful performance with a superb monologue, a lesson in acting for anyone who thinks that the special effects make a good film.
Once Upon a Time in the West, Sergio Leone at his best and Henry Fonda gets to play a bad guy.
Unforgiven staring and directed by Clint Eastwood, the definitive cowboy actor in his definitive cowboy role.

Offline NickNascati

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Re: Definitive or Must Have Western Films
« Reply #2 on: January 01, 2015, 11:14:12 PM »
Definitely "Unforgiven" as the previous poster said, raw and grity.  Eastwood at his best
               "Open Range"  one of the best Westerns of recent years, a well done Kevin Costner movie
               "The Ox-Bow Incident", a powerful film.
               "Warlock",  Fonda and Quinn, classic re-telling of the Earp legend.
               "Tombstone",  it may have flaws, but it is a great movie.
               "The Searchers", Wayne at his best.
               "High Noon",  watch it just for Cooper's expression at the end.

The Western is America's contribution to cinema, as Jazz is our contribution to music.

Offline sundayhero

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Re: Definitive or Must Have Western Films
« Reply #3 on: January 01, 2015, 11:20:35 PM »
There is a one called Red Sun, with french actor Alain Delon (the bad guy),  a famous japanese actor Thosiro Mifune, and Charles Bronson (the good guy).

The story is pretty simple, a bandit (alain delon) stole a precious japanese sword of a ambassy japanese group, and Charles Bronson and the surviving japanese go chase him.

There is also the beautiful Ursula Andress (who is almost as beautiful as she was in 007 vs Dr No  ;D, but it's probably the bikini effect  lol).

It's a classic western, in term of iconography, landscapes, characters behaviour and western sterotypes (the saloon with prostitutes, the bad mexicanos, etc...), but the contrast of the japanese Ronin and his code of Honor and the quite brutal Charles Bronson outlaw are really interesting.

Overall it's also very entertaining, if you like classic "action" movies.

Offline maxxon

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Re: Definitive or Must Have Western Films
« Reply #4 on: January 02, 2015, 07:11:43 AM »
I don't go for directors or actors. I go for stories.

- Rio Bravo is western classic and also a good example how to set up chained scenarios in a town.
- Searchers by John Ford is another classic and surprisingly realistic for its time.
- True Grit for frontier action. I prefer the John Wayne version, but the Coen brothers remake is ok too.
- The Quick and The Dead is a hidden gem. Just try to ignore Sharon Stone as much as possible.
- McCabe and Mrs. Miller for gritty disillusioned 70's realism.
- La Grande Silenzia. Brutal spaghetti western, and it doesn't end the way you thought it would.
- Nevada Smith for the wisdom about peaches.
- Quiqley Down Under is very borderline, but the final shootout is a gem. You could basically ignore the rest of the film.
- Well, you can't have western list without the Wild Bunch.
- The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean. Worth it for the Bad Bob scene alone. I used to rewatch this constantly when I was a kid.
- Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is another transitional film. It's a bit overlong if you ask me, but the final scene is a cinema classic and the piece they nipped off Jelly Bryce is good too.
- The Last Hard Men. If she can take it, so can you.
- Last Train From Gun Hill. Surprisingly modern for a film made in 1959. Also good for the surviving in a hostile town aspect.

Hmmm... looking at that list it seems I tend to favor the gritty side of things. And there's a lot of films about the end of the west there too...

I realize this is not what everyone is looking for in a western. And I do like the classics and genre films too, it's just that the films that differ from the norm are the ones that are more memorable.
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Offline Sardoo

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Re: Definitive or Must Have Western Films
« Reply #5 on: January 02, 2015, 08:40:43 AM »
There is a one called Red Sun, with french actor Alain Delon (the bad guy),  a famous japanese actor Thosiro Mifune, and Charles Bronson (the good guy).

At last, someone else who thinks Red Sun is a great movie! No one I know has ever heard of the film which I saw in the cinema as soon the very week as it came out. Brilliant movie!

I would also agree with The Searchers which shows Wayne moving from barely being able to stand the presence of what he describes as a "half breed" at table with him to working with the lad to finding - and more importantly, accepting- his abducted neice. The film starts with the the frontier cabin door opening and ends with it closing - a simple device but one which perfectly frames the genuinly iconic story we see unfold?
“The time is out of joint”.

Offline cdm

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Re: Definitive or Must Have Western Films
« Reply #6 on: January 02, 2015, 08:59:51 AM »
The Shootist with John Wayne, Lauren Becaull and Ron Howard. An ageing gunfighter learns he is dieing of cancer and faces his end with determination. The interplay between the boyish Howard and the famous gun slinger, and between Becaull as the widow who thinks the shootist must be a bad man but comes around to seeing his humanity in the end are both touching in their way. Wayne's death is predetermined, but he goes out his way in the end facing three chosen gunmen in a saloon shootout that ends with Wayne winning but then gunned down in the back by the bartender who is then gunned down by the heart broken Howard. A touching film about fame, courage, money grubbing and prejudiced assumptions.

Pale Rider with Clint Eastwood. A touching story about a group of miners being run off their digs by a greedy big corporate miner. The interplay between Eastwood as the wandering preacher and the miner's spokesman and his girlfriend and her daughter set some interesting relationship dynamics. After getting courage from the preacher's presence, the miners stand up to the big miner who of course hires gunmen to clear them out. This ends up with a town shoot out where we find the preacher isn't just any normal reverend but has a chequered gun toting past that has crossed the path of these gunmen before. Eastwood takes out the 6 gunmen in an pacey - hooray for the good guys - kind of shootout before he rides off into the mountains with the world all set to rights.

3:10 to Yuma with Russell Crowe - though the original is also good but now dated and you may feel it is a little slow. The remake is a slick, pacey show about a famous gunman and the group of men who must escort him cross country to the Yuma train so he can go to trial for his evil train robbing ways. The show is really the journey of the down on his luck rancher who sees a way out of his troubles by getting the gunman to the train for the money he needs to save his family from debt. The interaction between Crowe and the rest of the characters is always interesting and psychological. Crowe can read them all and you can feel him slowly pulling the threads of the personalities of his captors along the journey. I feel the characterisation in this is very strong, the interplay well done as you would expect from the original story, which was very good for it's day. The final shootout where the rancher dies, along with all of Crowe's sidekicks, moves along at a cracking pace and has a very sad though feel good ending where the rancher's son finally gets respect for his father. Crowe plays a very bad man who is also very likable in a roguish way.

I would also recommend Eastwood in Unforgiven as already mentioned, and the Coen version of True Grit.

Offline Harry Faversham

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Re: Definitive or Must Have Western Films
« Reply #7 on: January 02, 2015, 10:25:11 AM »
:'( Monte Walsh... nobody gets to be a Cowboy forever. :'(
"Wot did you do in the war Grandad?"

"I was with Harry... At The Bridge!"

Offline lethallee61

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Re: Definitive or Must Have Western Films
« Reply #8 on: January 02, 2015, 10:28:34 AM »
The Outlaw Josey Wales - great story, brilliant acting and a fantastic Native American character in Lone Watie. Probably my equal favourite Western with Rio Bravo.

Silverado - I dare you to not play a game of Dead Man's Hand after watching this. Great fun film with lots of action and good characterisation. Kevin Kline and Brian Dennehy at their best.

The Magnificent Seven - as if you needed a reason.

The Long Riders - interesting that they used real acting brothers to play brothers. And it's a reasonable take on the James/Younger gang.

Also +1s for Rio Bravo, The Shootist, Unforgiven, The Quick and the Dead and Red Sun.
Enjoying the game is ALWAYS more important than winning the game.

Offline Romark

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Re: Definitive or Must Have Western Films
« Reply #9 on: January 02, 2015, 11:05:20 AM »
I'd like to add Valdez is Coming to the list.Burt Lancaster is terrific in the title role,he  plays a humble Mexican sheriff who is treated with disdain by all the American characters in the movie little knowing about his previous life.When he tries to right a wrong done to a Buffalo soldier and his native American wife all is revealed to their cost.Brilliant.

Offline Faustulus

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Re: Definitive or Must Have Western Films
« Reply #10 on: January 02, 2015, 02:38:28 PM »
"Seven Men from Now" dir Budd Boetticher. Any list of westerns is incomplete without at least one Boetticher film. Sort of overlooked today, But during the 40s and 50s he made some of the best action movies around. It is a hard choice between this, "the Tall T" and "Ride Lonesome" but I think this tale of vengeance edges the others.

John Ford's "Stagecoach" birthed the golden age of the western. A cliched tale, even at the time, Ford's masterful storytelling turned it into art. It raised the genre and paved the way for more mature takes.

Such as "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance". James Stewart would make his mark on westerns from "Winchester '73" "The Man from Laramie" and "Two Rode Together", but it was his portrayal of frontier lawyer turned senator who built his life on a lie that makes this film one of the best movies around.

A common thread through these past few films of course has been a star almost synonymous with the western, John Wayne. He played in dozens of oaters ranging from terrible to sublime, but his greatest work was in "The Searchers". This is arguably the greatest western ever made, it is certainly the most beautiful. The years-long search for a stolen girl earns the title of "epic". And Wayne's portrayal of bigoted Civil War vet Ethan Edwards is perfect. You are never sure if he is hunting Natalie Woods' character to save her or kill her. It is as close to perfection as the genre ever achieved.

"Shane" is a Rorschach test. What you make of its ending, and the fate of Alan Ladd's titular character says a lot about how you view the world. It seems like a simple tale of a gunman trying to hang up his arms, but that just is the reflection of a surface that belies a deeper, more nuanced film.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the western genre is that it isn't s genre at all. It is a canvas on which you can tell almost any story you wish. Fred Zimmerman realized this when he cast Gary Cooper in a thinly disguised allegory of America's communist hunt. "High Noon" had more to do with the headlines of the day than the 1880s. In fact, it upset John Wayne so much he and Howard Hawkes made "Rio Bravo" in answer.

If "Stagecoach" birthed the golden age of the western, then Sam Peckinpah's "Ride the High Country" sounded its death knell. Already a new generation of film makers was forever changing the genre. Europeans and those on this side of the pond influenced by them, were twisting the conventions of the genre and rebuilding to work in a post-modern world.

One of those Europeans, Sergio Leone was dragging the genre, kicking and screaming into the new world. But as groundbreaking as he was in the end it was his homage to the classic western which proved his greatest accomplishment. "Once Upon a Time in the West" didn't have Clint Eastwood, but it still retained the mysterious "man with no name". Leone mixed Monument Valley and Spain to create something entirely new, acknowledging the old, but not beholden to it. A slick marriage of "A Fistful of Dollars" and "The Searchers".

Europe wasn't the only continent usurping America's mythology. In post-war Japan the western took a decidedly eastern turn. Legendary filmmaker Akira Kurosawa borrowed the trappings of the western for several of his films, including "Seven Samurai" and "Yojimbo". Guns may have given way to swords and Cowboys to samurai, but the western's mark was unmistakable, especially once the films were remade as westerns.

While the western would never return to its glory days, Hollywood never truly abandoned it. Modern classics like Clint Eastwood's "Unforgiven" keep the western in the conversation. But other, less obvious films also preserve the western for modern audiences. Perhaps one of the best examples of westerns in modern media is found on the small screen. Though set in modern times, there is little doubt that FX's brilliant "Justified" is a western through and through. Timothy Olyphant, is just a change of clothes and an attitude adjustment from his Bullock character in HBO's "Deadwood" (probably the closest television writing ever got to The rhythms of Shakespeare). And Laim Neeson in ant Taken movie? Just a cowboy on the trail of revenge.

Ok this was longer than I meant it.

Offline Heisler

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Re: Definitive or Must Have Western Films
« Reply #11 on: January 02, 2015, 03:40:02 PM »
I think that was an awesome look at the whole western genre. I don't think it was long enough.

Offline rumacara

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Re: Definitive or Must Have Western Films
« Reply #12 on: January 02, 2015, 04:39:41 PM »
Major Dundee - with Charlton Heston. Why? it has all in one movie - ACW, mexicans, apaches, french US cavalry.

Wild Bunch - already mentioned but a director missing - Sam Peckinpah (also the same director as Major Dundee).

Ride With the Devil - one of the best ACW films but touches a theme less explored - Jayhawkers against Buchwackers in Kansas and Missouri.

Several others mentioned here. The list is endless. I have more than 250 westerns.
« Last Edit: January 02, 2015, 04:42:30 PM by rumacara »

Offline Emir of Askaristan

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Re: Definitive or Must Have Western Films
« Reply #13 on: January 02, 2015, 04:51:58 PM »
+1 for Liberty Valance - I'm not a fan of B&W westerns but watched this to see if it was as good as its supposed to be. It truly is a classic - watch it.

From an older western to two newer ones - "Blackthorne" tell the story of what happened after "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" itself a great film. It's beautifully shot, well acted and has a great script.

Another suggestion would be "The Assassination of Jessie James by the Coward Robert Ford" - again it's brilliantly shot, in all seasons and the acting and importantly the charactisation, is superlative.

My last suggestion is to watch both versions of "True Grit".

Offline NickNascati

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Re: Definitive or Must Have Western Films
« Reply #14 on: January 02, 2015, 05:19:07 PM »
Since we expanded to Australia with Quigley, I have to add "The Proposition".  A brutal, stunning "western" set in the Outback.


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