TOP TEN: WESTERN MOVIES
Updated: Nov 12, 2022
It is an absolute anomaly of mine that I love Westerns. I can't account for it. It's so opposite to my usual taste but there's something about them that I love. I think it's because the genre and setting allows story-tellers more of a free reign. There's a lawlessness to them that makes for a great story. It's also something so far from our own experience, it really does feel like another world. I've just become a big fan so I thought I'd rank my top 10 westerns.
I'm possibly missing some classics from my list but it might be because I haven't managed to see them yet so take this list with a pinch of salt and as something that it definitely subject to change. If you've any specific recommendations then let me know in the comments.
Honourable Mentions: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Johnny Guitar
10. TRUE GRIT (8/10)
I'm talking about the original. I'm sure the remake is incredible, I've heard it is but there's something comforting about watching movies under the Hays Code or with more dated standards of gore. This is my problem with a lot of modern movies, they seem to think that extreme violence and gore equals a better movie and that's not the case. You can convey the grittiness and grim nature of the western setting without actively showing it in its bloody glory. It's all about what is implied and what's not shown. Rant over. This is a great film. It's a bitter start but the revenge plot is a classic in westerns but this one has a twist. It's a gripping ride and Kim Darby gives an incredible performance and her camaraderie with John Wayne is second to none. It's a classic for a reason.
9. THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (8/10)
Once again, it's a classic. Another similiar Western movie set-up but the execution is everything here and what this movie does so well is that you really feel the quandry that the village is in. There's something so satisfying about seeing this plot all play out. Some excellent performances. I will say that the younger mexican guy is painfully annoying in places. It works for driving the plot forward so I get it but still...
8. A FEW DOLLARS MORE (8/10)
The dollars trilogy is incredible. It's hyped beyond belief and yet merits every part of its hype. It's close when deciding between the three but I have to rank A Few Dollars More in the third slot. That said, it's still great. It's just so well made and so much fun yet gritty. Lee Van Cleef is great in this one. I just really enjoyed it. I think it doesn't quite reach the standout highs of the other two in the trilogy but I'm splitting hairs here.
7. DJANGO UNCHAINED (8/10)
Damn, this is violent. It's a Tarantino movie - what did you expect? The one thing that Tarantino does better than almost anyone is the revenge plot and this is a great one. It's both gripping and tough to stomach in places. Certain parts of this film are scarred on my brain but it's just got so much impact. This is lower on the list because while it's a masterclass in film-making and story-telling, it's not got high rewatch value. Definitely worth a watch when you're in the right mood.
6. THE COWBOYS (8/10)
This is one of the more bleak entries on this list but it's really great and it's set apart from a lot of the others. The Hays Code wasn't in force when this is released and it's apparent. John Wayne, the King of Westerns, is in the twilight stage of his career and it has a different perspective. The premise is great - it's simple but it has so much scope. John Wayne can't get any men to help him transport his cattle from A to B so he has to use young teenage boys who are totally green. He grows to care for his posse and the obsticles they overcome really build their characters. Then there's Bruce Dern, he's such a harrowing villain. It's tough to watch in places but it's an incredible performance. A bittersweet ending but it's well worth a watch. It's not a film I'll be forgetting anytime soon.
5. RIO BRAVO (9/10)
This is my Gran's favourite film and I can see why. It's a lot of fun. This is a classic plot, the town bandit is imprisoned by the Sheriff and is awaiting the magistrate but in the meantime, his cronies/family try to break him out. The rag tag Sheriff Team: the rough old man, the drunk, the noob and the Sheriff have to thwart his escape and it makes for a fun romp. John Wayne is brilliant as always but Dean Martin is the standout here. The only downside is Angie Dickinson - it's a tough character to sell but it's really hammy and slightly eye-roll inducing. It has a high rewatch value.
4. EL DORADO (9/10)
This is basically a Rio Bravo knock off but it's no less entertaining (in fact, it's more entertaining in my opinion). Once again, it's that standard plot of group of cronies trying to break free the imprisoned bandit from the Sheriff's office. These type of movies are about the camaraderie between the characters and this is so much fun. The John Wayne and Robert Mitcham back and forth is the best part. The team all have their flaws and it's great to see it all play out. One's injured, one's drunk, one can't use a gun but they have to hunt down the bandits. It's just a lot of fun and for me, the "Angie Dickinson" character works better here, Charlene Holt has a lot more to work with and it's just a lot less hammy. I think Rio Bravo is perhaps a better movie but I enjoyed El Dorado even more. Also, the cinematography is top notch - sometimes, I would just pause the film and think "damn, that's great cinematography". It's a total recommend from me.
3. A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS (9/10)
Another instalment from the Dollars Trilogy, another great movie. This is gritty, dark and has its fair share of violence, especially for its time. There are a couple of real standout moments that push this film so high up the list of my favourites. I don't want to spoil anything but let's just say that The Man With No Name has some pretty inventive ways flummoxing the bandits and getting out of hairy situations. It's a tightly written film and that's always appreciated.
2. THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY (10/10)
Talk about iconic. The score is one of the most iconic scores in cinema history. When you think of westerns, there's a good chance that you're already humming this score in your head. I often take against long movies but when they are as expertly paced as this then you can enjoy every second of them. The ending is so brilliant. The suspense is so well handled and the film is just an experience. It fully deserves its acclaimed status. Don't even get me started on how good Clint Eastwood is in this film.
1. CALAMITY JANE (10/10)
The biggest question you might be asking: does Calamity Jane count as a western? I mean, yeah of course. It's the odd one out on this list but it's solidly a western! It's horribly inaccurate and has some unfortunate depiction of native Americans but it's a top-tier incredible movie musical. Once again, Doris Day - one of my favourite actresses of the golden age of Hollywood. She's incredible. It's such a fun film with some great songs and Doris Day sells the shit out of it. The whole cast is great. I'm not usually a fan of Howard Keel but he's perfectly cast in this film. It's a movie I've watched countless times and I enjoy it as much as I did the first time.