Friday, September 7, 2012

Western Movies

One of the subjects about which I think that I know more about than most people is western movies.  I've seen quite a few.

I'll start by saying that I think that John Wayne was overrated as an actor.  That being said, all of his movies are at least reasonably good.

The earlier, black and white, "b-movies" starring John Wayne are usually preferable to his later movies.  It always seems like he was the hero in his later movies in excess.  It could be, however, than we're in an age where we expect our heroes to be flawed people.  What's the point of Superman if we already know that he is better than everyone else?  John Wayne seemed more Superman in his later years, than a flawed hero.  Although not to the laughable excesses of Gene Autry's always having the best shot, fastest horse, being the best fighter, the best singer, and the best everything else.

Stagecoach is one of the earliest westerns and its pretty good.  The story is about a handful of people, with different backgrounds, who make their way in a stagecoach across indian country.  It's more of a drama than an action movie.

The Undefeated was my favorite of John Wayne's.  The story was about a Union officer and a confederate officer making their way west just after the civil war.  It has the good action scenes, honor, betrayal, indian fighting, Mexican fighting, fist fighting, and drama.

Two more good movies with the same leading actor are McIntock! and The War Wagon.

Kirk Douglas was in The War Wagon, another of his was There Was A Crooked Man.  This movie always struck me as an interesting one.  Its about a thief and his escape from jail.  His escape and the reason for his glasses were well worth watching the movie for.

Shane is a classic western movie.  About a gunfighter who stays with a homesteading family and who fights for them.  One friend of mine always thought that Shane died after riding over the last hill, in the last scene.  I wonder if that's true.  It's also much more of a drama than an action movie.

The Badlanders, with Alan Ladd (of Shane fame) and Ernest Borgnine, is a movie that I fondly remember, despite not having watched in in forever.  "You want me to help you rob my own place?"  "A man being rich is exactly like a woman being beautiful."  Both a drama and an action movie, its about two guys stealing gold from a man who wronged both of them.

Ernest Borgnine was also in The Wild Bunch, directed by Sam Peckinpah.  It was one of the bloodiest movies ever made.  I quite like the opening line in the bank, "If they move, kill 'em."  Its about some guys trying to survive by any means possible.  Its really good.

The Ballad of Cable Hogue was the director's next movie.  Its a lighter and fun movie about a guy who finds water in the desert and tries to capitalize on his discovery.  It stars Jason Robards, who should have been in more western movies.

In My Name is Nobody Sam Peckinpah is mentioned in passing.  Starring Terrance Hill and Henry Fonda its about Nobody trying to convince his hero to fight The Wild Bunch so "he'll go down in history."  Its a spaghetti western comedy and its a bit odd. "One man against 150 pure-bred sons a bitches."  Its music was composed by Ennio Morricone, which always makes a movie better, just ask fans of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

They Call Me Trinity and Trinity is Still My Name are two of the first spaghetti westerns.  They star Terrance Hill.  They're possibly as much comedy movies as they are westerns.  About two brothers who are much faster on the draw than anyone else, and better fighters.  One's a thief and one's lazy.  They Call Me Trinity is exceptionally enjoyable.  Trinity is Still My Name is worth watching just for the two rounds of the card game.

Barquero is a more serious western that stars one of my two favorite actors, Lee Van Cleef.  A group of villains want to cross a river on a barge and the barge owner won't let them.  A good solid movie.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly is rightly considered one of the best westerns ever.  I would imagine that I don't need to describe it.  The man with no name had two preceding sequels For a Few Dollars More, and A Fistfull of Dollars, all directed by Sergio Leone.  Both are good but A Fistful of Dollars was based on the Japanese movie Yojimbo, and I usually prefer the original, including in this case.

High Plains Drifter is my favorite non-dollars trilogy Clint Eastwood western movie.  But The Outlaw Josey Wales is good too.

Once Upon A Time In The West is my favorite movie, of any genre, also by Sergio Leone.  About a widow and her attempt to capitalize on her late husband's wealth.  The opening scene is great, the action is great, the drama is great.  Three different potential villains, and a great movie.

The Sheepman, The Violent Men, 3:10 to Yuma, and Jubal all star my other favorite actor, Glen Ford.  The opening scene to The Sheepman is one of my favorite opening scenes in any movie.  It is worth watching if only for that scene and the (approximately) second to last line.  The hero goes into cattle country and tries to raise sheep.  Oh, that last line is good!  The Violent Men has my favorite scene in any movie.  The movie is about a group of ranchers fighting each other.  My favorite scene has Glen Ford shoot a villain.  That doesn't sound like much, but if you watch the movie and see how he did it, it becomes and impressive display of strategy.  And villainess happens to be played by my favorite actress, Barbra Stanwyk.

High Noon gets my vote for the best movie of all time.  Gary Cooper plays a sheriff on his last day in office, when a villain and his sidekicks ride in to town.  The sheriff spends the movie trying to get some help for the final gun fight.  The plot, the pace, the music, the fact that its in black and white, and Grace Kelly's first starring role all combine for my vote for the best movie ever.

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre stars Humphrey Bogart, which is always good and is about three guys hunting for gold.  Its another drama more than an action movie, but the drama is good.  Watching the stars personalities change with the finding of gold is well worth watching.

Guns for San Sebastian is about a criminal who helps a town protect itself from the natives.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid must be mentioned with  the best westerns, and it is quite good.  Following the end of two career criminals, its quite a movie.  It is; its good; etc.

Support Your Local Sheriff is a comedic western about a guy taking over as sheriff in a western town.  Its reasonably funny and much better than sequel Support Your Local Gunfighter.

Blazing Saddles is the best.  No list of western movies would be complete without the best comedic western of all.  "Send wire to the main office. Tell them I said, 'Ow.'"  First farts in a movie too, which is quite a claim.  Watch for the toll booth and Mongo punching the horse.


These are the better western movies that I have seen, and I have seen many more, but these are the ones I'd like to see again.  There have been some modern westerns made, but for the most part I say, "meh" to them.  The best westerns, it seems to me, were made in the fifties and from around '66 to '71.

One more note: none of Randolph Scott's movies made my list.  That is not because I didn't like his movies, but because they aren't as well liked, by me, as those listed here.  If you are looking for another movie to watch, then I suggest finding Randolph's movie list and picking one at random.

If you're only going to watch, say three of these western movies, go with: High Noon, Once Upon a Time in the West, and Blazing Saddles.


  1. High Noon. So good.

  2. Some more of John Wayne's movies worth watching:

    1. The Searchers. Proof Wayne could act so well that thirty years after his death people still confuse Wayne with his racist character.

    2. Angel and the Badman, an early black and white western

    3. Rio Bravo. Made in response to High Noon. Wayne is really the supporting actor to Dean Martin in this film. I'm not sure the ending fits.

    1. I didn't particularly care for the Searchers or Rio Bravo, more because of my taste rather than the movies' lack of quality.

      I'll look into Angel and the Badman. I might have seen it and just forgot about it.

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