Ah the western, this is a genre that never ceases to crank out fantastic films, and has spawned so many classic icons that have made their mark on the cinema industry. As I've said before, I'm really excited for Django Unchained. Quentin Tarontino directing a Western is a match made in heaven, and the film itself has a fantastic cast including the likes of Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz with Leonardo DiCaprio to name but a few, plus the latest trailer seems to re-affirm my beliefs that this film will rock. So without further delay, here are my Top Ten Westerns.
10. Open Range
So we open the list with 2003’s Open Range, a film that is often quite overlooked. Kevin Costner is firmly in his own element here, putting in a pretty descent performance as Charlie Waite, a veteran of the civil war, working as a cattle rustler alongside his old friend, Boss Spearman (Duval) and two other young workers. Duval also puts in a good performance as an old farm hand, who brings a very relatable character to the table. Needless to say a series of events causes their tranquil lives to be destroyed, forcing the two into action. Costner also directed the film.
9- Young Guns
This film is just plain fun, and all actors put in really solid performances. The story focuses on the early career of famous outlaw ‘Billy the Kid’ and how he came to fame. Emilio Estevez looks insanely like the original photos of the out-law in question, and represents the personality of the kid very well. Kiefer Sutherland in particular stands out here, playing Josiah Gordon 'Doc' Scurlock, a young regulator with a strong heart. Lou Diamond Philips and Charlie Sheen also do their roles justice, with the latter probably being one of Sheen’s best. The only real gripe I have with this film is the cheesy over dramatic soundtrack that would be far more at home in a Transformers film. Despite the shortcomings of the soundtrack, I’d advise anyone who hasn't seen this to give it a watch; it’s quite a fun western. John Wayne’s son Patrick appears as Pat Garret.
8- Dances with Wolves
Another Costner film finds its way onto the list. The film that won both best picture at the Oscars and best Director for Costner, this story is something pretty special. The film deals with Costner, an ex Union officer and his experiences with the Lakota Indian tribe.
Now this is a truly brilliant film, even if it is a little depressing at times. Clint Eastwood plays Will Munny, an old gun slinger who reluctantly takes on one last job. This best picture winner has some brilliant talent behind it from Clint Eastwood, Gene Hackman and Morgan Freeman. I Would highly recommend watching this film, as Eastwood is on stellar form, as are the rest of the cast.
This film may not be the most historically accurate re-telling of the gunfight at the OK. Corral, but it’s most certainly the funnest. Kurt Russell plays retired law-man Wyatt Earp, on his way with the rest of his family and his best friend Doc Holliday (Val Kilmer), to seek their fortune in the mining town of Tombstone. Needles to say events spur the group into action, with consequences to the family. Val Kilmer is the highlight of the picture, with a performance which rightly deserves an Oscar. This movie is certainly worth watching.
5- 3:10 To Yuma (2007 remake)
Completely unrelated, but this is the reason why I'm so excited for The Wolverine. James Mangold can direct, and this film shows it. Christian Bale plays an ex union soldier who has settled down with his wife and family, but due to recent attacks on his property, he needs funds to repair what is rightfully his. Russell Crowe plays notorious outlaw Ben Wade, and when he is captured by the law, they enlist the help of Bale to transport the man to the 3:10 to Yuma train. The result is a fantastic film, with plenty of amazing performances from all the cast. Crowe is particularly brilliant here.
4- For a few dollars more
One of the reasons why I love this film so much is Lee Van Cleef’s performance as ‘the man in black’, a ruthless bounty hunter who might just take the cake for ‘biggest badass in the west’. I actually think Van Cleef plays the part of the hero a lot better than he does the villain, and if any film can help me argue that point it’s this. The film also delivers emotionally in the final act as well, demonstrating the degree of Van Cleef’s acting talents.
3- True Grit
Surprisingly the only John Wayne film on this list. While I do enjoy the remake with Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon, this is truly where I feel Wayne came into his own, playing the lovable Rooster Cogburn. If you haven’t seen this film yet you really should, and this is from someone that doesn't particularly enjoy quite a lot of Wayne’s films; If you've enjoyed the remake, I'm sure you’ll enjoy this.
2- Once upon a time in the West
Wow! Another Sergio Leone film that stuns at every corner. Charles Bronson and Henry Fonda are just brilliant in this, and it’s a testament to brilliant film making. Claudia Cardinale moves to Utah, who then finds her entire family killed by Gang Leader Henry Fonda. Fonda plays the part of the antagonist frighteningly well, making some parts of the film quite unnerving. Bronson is truly brilliant in this role, and it was a huge challenge to choose between this and number one...
1- The Good The Bad and the Ugly
The finale to Sergio Leone’s ‘Dollars Trilogy’, The Good, The Bad and the Ugly is a film you definitely don’t want to miss out on. The story about three men making an uneasy alliance to find hidden treasure during the American Civil war is expertly told, with fantastic performances all round. Van Cleef plays a different character than the one he did in For a Few Dollars more, this time playing a truly emotionless Bounty Hunter. The soundtrack by Ennio Morricone is truly something to behold.
So that’s my list! Quite a few controversial positions, but these are my favourite westerns, and there are some truly remarkable films on this list. Django Unchained is looking pretty good, but I guess we’re going to have to wait a while to find out whether my expectations are met.
Django Unchained comes out December 25th state-side, and January 18th in the UK.