Best Westerns

large_3376545146There’s something so compelling about the characters of the ol’ west, rough around the edges and looking for—or thrust into–adventure. Whether they be shoot ‘em up flicks or revisionist in nature, a good western flick can draw a crowd like no other. Here are our top picks for the best westerns of all time.

1) Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)

A western flick about bank robbers would be nothing without a dynamic duo, and that’s exactly what Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid delivers. The flick follows Butch Cassidy (Paul Newman), the brains of the operation, and the Sundance Kid (Robert Redford), the fastest gunman in the west, as they make their escape from the feds in America to the border of Bolivia.

2) Unforgiven (1992)

What makes this Clint Eastwood revisionist western great is that it blurs the traditional lines between the good guys and the bad guys in the wild west. Eastwood portrays the haggard William Munny, a retired outlaw who takes on one last job, but must compete with bounty hunters to ultimately win the money.

3) The Searchers (1956)

If you want to see John Wayne in one of the best performances of his career, look no further than his portrayal of Ethan Edwards in The Searchers. After his brother’s family is slaughtered in a Comanche raid, Edwards, an American Civil War vet, sets out to find the one surviving member of the family, his kidnapped niece. The film takes a painstaking turn when he arrives to find said niece has assimilated to the culture. In 2008, this John Ford-film earned the distinction of the best American western of all time by The American Film Institute.

4) The Magnificent Seven (1960)

A band of gunfighters is a trope in western flicks, but few can achieve the iconic status that a film like The Magnificent Seven did. Based on the 1954 Japanese film Seven Samurai, this John Sturges’ film stars a strong cast of actors: Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, Robert Vaughn, Horst Buchholz, and Brad Dexter. What makes this film work in part is that each of their characters is drawn so well. The shoot ‘em up action doesn’t hurt, either.

5) High Noon (1952)

If there’s one lesson to be learned from this Frank Zinnemann classic, it’s that westerns can offer more than just action. In High Noon, we meet retired Marshall Will Kane (Gary Cooper), who’s about to skip town on a happily ever after with his new wife (Grace Kelly). Standing in his way is an escaped killer he once caught, so the movie focuses on Kane’s struggle to decide between leaving his violent past behind and fighting for what he knows is right.

It may be far from a traditional western, but Quentin Tarantino’s recent take on the genre, Django Unchained, is earning a lot of Oscar buzz. Sell old DVDs on musicMagpie and head out to the cinema.

Kerrin Allsop is a real film buff. She spends most evenings either watching film or talking about film.

photo credit: Ken Lund via photopin cc