I’ve addressed my fondness for Westerns – both movies and TV shows – in past posts. Here are ten of my favorite films from the genre.
I am not claiming they are the ten greatest Westerns ever made, although a few of them would also make that list. But these all struck a major chord with me to the point where I have returned to each of them multiple times.
- The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962 – Directed by John Ford and starring James Stewart, John Wayne, and Lee Marvin) This is the only Western that made my Top Ten Movies list a while back. The cast is tough to beat, while John Ford was arguably the greatest director of Westerns in the history of the big screen. It’s also the first of several on this list that features a tough guy who knew how to use a gun coming to the rescue of someone – or someones – who has a moral compass, but isn’t so tough.
- High Plains Drifter (1973 – Directed by and starring Clint Eastwood) There are other Clint Eastwood Westerns that have received more critical acclaim than High Plains Drifter, but it’s so atmospheric and I find its dark mood irresistible. Clint rides into a town with deep troubles, as if he came out of a dream, and sets things straight.
- High Noon (1952 – Directed by Fred Zinnemann and starring Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly) In High Noon, it’s the town Marshall, played by Gary Cooper, who could desperately use the help of those he has sworn to protect. But they leave him to face the bad guys on his own. Against tall odds, he refuses to run.
- Rio Bravo (1959 – Directed by Howard Hawks and starring John Wayne, Dean Martin, Angie Dickinson, Ricky Nelson, and Walter Brennan) Rio Bravo is actually a response to High Noon from the great director Howard Hawks and star John Wayne. They found the notion of townspeople abandoning a heroic figure in his hour of need to be un-American and decided to make a film in which the good guys get an abundance of help from a diverse array of characters when they need it most.
- Shane (1953 – Directed by George Stevens and starring Alan Ladd, Van Heflin, and Jean Arthur) A drifter trying to put his violent past behind him settles down with a family of homesteaders. But when he sees they are in trouble, he takes matters into his own hands. In the process, he makes a big impression on the family’s youngest member.
- The Ox-Bow Incident (1942 – Directed by William A. Wellman and starring Henry Fonda and Dana Andrews) The theme of The Ox-Bow Incident is unique to this list. It’s a morality play about mob justice and its tragic consequences. Henry Fonda foreshadows his role in 12 Angry Men by attempting to stop a rush to judgment, but with different results this time.
- Winchester 73 (1950 – Directed by Anthony Mann and starring James Stewart and Shelley Winters) Winchester 73 was the first – and best – in a series of excellent Westerns made by director Anthony Mann and screen legend James Stewart in the early to mid 50s. It centers on a prized rifle desired by a varied cast of characters and the deep-seeded conflict between two of them.
- 7 Men from Now (1956 – Directed by Budd Boetticher and starring Randolph Scott, Gail Russell, and Lee Marvin) Randolph Scott starred mainly in B-Movies for many years. But he and director Budd Boetticher teamed up for a series of higher-quality Westerns later in his career and this was arguably the best of them. He plays an ex-sheriff who hooks up with a married couple heading west while hunting the men responsible for his wife’s death. Along the way, they are joined by tough-guy Lee Marvin, who the sheriff once sent to jail.
- 3:10 to Yuma (1957 – Directed by Delmer Daves and starring Glenn Ford and Van Heflin) Some of you are probably more familiar with the remake of this film, which starred Russell Crowe and Christian Bale. But I prefer the original with Glenn Ford and Van Heflin, both of whom were well known in their day as stars of the genre. A rancher in desperate need of money takes on a potentially deadly job.
- Day of the Outlaw (1959 – Directed by André De Toth and starring Robert Ryan, Burl Ives, and Tina Louise) In a small town, the dispute between a cattleman, played by Robert Ryan, and homesteaders is put on the back-burner when a gang of ruthless outlaws, led by Burl Ives, rides into town. This is another one with a very dark feel to it.
I have a cheesesteak outing of some significance scheduled for tomorrow and will be back with a report on it later in the day.