Monday, July 23, 2012

The Top 10 Westerns of the Modern Era!

Despite my earlier promise, in the wake of the horrific shooting rampage in Colorado, I’m not going to post a review of “The Dark Knight Rises”, other than to say that while it bogs down slightly in the middle, overall it is an excellent conclusion to director Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. Instead, here are my choices for the best “oaters” (look it up) of recent years.
Appaloosa (2008)
Dances With Wolves (1990)
Lonesome Dove (1989; TV mini-series)
Open Range (2003)
Seraphim Falls (2007)
The Missing (2003)
The Proposition (2005)
Tombstone (1993)
Unforgiven (1992)
[Tie] 3:10 to Yuma (2007)
[Tie] True Grit (2010)
Westerns are devoted to telling stories set primarily in the latter half of the 19th century in the American Old West, hence the name. While some Westerns are set as early as the Battle of the Alamo in 1836, there are also films about Western-type characters in contemporary settings, such as "The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada" (set in the 21st century). Along with contemporary tales in the western mode, I'm disallowing certain genre films like "The Mask of Zorro" which reflects more of a superhero vibe, and comedic fare like the remake of "Maverick". Westerns often portray how desolate and hard life was for frontier families and how they are often faced with changes that severely alter their way of life. This may be depicted by showing conflict between Native Americans and settlers or U.S. Cavalry or between cattle ranchers and farmers, or by showing ranchers being threatened by the onset of the Industrial Revolution. Despite being tightly associated with a specific time and place in American history, these themes have allowed Western films to be produced and enjoyed across the entire world. Straight forward storytelling, good guys vs. bad guys themes, rousing gun battles, and simple morals have captivated movie audiences since the era of silent films. The selections above (in no particular order) are my own personal picks for the Top Ten Westerns of the Modern Era (1980-Present). If you haven’t seen any of these great flicks, I highly encourage you to amend that asap!


Tony Laplume said...

I'm partial to Sam Raimi's The Quick and the Dead. Just a flat-out exceptional cast and loads of fun with existing tropes.

Rip Jagger said...

I'm surprised how many of these I haven't seen. Open Range is a big favorite of mine. The gunfight at the end of the movie is perhaps the best I've ever seen. It's exciting and seems more realistic than many.

I'm not a big fan of Dances With Wolves, but I'm not surprised other people like it. It just doesn't speak to me. I like some of Costner's sci-fi stuff better.

Unforgiven is tough, but bogs down a bit for me. Eastwood is magnetic though especially in the finale.

3:10 to Yuma is a fine hard western story, but seems a bit far-fetched given the sense of reality they worked for. I like watching it, but I stay outside it.

Tombstone is a hoot and half, lots of fave scenes to savor over and over, though the whole movie is too long.

The Missing I've never seen all the way through, but I can tell I might like it. I'll give it a chance.

Lonesome Dove is epic. Wonderful characters and the storytelling is immaculate. Astonishing characters!

Rip Off

Chuck Wells said...

Dances With Wolves gets a nod due to its portrayal of the Lakota Indians, making it a worth addition to this list. The Quick and the Dead, I would say "you've gotta be fecking kidding me", but that would be mean (accurate but mean)and another similar film that stretches the imagination, but ends up on too many lists is Silverado. Each of these movies has prominent characters (largely through the fault of the actor in the role), who really doesn't understand that they were filming a western. In Silverado, Jeff Goldblum and Kevin Costner were badly miscast and horrifically played, Leonardo DiCaprio all by himself ruind Dead. The directors were dopes for allowing this shit to end up on screen.

HEH said...

Thanks for the list, Chuck.
I haven't seen many of these, but would like to enlarge my Western experiences.

Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin said...

My favorite genre and I reckon it's on a roll at the moment - Tarantino's Django is not too far away. Oh and good choices, man.

Lazlo Deathray said...

I vote we add "Blueberry" and "Dead Man" to the list.

Chuck Wells said...

Lazlo, let's pretend that I just used a "deathray" on this dumb idea, which must surely have been inspired by your abuse of peyote.

"Go into the light, pal" (aka step out of the sweat lodge).

Anonymous said...

There is "Into the West", which begins in the 1820s and "Centennial", which begins in the 1790s. The Old West can be set in any time frame before post-WWI, I believe.

Chuck Wells said...

"Into the West" is far too recent to be included, and nothing about that show really grabbed me. "Centennial" I liked quite a bit, but the overall impression from that epic mini-series was melodrama and less pure western, so I would not include it here either.