Fifteen of my Favorite Westerns
Is there a genre of film that does a better job of telling American stories than the Western? These are our legends and they tell the greatest tales across a wide spectrum of styles. The Western is America and these are fifteen of my favorites in order of preference.
- •The SearchersThe ultimate Western, John Wayne's finest performance and John Ford's greatest movie. The hunt two men take on to find a captured girl, one of them a former officer of the Confederate army and the other a mixed boy, half white, half Native American, and the years they spend on the chase is unlike any movie ever made. The Searchers is the greatest in the genre and Ford is its master.
- •The Good, The Bad, and The UglyEasily the most famous on the list. The showdown with all three men is one of the greatest scenes ever filmed. Sergio Leone excelled at a certain style of Western and it helped influence how we view the genre as a whole. While part of a trilogy the movies can be viewed on their own and this one is my favorite of the three.
- •Once Upon a Time in the WestA revenge story by the legendary Sergio Leone, dealing with the mystery of a murder in Utah. Charles Bronson and Henry Fonda bring the grit to this stellar movie! It's a very different experience than the movie listed above it but is just as stellar and essential.
- •UnforgivenEastwood's last truly great Western. Unforgiven is moody, dark and often uncomfortable to watch but it's also one of the high points of this genre exploring the dark side of the law and the true nature of some of the men we idolize.
- •StagecoachThe oldest movie on the list, and really the watershed moment for the genre as a whole. Stagecoach is brilliant and belongs on any list.
- •GiantRock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor, James Dean. Enough said. The all star cast take us through the decades as these people make their way through life. The movie deals with racism, family love, rivalries, and the changing of the times.
- •Django UnchainedOne of the greatest revenge movies ever made, Django is classic Tarantino and when compared to his other more hyped Western, The Hateful Eight, it's the more essential movie. It deals with the Western from the slave perspective and helps show a part of it that was often overlooked based on the locations (most of Django does not take place in the West). But thematically and stylistically this is a true Western.
- •Two Mules for Sister SarahAnd then there are the more charming and comical movies. Two Mules is a wonderful period piece but it really succeeds because it's just fun to see in action.
- •True Grit (both versions)Both versions are wonderful and worth watching but the Coen Brothers' remake has a better feel and stronger performances. The hunt for a wanted man and the relationship that develops between an old man and a young girl makes up the core of a touching story.
- •WarlockEasily the worst named movie in the list, you would never assume by its title it's a Western. But Warlock is the name of the town and in it two proud men are set to clash over a difference of ideals and they take everyone along with them.
- •TombstoneA classic Western following one of the most famous figures in the Wild West. A fun and dramatic biographical tale.
- •The RevenantA revenge story interested more in the journey and distance one is willing to go in order to get his revenge. This brutal, spiritual, and intense masterpiece takes a different approach to the genre than most but is all the more memorable because of it.
- •JubalA tragedy in every respect. Jubal is filled with stellar performances by well written characters. Shakespearean in every sense of the word.
- •Blazing SaddlesMel Brooks is the king of satire. He excels at dad jokes that are pulled off in earnest and manages to have fun with some of the greatest comedies ever written. And Blazing Saddles is one of his greatest individual works ever.
- •Dances With WolvesIn a lot of Westerns Native Americans take a major role, whether it's The Searchers or more modern fare like The Revenant. But Dances With Wolves takes a larger focus of a man's friendship with a group of people and it does not sit well with his own people.