Frankly, the not-so-sub-text is frighteningly apt today. Essentially a domestic drama set on the Texas frontier, Rio Grande has John Wayne reprising his role as Kirby Yorke who, 15 years after the Shenandoah Valley Campaign, has been promoted to Lieutenant Colonel on a river border outpost and is hurting for troops as he keeps the Apaches at bay. The bravado horse-riding stunt work and battle scenes are breathtaking, and even the over abundance of folk songs by the Sons of Pioneers who would later perform the theme for The Searchers feels authentic.
A Zapata Western starring the incomparable Franco Nero. If you think Jack Palance is badass when he has both arms, try messing with him when he plays a dude with a prosthetic wooden arm. Western purists might wrinkle their noses at this particular inclusion. Blackthorn Director: Mateo Gil Year: If you ever wondered what really happened to Butch Cassidy after he and his erstwhile partner, Harry Alonzo Longabaugh, a. Blackthorn is a gorgeously shot series of overlapping plot threads, in which the death of Etta Place, a quest to recover money stolen from powerful industrialists, and the interference of a retired Pinkerton agent either supersede or tie into one another.
Gunfight at the O.
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Corral Director: John Sturges Year: At its heart though, the film is ultimately a straightforward story of brotherly love between Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday, showing how the two men grow to respect one another by keeping each other in check and helping each other grow as men in the face of violent turmoil. While Sturges and screenwriter Leon Uris reportedly heavily researched the incidents, the film is still a fairly fanciful treatment of the events in Tombstone. The Claim goes against the genre in other ways, too, favoring talk over action and showcasing courage not through force of arms but strength of perseverance, but what lets the film stand out most of all is its tendency to gut punch us right in our emotions.
Keoma Director: Enzo G. Castellari Year: Franco Nero, a frequent flier on this list, plays the title character, a part-Indian, part-white soldier returned home after spending the Civil War fighting on behalf of the Union, only to find the place has been taken over by a tyrant and his three corrupt half-brothers, who have abandoned their father. So naturally, Keoma makes it his mission to visit justice upon the quartet, enlisting the aid of dad and Woody Strode in his pursuit of rightness. Keoma is an often lugubrious affair that cleaves as closely to Greek tragedy as it does to Western cinema, a work peppered by occasional and possibly supernatural entities; these quirks are the characteristics that make the film tick and give it high value as an underrated and essential late-stage entry in the Spaghetti Western canon.
Director: Giulio Questi Year: None of them are direct sequels.
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On the surface, this is typical Euro Western fare: Milian is double-crossed by his gang and left for dead. It all plays like a hallucinatory horror Western … still nothing quite like it. A strange, troubled, underrated, masochistic Western. The production was problematic to say the least, compounded when the original director, Stanley Kubrick , was fired after butting heads with his star one too many times. Brando plays a tortured, revenge-minded gunslinger who goes up against his old friend who once betrayed him, played by Karl Malden.
Freud would have had a field day with this one. And now: Marlon Brando as a vicious, deranged serial killer with a penchant for disguise and who speaks in a thick Irish brogue, whether to his human or animal co-stars. Even among the assortment of odd ducks named in this collection of films, The Missouri Breaks is pretty damn strange—a plotless, shapeless film about a cattle thief played by Jack Nicholson who is targeted by a land baron who prefers to deal with criminals himself instead of calling the law. Bad Day at Black Rock is a contemporary noir Western set in the almost contemporary California of World War II vet John Macready Spencer Tracy , a one-armed former platoon leader, unexpectedly shows up in the desert town of Black Rock looking for the father of one of his fellow fallen soldiers.
Undeterred by the constant harassment of local heavies Hector David Lee Marvin and Coley Trimble Ernest Borgnine and the persistent questioning of motives by unofficial town boss Reno Smith Robert Ryan , Macready discovers the farmer was murdered and vows to bring the culprits to justice. The topical and potentially controversial subject of the film, conceived with Tracy in mind, almost scared the star off, as did as the inferior short story from which the screenplay was sourced. Bizarre, droll and lyrical as only Jarmusch can do, Dead Man is one strange trip.
Retired lawman Jed Cooper Clint Eastwood is wrongfully accused of theft and murder. After being tried on the spot by a hotheaded mob, he survives a brutal lynching. Cleared of wrongdoing by hanging judge Fenton Pat Hingle , a character based on historical figure Judge Isaac Parker, Cooper is deputized. He plans to use his position to legally hunt down the nine men behind his lynching. While incorporating crucial Leone-esque elements—explosive violence, seedy and morally ambiguous characters driven by revenge—director Post and Eastwood mostly dispense with stylistic flamboyance and the core of nihilism so inherent in the Italian vision of the West.
Instead, the film delves into themes of injustice, the practice of capital punishment and the fallibility of the law. Hondo Director: Year: John Farrow. But leaving those arguments for another time, Hondo is a definitive Western. It is undoubtedly a definitive John Wayne Western, one that sees the great American cowboy refining and honing himself as a performer, sculpting his image as well as the figure of archetypal manhood he played throughout his career.
Maybe Open Range is a vain movie. Call that a naked ego boost if you like. Open Range confidently takes its time building to a violent crescendo. It earns its gunplay. Director Budd Boetticher is one of the greatest pulp poets the American Western genre ever produced. Boetticher builds up tension to a feverish degree, though the finale is unexpected in its moral weight and thoroughly satisfying. My Name is Nobody distilled those moments into one movie.
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Nobody is a sort of holy fool, a Mulla Nasrudin of the Old West, a seeming simpleton whose foolish acts seem wise in retrospect, or at least carefully premeditated and logically executed. His adulation for the aging, legendary gunslinger Jack Beauregard Henry Fonda launches the old hand into a series of confrontations that increase and burnish his personal mythology while building to a final confrontation wherein the designation of Fastest Gun in the West is passed on to his young admirer. The film symbolically represents the passing of the torch from the classic Hollywood western to the brash upstart New Westerns, embodied mainly by the Italian brand.
A few years after True Grit , John Wayne was again looking to break out of his formula filmmaking rut. How about working with a younger director and getting killed off two-thirds of the way through the movie? The Cowboys was definitely a departure in form for The Duke. It was one of the few films where he played a character close to his actual age, who also has an older wife. After losing his ranch hands to the Gold Rush, Wil Andersen Wayne finds the only acceptable crew he can gather for his upcoming cattle drive is a bunch of greenhorn kids.
Rather than postpone for a year, Andersen decides he will put these kids through their posts on the trail. The boys earn their merits through a series of trials and mishaps that sharpen their abilities and bond them together. In the process, Watts cold-bloodedly murders Andersen. Quite shocking in its time, and still shocking now, the end of The Cowboys plays out as a Lord of the Flies set in the Old West.
The young cowhands show no mercy as they relentlessly pick off the rustlers, reserving a special fate for Long Hair. John Wayne was quite proud of the role, stating that it portrayed an elder instilling right skills and values into young men. Some critics lambasted the film for its depiction of violence, especially the suggestion that the boys grow into men only after embracing it. In recent years, Bruce Dern claimed this role killed off his career, and that for long afterward, strangers accosted him on the street, angry that he had killed off their hero.
Gable is a past-his-prime cowboy who, circa s Nevada, bucks against the disappearance of the Old West with the ferocity of the wild mustangs he hunts.
The infamous carousing John Huston reportedly spent a fortune gambling in Reno and general disrepair—not to mention the degree temps of the desert—plaguing cast and crew seeps into each frame. The Misfits is a stunningly unsentimental portrait of twilights: of traditional notions of masculinity, of heydays, of the mythic West, of the Western itself. The arresting stillness is then unceremoniously broken as a man on horseback bursts across the screen.
A young woman Clare Bowen watches him go, tears pooling in her eyes. And the very moment you believe you have the measure of her, she raises a rifle, takes dead aim and fires. Greed is a recurring theme throughout the Western, whether in the scheming cynicism of Vera Cruz , the landowner conflicts of Once Upon a Time in the West and Shane , or in The Naked Spur , where greed is a divisive force. Greed corrodes your soul and poisons you against your comrades.
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Greed persuades you to yank your prospecting partner out of bed and shoot him in the dead of night. All that and more for bags of gold that wind up being tossed to the wind like so much chaff. That they are imperilled along the way by a pack of dastardly bandits is par for the Western course. That the film exudes so much warmth and general good feeling is, perhaps, far more surprising, not just for its genre but for its creator.
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Ford is not widely regarded as sentimental, or gentle, or even the least bit cuddly, but Wagon Master is such a good-tempered romp that you might not expect to see his name on the marquee whatsoever. John Sayles weaves a slow-burning, incredibly intricate reckoning in the Texas border locale of Rio County. Sheriff Sam Deeds Chris Cooper , struggling to escape the shadow of his late father, Buddy played in flashbacks by Matthew McConaughey , stumbles upon human remains and with it a year-old murder mystery that spotlights racial tensions and suspicions of institutional corruption.
As the sins of much hated Sheriff Charlie Wade a menacing Kris Kristofferson are laid bare, Sam wonders if his dear old dad was involved in the offing. Tombstone Directors: George P. Cosmatos, Kevin Jarre Year: Corral and its aftermath. Though George P.
Cosmatos was credited as director after screenwriter-initial director Kevin Jarre was fired, Russell has since said he himself handled the bulk of the duties.
Whoever had the ultimate word, the result is a thrillingly old-fashioned Western tweaked for modern audiences. Silverado Director: Lawrence Kasdan Year: He finds a piece of land on which to forge his hermit existence, and in building his Colorado homestead makes new friends and enemies—among both, members of neighboring Indian tribes. Jeremiah Johnson is a starkly beautiful, brutal tone poem. But what happens when you leave that life and that life refuses to leave you? Upon refusing to surrender after the war, Wales goes rogue and meets up with a number of outsiders—an old Indian chief and young woman, and an elderly woman and her granddaughter—in an attempt to remake his family down in Texas, far from the violence that has consumed his life.
At once adventurous and even comical at times, The Outlaw Josey Wales is also cast with elegiac tones via cinematographer Bruce Surtees. The Culpepper Cattle Co.
Director: Dick Richards Year: Where to start with this film? Or the climax, which leaves everyone but Grimes and Anthony James on the proverbial slab? Malden is the patriarch of the Prescott family, who ventures west from the Erie Canal and through 19th-century American history, including the Civil War, California Gold Rush, the Pony Express and the railroad boom.
John Ford, Henry Hathaway and George Marshall co-direct, filming in the spectacular but intricately problematic curved-screen three-strip Cinerama process that made such a monumental narrative undertaking even more grandiose onscreen.