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Monday, August 8, 2011

My Favorite Westerns

        Not to be outdone by my cowpoke pal Stephen T. McCarthy, who posted his Fifteen Favorite Westerns a while back, I decided to put up my own list of favorite westerns .   Okay,  so he will probably outdo me on this one--after all he's apparently a bigger western fan than I am.  Besides he and a co-author, Calamity Cat wrote a book on the subject and the most I ever did was played with plastic cowboys and Indians when I was a kid.

         At first, due to what I thought was my limited experience with Westerns, I thought I'd only do my ten favorites.  Then, as I began compiling my list, I realized there were a lot of Western films that I really liked and I would have to take several off of my list in order to keep it at Stephen's original limitation of fifteen films.  So to keep the list manageable I'm only including one Clint Eastwood film (I could have taken up at least a third of the list with his films).

         If you're wondering about John Wayne films, I'll have to admit that I'm not a big fan so you'll find only one of his films here.  I'm going with films that really touched me in some way or another or have a particular significance to my experience as a film fan.  And finally, not that these films are not special to me, but I have omitted some of what may seem to be obvious classics such as High Noon, Shane, or Stagecoach.

        Fifteen Favorite Westerns:

      Shanghai Noon (2000)  --Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson star in this buddy comedy kung fu cowboy film.  It's wacky fun with plenty of action.   And there are trains. I love western films that have trains.

A Man Called Horse (1970) -- Richard Harris is an English aristocrat who gets captured by American Indians in 1825.  At first he is treated cruelly, but eventually proves his bravery and becomes part of the tribe.  This was probably a film that was partly made as a reaction to the Viet Nam era, but it still holds up as a darn good story.  This film was a favorite of mine and my friends after we saw it at the drive-in movie.  We all had fantasies of becoming Indians and having beautiful Indian maidens of our own.

Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) -- Humphrey Bogart stars in this more modern day Western.  The story takes place in 1925, but is replete with banditos on horseback, rugged scenery, and blazing gun battles.  Three Americans in Mexico take off into the Sierra Madre Mountains of Mexico in search of gold.  Along with gold, they find trouble fueled by greed.   A gritty tale befitting of Bogie's image.

7 Faces of Dr. Lao (1964) -- In this Western Fantasy mash up, Tony Randall plays multiple characters including the mysterious circus owner Dr. Lao.  The odd little circus comes to the desolate town of Abalone, Arizona.  When the circus comes to town the citizens are given insight as to who they really are as reflected by the  changing faces of the wise, but eccentric Dr. Lao.  A big plus for me is that the film is not only about the circus, but also prominently features juggling.   Gotta love a film that has juggling.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007) -- This is a slow, brooding, but highly compelling story about the notorious outlaw Jesse James and the gang member who gains his fifteen minutes of fame by shooting Jesse in the back.   This is a beautiful film in every way.  The cinematography is pure artwork, the music is haunting, and the acting is of the highest caliber.  It's a traditional western story told in an unconventional manner.

Lone Star (1996) -- This is a modern day story in the Western tradition.  After a skeleton is unearthed in the desert, the sheriff of a small town in Texas investigates to unravel the mystery.  He uncovers more secrets in the mystery than he bargains for as he digs up the skeletons in his own closet and those of the town itself.  This film is directed by one of my favorite directors, John Sayles, which is another big factor in my inclusion of Lone Star on this list.

The Misfits (1961) -- If nothing else, this film is notable because it was the last film made by both Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe.  This is another modern day Western story about horse wranglers and rodeo cowboys. It's a good story with top notch acting.  Not a shoot 'em up, but it's a bang of job of film making.

Back to the Future III (1990) -- Take my favorite genre of time travel and send it to the Wild West and I am definitely on board.   Add that to a great film franchise like Back to the Future and it's hard to go wrong.  There's cowboys and outlaws and trains.  And then there's that great scene of the souped-up DeLorean being chased by Indians on horseback.  This is some fun stuff.

The Searchers (1956) --There are several good John Wayne films and this is one of the best.  I'm no huge John Wayne fan--I almost find him annoying at times (gasp!  How un-American for me to say!).  This film falls into another one of my favorite story genres--the road trip.  As implied by the title, the story involves a search.  That search takes a great cast of characters through some great adventures in some magnificent scenery.  Just about everything a good Western should be is in this film.

All the Pretty Horses (2000)-- This is another film involving a journey.  It's 1949.  Two young cowboys in West Texas realize that the great era of the American cowboy is essentially over and head across the border to Mexico in search of adventure and jobs on a big ranch.  The film stars Matt Damon, Henry Thomas, and Penelope Cruz and is directed by Billy Bob Thornton.  I included this since it is a beautiful Western and it's based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy, one of my favorite authors.  His novel No Country For Old Men is a better film and could also be classified as a Western I'd say, but All the Pretty Horses fits the Western theme better for the purposes of this list.

Oklahoma (1955)-- I'm sure I'll get some disagreement about this one, but it's the Western themed musical with which I am most familiar. I know there are other Western musicals but I don't remember them very well.   Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote this musical and the songs are classics that we've all heard.  The performances are dynamite.  There's love, action, and good singin' and dancin'.  The dream ballet sequence is pure dance magic.  This is a film that I have watched many times.

McKenna's Gold (1969) -- This is a sentimental favorite for me.  I saw it at the drive-in movies when it first came out and have seen it many times since.  I never grow tired of watching this film.  It has a massive all-star cast headed up by Gregory Peck, Omar Sharif, and Telly Savalas.   This is yet another journey film with treasure seekers in search of a cache of gold in the mountains.  There are bad guys, good guys, more bad guys, and pissed off Indians all adding up to one rip-roaring adventure.

Tombstone (1993)-- There have been many renditions of the gunfight at the OK Corral.  This version is  one of the grandest.  The film is visually stunning and an A-list of actors is on board.  I especially like the depth to which the history of the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday is explored.  We see the story before Tombstone and the aftermath as we follow Wyatt Earp to his last days.  The movie is good story telling.

The Wild Bunch (1969)--One of the most violent Westerns of all is also one of the best.  The film has a great cast and is just an all around good film.  There are trains, explosions, gunfights, and a machine gun which makes for a really good gunfight.  You gotta love any Western that has a machine gun.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (1966)--  If Apocalypse Now is my favorite film then The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly would have to be my favorite Western since in my opinion it is the Apocalypse Now of Westerns.  They are both bizarre hallucinogenic excursions into surrealism where travelers encounter one weird event after another including a Civil War battle.  The characters in this spaghetti Western are played by an excellent cast with Clint Eastwood, Eli Wallach, and Lee Van Cleef heading up the list.  The theme music by Ennio Morricone has become classic.   This film is not only one of the best Westerns in my opinion, but it is among the best films ever made.

           There you have it.  Perhaps this should have been a blogfest.  In fact maybe this is a blogfest in slow motion since Stephen McCarthy's original entry first appeared nearly a year ago.  It took me a while to get my list together.  If you want to be a part of this, I hope you won't wait until next August to list your favorites.  If you do put up a list please let Stephen and me know about it so we can check it out.

           Do you like Westerns?    Would any of my favorites show up on your list?   Do you think any of my choices seem kind of peculiar?
           Please be sure to be here on Wednesday with my very special guest, San from Informed Sharing.  She has a story that you may find interesting.

          On Friday I will have a quirky little tale about cowboys and Indians.



  1. I recall many of these but I think Oklahoma was my favourite. I can also remember "The searchers". You have a grand list here Lee.
    I used to go to the cinema alot as a child but not as a mother.


  2. Must admit I'm not the biggest fan of westerns, but I have seen All the Pretty Horses and The Assassination...

    Great list there, Lee!

  3. Though not my favorite genre, I do watch Westerns because DH loves them...and also because my Grandpa was a cowboy, and my Great-Grandpa was a cowboy who also happened to be a Pony Express Rider. ☺

    I've seen most of the movies on your list. Tombstone is a favorite of mine. My all-time Western is The Cowboys. I cry every time I watch it. ☺

    Thanks for sharing your fabulous list. Happy Monday!

  4. I was so surprised to see you include BTTF III on this list! (Pleasantly surprised.)

  5. I love westerns. I'm having a happy moment remembering Sunday mornings watching old Johan Wayne flicks with my dad. :) Most of your westerns I loved. A few I haven't seen.

  6. nice eclectic list...i would have to include...

    butch casidy and the sundance kid
    3:10 to Yuma

    have to thik of a few others...every once in a while i like a good western...

  7. Yvonne -- The music of Rodgers and Hammerstein is so wonderful and the musicals are great fun.

    Talli -- I think Westerns are not an overly popular genre these days. My comments on this post will probably reflect that as well.

    Larri -- The heritage portrayed by Westerns is a part of the heritage of many American families. Newer generations often don't recognize that fact.

    Suze -- I just happy that there is a Western that is part of the Time Travel genre. I'd like to see more. Cowboys and Aliens is a cool concept as well and I'm looking forward to seeing that one.

    Ciara -- I went through cycles when I was growing up. Even though my father had grown up with them, he was no longer interested in watching Westerns after I was born. I would watch certain ones on TV but was not fanatic about it. I actually didn't start appreciating the Western genre until I was in high school.

    Brian -- Those two picks were on my original list but I took them off to pare the list down to 15. They were pretty obvious like High Noon and Shane so I opted for the ones I chose. If you post a list of your own let me know.


  8. Good list.

    But no Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid? Loved the film. I loved The Sons of Katie Elder, El Dorado, original Stagecoach (can't tell I like John Wayne can you?). Silverado is on my top favs as well.

  9. This was fun! I think Pale Rider would be among my top 15 along with The Oxbow Incident.

  10. Lone Star, and The Misfits and are my favorites on your list. Lone Star had lots of twists, and the magnificent cast of The Misfits really made the movie. I also liked Oklahoma. Julie

  11. Donna -- Like I said in a previous comment, Butch Cassidy was on my list but I put aside for some of the other picks.

    Bish -- I considered both of those. I opted to chose only one Clint Eastwood film since his films would have just about filled my list.

    RJR -- Thanks! I'll check it out.

    Julie -- I'm a big fan of John Sayles and Lone Star is one of my favorites by him.


  12. I don't think I've actually seen many Westerns.

  13. I haven't watched a lot of westerns, but I did enjoy The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. So well made! I also watched Back to the Future III when it came out, and it was fun to watch. These two don't seem like typical western films but I love it when movies (or other works) mix genres in a sense.


  14. How can you go wrong with The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly?

    I would have to include Unforgiven, 3:10 To Yuma, and True Grit on that list. I do like a good western.

  15. Love Shanghai Noon, Back to the Future 3 and The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly. I also love Young Guns.

  16. Some of these would also be on my list. A few of them, I wouldn't really think of as westerns. That's what makes the world go round! You've got me thinking and I'll probably have to come up with a list of my own to post! Thanks for the inspiration!

  17. We used to watch Shanghai Noon all the time! I love that movie!

  18. Carol -- That's what I was thinking until I started realizing all of the Westerns I had seen.

    Ana -- Westerns cover a wide range of styles, stories, and other genres.

    LG -- I'm getting ready to watch the most recent interpretation of True Grit--I love films by the Coen Brothers. I've never seen the original John Wayne version--at least not that I remember.

    Lynda -- I think I saw Young Guns but I don't remember it. Wasn't there also a television show based on that movie?

    Pat -- I hope you do come up with your list and let me and Stephen know so we don't miss it. This probably should have been a blogfest--maybe you could host it!


  19. Emilee -- It's such a fun movie.. Less than 2 weeks until we see each other! Is Marley ready?


  20. My dad was a big watcher of Westerns. The closest I've gotten to any on your list is Back to the Future I. Though I did see a few minutes when my dad put them on.

    I’m late getting to this, it being my birthday and all that Jazz, but there was no way I could have been held back until the 9th.

    First, I must tell you, as I type this comment I am listening to my new 2-disc set of TRAFFIC tunes, which my dear friend The Flyin’ Aardvark sent me for my birthday, knowing that I wanted it a great deal. ‘Traffic’ has nuttin’ to do with Western movies, but I know you too are a fan of their music, as I have been since the era of the LP. This set collects a lot of the songs I most loved from the Traffic LPs I sold to used record stores when I converted to CDs in the late ‘80s.

    OK, on to your list . . .

    A lot of your choices are more recent movies, none of which I’ve seen, and which I might not like much (e.g., Shanghai Noon). But I’m glad you left off “High Noon”, which is “HIGHLY” overrated. And I could almost kiss you for leaving off Clint’s abomination, “Unforgiven”.

    You have many excellent choices here: Treasure Of Sierra Madre, for example. Bogart had a very limited range as an actor, but he damn sure was in a great many genuine classics, “Treasure…” being just one of them.

    And anyone who mentions “The 7 Faces Of Dr. Lao” automatically scores a high grade on their report card from me, since it’s such a little known movie that deserves a bigger following.

    I’ve never seen “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford”, but based solely on your remarks, I’m going to add it to my NetFlix queue tonight and bump it way up toward the top.

    I’m afraid I didn’t have a lot of kind words for “The Misfits” in my Western Movie Guide. And it’s funny that, as much as I totally love the Western genre, the third installment of the “Back To The Future” trilogy was my least favorite, even though I did like it. (Bear in mind that my favorite installment of that GREAT series was Part 2, and I have yet to meet one other person who also feels that Part 2 was the best piece in that trilogy.)

    “The Searchers” wouldn’t be my top John Wayne Western, but it’s quite good and deserves its “Classic” reputation.

    “McKenna’s Gold”. Ha!-Ha! Du-uuu-ude! The one thing about that movie that’s noteworthy, you didn’t even note!: Julie Newmar’s underwater topless scene! (If you weren’t married with children, I’d be spreading the word that you must be… uh… uhm… “a good dancer” or “a hairdresser”. ;o) [I jest.]

    “Tombstone” is pretty far removed from the historical facts concerning the Earps in Tombstone, Airheadzona, but it truly is entertaining moviemaking; and Val Kilmer’s performance as “The Doc” is one of Hollywood’s all-time best! A fine addition to your list!

    “THE WILD BUNCH”… Well, in 4 words: “The Very Best Western.” I could have forgiven you ANYTHING, (including the “Unforgiven”) by your inclusion of this film on the list.

    As you know, I do not like Clint Eastwood in any way, shape, or form. But he HAS made a few good Westerns, and “The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly” is one of them. But, for me, it’s entirely Eli Wallach who makes that movie so watchable.

    Overall, Brother – based on those I’ve seen – I think you have a very admirable list here. Good stuffs, Boidman. And THANKS for putting this together; I enjoyed reading and commenting on it!

    ~ D-FensDogg
    ‘Loyal American Underground’

  22. Theresa -- You might want to check a few out. They're not always shoot 'em up horse operas. There are a whole variety of Western themed films.

    Stephan McC-- Happy Birthday!
    Huge fan of Traffic--one of my favorite groups. I'll have to check out the CD.
    I had forgotten that you had also included Dr Lao on your list, but a circus film that takes place in the West and included juggling is something I couldn't resist. In fact, I had consider including this film on my novels to moves entries from last week, but not clearly recalling the book I left it off although I recall liking the book very much--it was much stranger than the film.
    I started to mention that Julie Newmar was in McKenna's Gold, but I had honestly forgotten the nude swimming scene. Maybe that's why I've watched that film so many times.
    Let me know what you think of the Jesse James film.
    Thanks for the inspiration for this post, though I can see that Westerns do not elicit as many comments as some posts do.


  23. Interesting list. My fave Westerns include The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Unforgiven, The Sons of Katie Elder, McClintock!, Dances With Wolves, Fort Apache, She Wore A Yellow Ribbon, Little Big Man and a kind of modern twist, Last of the Dog Men.

  24. I grew up on western movies and still enjoy them to this day. I usually enjoy a good Saturday morning western movie before the day starts with a cup of coffee. When I was younger it was cartoons.
    Some of your westerns were surprises to me but I think you got the most important one on. My dad would be proud I would have it on my list. The good the bad and the ugly.
    This does look like fun.

  25. I'm not a big "Westerns" fan but did enjoy your list, Lee. Blazing Saddles was on last night and that movie always makes me chuckle. Dare say THAT was needed!!! Can't wait for tomorrow (for MANY reasons) and thanks again for being so darn awesome :)

  26. When I read your intro I was thinking that I don't really like westerns, but when I looked at your list, there were three movies I did enjoy - so maybe I am more eclectic than I thought.

  27. Hmm. I know Oklahoma and I can sing it too. But as for the others? My bad.

  28. Melissa -- I strongly considered Dances with Wolves but it's been so long since I've seen it that I wasn't sure. I've had the DVD for many years but have yet to watch it--it's such a long movie.

    Beth -- When I was a kid cartoons were not so much seen on Saturday mornings, but Westerns were the standard fare. I used to especially like "The Roy Rogers Show" and "Sky King", which was essentially a Western with an airplane.

    San -- Blazing Saddles is a hoot. Glad to have you as a guest on Wednesday 8/10/11.

    Rhonda -- There are Western themed stories for every taste.

    Samantha -- You're missing some great films. Check them out!


  29. I do love westerns with all my heart. (Is that too much?) I was raised watching them which may have something to do with it.

    I like your choices and could add about ten more.

  30. Nice choices. Lonesome Dove is my all time favorite. I also liked the new True Grit that came out recently.

  31. I'm not a huge western fan. My grandfather loved them. I did like True Grit, though.

  32. Now I'm amazed. I never realised how many westerns I have watched over the years. I've seen almost all of those you have listed, and I'm not even American. Wow.
    Very interesting post and the way you set it out is really cool too, easy on the eyes.
    God bless you Lee, Geoff.

  33. North to Alaska is good.
    Last of the Dogmen is a great modern western.

  34. You have quite a list there. Now I want to see some westerns. I think I've seen most on your list. There's nothing peculiar about your list at all. I think you've got some great selections & so many classics. I especially like the mention of Ennio Morricone's music. & that remark about the machine gun in the Wild Bunch made me laugh.

  35. Lone Star was awesome. Loved All the Pretty Horses. Oklahoma was delightful; saw this when I was a teenager long, long ago. I wasn't into westerns then, so I didn't see any John Wayne until much later in my life. I've watched a few of his best.

    Thanks for stopping by to see what I've been doing. Finally, today, I put up a new post.
    Ann Best, Author of In the Mirror, A Memoir of Shattered Secrets

  36. I was raised on Westerns. My dad is a bona fide horse riding, cow roping, spur wearing cowboy. You've got some good one here. One of my favorites (and it is a John Wayne) is The Cowboys. I loved it as a kid and love it even more as an adult.

  37. Teresa - I had a feeling you were a Western fan. I could definitely add ten more.

    Tom -- My wife and I watched the most recent version of True Grit last night and really enjoyed it.

    Carol -- True Grit is gritty but it's a girl empowerment movie too. My wife loved it.

    Geoff -- That's the way it struck me too. I thought I would have a difficult time thinking of fifteen favorites and instead had a hard time keeping it down to fifteen. All the world loves Westerns.

    SB -- I've never heard of this Last of the Dogmen. Now I guess I need to look it up.

    Lisa -- The music played such a major role in Good, Bad, and the Ugly that I felt I had to mention it.

    Ann -- I'll be by to check the new post. I wondered what had happened when I saw you hadn't posted in over a week.

    Angie -- I don't recall ever seeing The Cowboys. I guess I should check it out.


  38. I'm going to check out The Assassination of Jesse James. I haven't seen that, and it sounds excellent.

  39. I grew up with parents who were Eastwood fans and a mom who adored John Wayne, so I saw quite a few Westerns in my youth. I still enjoy them, though I have to be in the mood for them, but the Westerns they've been making the last few years have been a positive trend. I'm really excited about Cowboys and Aliens, but haven't seen it yet. I did see Harrison Ford will be playing Wyatt Earp (I think) in a Western starting to film soon. I also liked 310 to Yuma and Young Guns (I imagine that was a film mostly liked by young ladies...). I'm not sure I've seen all the Westerns on your list, but I'll have to look them up. I'm betting some will be familiar once I start them up, though.

  40. Mama -- I highly recommend the Jesse James film.

    Shannon -- I'm not always in a Western mood either, but I enjoy them when I do watch them. I like the idea of Western mash-ups so I'll be a natural for Cowboys and Aliens.


  41. While I am unfamiliar with most of the Westerns on your list, that Brad Pitt (2007) movie stands out because next to Back to the Future, it was among the most talked about titles when it was released.

    I do not like Westerns but one of your favorites..."All the Pretty Horses" is something that I may rend on DVD or something to watch because I won't pass up a chance to watch almost any movie starring Matt Damon and also because before reading your post, I had no idea that "All the Pretty Horses" was based off of a book and also did not know that the author is also connected to "No Country for Old Men," which is a movie that I LOVED,LOVED, LOVED watching!

    I am not in a position to really make a determination on whether your choices are peculiar or not, given the fact that I don't watch a lot of Westerns.

    I will be watching one soon now, though, lol. Or maybe two...."Tombstone" appears to be good as well.

    The Madlab Post

  42. Here I am, waving my hand wildly. I must, must add two: The Westerner and Once Upon a Times in the West.

  43. This is an interesting list. I might consider "Once Upon A Time In The West", another by Sergio Leone, to be one of the best ever. It is slow for a western, but it's also pure cinema. Only few movies are this visual. It's fantastic on a big screen.

    I would definitely add "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" with Jimmy Stewart and John Wayne. Lee Marvin plays one of the most despicable villains ever. This movie has so many important big themes that I don't know where to start. Democracy, equality, education, the law versus brute force, legend and fact, etc.

    It's like the story of how democracy and the right of law evolves in any country, anywhere. Complex, but also entertaining and real.

  44. I am not a fan of the westerns 'per se'. But I did watch quite a lot of them on TV while growing up a little more than a decade ago before the massive invasion of the internet.

    Great list! So glad you've mentioned 7 Faces of Dr. Lao! It is sadly neglected in my opinion. Too bad the star, Tony Randall, himself didn't think much of it. I feel it's a movie I can watch again and again.

    I am a fan of the entire Back to the Future trilogy. McKenna's Gold and The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly I watched a long time ago and don't remember much about. May need to re-watch those.

    Loved The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford mainly because of Casey Affleck's subdued acting. I still can't forget the final frame!

  45. Nicole -- All the Pretty Horses is based on a book that is part of Cormac McCarthy's Border Trilogy. The books have the elements of Westerns but transported into a more modern day. It's an incredible series of books.

    Alta -- I really must see Once Upon a Time.....

    Marcus --I like elements of realism and history in Westerns almost as much as I like surrealism and crazy fantasy in the same genre.

    Willow-- I do like the more subdued approach to Westerns like The Assassination.... Action is fun, but lyrical storytelling with good acting wins me over as well.



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