It seems ironic now that when I was young (and Western TV reruns seemed to dominate the afternoon and weekend slots when I wanted to watch cartoons) I hated Westerns! Many years later I was introduced to John Wayne films and so began a quest over the next several years to watch every great Western possible. Now it is one of my favorite genres. I want to highlight some of my favorites in this genre. They range from the grand epics (The Searchers, and The Good , The Bad, and The Ugly) to the very simple (Shane)
Martin Ritt's underrated classic stars Paul Newman in one of his best (and also underrated) roles. The story based on Elmore Leonard's book is an absorbing character study taking prejudice head-on.
I have said many times that Kevin Costner should only play cowboys and I suppose he should only direct Westerns as well. This is probably my favorite Costner film. It doesn't have the scope or substance of Dances With Wolves which won several Academy Awards including Best Picture but in its simplicity I enjoy Open Range much more. Robert Duvall is excellent as the Boss. Every line he plays seems completely genuine for his character in its stripped-down, folksy unpretentiousness. I think Costner was going for that "this-is-the-first-movie-about-the-west-ever-made" feel and I think he pulled it off pretty well.
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
Director Sergio Leone really hit his stride with this film. He had already made a smash hit with A Fistful of Dollars based on Kurosawa's Yojimbo but this new epic Western solidified Clint Eastwood as the "Man with no name" icon. Eli Wallach and Lee Van Cleef were never better.
Director Martin Scorsese has referenced Shane many times as a film that influenced him. I love this movie. So much so that if I see it playing anywhere I have to watch it to the end. This is Alan Ladd's best film, Van Heflin's best film, and Jean Arthur's best and LAST film. It is so dang simple it makes me angry I can't write something that good.
Speaking of films I have to watch to the end, I can't get enough of this one. Both entertaining (even to non-Western people) and historically accurate. As a matter of fact it has the most accurate film depiction of the gunfight at the OK Corral. I think Kurt Russell was absolutely perfect as Wyatt Earp and Val Kilmer is unforgettable as Doc Holliday- "I'm your huckleberry".