Django Unchained, Quentin Taratino’s ninth directorial effort, starring Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, and Leonardo DiCaprio, has just released its first trailer. If this trailer had an ass, it would be bad. Let’s take a look-see together and then we’ll all agree that Christoph Waltz is the best thing to come out of Austria since the works of Stefan Zweig:
Man! Ray Charles is PISSED!
Needless to say, I’m stoked. Aside from being a sizable Tarantino fan, this movie has a lot of benchmarks I look for in a western (or “spaghetti western” which this flick is clearly modeled after):
- Bounty hunters
- Revenge plot line
- Gun fights
- Guns hidden in sleeves
- Colonel Sanders played by Don Johnson
- Brooding in a saloon
- And a cowboy dressed up like Austin Powers
Now, I have always been a fan of westerns, even back in the 80s when, if a film title didn’t end with the words “The Dream Warriors”, my grade school classmates were decidedly uninterested. I grew up on the works of John Ford, John Wayne and Clint Eastwood—before he was just a cranky old guy. But the time when the western genre was hugely popular has long since passed, so I always get a little extra excited when one comes along in the theaters. Now, fellas, if you’re like me, your wife and/or the mother of your child(ren) looks at a movie trailer and sees either a horse, a cowboy hat, a holster, or any combination of the aforementioned things, she immediately switches off and declares that it’s definitely a movie she does not want to see. It’s frustrating, but it’s also understandable. Westerns, for the most part, are usually engineered for guys who daydream about what it would have been like to wear a pair of chaps —and not in a “Village People” kind of way. So, how do you get her interested in going to see Django Unchained when she knows it’s going to be a Western?! Especially if the following didn’t do any good:
So, in the interest of public service, I have cobbled together the top 10 films that, I feel, are all gateway drugs for getting into Westerns. Note, this is not the top Westerns 10 of “all time”. You won’t see The Wild Bunch or anything of that ilk on here, since those are definitely “guys” movies, and there are some movies on here that I wouldn’t lump into an all-time top 10. But I think the following 10 movies are all films that anyone can enjoy, even those dead set on never seeing a Western. So saddle up, partner, here we go…
10 – Shane
Shane (1953), stars Alan Ladd as the titular Shane, a gunslinger with a past looking to put his guns behind him. He befriends a rancher and his family as he looks to start a new life, but that may be difficult when a ruthless cattle baron looks to move into town. Shane’s struggle to put his violent ways behind him as he finds himself in the role of a father figure makes for one damn fine movie.
9 – 3:10 to Yuma
3:10 to Yuma (2007), starring Christian Bale and Russel Crowe , is actually a remake of 1957 movie of the same name. I find it helpful to throw in some more recent movies to help ease in the reluctant Western viewer. Bale plays a down-on-his-luck rancher who agrees to help escort a notorious outlaw in order to make some money for his family. The final gunfight is an under-appreciated gem.
8 – Rio Bravo
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a cooler western. John Wayne, Dean Martin, and Ricky Nelson star in this 1957 film, and it is one of the better John Wayne movies. A sheriff enlists an unlikely band to help him guard the brother of a local criminal while he awaits trial.
7 – The Quick and the Dead
This is one of those movies where, if I come across it on TBS, I will watch it until the end no matter where I jump into it. This movie is all kinds of fun. Sam Raimi directs Sharon Stone as she goes up against Gene Hackman in a besieged town’s quick draw tournament. The movie also has pre-super stardom Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe, along with cult mainstays like Lance Henrickson and Keith David.
6 – Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
If your lady is not already interested after hearing “Paul Newman”, then there may be no convincing her. This western is one of the all time greats, as it details the real-life exploits of the famous outlaws when they flee to Bolivia.
5 – The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Clint Eastwood is the Man with No Name in the ultimate spaghetti western. To the uninitiated, spaghetti westerns were more-violent-than-usual westerns that were produced in Italy in the late 60s. Seriously, this movie is the prime example of how bad-ass westerns can be.
4 – Unforgiven
If The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly is the question, Unforgiven is the answer. Unforgiven is considered by most to be the “last” Western, in that it truly demonstrates the ultimate fate of any gunslinger from any given western. Bill Munny goes on one last job after he loses his wife and realizes it’s easier to pick up a gun again than to continue on as a simple farmer.
3 – The Magnificent Seven
I remember one summer where I watched this movie on a loop. This is the ultimate putting-a-team-together movie. A Western remake of Seven Samurai (my FAVORITE movie ever, BTW), Yul Brenner and Steve McQueen put together a team of desperadoes for a suicide mission to save a poor town of Mexican farmers from ruthless outlaws. James Coburn plays one my all time favorite movie tough guys.
2 – The Searchers
This John Ford epic is the movie that John Wayne should have won his Oscar for. The Academy later gave him one for the original True Grit, but this is the one that will show any non-believer what John Wayne was really made of. Wayne stars as a Civil War veteran who goes on a years long hunt for the Comanche tribe who kidnapped his niece. The movie gets incredibly tense as we realize that we, the viewer, may not be sure if Wayne is on a rescue mission or if he just plans on mercy killing his niece due to his intense hatred of Native Americans.
1 – Tombstone
I’ll be your huckleberry. Not just a fine western, this is just one of the best films of the last 20 years. Kurt Russell stars as Wyatt Earp as he tries to settle down with his brothers in a new city, but it doesn’t go well when outlaws decide they liked the town better before the Earps moved in. Tombstone has something for everyone. There’s love, there’s loss. There’s the realistic portrayal of the showdown at the OK Corral. And Val Kilmer gives the best performance of his career.
So that’s what I’ve got, what about you? Have I missed anything that should be on this list? Do any of these movies have no business being here? Any ladies want to weigh in with their opinions about westerns? Well, leave your thoughts in the Pony Express that is our comments section below!