Friday movie pick: saddle up
Apartment Therapy had a post about 15 Autumnal Movies to Get You in the Mood for Fall. Of course I hadn’t seen a lot of the movies (i.e. all the Harry Potter films) but I thought it was a good idea. I tried to come up with my own list, but my interest flagged and I failed.
However, I am also seeing lists of the twenty best westerns, probably due to the release of the new The Magnificent Seven. This subject interests me, but most of these lists include movies I loathe. This, of course, is just my opinion. Everyone is entitled to their own. But it got me to thinking of what my list of the 20 best westerns would actually include. (By this I mean movies that take place west of the Mississippi and therefore do not include Civil War movies such as The Horse Soldiers.)
My list does not include The Wild Bunch or Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid or anything with Clint Eastwood. I watched Hang ’em High (1968) recently and the only thing in it that I liked was Clint himself,
who is very attractive and worth watching, but the movie itself was terrible and a perfect example of why the genre was ruined. The only Clint Eastwood western I might include would be The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976), but, as you will see, I did not.
Well, here is my list of the 18 best westerns. You won’t be surprised–I have blogged about most of them. They are distinguished by great screenplays that feature outstanding characters, excellent direction and fine acting. Most also boast wonderful cinematography, although a few do not.
Shane (1953) George Stephens
Stagecoach (1939) John Ford
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) John Ford
The Searchers (1956) John Ford
My Darling Clementine (1946) John Ford
She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949) John Ford
3 Godfathers (1948) John Ford
How the West Was Won (1962) various
Rio Bravo (1957) Howard Hawks
Rio Grande (1950) John Ford
Hombre (1967) Martin Ritt
El Dorado (1966) Howard Hawks
The Plainsman (1936) Cecil B. DeMille
The Magnificent Seven (1960) John Sturges
Jeremiah Johnson (1972) Sydney Pollack
Red River (1948) Howard Hawks
Santa Fe Trail (1940) Michael Curtiz
As you can see, I have nothing on my list after 1972. The only western I can think of from those latter days is Silverado (1985), which I enjoyed very much at the time. However, it is an extremely derivative movie. There is nothing original in it. Even the performances seem to me to be impersonations of other actors.
If you ask me, I think television caused the western genre to go downhill fast. Characters became caricatures, plots were repetitive and violence took the place of plot. The genre was further degraded in the fifties when screenwriters tried to address 20th century problems–racial prejudice, McCarthyism, etc–by making them issues in westerns to dreary effect. Nobody seemed to care about authenticity anymore–they just wanted to make a point. Heaven’s Gate (1980)–one of the worst movies ever and the biggest financial debacle in Hollywood history–dealt the final death blow.
What did I forget? There are plenty of westerns which I find highly enjoyable and that deserve some special call-out, but do not rank as “the best”. These would include: Rocky Mountain (1950), Johnny Guitar (1954), The Furies (1950), True Grit (1969), The Cowboys (1972), The Shootist (1976), The Big Country (1958), Monte Walsh (1970), Hondo (1953), Sergeant Rutledge (1960), The Long Riders (1980). And I did not include Lonesome Dove because it is a miniseries made for television and not, therefore, constrained to the 2-3 hour time limit of the others. But it ranks up there as a great western.
Anyway…there are two spots left in my “top 20”, so convince me!
Discuss among yourselves.