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Top 10 westerns you haven’t seen, and should


The western died decades ago. So critical thinking has it, anyway. Once the staple of the studios, the genre slowly ran itself ragged on a never-ending factory line of bandana-ed bandits, silver-starred sheriffs and heart-of-gold hookers.

There’s been a gazillion westerns over the years, and you’ve no doubt seen most of them on a Saturday afternoon waiting for the rain delay to finish. But there are always those that get lost amid the dust and gun smoke – particularly in more recent years when some boob has tried his hand at reviving the genre.

So TheVine would like to present ten westerns you haven’t seen. Some of these were long ago trampled under the stampede of their own genre. Others are misunderstood gems. All, though, are flicks worthy of your time.

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10. Silverado (1985)

Westerns usually make for pretty high-concept filmmaking: deliver a bad guy, defend a town, avenge a partner, etc. So it’s backhandedly refreshing to witness an oater that approaches its own story like a drunken cowboy with a chamber full of buckshot. Silverado should have been a disaster: it’s got enough plot (and shootouts) for five films, meaning the four (yeah, four) central players barely have any celluloid left between them to develop any character. But then it’s from the gleeful mind’s eye of Lawrence Kasdan so is always a gas, even as it splays itself across the screen. Call your buds, buy some beer, enjoy.

9. They Call Me Trinity (1970)

I umm-ed and ahh-ed about including They Call Me Trinity. Surely everyone’s seen this? But apparently not, the fagioli western a minor hit in cinemas and on VHS, but flying under the radar in the DVD era (indeed, if you’ve never heard of Terence Hill and Bud Spencer, head straight to Amazon and buy the biggest box set you can). On the face of it, this is pretty straightforward: a couple of lawmen aid a defenceless group of people threatened by a corrupt landowner and his henchman. The only difference is that the Trinity brothers are lazy, unreliable, small-time scumbags. Hilarity ensues. 

8. Open Range (2003)

The second film on this list to feature Kevin Costner after 1985’s Silverado, Open Range finds ol’ orange face on the other side of the deep trough in his career. I’m not sure what kind of madman was giving Costner money to make westerns in 2003, but the decision was ultimately vindicated: not only was Open Range a critical success, but it also made its money back at the box office. It’s way too long for what it is (such is life when your actor is your director is your producer), but the final shootout is one of the greatest you’re likely to witness. Check it out.

7. Westworld (1973)

Futuristic theme park forgets to update virus software, goes bananas. That’s the setup for Westworld, writer-director Michael Crichton’s 1973 dress rehearsal for Jurassic Park in which Yul Brynner plays himself – as a robot! If all this is starting to sound too good to be true, it kinda is. Westworld’s plot overflows with possibilities but unfortunately everything turns to shit a touch too late. Still, it’s never not watchable, and packs some spookily prescient ideas when it comes to the technology it portrays.

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5 comments so far..

  • Paleocinema's avatar
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    Paleocinema
    Date and time
    Wednesday 20 Feb 2013 - 7:25 PM
    So no mention of Budd Boetticher's Ranown Cycle? Also, the assumption I haven't seen these movies is erroneous.
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  • Jon23's avatar
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    Jon23
    Date and time
    Thursday 21 Feb 2013 - 9:04 AM
    I'm surprised there aren't more spaghetti westerns listed. Of course everyone's familiar with Leone's ouevre and the US produced imitations (often also starring Eastwood), but in addition to the hundreds of lame Italian cash-ins on successful westerns featuring "Django" or "The Good..." or "Dollars" in the title, there are also many hidden gems, some of which ("Death Rides a Horse", "Companeros") also feature an Ennio Morricone score. And maybe it is felt that the original "Django" needs no mention because of "Django Unchained", but even some of the cash-ins / tributes to "Django" are must sees ("Django Kill" and Miike's strange "Sukiyaki Western Django" (bad acting by Tarantino in the latter aside)). And there's "Run Man Run" which is superior to the Trinity films (which I also love) as a humourous western, IMHO, and it became a bit of a college hit with its message of rebellion.

    Every true western fan should know the names Franco Nero and Sergio Corbucci as well as they know Clint Eastwood and Sergio Leone. And, although maybe they're not so unknown and are not actually movies, I think any fan of westerns should watch "Kung Fu". They're great western drama even if you're not a fan of martial arts films, but if you are, the kung fu is a nice bonus.
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  • Shane Wells's avatar
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    Shane Wells
    Date and time
    Thursday 21 Feb 2013 - 9:26 PM
    Appaloosa?
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  • MattShea's avatar
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    MattShea
    Date and time
    Friday 22 Feb 2013 - 12:03 PM
    Paleo: I passed over Tall T because I felt quite a few people had seen it. And Comanche Station missed out by a hair's breadth. Perhaps some sort of honourable mentions is in order.

    Jon: I saw a bunch of the more obscure spags at BIFF recently (each time with people who were revisiting the films) so maybe they became a bit of a blind spot for me. Interesting calls on Sukiyaki and Run Man Run, though. I haven't seen either.

    Shane: Yeah, I didn't particularly dig Appaloosa TBH, so let it slide.

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  • Paleocinema's avatar
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    Paleocinema
    Date and time
    Saturday 23 Feb 2013 - 10:24 AM
    Seven Men From Now or Ride Lonesome are better Boetticher options but all seven of the Boetticher/Scott films are pretty good, with the possible exception of Westbound.
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