Best Western


Last week Kevin Knox of The Cinematheque sent around an email asking a bunch of movie buffs, including me, to pick our favorite westerns. You can read our ballots here; you can see how closely our tastes match establishment opinion by comparing our lists to the American Film Institute's selections here; and you can tell us what we should have picked here.

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  1. The Good the Bad and the Ugly.

    Also Heaven’s Gate (just kidding, although I’ve heard it’s not as bad as the reviews it received).

  2. I’m glad to see Unforgiven getting mad props, I love that flick.

    Surprised at how many votes for Dead Man – glad to see a Western about an accountant and his crazy Indian guide could do so well.

  3. Not ONE SINGLE MENTION of the pilot for Kung Fu?! You are all, each and every one of you, morans.

  4. Where’s High Noon? Ayn Rand is rolling over in her grave.

    Side Note:
    Looking at the lists, I have concluded that Dave Arcane is a tool.

  5. Damn, only one person had High Plains Drifter in their Top 5. Even worse, someone had Pale Rider in their top 5, without having High Plains Drifter, too.

    I was surprised that the AFI’s list didn’t have City Slickers 2: The Legend of Curly’s Gold in their Top 10. Their lists usually suck, big time.

  6. Other films not mentioned better than any that were:

    The Cheyenne Social Club
    Big Hand for the Little Lady
    Support You’re Local Sheriff/Gunfighter

  7. Jesse- I can’t believe that you are the only one that has The Outlaw Josey Wales on their list. That is my all time favorite Western; actually one of my all time favorites of any genre.

    The Good, the Bad and the Ugly would be #2.

  8. Jesse,

    What is your definition of Western and can you explain how The Last Picture Show fits into this?

  9. I personally thought For a Few Dollars More and Fist Full of Dollars was better than The Good the Bad and the Ugly but they are all great. Also I think Tombstone is hysterical, particularly Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday.

  10. Blazing Saddles hsa to be in there. And El Topo for sheer trippiness.

    And I second the motion that Dave Arcane is a tool

  11. Agree wit most of what were mentioned, but was a little surprised at the absence of “The Magnificent Seven”

  12. What, no one mentioned The White Buffalo?

    Jesse- I can’t believe that you are the only one that has The Outlaw Josey Wales on their list.

    Agreed. I watched it again a few years ago and was blown away by how solid that movie is.

    And it’s good to see people including Sam Peckinpah Westerns besides The Wild Bunch, as great as that movie is. Also, The Long Riders is Walter Hill doing his tribute to Sam Peckinpah about the James-Younger gang, and it’s very good.

  13. I was glad to see Stagecaoch & The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance get nearly as much recognition as The Searchers, which I think is overrated due to its themes. Admittedly, they were gutsy for the time and genre, but Liberty & Stagecoach are better movies.

    I’m disappointed no one picked my personal fave, High Plains Drifter. Existentialist revenge stories are pretty rare, as are movies done that well.

    The Jarmusch love continues to surprise me. I kept on waiting for a point to Dead Man, and kept missing it. Considering the movie is about an accountant who gets hunted by killers, no one can claim it’s a movie about the minutia of everyday life ala Ozu. If the point was the problem of communications (as a lot of his films are), me made it in the first fifteen minutes, and really could have saved the next hour and forty-five minutes.

  14. Not a bad list, Jesse. Sorry to see no mention of Ride The High Country, but no one is perfect.

  15. The Good the Bad & the Ugly & High Plains Drifter are great, but don’t overlook Little Big Man! Jack Crab Lives!

  16. I’m inclined to be a little more forgiving of Arcane, considering that Yojimbo got made into Fistful of Dollars and Seven Samurai into The Magnificent Seven. Your main point is right, though. Even as big of a Kurosawa fan as I am, I don’t think this was the place to ride his favorite hobby-horse.

    Also, Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia might be Peckinpah’s best ever.

  17. I found Unforgiven quite overrated, especially when compared with the assortment of movies Eastwood carried before it came out.

    I’m really liking the recent sleeper,
    The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

    I’m also fond of pseudo westerns, like The Proposition, El Topo, Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia, Bad Day At Black Rock and such.

  18. “Also, Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia might be Peckinpah’s best ever.”

    It is excellent, but when I think of “westerns” I am thinking of films set before 1920, for sure. “Modern westerns” to me are the films where the primary mode of transportation is a motor vehicle, although the films are set in the west–and that is where “Alfredo” belongs, along with No Country, Last Picture Show, Lonely Are The Brave, Rancho Deluxe, etc.

    But that is just me.

  19. My list:

    The Wild Bunch
    Ride The High Country
    The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
    Posse (1975–not that Mario Van Peebles shit)
    Once Upon A Time In The West

    I watch all of these any time they are on my TV.

    And about 50 honorable mentions.

  20. can you explain how The Last Picture Show fits into this?

    It isn’t really a western in the conventional sense, but it takes place in the west, alludes to classic westerns, and draws a lot of its power from the western landscape. And it’s a great movie. So I threw it in. What’s a little genre-bending between friends?

  21. I got a chuckle out of this one (emphasis mine):

    T.J. Krell
    Film Enthusiast

    1.The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (Andrew Dominik, 2007)
    2. No Country for Old Men (Coen Bros, 2007)
    3. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (Sergio Leone, 1966)

  22. I didn’t like Dead Man at all, but I saw it with my girlfriend at the time, who had dated Jim Jarmusch while at Northwestern (she’s about 15 years older than me), so I was probably never going to like it. Then again, I’d probably dislike it today, too. I’m not a fan of his films.

    I’m not much for ranking things, but I’m a fan of most of Eastwood’s westerns.

  23. Oh, and Hud would be another great “modern western” by my definition.

  24. (I also wanted to include a “modern western” in the list somewhere, and The Last Picture Show is my favorite in the genre.)

  25. That vote for Dances With Wolves is causing me to reconsider my opposition to the death penalty.

  26. What’s a little genre-bending between friends?

    Hey, what you do with your friends is none of my business.

  27. Also, if we’re talking about modern westerns, then I’m going to give a vote to Brokeback Mountain. Yeah yeah, it’s about gay cowboys. Get over it. Heath Ledger’s performance was brilliant. RIP.

  28. Someone voted for Dances with Wolves? Egad.

  29. I watched both “The Searchers” and “The Outlaw Josey Wales” back-to-back on HDNet Movies last Saturday morning. Much much better than mowing the yard. I’ve got no quibbles with both of those on the Top 5 list. I was really impressed with “Josey Wales”; it had been a while since I had seen it and I was surprised to remember what a solid, well-crafted story it is. Being a Missouri ruffian has no impact on my vote. Well, maybe a little. The rest of my Top 5:

    “Rio Bravo”
    “Winchester 73”

    Honorable mentions to “El Dorado” (yes, I know it and “Rio Bravo” are effectively the same movie) and “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance”.

  30. Heath Ledger’s performance was brilliant. RIP.

  31. The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976) is the best western ever, hands down.

  32. i messed up

    Heath Ledger’s performance was brilliant. RIP.

    Heath Ledger’s performance was my main issue with the movie actually cause I couldn’t understand a damn word he was saying. Regardless he was impressive.


  34. For me, the greatest modern western is “The Road Warrior”.

  35. “Yeah yeah, it’s about gay cowboys”

    No, they were sheepmen.

  36. i haven’t looked at the list, but if it doesn’t have “treasure of the sierra madre” at number one, it is too full of shit to be allowed on the internets.

  37. omg, just read the list. cat ballou? cat fucking ballou??????!!!!!!

  38. Just saw The Outlaw Josey Wales again. Truly an excellent film. Dean Wormer was great, and you can never go wrong with Chief Dan George.

  39. I didn’t surrender, but they took my horse and made him surrender. They have him pulling a wagon up in Kansas I bet.

  40. edna,
    Seeing as how “Treasure of the Sierra Madre” takes place in Mexico after 1920, I don’t think it even qualifies as a western.

  41. If you are going to have Cat Ballou, can Paint Your Wagon be far behind?

  42. Warren, I’m with you. Those are all some of my faves. I just love westerns in general. I hardly ever remember the names of most of them though. If I flip around and see horses and landscape, I stop flipping.

  43. omg, just read the list. cat ballou? cat fucking ballou??????!!!!!!

    That’s the AFI for you. Their list of Courtroom Dramas is even worse.

  44. m2 | June 23, 2008, 5:32pm | #
    “Yeah yeah, it’s about gay cowboys”

    No, they were sheepmen.

    That’s what they were doing when they first met. But they also worked on ranches (not seen, but talked about).

  45. We dressed ourselves up like Abraham Lincoln, and they said we looked so civilized. And we met the Secretary of the Interior and told him how our lands had been stolen, and he said we should “endeavor to persevere.” And the next day our picture was in the paper, and the headline said “Indians Endeavor to Persevere.” And we thought about that and what it meant, and when we were done thinking about it we declared war on the Union.

  46. One of my favorite TV westerns is Firefly ?

  47. warren, tu madre. mexico is as west as california, new mexico, and arizona, and they blend together smoothly even today. i noticed that one of the critics had it on his list, so there’s at least one non-douchebag film reviewer out there.

  48. The Last of the Mohicans (Michael Mann, 1999) – It’s essentially a “Western” that takes place a bit further east.

    And Silverado and Blazing Saddles

  49. Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo is still the all-time best. Eli Wallach’s performance (as Tuco) was a masterpiece.

    I liked Long Riders a lot.

  50. Tuco: [trying to read a note] “See you soon, id…” “id…” “ids…”

    Man With No Name: [taking the note] “Idiots”. It’s for you.

  51. At least Kostas Papadimitriou (whoever the hell that is) was smart enough to include Duck You Sucker! (Giu la Testa!).

    It would be tough for me to not just list four Leone films and the Magnificent Seven. No, three Leone films, The Hellbenders and the Magnificent Seven.

    Fuck. I’m going to be up all night doing this now.

  52. Since the Leone films with Eastwood are the best, how should they be ranked?

  53. once upon a time in the west
    pat garrett and billy the kid
    winchester ’73
    the shooting
    the life and times of judge roy bean
    heaven’s gate
    outlaw josey wales
    red river
    3:10 to yuma (original)
    the proposition
    the wild bunch
    the ballad of cable of hogue
    duck you sucker

  54. long riders is cooooo too

  55. “paint your wagon” is the shit as well. lee friggin’ marvin rocks it.

  56. as well as “ride the high country” and “man who shot liberty valence”

  57. ”lonely are the brave” starring kirk douglas is a very libertarian western

  58. A few good comments (Hud, Little Big Man, Support Your Local Sheriff, Lonely are the Brave) on overlooked films. But not one mention of Barbarossa! What gives?

  59. Treasure of the Sierra Madre (if it’s a western)
    Little Big Man
    Red River
    Fort Apache
    My Darling Clementine
    Destry Rides Again
    The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
    3:10 to Yuma (the remake)
    Bronco Billy

  60. And The Gold Rush as a Northwestern

  61. I’m gonna go with:

    Rio Bravo
    The Outlaw Josey Wales
    True Grit
    The Magnificent Seven

  62. Aw, I forgot Tombstone. I’m not kicking out any of my top 5, though.

  63. True Grit
    Open Range
    The Magnificent Seven
    Jeremiah Johnson
    Sometimes a Great Notion

  64. One of my favorite TV westerns is Firefly ?

    and don’t forget Back to the Future III!

  65. I’ll throw one out there that I didn’t see mentioned..Tom Horn.

  66. But they also worked on ranches (not seen, but talked about).

    Standing around talking about working on a ranch is kind of the exact opposite of a Western.

    And sheep are raised on ranches, too.

    Putting a couple of city boys in jeans and cowboy hats does not make a Western, and (as someone raised and living in West Texas), I never mistook Heath Ledger or Jake Gyllenhall as anything but city boys in that movie.

    And goddam, but its been too long since I saw The Outlaw Josey Wales. Set the Tivo for Clint!

  67. 1. Duck You Sucker
    2. Shane
    3. Aguirre: Wrath of God
    4. White Sun of the Desert
    5. 2001

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