I bet some of you were as surprised as I to see promos for the new western movie, Hostiles, released this month. I ask you, when’s the last time a true western frontier film has been produced? Certainly not many in the last few years. I’m not sure I’ll make it to the “silver screen” to see it, but there’s always DVD rental later.
Seeing the trailer prompted me to think back on a bygone era when western films were so popular and it conjured up a nostalgic feeling for recalling some of my favorites. Granted, hundreds of 20th century cinematic westerns Hollywood made were for pure entertainment, often at the expense of factual and historical accuracy. Still others were commended for their realistic portrayal of life on the frontier and because of that, didn’t do as well at the box office.
Out of the plethora of westerns I’ve seen and liked, I’ve listed ten in no particular order of preference other than the first one, Dances with Wolves, which remains my favorite. (In doing a Google search, I also found many classics I hadn’t seen but would have liked to. I may soon add them to my collection of DVD’s!)
So, here’s a ride down memory lane. Sit back in the saddle with a handful of popcorn and let me know what you think, which ones you liked as well your favorites not on the list.
2. HIGH NOON (1952) starring Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly. The movie was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" in 1989, the NFR's first year of existence.
3. SHANE (1953) starring Alan Ladd. I remember the scene of young Joey chasing after him and yelling, “Come back, Shane!”
4. HOW THE WEST WAS WON (1962) starring many well-known actors including, to name a few, Henry Fonda, John Wayne, Gregory Peck, James Stewart, and directed by John Ford. The picture was one of the last "old-fashioned" epic films made by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer to enjoy great success. Set between 1839 and 1889 and covering several decades of Westward expansion in the nineteenth century - including the Gold Rush, the Civil War, and the building of the railroads, it follows four generations of a family as they move westward.
5. BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID (1969) starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford as the notorious bank and train robbers whose exploits were made famous in the Oscar-winning film.
6. LONESOME DOVE (1989) starring Robert Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones. Yes, I know this was a TV mini-series, but I considered it one of the best. It was a four-part adaptation of the 1985 novel of the same name by Larry McMurtry which I enjoyed reading as well.
7. UNFORGIVEN (1992) directed by and starring Clint Eastwood as the lead actor, Morgan Freeman and Gene Hackman. Many may remember Eastwood’s start in the TV western, Rawhide. From there, he rose to international fame in numerous western movies, (some referred to as spaghetti westerns made in Europe, typically by an Italian producer and director and very popular in the ‘60’s), the famed Dirty Harry series of movies as well as many more award-winning movies that he directed as well.
8. THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS (1992) starring Daniel Day-Lewis. An epic historical drama, set in 1757 during the French and Indian War and based on James Fenimore Cooper's 1826 novel.
9. TRUE GRIT (1969) starring John Wayne, who won an Oscar for his performance, Glen Campbell, Robert Duval.
10. STAGECOACH (1939) starring John Wayne. I added this movie even though I have not seen it; however, reading about it, I plan on adding it to my DVD collection. This significant film which was made before I was born launched the “Duke’s” acting career. The movie was directed by the legendary director, John Ford and set in Monument Valley, Utah. Monument Valley became known as, “John Wayne country.” He made four more movies there in his lifetime, “Fort Apache” (1948), “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon” (1949), “Rio Grande” (1950), and “The Searchers” (1956). In 2008, The American Film Institute voted “The Searchers” the “Greatest Western of All Time.