Western Genre | 501 Update

Much like the War section, before starting this project, I hadn’t seen any Western films
off of the list.  Growing up my dad was (and is) a huge Western fan, but it just never really appealed to me.  Now, I’ve grown to appreciate the genre.  Below is the recap of the Western films that I’ve since beginning on this project.

Seen to date: 8 out of 51

Stagecoach (1939)

Director: John Ford

Starring: John Wayne, Claire Trevor and Thomas Mitchell

Academy Award Wins – Best Supporting Actor (Mitchell) and Best Score

AFI Top 100 – #63 (1998)

In 1880, a diverse group boards a stagecoach heading east through territory in the midst of Apaches on the warparth.  The group includes a prostitute (Trevor), an alcoholic doctor, a worried wife and a whiskey salesman.  Along the way, they take The Ringo Kid (Wayne) into custody and deal with war being waged around them.

In addition to being legendary director John Ford’s first western with sound, Stagecoach is considered to be the breakout role of John Wayne’s career.  Everyone aboard the stagecoach brings something different to the picture and contributes to the overall quality.

My Rating – 3.5 Ticket Stubs (Out of 5)

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 100% (28 Reviews)

High Noon (1952)

Director: Fred Zinnemann

Starring: Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly

Academy Award Wins – Best Actor (Cooper), Best Score, Best Film Editing and Best Original Song (“High Noon”)

AFI Top 100 – #33 (1998) #27 (2007)

Moments after marrying and turning in his badge for good, Will Kane (Cooper) finds out that a criminal who vowed revenge is returning to town at noon.  After leaving with his new bride, Kane returns and reclaims his badge.

High Noon is a rare film in that it is told in real time.  This pacing is as much of a character as anyone with a physical presence on-screen and that is a rare accomplishment.  Additionally, screen legend Gary Cooper won one of his two ‘Best Actor’ statues for his role as Will Kane.  Also, the American Film Institute listed Kane as the fifth greatest film hero of all-time.

My Rating – 3 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 96% (46 Reviews)

The Naked Spur (1953)

Director: Anthony Mann

Starring: James Stewart and Ralph Meeker

In the Rocky Mountains, Howard Kemp (Stewart) is tracking a wanted murderer, along the way he pays an old prospector for his assistance and then meets discharged Lieutenant Roy Anderson (Meeker).  Once the trip finally tracks down the alleged murderer he informs them that Kemp is not a Sherriff and that the actual price on his head is much higher than they had been told.

Anthony Mann and James Stewart are one of those director/actor tandems with multiple features to their credit and The Naked Spur is the third of their movies together.  Unlike most westerns of its day The Naked Spur received an Academy Awards nomination for its Original Screenplay.

My Rating – 3 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 100% (11 Reviews)

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (1966)

Director: Sergio Leone

Starring: Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef and Eli Wallach

The Good (Eastwood), The Bad (Van Cleef) and The Ugly (Wallach) compete with and against each other to find a buried fortunate of confederate gold during the American Civil War.

The third installment of ‘The Dollars Trilogy’ is an epic western that is commonly considered among the best westerns ever made.  And, Eastwood’s ‘Man with No Name’ character is one of the most iconic in movie history.

My Rating – 4 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 97% (66 Reviews)

True Grit (1969)

Director: Henry Hathaway

Starring: John Wayne, Glen Campbell and Robert Duvall

Academy Award Wins – Best Actor (Wayne)

Mattie Ross (Kim Darby) travels to Ft. Smith and hires Marshall Reuben “Rooster” Cogburn (Wayne) to bring her father’s killer to justice.  The unlikely pair, travels together in search of Tom Chaney.  Eventually, they pull their efforts with a young Texas Ranger (Campbell).

Wayne’s performance in True Grit earned him the only Academy Award for ‘Best Actor’ of his career.  He is outstanding as the rough, but kind hearted aging US Marshall.  The recent remake was also outstanding. Interestingly, Jeff Bridges also earned an Academy Award nomination for his performance as Rooster Cogburn.

My Rating – 4 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 89% (46 Reviews)

High Plains Drifter (1973)

Director: Clint Eastwood

Starring: Clint Eastwood and Verna Bloom

A mysterious stranger (Eastwood), shows up in the small town of Lago.   He seems to have returned from the dead to get his revenge on the townsfolk who once stood by and watched him, as sheriff, get whipped to death.  Believing that he will protect them, the town quickly puts him in charge.  He uses his new found power paint the town red and change its name to hell.

Eastwood is a screen legend for a reason.   A big part of that reason, are the gripping
nature of his performances.  High Plains Drifter is a perfect example of that.  He is completely focused on his sadistic mission and it’s hard to look away.

My Rating – 2.5 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 96% (23 Reviews)

Brokeback Mountain (2005)

Director: Ang Lee

Starring: Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway

Academy Award Wins – Best Director (Lee), Best Score and Best Adapted Screenplay

Ennis Del Mar (Ledger) and Jack Twist (Gyllenhaal) are hired to herd sheep during the summer in Wyoming.  One night, they have a sexual encounter that starts a life time long physical and emotional relationship which they attempt to hide from their wives and
families.

Commonly referred to as ‘that gay cowboy movie’ when it debuted in 2005, Brokeback Mountain features a watershed performance in the career of Gyllenhaal.  But, in my opinion Ledger steals the show.  It is a shame that we lost him so
early.  His ability to morph himself in voice, mannerism and look into his roles was unparalleled by any of his peers.  From his quiet, mumbling Ennis Del Mar to his portrayal of the criminally insane, clown prince of crime; Ledger was a true screen gem.

My Rating – 3.5 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 87% (232 Reviews)

No Country for Old Men (2007)

Director: The Coen Brothers

Starring: Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem and Josh Brolin

Academy Award Wins – Best Director (Coen Brothers), Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Bardem) and Best Adapted Screenplay

Methodical hitman Anton Chigurth (Bardem) is hired to hunt down
Llewelyn Moss (Brolin) and recover the two million dollars that he found at the
aftermath of a drug deal gone wrong.

The Coen Brothers are on my personal Mt. Rushmore of modern directors and No Country for Old Men is their fourth and newest film featured on the “501” (in addition to, Miller’s Crossing, Fargo and The Big Lebowski).  No Country for Old Men finally earned the directing duo their first ‘Best Director’ Oscar and deservedly so.  On the strength of an edge of your seat performance from fellow Academy Award winner Bardem as the methodically serial killer, No Country for Old Men is one of the best western films to date in the 21st century.

My Rating – 4.5 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 95% (223 Reviews) qj

@D_C_Evans

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About DC Evans

I’m a long time film lover. For as long as I can remember, I’ve spent my free time going to multiplexs; renting tapes and building my own DVD/Blu-ray collection. I'll be blogging about my efforts as I watch my way through the history of film. For starters, I’ll be focusing on watching each movie in the book “501 Must-See Movies.” Follow me on twitter: @D_C_Evans
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