Rockbrat Wonders: What Are The 10 Best Western Films Of All Time ?

The moment of truth - The Wild Bunch

So what does this post have to do with rock n roll ? Absolutely nothing. So what. No one seems too interested in reading the posts I’ve penned this week so I thought I’d write about something that interests me for a change. Western films ? Sure.  I am a film fan – and westerns are my favourite film genre. Western movies are in my blood. My grandfather used to read Zane Grey. My father is a fan of Eastwood’s spaghetti westerns, and I clearly remember watching ‘The Good The Bad and The Ugly’ with him when it was on TV in the early 80s. And so I became an Eastwood fan – and began to collect his films. Since that time, my appreciation and knowledge of the genre has developed and broadened far beyond that. From Eastwood – I moved onto The Duke, the biggest figure of all westerns, and the biggest actor of the 20th Century. John Wayne made films from the 20’s right through the 70’s. I own about 85% of the films he made. Since then, I’ve developed an appreciation for other actors who made westerns their own. The great Randolph Scott, Robert Mitchum, Jimmy Stewart, stalwarts like Joel McCrea and Ben Johnson. Of course Gary Cooper made some great westerns, as did Gregory Peck and Henry Fonda. Also guys like Lee Van Cleef & Lee Marvin. Directors ? I wholeheartedly recommend the Budd Boetticher westerns with Randolph Scott. I’m a fan of the Anthony Mann Westerns, and also Sam Peckinpah’s work. Sergio Leone ? That’s a given. After watching hundreds and hundreds of westerns over the years, westerns made in the 50s were without a doubt – the best, and my favourite. Why do I like western films ? The story lines are fairly simple. The good guys win and the bad guys lose. I think people today have forgotten what the word ‘entertainment’ means.  You don’t make movies to show life as it is. You show life as you wish it were, or how you would like it to be. Too many films nowadays have lost that. Western films did not get confused with current trends or the times in which they were made. It was pure entertainment that took people away from their problems and troubles cos people were watching things that happened a long time ago. They also represented a strong leading man who, reluctantly or not, would assume responsibility and set things right. A strong male presence was important to a western film. Yet today, the world is overly feminised, so why should movies be any different ? Anyway, I don’t want to get political. If you are tired of all the crap that Hollywood prescribes nowadays i.e. remakes, 3D nonsense, teen movies about Justin Bieber or Hannah Montanah, more animation, big block buster sci fi garbage – go and check out any of these. Some of my top 10 selections may change on any given day, but overall, these would be a fairly accurate representation of my ten favourite westerns. These are in no particular order of preference.

1)      Shane: Starring Alan Ladd. His finest moment. The lone gunfighter. A classic.

2)      The Tall T: Starring Randolph Scott. I could have picked any Scott western, they are all great.

3)      Winchester 73 : Starring Jimmy Stewart. Stewart made some wonderful westers. I like them all.

4)      Hang ‘Em High: How can I not include an Eastwood western. These are all classics. 

5)      Fort Apache : Starring John Wayne and Henry Fonda. A John Ford classic. I have no particular favourite Duke western, I find it too hard to single one out. This is a fine film with great performance by Wayne and Fonda – and also a grown up Shirley Temple.

6)      The Gunfighter:  Starring Gregory Peck. Great film. The lone gunfighter whose past won’t let him move on

7)      Man Of The West: Starring Gary Cooper. A great Anthony Mann western. Sure, everybody knows how great he was in High Noon. This is just as good.

8)      The Wild Bunch: The blood and guts version of the Magnificent 7. Great performances from William Holden, Ernest Bornine, Ben Johnson etc. A Peckinpah classic.  

9)      The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance: Starring John Wayne, James Stewart, Lee Marvin, Lee Van Cleef: Another John Ford picture. A classic.

10)   Once Upon A Time In The West – A Sergio Leone masterpiece. Starring Charles Bronson in his unforgettable role as ‘Harmonica’, and a ruthless Henry Fonda. 

There’s a bunch here that I could have included off the top of my head, that came close but didn’t make it – including One Eyed Jacks with Brando and Karl Malden, Blood On The Moon with Robert Mitchum, The Outlaw Josey Wales, My Darling Clementine with Fonda and Peckinpah’s Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid. It’s fair to say that I do also enjoy westerns with Tex Ritter, Roy Rogers and the singing cowboys. I find them entertaining, predictable sure, but the idea of watching a film is to be entertained right ? To escape reality? Or have we forgotten how to do that in our fast paced world full of intrusive, irrelevant, technological crap that we don’t need like big TVs and IPods and Ipads and Itunes and – I wished I lived in the old west . A hard life but clearer values. It’s time for Cowboy Col to saddle up and hit the trail and and look for some ramrodding work in the territories out West. Look out Dodge City.

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