Best American Westerns

Saturday, March 26 by Thomas West

Throughout the history of the cinema, one genre stands out above all and the best American westerns are truly the hallmarks of the genre. Although the genre has had its ups and downs through the years, it has recently seen a revival and it is time to take a look and see which films deserve to truly be called among the best in the genre.

  1. "The Shootist" This film, which was the last one made by the late John Wayne, is truly emblematic on the American western film tradition. In addition to Wayne, this exemplary film also stars Lauren Bacall, Ron Howard and James Stewart, bringing together some of the finest acting talent in Hollywood to tell a truly heartbreaking story of loss and old age.
  2. "Dead Man" This American western is a little bit different than those that normally fall under that heading. Made in the mid-1990s, it tells the story of a man haunted by death. It is a haunting film and shows the darkness that can often exist in the hearts of everyone. With its darkness, grittiness (it is shot entirely in black and white) and the superb cast (including Johnny Depp), this is one American western that is truly unique.
  3. "The Searchers" This film, directed by the famous film director John Ford, has gone down in film history as one of the best American westerns ever made.  Featuring John Wayne and several other prominent acting figures, it tells the story of two men’s attempt to save a female member of their family from a band of Native Americans. At times both thrilling and chilling, this is a film that captures a great deal on the spirit of the American west.
  4. "The Big Country" This western film depicts what can happen when people allow themselves to be caught up in their own dynastic feuds, even at the expense of those that they love. If you are looking for a film that has a lot of big name actors, look no further. This film stars (among others) Charlton Heston, Burl Ives, Gregory Peck, Jean Simmons and several others. 
  5. "Brokeback Mountain" This film was something new for the American western because it depicts the love that emerges between two men herding sheep in Wyoming. Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal star in the roles and they truly bring the power of love to the screen. Although this film is one of the most heartbreakingly tragic (especially in terms of the western genre) it is still a pleasure to watch and it was well-received by both critics and audiences when it was released in 2005.
  6. "No Country for Old Men" This film, a classic release from the talented Coen Brothers, follows the story of a lawman in the contemporary west as he attempts to apprehend a dangerous criminal. With its brooding atmosphere and the violent scenes of death and personal trauma, this is an American western that challenges the genre and its viewers.
  7. "There Will Be Blood" Daniel Day-Lewis stars in this powerful and disturbing film that shows what can happen when a family becomes consumed by greed and a desire to attain material wealth. Anyone watching this film will definitely be chilled by the depths to which greed can take even the most originally humble men.