One of the reasons the western is such a perennial favorite among movie buffs is the shootout. Most westerns have at least some variation on it, which mostly consists of men shooting at each other in various formations. They can range from long, drawn-out exercises in suspense to non-stop violence orgies with fountains of gushing blood. Here are seven of the best western
One of the first of a new wave of gritty, suspenseful westerns that place an emphasis on tension rather than action, "High Noon" keeps that tension high and taut until the final shootout between Sheriff Will Kane (Gary Cooper) and the villainous Frank Miller and his gang. Sprawling from a barn and out into the street, the climactic shootout finally ends when Kane's pacifist wife puts a bullet in Miller. Hooray for compromising your beliefs on violence!
Sometimes in a shootout it's your choice of weapon that makes all the difference. In the case of Django, it's a weapon large enough that he has to drag it behind him all the time in a coffin (OK, he doesn't technically have to carry it that way, but it's so cool!). More specifically, it's a machine gun – much rarer in the days of the old west. And when Django gets to use it, he doesn't disappoint, mowing down bunches of bad guys just like grandma used to.
"The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly"
The climactic shootout between the three titular characters in Sergio Leone's spaghetti western urtext is practically the definition of "epic western shootout." The three guys, each wanting the massive treasure that's at stake, are facing off against each other in a cemetery. It's a classic "Mexican stand-off" scenario, drawn out for maximum suspense and tension.
"The Wild Bunch"
Peckinpah's "The Wild Bunch" is (in)famous for bringing a new level of graphic violence to the western. And this is never more true than in the big shootout, in which the Bunch go nuts and try to take out a Mexican generalisimo who they have a grudge against (and who has one of their number as a hostage). The bullets fly and the blood flows–copiously and often in slow motion. And audiences in 1969 had never seen anything like it.
"McCabe and Mrs. Miller"
Robert Altman isn't known for his mastery of the shootout, but the final gun battle in his neo-western delivers the goods. Warren Beatty's McCabe is on the run from a terrifying enforcer who guns down anybody who gets in his way. And this isn't a simple case of getting shot, then falling over. Altman makes the bullets hit with possibly more graphic damage than they would make in real life–and the effect is unforgettable.
John Wayne was involved in perhaps more shootouts than any other actor, and he capped his long career with one of the best. He's an aging gunfighter up against Richard Boone and his group of thugs, who go after the Duke in a bar. Wayne is able to take out most of them but not without sustaining heavy damage himself. Hollywood lore states that the script had Wayne shooting one of his opponents in the back, but Wayne insisted that he never did this in any of his movies and wasn't about to start now.
"The Quick and The Dead"
Director Sam Raimi has never been known for his subtlety or restraint, so it makes sense that his western effort "The Quick and the Dead" would pretty much be a string of epic western shootouts. The most memorable one has one poor bastard shot so badly he can see sunlight shining through his torso. Perhaps not medically accurate, but cinematically interesting.