The hero’s quest wears a lot of masks in the movies, and often it shows up in a ten-gallon hat and a pair of spurs. Westerns are classics, and the really good ones stand the test of time. Check these out and enjoy!
Shane: There’s a fight brewing between evil cattle rancher Ryker and settlers such as the Starretts who are just trying to eke a living out of the land. Cowboy gunfighter Shane brings some firepower to the settlers’ cause, but can he settle down on a homestead?
Lonesome Dove: Folks, my papa is never wrong (at least that’s what he tells me), and according to him, any movie that has both Tommy Lee Jones and Robert Duvall in it is an instant classic. That means this story of two retired Texas rangers moving their herd from the tiny Texas town of Lonesome Dove to Montana is pretty much the pinnacle of modern storytelling. It must be watched.
3:10 to Yuma: The line between black hats and white is blurred in this rollicking Western. When the leader of a gang of outlaws is captured, a local rancher agrees to guard the man and see him to the train that will take him to his prison sentence. When word of his capture gets out, a battle of wills ensues. Check out the 2007 version with Russell Crowe and Christian Bale, or the original 1957 starring Glenn Ford.
Silverado: The little western town of Silverado is in the grips of a corrupt rancher, and the only thing that can save them is a loosely connected bunch of rag tag cowboys. They take on both the cruel rancher and the sheriff in his pocket, avenging some personal grudges along the way. Kevin Costner is particularly delightful as goofy Emmett.
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance: Ransom Stoddard started his successful political career in Shinbone when he supposedly shot Liberty Valance, the bully who was terrorizing the town. But when he returns for a funeral and recounts the story to a journalist, the truth turns out to be a bit more complicated.
The Outlaw Josey Wales: Another of my daddy’s favorites, Clint Eastwood plays a Missouri farmer who joins the Confederate Army after a sadistic Union officer slaughters his family. After the war he makes his way west, but there’s a bounty on his head.
The Searchers: The story of Ethan Edward’s five-year search for his niece who has been kidnapped by a Comanche war chief named Scar. Scar has also killed his brother, Aaron, and his brother’s wife, Martha, whom Ethan was in love with. He is torn by his commitment to family, his need for revenge, and his hatred of Indians.
True Grit: You could go with the 1969 original with John Wayne, but I’m gonna go out on a limb and suggest the 2010 version with Jeff Bridges and Hailee Steinfeld. Steinfeld plays Mattie Ross, a tough-as-nails 14 year old who hires U.S. marshal Rooster Cogburn to avenge her father’s murder.
The Magnificent Seven: A terrorized Mexican village hires 7 gunslingers from the United States to defend the village from 40 hungry bandits. The Magnificent Seven is a creative adaptation of Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, featuring an all-star cast including Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, and Charles Bronson.
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly: Even if you’ve never seen this classic Sergio Leone spaghetti western, chances are you’ve whistled the theme song in a pantomimed gun-slinging showdown. Beyond the epic soundtrack, The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly is a classic gritty western that continues to influence filmmakers today.