it is a generally remarked-upon fact that janklow is, basically, an 80-year-old man trapped in the youthful, vigorous body of janklow. i don’t like this young generation and their loud outfits, i declare that people are always giving me “sassafras,” and i’m pretty sure i killed some Confederates at Fort Pillow during the Civil War. i recall this distinctly. another thing that fits in with all this is the love of the Western films that i have, something only shared by film nerds and old people, as far as i can tell. i mean, people that i know declined to watch Deadwood, despite its glorious profanity and liberal helpings of nudity and violence, because “it’s a Western, right?” of course it’s a Western, you morons – Westerns are awesome! anyway, without further ado:
JANKLOW’S LIST OF 13 AWESOME WESTERNS YOU SHOULD MAYBE WATCH
(in some sort of order and more about “this is a cool film” than a serious cinematic discussion)
but before we get into all this, time for a little DISHONORABLE MENTION:
this movie is MUCH less cool than it appears from the average photo of Sam Elliott striding through flames in it
so, i really dislike this film, and here’s the thesis for as to why i hate it: it takes a Western film (which i enjoy as a concept) and adds three things that are pretty awesome: Val Kilmer in one of his maybe three legitimately excellent roles (i think the other two were in Heat and… uh… Willow, i guess), Sam Elliott at his mustachioed finest, and a collection of great little actors to support the leads (Elliot, Bill Paxton, Powers Boothe, Michael Biehn, Michael Rooker and Charlton FUCKING Heston, to name the cream of the crop). and THEN it wastes all this on a bullshit romantic romp that goes from a decent attempt at realism (the OK Corral shootout and the Earps as capitalist opportunists) to a ridiculous shoot-out ending sequence, pausing in between so that Jason Priestley can have an unrequited man-crush on Billy Zane. does everyone understand that i shouldn’t have written the remark about “pausing in between so that Jason Priestley can have an unrequited man-crush on Billy Zane” in a description of a Western?
anyway… the list.
yes, yes, the newest film picture above was made 31 years ago in 1976, so what?
13. Rio Bravo (1959)
okay, Howard Hawks is a solid director who, like John Ford, many people seem completely unaware of in this day and age and who did some nice work here that those same people don’t care about. and it’s always nice to get a Western icon (John Wayne) on the list. however, i must admit that the major reason i include this film, above and beyond all that, is that Dean Martin (possibly the coolest guy ever) is featured in it and sings an awesome tune for the soundtrack. yeah, i’m talking about “My Rifle, My Pony & Me.” i’m an old man at heart. deal with it.
12. Shane (1953)
it would have been more awesome with William Holden, but we’ve got Jack Palance as an evil gunslinger, so the awesomeness factor is pretty much guaranteed regardless. we also get a sweet ambiguous ending and the basis for at least one of Bill Hicks excellent jokes, one in which gingham is mocked for comedic effect, and there is much rejoicing. so awesome.
11. Once Upon A Time In The West (1968)
a little while back, i basically made the case for this film by pointing out that it features man-of-the-people Henry Fonda as a cold-blooded killer, so let me just remind of you THAT little reason to go nuts for this film. if, you know, Sergio Leone’s direction and some sweet Charles Bronson getting justice (albeit in the West, not in NYC) aren’t already enough for you.
09-10. High Plains Drifter (1973)/the Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)
let’s just get this out of the way: this list could basically be called “why Sergio Leone and Clint Eastwood are awesome,” because they’ll end up the directors of 4 and 3 films on the list, respectively, and Eastwood acts in about … well … 7 of them. but whatever, Eastwood made these two excellent films in the 1970s, and now their on the list. in the former, we have a possibly supernatural (though i guess, if you’re in the know, not really) stranger riding in from out of town to gun down men in the name of justice. in the latter, we’ve got a nice Western anti-hero working with Indians and slaughtering evil US Cavalry. now, everyone knows i love the union, but i also like salty Western anti-heros. and for the record, the OJW is better than HPD, so the latter’s #10 and the former’s #9. just in case, you know, you care.
08. High Noon (1952)
so we should have an iconic Gary Cooper film on this list – after all, Gary Cooper’s the model for Tony Soprano’s model American, and who doesn’t love Tony Soprano – and it doesn’t get more iconic than High Noon: for crying out loud, Solidarity in Poland made posters and gave elaborate explanations in regards to High Noon being a symbol of freedom, or something like that. i admit this discussion of important, serious Eastern European politics has bogged down the mood here somewhat, so just know this: bad guys get shot, and Gary Cooper does (some of) the shooting. there you go.
Clint Eastwood flexes his muscle and dominates half of the above picture
07. the Magnificent Seven (1960)
key reason why this film is awesome: Akira Kurosawa made one of the greatest films of all time (Seven Samurai) wanting to make a Western (he loved Westerns and John Ford), but thinking he couldn’t because of the cultural disconnect (with him being Japanese)… and then they went and made a Western based on his work. AND they packed it with some excellent dudes like Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson (again avoiding NYC), James Coburn and Eli Wallach. also, someone tell Tony Kornheiser than Eli Wallach IS a fucking better Eli than Eli Manning, okay?
06. the Wild Bunch (1969)
Sam Peckinpah makes some pretty fun movies, and this one here’s the interesting idea of setting these old-school Western outlaws against the modernizing world, what with its Mexican armies and modern weaponry and everything else, only in a way that works and finally gets me some sweet William-Holden-in-a-Western action to boot. if you ever want to see a movie where Ernest Borgnine is freaking out while a machine gun is blazing away the conclusion of a dramatic Western battle scene … well, here you go.
03-05. A Fistful Of Dollars (1964)/For A Few Dollars More (1965)/the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966)
the classic trilogy of Westerns, and as such, they must be kept together as one awesome unit. as you may expect, they star Eastwood and feature Leone’s direction, and it’s not like it hurts that the first of this series borrows heavily from Kurosawa (Yojimbo) and thus from Dashiell Hammett (Red Harvest) as well. we also get the screen-stealing nose of Lee Van Cleef in the latter two films and, in the last, some excellent Eli Wallach. no less impressive is the fact that these three films, all very strong in their own right, were cranked out with a few years of each other.
02. the Searchers (1956)
starring our most iconic Western star (John Wayne). directed by one of our most iconic American directors (John Ford). filled with both lush, beautiful shots and serious themes of the American southwest (and, i guess, America in general). contains both fighting and a melancholy ending (and everyone loves a melancholy ending). and, hell, a major inspiration for the film we all agree is the best ever, Taxi Driver. i refer to this film every single time someone tells me they hate John Wayne movies. that’s all i’m saying.
no, the MOVIE Unforgiven, not that fucking bullshit music from Metallica
01. Unforgiven (1992)
yeah, yeah, i know, it’s great because it’s MODERN. except that the script was floating around for years and the film got made by the same guy who made those revisionist 1970s Westerns. and, hell, let’s come full circle and say that the scriptwriter (Peoples) says Taxi Driver inspired THIS film. i’ll forgive Eastwood and Gene Hackman trying to be a little anti-gun here because this is thus a film with Eastwood AND Hackman AND Morgan Freeman AND Richard Harris as part of the cast. a very nice film with memorable lines (“i just don’t wanna get killed for lack of shooting back”) and bleak characters (“that’s right, i’ve killed women and children; i’ve killed just about everything that walks or crawled at one time or another”). i would watch it if i were you.
and, you know, this all makes me think: maybe Dirty Harry is ALSO a Western. after all, he prowls the West with a six-shooter dispensing rough justice, right?