THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE ABBEY!
Article by Abbey Archer
It may be hard to believe, but back in the day, westerns were the superhero films of their time. Throughout the ’50s and ’60s, audiences couldn’t get enough of the wild-west flicks, endlessly enjoyed by the classic morality tales of gunslinging sheriffs and tobacco-chewing baddies, holding collective breaths at the expansive landscapes and epic standoffs in dusty streets. But in the ’70s, the once Golden Child of film genres petered off until only a handful of them were left. The western was all but dead by the ’80s. Then in 1992, a little film by western staple Clint Eastwood opened in theaters, garnering commercial and critical success — and better yet, it went on to win the Best Picture Oscar the next year. And while the ’90s didn’t exactly see a resurgence of the western, there has been a renewed interest in the genre has begun to come back to the public in the last fifteen years.
And look, I’ll be the first to admit that westerns aren’t exactly my favorite kind of movies. However, I’m not a flat-out hater of them like a lot of people are; there are some truly great ones out there, from classics such as The Searchers and the Sergio Leone Spaghetti westerns to modern marvels like the aforementioned Unforgiven and Hell or High Water. But those aren’t the ones I’m writing about today. Instead, this list is for the younger crowd of haters, the ones who don’t have much experience with westerns but decided that the films are dull and dated. So to you young ones, give these 4 a shot … you may find yourself ready to dip your toes in the big kid pool afterward.
3:10 to Yuma (2007)
A remake of the 1957 film, 3:10 to Yuma tells the story of a rancher who has to transfer a criminal to the station to catch the train in time to Yuma. (Get it?) Obviously, I’ve oversimplified the plot, as the film actually delves deeper into the morality that goes beyond black and white, right and wrong. Christian Bale and Russell Crowe play opposite each other with perfect chemistry, and the supporting cast — including Ben Foster, Logan Lerman, Gretchen Mol, and Peter Fonda — aren’t slouches, either. James Mangold, who directed this year’s western-y Logan, captures enough nostalgia for the old-timers to enjoy, while also including modern filmmaking techniques that will keep the novices interested all the way through. And the shootout toward the end? It’s one for the books.
Back before Mel Gibson went Semitically insane and then made a comeback, he starred in this charming adaptation of the ’50s television show; and twenty-three years later, it holds up pretty well for modern crowds. Maverick follows Bret Maverick, a card playing conman who works the system in order to enter a poker game to end all poker games. Jodie Foster and James Garner join him along the way, making the journey to money making all the more complicated and hilarious. It’s one of Richard Donner‘s last great films, and critics and audiences agreed it was a lot of fun. I guarantee you’ll forget you’re even watching a western.
No Country For Old Men (2007)
2007 was a pretty great year for western-themed films, and this one is more of a thriller than anything else. Winner of the Best Picture Oscar for that year, No Country For Old Men is, simply put, a cat-and-mouse game between an average guy who finds a briefcase full of 2 million dollars, and the sociopathic hitman hired to track down the money — all while a soon-to-be-retired sheriff trails a step behind their moves. There’s a lot more to the plot that I haven’t mentioned, just as with Yuma, as every film from the Coen Brothers delve into different themes and humor that not many directors do. The actors are masterful across the board, from Tommy Lee Jones and Josh Brolin to Woody Harrelson and Javier Bardem in an Oscar-winning performance; it features one of the most edge-of-your-seat scenes ever (hint: it take place in adjacent hotel rooms); and you’ll be completely invested in the plot and these morally gray characters.
Star Wars [Episode IV: A New Hope] (1977)
I know what you’re thinking: how in the flippin’ heck can I include a sic-fi film in a western list? It feels like a cheat, right? Nope. Star Wars is literally a WESTERN in SPACE. George Lucas is on record saying this exact thing, so don’t shoot the messenger. (Don’t shoot Lucas, either, even though it may be tempting after the dog-food Prequel trilogy.) You all know the plot, you all know the characters, you all know the magnificence that is A New Hope, so I don’t really need to write much more about it … except that, if you haven’t watched this in quite a while (to which I say, HOW IS THAT EVEN POSSIBLE), and you still don’t believe me that it’s a western at its core, go back and take note of the ways it actually is, and then write an apology letter.*
*Please enclose your letter to this address:
11790 Southampton Ct
Los Angeles, CA 90077
Seriously, I just want to confuse the crap out of Kanye West. Let’s do this, guys.