I like westerns. I think that few films follow the hero myth in its various forms as closely as westerns do. Consequently, westerns are among my favorite genres in film (only Film Noir beats them out). If you like film (and have read Joseph Campbell’s treatise on hero mythology, The Hero with a Thousand Faces) there are a number of westerns you should check out. Here is my list of the top 5 westerns of all time.
5. Once Upon a Time in the West: Sergio Leone at his best featuring outstanding performances by Jason Robards, Henry Fonda and Charles Bronson.
4. The Appaloosa: A story of escalating vengeance, greed and morality featuring one of Brando’s trademark subtle performances.
3. High Noon: Gary Cooper built his career on the backs of characters who were flawed, but ultimately good. This film is among the finest in his library of work.
2. The Good, The Bad, The Ugly: Greed is good and few films illustrate this maxim as well as Sergio Leone’s classic film. With three central characters racing to find a hidden treasure, I think this film comes down to finding something to like about the least evil man in the mix. Great performances from Clint Eastwood as Blondie (The Good, arguably), Lee Van Cleef as Angel Eyes (The Bad), and Eli Wallach as Tuco (The Ugly).
1. The Wild Bunch: Taking place at the very end of the era that might be considered “The Wild West,” Sam Peckinpah weaves a story of greed giving way to honor among thieves. It is among my favorite movies of all-time in and out of the genre.
If you haven’t watched these films, you owe yourself the pleasure.