What to See Now?

Nicholas Chennault ~ October 4, 2013

Other Westerns Worth Watching:

Now that we’ve considered the 55 great westerns and have seen all those, where should we go from here?  Provided for your convenience, is a list of westerns worth watching, decade by decade.  As a general guide, the headnotes also provide some indication of how westerns were changing during that decade.  The best of these westerns are noted with an asterisk.

MixPoster

The original Destry, 1932; one of Tom Mix’s last films. The 1939 version with James Stewart is better known.

1930s and 1940s:

Trends and Fashions:  Westerns were not held in high cinematic regard in the 1930s.  But with Stagecoach, better production values and stories start to show up; some westerns move up from B movie status with the occasional large-budget film (Dodge City, Union Pacific).  Major stars appear more often in westerns, now that the genre is slightly more respectable (Errol Flynn, James Stewart, Olivia de Havilland, Gary Cooper).  Rise of John Wayne and John Ford; use of Monument Valley.  Beginning of mythologizing of Wyatt Earp (biographer Stuart Lake) and Billy the Kid (writer Walter Noble Burns).  Emerging specialization of Joel McCrea and Randolph Scott.  “Mystery” detective plots.  Technological westerns (railroad, telegraph, etc.) emphasizing expansion of the US and Manifest Destiny.  Singing cowboys (Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Eddie Dean).  Toward the end of the 1940s:  Cavalry movies (They Died With Their Boots On, John Ford’s cavalry trilogy), noir influence and stars, cattle drive westerns (Red River), more psychological depth.  Hopalong Cassidy.

The Big Trail–Wayne, Churchill (1930; Dir:  Walsh)

*The Plainsman—Cooper, Arthur (1936; Dir:  DeMille)

The Last of the Mohicans–Scott, Barnes (1936; Dir:  Seitz)

Jesse James—Power, Fonda (1939; Dir:  King)

Frontier Marshal–Scott, Romero, Kelly (1939; Dir:  Dwan)

*Dodge City—Flynn, De Haviland (1939; Dir:  Curtiz)

*Union Pacific—McCrea, Stanwyck, Preston (1939; Dir:  DeMille)

*Destry Rides Again—Stewart, Deitrich (1939; Dir:  Marshall), better than the remake with Murphy (1954; Dir:  Marshall)

The Return of Frank James–Fonda, Tierney (1940; Dir:  Lang)

*Virginia City—Flynn, Hopkins, Scott (1940; Dir:  Curtiz)

The Westerner—Cooper (1940; Dir:  Wyler)

Arizona—Arthur, Holden, William (1940; Dir:  Ruggles)

Santa Fe Trail–Flynn, Reagan, De Havilland (1940; Dir:  Curtiz)

*Northwest Passage—Tracy, Young (1940; Dir:  Vidor)

*Mark of Zorro—Power, Darnell, Rathbone (1940; Dir:  Mamoulian)

They Died With Their Boots On—Flynn, De Havilland (1941; Dir:  Eason, Walsh)

Texas—Ford, Holden, Trevor (1941; Dir:  Marshall)

*Western Union—Scott, Young, Jagger (1941; Dir Lang)

The Spoilers—Wayne, Scott, Dietrich, Carey (1942; Dir:  Enright)

The Desperadoes–Scott, Ford, Trevor, Keyes (1943; Dir:  C. Vidor)

Along Came Jones–Cooper, Young (1945; Dir:  Heisler)

*Canyon Passage–Andrews, Hayward, Donlevy (1946; Dir:  Tourneur)

Duel in the Sun—Peck, Cotton, Jones, Barrymore, Gish (1946; Dir:  Dieterle, von Sternberg)

*Ramrod—McCrea, Lake (1947; Dir:  De Toth)

*Angel and the Badman—Wayne, Russell, Carey (1947; Dir: Grant)

3 Godfathers—Wayne, Armendariz, Carey (1948; Dir:  Ford)

*Rachel and the Stranger—Holden, Mitchum, Young (1948, Dir:  Foster)

*Yellow Sky—Peck, Widmark, Baxter (1948; Dir:  Wellman)

Pursued—Mitchum, Wright (1948; Dir:  Walsh)

*Blood on the Moon—Mitchum, Preston (1948; Dir:  Walsh)

Station West—Powell, Greer, Moorhead (1948; Dir:  Lanfield)

Whispering Smith—Ladd, Preston (1948; Dir:  Fenton)

*Four Faces West–McCrea, Dee, Bickford, Calleia (1948, Dir:  Green)

*Colorado Territory—McCrea, Mayo (1949; Dir:  Walsh; remake of “High Sierra” as a western)

Lust for Gold—Ford, Lupino (1949; Dir:  Simon)

ColoradoTerrPoster

An Italian poster for Colorado Territory, 1949: Virginia Mayo takes on the world.

1950s:

Trends and fashionsWesterns are now mainstream films.  Continuation of cavalry movies.  “Adult” theme psychological westerns (Anthony Mann et al.).  Lawman vs. townsmen theme (High Noon, The Tin Star, At Gunpoint, Warlock, etc.)  Bright colors, clean clothes and sets.  Last of black and white movies generally, although some continued to be made into the 1960s.  “Cattle Queen” westerns, featuring established actresses in mid-career (Barbara Stanwyck, Joan Crawford, Marlene Dietrich, Greer Garson) as female leads in westerns.

*Ambush—Taylor, Dahl, Hodiak (1950; Dir:  Wood)

Branded–Ladd, Freeman, Keith (1950; Dir:  Mate)

*The Gunfighter—Peck (1950; Dir:  King)

*Stars in My Crown–McCrea, Drew (1950; Dir:  Tourneur)

The Outriders—McCrea, Dahl (1950; Dir. Rowland)

The Furies—Stanwyck, Huston, Corey, Roland (1950; Dir:  Mann)

Devil’s Doorway—Taylor, Raymond (1950; Dir: Mann)

Wagon Master–Bond, Dru, Johnson (1950; Dir:  Ford)

Broken Arrow—Stewart, Chandler, Paget (1950; Dir:  Daves)

Two Flags West—Cotton, Chandler, Darnell (1950; Dir:  Wise)

The Cariboo Trail—Scott, Hayes (1950; Dir:  Marin)

Rocky Mountain–Flynn, Wymore (1950; Dir:  Keighley)

*Westward the Women—Taylor, McIntire, Darcel (1951; Dir:  Wellman)

Only the Valiant—Peck, Chaney, Bond, Brand (1951; Dir:  Douglas)

Man in the Saddle—Scott, Leslie (1951; Dir:  De Toth)

*Rawhide—Power, Hayward, Marlowe (1951; Dir:  Hathaway)

The Wild North—Granger, Corey, Charisse (1952; Dir:  Marton)

*Bend of the River—Stewart, Hudson (1952; Dir:  Mann)

*The Big Sky—Douglas, Hunnicutt (1952; Dir:  Hawks)

Hangman’s Knot—Scott, Marvin (1952; Dir:  Huggins)

Carson City–Scott, Massey (1952, Dir:  De Toth)

*Escape from Fort Bravo—Holden, Parker, Forsyth (1953; Dir:  Sturges)

Arrowhead—Heston, Palance (1953; Dir:  Warren)

*Garden of Evil—Cooper, Widmark, Hayward (1954; Dir:  Hathaway)

*Vera Cruz—Cooper, Lancaster (1954; Dir:  Aldrich)

Johnny Guitar—Crawford, Hayden (1954; Dir:  Ray)

Dawn at Socorro–Calhoun, Laurie (1954; Dir:  Sherman)

Three Hours to Kill–Andrews, Reed (1954; Dir:  Werker)

Man Without a Star—Douglas, Boone, Trevor, Crain (1955; Dir:  Vidor)

*Man With the Gun—Mitchum, Sterling (1955; Dir:  Wilson)

*A Man Alone—Milland, Bond, Murphy, Burr (1955; Dir:  Milland)

The Violent Men—Ford, Stanwyck, Robinson, Keith (1955; Dir:  Mate)

Strange Lady in Town–Garson, Andrews, Mitchell (1955; Dir:  LeRoy)

*Bad Day at Black Rock—Tracy, Ryan (1955; Dir: Sturges)

The Proud Ones—Ryan, Mayo (1956; Dir:  Webb)

Tension at Table Rock–Egan, Mitchell, Malone (1956; Dir:  Warren)

The Last Wagon—Widmark, Farr (1956; Dir:  Daves)

Jubal—Ford, Steiger, Bronson (1956; Dir:  Daves)

Backlash—Widmark, Reed, McIntire (1956; Dir:  Sturges)

*The Ride Back–Conrad, Quinn (1957; Dir:  Miner)

The Tall Stranger–McCrea, Mayo (1957; Dir:  Carr)

*Gunfight at the OK Corral—Lancaster, Douglas (1957; Dir:  Sturges)

*The Tall T—Scott, Boone, O’Sullivan (1957; Dir:  Boetticher)

Quantez–MacMurray, Malone, Marlowe (1957; Dir:  Keller)

Forty Guns–Sullivan, Stanwyck, Barry (1957; Dir:  Fuller)

Night Passage—Stewart, Murphy (1957; Dir:  Neilson)

*Old Yeller—McGuire, Kirk, Corcoran, Parker (1957; Dir:  Stevenson)

*3:10 to Yuma (original)—Ford, Heflin (1957; Dir:  Daves)

Decision at Sundown–Scott, Beery, Steele (1957; Dir:  Boetticher)

Trooper Hook—McCrea, Stanwyck (1957; Dir:  Warren)

The Badlanders—Ladd, Borgnine, Jurado (1958; Dir:  Daves)

*The Law and Jake Wade—Taylor, Widmark (1958; Dir:  Sturges)

                        The Bravados—Peck, Boyd, Collins (1958; Dir:  King)

                         Fort Dobbs–Walker, Mayo, Keith (1958; Dir:  Douglas)

The Sheepman—Ford, Nielsen, MacLaine (1958; Dir:  Marshall)

Cowboy—Ford, Lemmon (1958; Dir:  Daves)

Man of the West—Cooper, London (1958; Dir:  Mann)

Face of a Fugitive–MacMurray, Green (1959; Dir:  Wendkos)

*Last Train from Gun Hill—Douglas, Quinn (1959; Dir:  Sturges)

*Ride Lonesome—Scott, Roberts (1959; Dir:  Boetticher)

*Warlock—Fonda, Widmark, Quinn (1959; Dir:  Dmytryk)

                        The Fastest Gun Alive—Ford, Crain (1959; Dir:  Rouse)

                        *Day of the Outlaw—Ryan, Ives (1959; Dir:  De Toth)

                        Good Day for a Hanging—MacMurray, Vaughn (1959; Dir:  Juran)

                        The Hanging Tree—Cooper, Schell (1959; Dir:  Daves)

JohnnyGuitar

1960s:

Trends and fashions:  End of cavalry movies.  Spaghetti westerns.  Beginning of anti-authority, prisons and prostitutes.  Sympathy for Indians.  More blacks in westerns.  Beginning of western satires.  More explicit violence (influence of spaghetti westerns, Bonnie and Clyde, The Wild Bunch).  New trends in music (Morricone, Duel at Diablo).  “!” in the title.

Cimarron—Ford (1960; Dir:  Mann)

Sergeant Rutledge—Hunter, Strode (1960; Dir:  Ford)

The Unforgiven—Lancaster, Hepburn, Murphy, Gish (1960; Dir:  Huston)

*Two Rode Together—Stewart, Widmark (1961, Dir:  Ford)

The Last Sunset–Douglas, Hudson, Malone, Cotten (1961; Dir:  Aldrich)

How the West Was Won—Wayne, Stewart, Fonda, Reynolds, Peck (1963; Dir:  Hathaway, Ford, Marshall)

*Major Dundee—Heston, Harris (1964; Dir:  Peckinpah)

*A Fistful of Dollars—Eastwood (1964; Dir:  Leone)

*Rio Conchos—Boone, Whitman, Brown (1964; Dir:  Douglas)

The Sons of Katie Elder—Wayne, Martin (1964; Dir:  Hathaway)

Cheyenne Autumn—Widmark, Baker, Montalban, Mineo (1964; Dir:  Ford)

Invitation to a Gunfighter—Brynner (1964; Dir:  Wilson)

Shenandoah—Stewart (1965; Dir: McLaglen)

The Rounders—Fonda, Ford (1965; Dir:  Kennedy)

*For a Few Dollars More—Eastwood, Van Cleef (1965; Dir:  Leone)

Django—Nero (1966; Dir:  Carbucci)

Big Hand for the Little Lady—Fonda, Woodward (1966; Dir: Cook)

The Rare Breed—Stewart, O’Hara (1966; Dir:  McLaglen)

Alvarez Kelly—Holden, Widmark (1966; Dir:  Dmytryk)

Nevada Smith—McQueen, Keith (1966; Dir:  Hathaway)

*El Dorado—Wayne, Mitchum, Caan (1967; Dir:  Hawks)

*The War Wagon—Wayne, Douglas (1967; Dir:  Kennedy)

*Hombre—Newman, March, Boone (1967; Dir:  Witt)

The Way West—Douglas, Mitchum, Widmark (1967; Dir:  McLaglen)

*The Good, the Bad and the Ugly—Eastwood, Van Cleef, Wallach (1967; Dir:  Leone)

*Once Upon a Time in the West—Fonda, Cardinale, Robards, Bronson, Strode, Elam (1968; Dir:  Leone)

The Scalphunters—Lancaster, Davis, Winter, Savalas (1968; Dir:  Pollack)

Firecreek—Fonda, Stewart (1968; Dir:  McEveety)

The Stalking Moon—Peck, Saint (1968; Dir:  Mulligan)

Villa Rides—Brynner, Mitchum (1968; Dir:  Kulik)

Bandolero!—Stewart, Martin, Welch (1968; Dir:  McLaglen)

*Will Penny—Heston, Hackett (1968; Dir:  Gries)

DjangoPoster

A German poster for a spaghetti western.

1970s:

Trends and fashions:  End of the cinematic fashion for westerns generally, around 1976.  “End of an era” westerns.  Revisionist westerns, with anti-authoritarianism, anti-traditional (Peckinpah); more dirt and grit.  Last of the spaghetti westerns.  More minority themes.  Continuation of fascination with prisons and prostitutes.

*Monte Walsh—Marvin, Palance, Moreau (1970; Dir:  Fraker)

The Cheyenne Social Club—Stewart, Fonda (1970; Dir:  Gene Kelly)

Little Big Man—Hoffman (1970; Dir:  Penn)

A Man Called Horse—Harris (1970; Dir:  Silverstein)

The Ballad of Cable Hogue—Robards, Stevens (1970; Dir:  Peckinpah; Lucien Ballard)

*Lawman—Lancaster, Ryan, Cobb, Duvall (1971; Dir:  Winner)

            *Skin Game—Garner, Gossett (1971; Dir:  Bogart, Douglas)

*Support Your Local Gunfighter—Garner, Elam, Pleshette (1971; Dir:  Kennedy)

*Ulzana’s Raid—Lancaster, Davison (1971; Dir:  Aldrich)

The Wild Rovers—Holden, O’Neal (1971; Dir:  Edwards)

Chato’s Land—Bronson, Palance (1971; Dir:  Winner)

Buck and the Preacher—Poitier, Belafonte (1972; Dir:  Poitier)

Junior Bonner—McQueen, Preston, Lupino (1972; Dir:  Peckinpah)

The Culpepper Cattle Co.—Grimes, Bush (1972; Dir:  Richards)

Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean—Newman (1972; Dir:  Huston)

Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid—Coburn, Kristofferson, Dylan (1973; Dir:  Peckinpah)

High Plains Drifter—Eastwood (1973; Dir:  Eastwood)

Blazing Saddles—Little, Wilder (1974; Dir:  M. Brooks)

My Name is Nobody—Hill, Fonda (1974; Dir:  Valerii; Exec. Prod.:  Leone; Morricone score)

Rooster Cogburn—Wayne, Hepburn (1975; Dir:  Millar)

Bite the Bullet—Hackman, Coburn, Bergen (1975; Dir:  Brooks)

The Missouri Breaks—Brando, Nicholson (1976; Dir:  Penn)

The Frisco Kid—Ford, Wilder (1979; Dir:  Aldrich)

MissouriBreaksPoster

1980s:

Trends and fashions:  Completely out of fashion cinematically.  Larger budget made-for-television movies and miniseries.  Australia used as a locale for the occasional western.

Bronco Billy—Eastwood, Locke (1980; Dir:  Eastwood)

The Mountain Men—Heston, Keith (1980; Dir:  Lang)

Tom Horn—McQueen, Farnsworth (1980; Dir:  Ward)

Windwalker—Howard, Ramus (1981; Dir:  Merrill)

Honky Tonk Man—Eastwood (1982; Dir:  Eastwood)

*Tender Mercies—Duvall, Harper (1983; Dir:  Beresford; written by Horton Foote)

*Murphy’s Romance—Garner, Field, Kerwin (1986; Dir:  Ritt)

The Quick and the Dead—Elliott, Conti (MfTV, 1987; Dir:  Day)

Sunset—Willis, Garner (1988; Dir:  Edwards)

Young Guns—Estevez, Sutherland, Phillips (1988; Dir:  Cain)

Wrangler—Fahey, Bergen (1989; Dir:  Barry)

Wyatt_earp_Poster Lawrence Kasdan’s version

1990s:

Trends and fashions:  Re-emergence of occasional big budget westerns and epics (Dances With Wolves, Unforgiven), winning Oscars.  Wyatt Earp.  More authentic costuming for cowboys and westerners.  Nostalgia for television (Maverick, Zorro).  Influence of Larry McMurtry.  Sentimentality for minorities.

Young Guns II–Estevez, Sutherland, Phillips, Petersen (1990; Dir:  Murphy)

*White Fang—Hawke, Brandauer (1991; Dir:  Kleiser)

City Slickers—Crystal, Palance, Kirby, Stern (1991; Dir:  Underwood)

Conagher—Elliott, Ross (MfTV, 1991; Dir:  Villalobos)

Convicts—Duvall, Haas, Jones (1991; Dir:  Masterson; Horton Foote)

*A River Runs Through It—Sheffer, Pitt, Skerritt (1992; Dir:  Redford)

*Geronimo:  An American Legend—Patric, Hackman, Duvall, Damon, Studi (1993; Dir:  W. Hill; not MfTV)

Bad Girls–Stowe, Barrymore, MacDowell, Masterson (1994; Dir:  Kaplan)

Maverick—Gibson, Foster, Garner (1994; Dir:  Donner)

Wyatt Earp—Costner, Quaid (1994; Dir:  Kasdan)

In Pursuit of Honor—Johnson, Sheffer (MfTV, 1995; Dir:  Olin)

Dead Man—Depp (1995; Dir:  Jarmusch)

Streets of Laredo—Garner, Spacek, Shepard (MfTV, 1995; Dir:  Sargent)

Dead Man’s Walk—Abraham, Carradine, Arquette (MfTV, 1996; Dir:  Simoneau)

Riders of the Purple Sage—Harris, Madigan, Thomas (MfTV, 1996; Dir:  Haid)

Last Stand at Saber River—Selleck, Carradine (MfTV, 1997; Dir:  Lowry)

The Horse Whisperer—Redford, Scott Thomas, Cooper, Wiest, Johansson (1998; Dir:  Redford)

The Mask of Zorro—Banderas, Hopkins, Zeta-Jones (1998)

                        Ravenous—Pearce, Carlyle, Jones (1999; Dir:  Bird)

                        *Ride With the Devil–Maguire, Ulrich, Wright (1999; Dir:  Lee)

The Jack Bull—Cusack, Goodman (MfTV; 1999; Dir:  Badham)

Purgatory—Shepard, Roberts, Quaid, Lowe (MfTV, 1999; Dir:  Edel)

Promise the Moon–Czerny, Stevenson (MfTV, 1999; Dir:  Jubenvill)

geronimoPoster3

2000s:

Trends and fashions:  Westerns still out of fashion.  Influence of Larry McMurtry continues, largely in made-for-television westerns and miniseries.

The Virginian–Pullman, Lane (MfTV, 2000: Dir:  Pullman)

Crossfire Trail—Selleck, Madsen (MfTV, 2001; Dir:  Wincer)

The Outsider–Daly, Watts (MtTV, 2002; Dir:  Haines)

Monte Walsh—Selleck, Rosselini, Carradine (MfTV, 2003; Dir:  Wincer)

Hard Ground–Reynolds, Dern (MfTV, 2003:  Dir:  Dobbs)

The Alamo–Thornton, Quaid, Patric, Wilson (2004; Dir:  Hancock)

*Hidalgo—Mortensen, Sharif (2004; Dir:  Johnston)

*Cold Mountain—Kidman, Law, Zellweger (2004; Dir:  Minghella)

The Proposition—Pearce, Winstone, Watson (2005; Dir:  Hillcoat)

The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada—Jones (2006; Dir:  Jones)

*Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford—Pitt, Affleck (2007; Dir:  Dominik)

Comanche Moon—Zahn, Urban, Kilmer (MfTV, 2008; Dir:  Wincer)

Appaloosa—Harris, Mortensen, Zellweger, Irons (2008; Dir:  Harris)

                       2010s:           

*Gunless–Gross, Guillory, Milligan, Greene (2010; Dir:  Phillips)

Blackthorn—Shepard, Noriega, Coster-Waldau, McElligott (2011; Dir:  Gil)

Django Unchained—Fox, DiCaprio, Waltz, Washington (2012; Dir:  Tarantino)

The Salvation–Mikkelsen, Persbrandt, Green, Morgan (2014; Dir:  Levring)

Slow West–Fassbender, Smit-McPhee, Pistorius (2015; Dir:  Maclean)

Forsaken–Sutherland, Wincott, Moore (2015; Dir:  Cassar)

The Magnificent Seven–Washington, Pratt, Hawke (2016; Dir:  Fuqua)

Hell or High Water–Pine, Foster, Bridges (2016; Dir:  Mackenzie)

Wind River–Renner, Olson (2017; Dir:  Sheridan)

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  • Jacob Sorensen

    I gotta say I wouldn’t consider The Frisco Kid worth watching. It didn’t age well. Especially the scene of Harrison Ford and Gene Wilder happily rolling in the surf together.

  • Leslie

    Although I am happy to see Young Guns I made the list, I’m a little puzzled that Young Guns II didn’t make the cut. I guess it was flashier and targeted to a young female demographic…

    Jake, watching the Frisco Kid with you on Australian programming was fun — we got a lot of mileage out of that one!

  • Nicholas Chennault

    Jake–You may be right about the Frisco Kid not aging well. But it has the young Harrison Ford and is unique in a sense. It’s a Jewish western comedy. I guess I should add it to my (upcoming) list of westerns with a religious element.

  • Nicholas Chennault

    With Young Guns 2 the thought was that if you saw Young Guns, you’d already seen what was interesting (and better done) in the first movie. But if you liked Young Guns, you’d probably also like to see Young Guns 2. Both are clearly tilted toward a young demographic (don’t know about female–do they work well for that, too?). The second one seems a bit more cobbled together, and it’s less historical.