Some people don't like horrors. For others, superhero movies grind their gears. However "I don't like Westerns" seems to be the phrase we most commonly hear from moviegoers. And the box office figures support the fact.
With 'The Sisters Brothers', starring John C. Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix as two guns for hire, hitting cinema this week, it can easily be added to the list of great modern Westerns that includes 'No Country for Old Men' and 'Slow West'. It bombed domestically but we can't recommend it enough.
Some audiences think Westerns are too slow-moving, others too patriotic. Whatever your reason for disliking them, we hope these films change your mind, and if you are a fan, hopefully you'll find a hidden gem among these recommendations (though if you're a Western buff, you've likely seen them all already).
The Wild Bunch
Audiences went into 'The Wild Bunch' expecting one thing but got quite another. Released back in 1969, it still comes off as very graphically violent, its characters are just as despicable, and its narrative remains unsettling. Story-wise, it follows a gang of ageing outlaws seeking retirement after one final score. The guys belong to an era that is passing them by as the modern world of 1913 is closing in on them. They just can't keep up with the ever-changing landscape. Given when it hit cinemas, it's as much a commentary on the socially and politically developing culture of '69 as it is the 1910s.
No actor is more seminal to the Western genre than Clint Eastwood. After earning a name for himself (ironically) as 'The Man With No Name', Eastwood turned his attention to working behind the camera. In 'Unforgiven' - much like he did later with 'Gran Torino' - the actor twisted and turned on his star image which formed as a result of Sergio Leone's movies. In the 1992 film, he's aged and weak, and can't even shoot straight. You doubt whether he'll be able to take on the task at hand. As with 'The Wild Bunch', 'Unforgiven' questions morality, violence and what it means to be a hero. Nearly 30 years on, it still packs quite a punch.
'Bone Tomahawk' has a bunch of notable performances in it, not just from Kurt Russell but also Patrick Wilson and 'The Shape of Water' star Richard Jenkins. It starts off like a traditional Western, moving along at a nice pace thanks to a sharp script and proficient direction (both S. Craig Zahler). Then all of a sudden, something happens, and from there it all hits the fan. The events that follow are brutal, relentless and shocking. 'Bone Tomahawk' is so much more than a Western, it'd be a crime not to include it.
'Blazing Saddles' would not be made today as many would misinterpret its tongue-in-cheek manner. But if you realise it's all a piss take and done on purpose, you'll see just how funny and smart it really is (and if you're unfamiliar with the movie and don't get what we mean, just watch the below clip). Written in large part by the late, great Richard Pryor, co-starring Gene Wilder, and directed by Mel Brooks, it's no wonder that 'Blazing Saddles' is one of the greats. Plus it shows that 'Captain Marvel' wasn't the first film to have a 'beating an old lady' scene.
No doubt some readers are rolling their eyes at the mention of 'Django Unchained', but it is a Western with a difference, and many people love it (this writer included). It follows a freed slave (Jamie Foxx), who, with the help of a German dentist-turned-bounty hunter (Christolph Waltz), sets out to rescue his wife (Kerry Washington) from a plantation owner (Leonardo DiCaprio). The cast (which also includes Quentin Tarantino regular Samuel L. Jackson) are all fantastic and the film delivers all the action, violence, comedy and drama you could want. It earned Oscars for Best Supporting Actor (Waltz) and Best Original Screenplay (Tarantino).
The Assassination of Jesse James
Full name 'The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford', many believe Brad Pitt was robbed of an Academy Award nod for playing Jesse. The actor goes toe-to-toe with Oscar winner Casey Affleck in the film, while Sam Rockwell, Jeremy Renner and Sam Shepard co-star. Affleck plays Robert Ford, who, having idolised Jesse James all his life, comes to develop a relationship with him. However, a series of events lead to the occurrence that makes for the title of the film.