Ah, the simple, latter half of the 19th century where it all began––horse riding, gun toting, and riding off into the sunset after defeating a treacherous nemesis––these are the staples of a good ol’ fashioned western film. Well, those, and minding ones manners, of course. Lucky for you, here at EPIX we have three of the best western films ever to grace the big screen, and if you’ve never seen them before (or want to indulge yourself in seeing one, or all, for the umpteenth time) now you can find out about these extraordinary pictures.
After the end of the Civil War, Shane, seamlessly portrayed by Alan Ladd, heads out into the desert and finds himself at the home of a Wyoming homesteader and his wife. While there, Shane learns of the infectious trouble the town is dealing with in the form of Rufus Ryker, a miserable cattle herder with a violent past. At the behest of Joe Starrett, the homesteader, Shane remains in town to help the people seek justice, and managing by the end of the film to defeat Ryker and his duplicitous gang, Shane rides back off into the desert again, only this time mortally wounded by his last, albeit successful, gunfight. This film was ranked #3 on AFI’s greatest Westerns of all time for a multitude of reasons, most of Ladd’s inimitable cowboy––a laconic, statuesque symbol for western morality.
The final film in Sergio Leone’s Dollars trilogy, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly once again features The Man With No Name (Clint Eastwood) on a quest this time for lost Confederate gold. The quintessential spaghetti western (a name Americans coined for western films made by Italians) features Eastwood as “The Good,” Lee Van Cleef as “The Bad,” and Eli Wallach as “The Ugly,” three men simultaneously teaming up and vying against each other in search of the aforementioned lost gold. With a soundtrack by none other than Ennio Morricone (that will ring in your head for days to come) this is obligatory viewing for any cinephile.
Another of AFI’s top western films (this one at the pivotal #2 spot), High Noon features one of the greatest leading duos in cinematic history––Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly. As Marshal Will Kane, Academy Award-winning Cooper forfeits leaving town for a new life with his bride (Kelly, a woman so beautiful they had to make her a princess) in order to stay and battle a group of outlaws and an old nemesis who was just pardoned on a technicality. As high noon approaches, the inevitability of Kane’s success is apparent, and with a suave assist from his new bride, the two settle the score once and for all and, metaphorically, get to ride off into the sunset.
Now you can either pick one of these three cinema staples, or have yourself a triple threat marathon, but make sure these films are on your list of what to watch in the nearest of futures.