The lifestyle of the American Old West is defined by cowboys, gunfights, outlaws, bounty hunters, and time and again, Native Americans. Such a movie generally rests on the shoulders of the protagonist who has a magnetic personality and, often, a troubled past. Crime and revenge are common themes, and you can expect a lot of action. A quick-draw duel is considered a bonus!
Over the years, the genre has evolved to a great extent, especially in the shedding off of some of its bad clichés and unjustified stereotyping. Look at the Westerns of the past decade and you’ll see how it has mixed itself with other genres and delivered some great films. Here is the list of best Western movies of the decade (2010-2019):
17. Slow West (2015)
Directed by John Maclean, ‘Slow West’ stars Michael Fassbender and Kodi Smit-McPhee (‘The Road’) in the lead roles. Smit-McPhee plays the role of a young Scotsman named Jay Cavendish. He travels all the way to the American West in search of the girl he loves. He soon becomes familiar with the brutal ways of the West and looks for someone who can guide him through this territory while also protecting him. He finds that protector in Silas Selleck, a bounty hunter, who has his own motives to venture the deadly territory, however, he does not reveal them to the young man. But his secrets come into play later when they land themselves in a dangerous situation.
16. Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)
Western genre is defined by rogues, outlaws and gunslingers with troubled or mysterious pasts who are on a mission of their lifetime. What could make this action and adventure even better? Space, obviously! ‘Star Wars’ is one of the most sprawling cinematic universes, and one of its main characters is Han Solo. A spin-off, directed by Ron Howard, ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ gives us a peek into the early life of the outlaw. Alden Ehrenreich stars in the lead role, while the supporting cast includes Emilia Clarke, Woody Harrelson, Donald Glover, Thandie Newton, and Joonas Suotamo as Chewbacca.
15. The Rider (2017)
‘The Rider’ follows the story of a man named Brady Blackburn who is forced to make a difficult choice between his dreams and reality. He used to be a rodeo star and had a promising future ahead of him. One day, he has a terrible accident where his life is saved but he suffers an injury that kills his career. He loses all motor functions in his right hand and is advised never to ride again as he is more prone to seizures this way. While Brady tries to accustom himself to not do the one thing he loves the most, he also has to take care of his family.
14. Deadwood: The Movie (2019)
While there have been a number of films that are set in the West, there are only a couple of television shows that have managed to capture the essence of this terrain. ‘Deadwood’ is one of those shows. It ran for three seasons on HBO and won several awards. About thirteen years after its series finale, the audience was sent back to the town of Deadwood with the release of a film. ‘Deadwood: The Movie’ picks up the story about a decade after the events of the finale and pits the characters of Ian McShane and Timothy Olyphant against each other.
13. Bone Tomahawk (2015)
‘Bone Tomahawk’ begins with two looters who are attacked by unseen enemies at a Native American burial site. While one is killed, the other survives and reaches a small town to bury his loot. However, he is apprehended by the town sheriff and shot in the leg, which keeps him in town for more time than he had initially planned. The problem stirs when those forces follow him into the town and start attacking the locals. Directed by Craig Zahler, who had previously written the screenplay of a horror film called ‘The Incident’, it stars Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson, Matthew Fox and Richard Jenkins in the lead roles.
12. The Magnificent Seven (2016)
Written by Nic Pizzolatto, known for creating ‘True Detective‘ and directed by Antoine Fuqua, ‘The Magnificent Seven’ has an ensemble cast of Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Byung-hun Lee, Vincent D’Onofrio, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo and Martin Sensmeier. The actors play the characters who are brought together by Washington’s Sam Chisholm to protect a town from the influence of a corrupt industrialist, played by Peter Sarsgaard, who forces them to work in his mines without paying them what they deserve for it. When the locals refuse to do his bidding, he kills a lot of people by torching the local church, which is why the locals are forced to ask for the help of the outlaws.
11. Hostiles (2017)
‘Hostiles’ is directed by Scott Cooper, known for making films like ‘Out of the Furnace’ and ‘Black Mass’, and stars Christian Bale, Rosamund Pike, Wes Studi and Ben Foster. Bale plays the role of Captain Joseph Blocker, who is tasked with the safety of Yellow Hawk, a Cheyenne war chief, to escort him and the members of his family to their tribal lands. Despite a troubling history with Yellow Hawk’s tribe, Blocker is forced to accept the task. On the way, they are joined by a widow whose family has been massacred by the Comanches. Now, they must all band together to survive the terrains under the occupation of the Comanches.
10. The Sisters Brothers (2018)
Based on the novel by Patrick deWitt, ‘The Sister Brothers’ boasts a cast of polished actors like Joaquin Phoenix, John C. Reilly, Jake Gyllenhaal and Riz Ahmed. Phoenix and Reilly play the role of Charlie and Eli Sisters, the bounty hunters who are hired by a businessman to find and capture a man named Hermann Warm. Before them, the man had also sent a private detective, John Morris, to keep Warm occupied and eventually hand him over to the Sisters brothers. However, once Morris comes to know about the truth behind Warm’s capture, he joins hands with him, which adds his name on the list of the gunfighters.
9. Rango (2011)
The first of the only two non-Disney or Pixar movies to win an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, ‘Rango’ is directed by Gore Verbinski. The characters in the film are voiced by Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin, Bill Nighy and Timothy Olyphant. The story revolves around a pet chameleon who falls off from his owner’s vehicle and is stranded in a desert. Dodging some dangerous situations and meeting new animals along the way, he reaches the town of Dirt. While Rango is not versed in the ways of the place, when he sees that it needs a sheriff to protect it from bandits, he rises up to the occasion.
8. Meek’s Cutoff (2010)
Inspired by a true incident which later led to the naming of the route through the Oregon desert as Meek Cutoff, this film stars Michelle Williams in the lead role. It begins with Stephen Meek guiding a small group of travellers through the desert. Even though he boasts that he knows everything about the place, the travellers begin to suspect him and are proven right when their two-week-long journey is stretched to five. Due to the time stretch, the rations and resources run low and soon, everyone begins to fight for food and water. In the midst of this, an Indian is captured by them.
7. Wind River (2017)
Written and directed by Taylor Sheridan, ‘Wind River’ stars Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen in the lead roles. It begins with the death of a teenage Indian girl. Presumed to be a murder, the case falls under the federal jurisdiction. FBI agent Jane Banner is sent to investigate it, but due to her unformidable presence, the locals are both dissatisfied with the feds while also being skeptic of Jane’s ability to get to the bottom of it. When Jane senses their feelings, she asks for the help of Cory Lambert, a local as well as an expert tracker. A horrible revelation waits for them at the end of it.
6. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)
Directed by the Coen Brothers, ‘The Ballad of Buster Scruggs’ is an anthology of six stories. The film earned three Academy Award nominations and has a star cast of Tim Blake Nelson, Liam Neeson, James Franco, Zoe Kazan, Brendan Gleeson and Tom Waits, among others. All of the stories take place in various locations of the American frontier and is a perfect watch for people who want more Westerns in their palette. All the six stories bear the signature style of the Coens, and presents a wide portrayal of the things that define the wild, wild west.
5. Hell or High Water (2016)
Set in West Texas, ‘Hell or High Water’ is an Academy Award-nominated film that follows the story of two brothers trying to save their family ranch. Written by Taylor Sheridan, it stars Chris Pine, Ben Foster and Jeff Bridges in the main roles. Pine and Foster play the characters of Toby and Tanner Howard. After the death of their mother, it falls upon them to take care of the family ranch. However, due to the tricky financial situation, they find it difficult to do so. They plan a series of bank robberies, which go very well for a while. Then Tanner’s volatile behaviour and two relentless cops catch up to them.
4. The Hateful Eight (2015)
For the violence and gore that Quentin Tarantino’s movies demand, the West serves as a great place to set the stories in. He has dabbled in this genre a couple of times and has hit the bull’s eye with both of them. The second of those ventures is ‘The Hateful Eight’. Starring Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell and Jennifer Jason Leigh, it follows the story of eight strangers who are forced to spend some time together under the same roof, but due to their conflicting personalities and ulterior motives, find it difficult to trust each other. Chaos and bloodshed follow as one incident after another adds to the mayhem.
3. Django Unchained (2012)
Another film in the list that is marked with the eccentric style of Quentin Tarantino, ‘Django Unchained’ stars Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington and Samuel L. Jackson. The film received various nominations at the Academy Awards, scoring a win for Christoph Waltz in the category of Best Supporting Actor. The story is set in the late 1850s in Texas, where a group of slaves, Django being one of them, are being taken somewhere in the guard of two men. A bounty hunter interrupts them and demands the freedom of Django who can help him look for the Brittle Brothers.
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2. True Grit (2010)
Another work from the Coen Brothers, ‘True Grit’ is based on the book of the same name by Charles Portis. It stars Jeff Bridges, Hailee Steinfeld, Josh Brolin and Matt Damon. Nominated for multiple Academy Awards, it follows three unlikely companions on the quest to track down a murderer. Steinfeld plays the role of a farm girl named Mattie Ross. After her father is killed by Tom Chaney, she hires Cogburn to track him down. They are joined by a Texas Ranger who is also looking for Chaney for some other crime. The journey brings them face to face with the challenges that test their “true grit”.
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1. The Revenant (2015)
The film that got Leonardo DiCaprio his much-awaited Oscar, ‘The Revenant’ is directed by Alejandro Iñárritu. It is based on the true story of a man named Hugh Glass, who was left for dead in the middle of the jungle after surviving a bear attack. The film, which also stars Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson and Will Poulter, received multiple Academy Award nominations, winning in the category of Best Director and Best Cinematography, besides, of course, Best Actor. It begins with Glass, and his son, leading a group of trappers through the treacherous Indian terrain. But after he is attacked by a bear and is unable to move, the trappers have to make the decision of either putting themselves in danger with him or leave him to die while escaping to their safety.
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