Top Ten Westerns According to Dad – Part 1

It’s no coincidence that I’m publishing my dad’s favorite Western films on Father’s Day. My dad has been telling me to “make your play, Pilgrim” for years, and I sign all my emails and cards to him “Your Trusty Sidekick.” What I didn’t realize when I asked my dad to list his favorite western films was the charged political and social climate that would surround this post. Though westerns feature a range of narrow views and tan white people playing Native Americans, I appreciate that after every film my dad would discuss the truth behind the fiction and that cinema, while entertaining, was neither accurate nor fair.

Dad, thank you for sharing your love of history and films with me, and thank you for showing me that there are two sides to every story, and then there’s the truth.

Top 10 Westerns-Part1

#10 – Tombstone, 1993

Director: George P. Cosmatos, Kevin Jarre (uncredited)

Cast: Kurt Russell, Val Kilmer, Sam Elliott, Bill Paxton, Dana Delaney, Powers Boothe

[ IMDB Link

Dad’s Comments: I chose this movie for:  an interesting plot, great musical score, exciting action sequences. Look for the tense and fast moving gunfight at OK Corral and Wyatt’s Earp’s blazing guns showdown in middle of a river with Curly Bill (Powers Boothe). Great acting by Russell, Kilmer, and the villains (Boothe, Stephen Lang, and Michael Biehn).

My Comments: This is one of my all time favorite westerns. It’s over the top, I love all the actors in their own right and love them even more together in this flick. The score is dramatic, there’s the epic walking scene (below), and Val Kilmer’s Doc Holliday is wonderfully eccentric and charming. I asked for this for Christmas in high school and when I opened it on Christmas day, I asked if we could watch it that night. My mom was horrified at the violence but even more so on Jesus’s birthday. I explained to her that everyone celebrates the holidays differently and that she should go back to mooning over Kurt Russell and his amazing mustache.

#9 – Warlock, 1959

warlock-movie-posterDirector: Edward Dmytryk

Cast: Richard Widmark, Henry Fonda, Anthony Quinn

[ IMDB Link ]

Dad’s Comments: I chose this movie for the intriguing plot. The town hired a gunfighter (Fonda) as unofficial marshal but then a legally appointed sheriff appoints a former outlaw as Warlock’s deputy sheriff (Widmark). Result? Conflict!  Look for exciting action sequences (see any of the gunfights) and riveting performances by Widmark, Fonda, Quinn, and Dorothy Malone.


#8 – Ride the High Country

Director: Sam Peckinpah

Cast: Joel McCrea, Randolph Scott, Mariette Hartley
[ IMDB Link ]

Dad’s Comments: I chose this movie for the interesting plot and honest performances by McCrea and Scott in his final movie role. A highlight would be the dialogue between Scott and McCrea as Scott tries to justify stealing the gold shipment that both men are guarding. Another highlight is the final showdown – the two groups marching slowly, relentlessly toward each other, guns blazing.


[ Source: True West Magazine ]

#7 – Shane, 1953

Director: George Stevens

Cast: Alan Ladd, Jean Arthur, Van Heflin
[ IMDB Link ]

Dad’s Comments: I chose this movie for beautiful scenery, a scene stealing villain (Jack Palance), exciting editing (see tension-packed final gunfight between Ladd and Palance as camera leaps back and forth between the two adversaries), explosive action scenes (see brutal barroom brawl, Ladd and Van Heflin versus the cattle baron’s henchmen) and great ensemble acting of Ladd, Arthur, Van Heflin, and Brandon DeWilde (farmer’s son).

#6 – Gunfight at the OK Corral, 1957

Director: John Sturges

Cast: Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, Rhonda Fleming
[ IMDB Link ]

Dad’s Comments: I chose this movie for its rousing musical score (great theme song sung by wonderful Frankie Laine!) and exciting action scenes, like the final gunfight as the four lawmen, including Lancaster and Douglas, march slowly and relentlessly down the main street to the OK corral. Dimitri Tiomkin’s score adds energy and menace to this showdown.


[ Source: Southern Arizona Guide ]

[ Check out the top 5 Westerns – Part 2 ]


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