Greatest Westerns of All-Time: Overview - The Part-Time Critic

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Greatest Westerns of All-Time: Overview

You can find films 25-11 in the first part of my Top 25 Western Films of All-time HERE
You can find the Top Ten in the second part of my Top 25 Western Films of All-time HERE
You can find my Greatest Western Actions Scenes of All-time list HERE

To keep my Top 25 Westerns list to something manageable and readable, I excluded a lot of other possible lists I wanted to create. For instance, how would I rank the Eastwood films I've seen? What Western "classics" do I think are the most overrated? How would I rank the best musical scores from Westerns? That's what this post is for. Scroll through the following overview of the Western genre and remember that while I was able to watch well over fifty of the most talked about Westerns, I didn't watch everything in the genre. There is a lot I missed - this isn't meant to be comprehensive. Feel free to comment and share your thoughts. Is there a glaring omission here?

  • Brutal Reality of Life on the Plains: The Homesman
  • Nihilism Behind the Moralist Veneer of the West: The Wild Bunch
  • Gunfighter Myth vs. Reality: Unforgiven
  • Cattle Drive / Settling the West: Red River
  • Fur Trapping / Wilderness Survival: The Revenant
  • Life of the Upper Plains Indians: Dances with Wolves
  • Mountain Man Living: Jeremiah Johnson
  • The Gold Rush: The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (hon. Ment. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs)
  • Civilization vs. Barbarism: The Proposition
  • River Rapids Sequence: How the West Was Won
  • Buffalo Hunt: Dances with Wolves
  • Train Robbery: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
  • Best “Wyatt Earp” Movie: Tombstone
  • Best Western Character: Val Kilmer’s Doc Holliday in Tombstone
  • Western Musical: Oklahoma!
  • Western Collage of Stories: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

  • 1990's Dances with Wolves - Romantic Western Score LINK
  • 1960's Dollars Trilogy - Stylized Western Score LINK
  • 2014's The Homesman  - Contempoary Western Score LINK
  • 1980's The Long Riders - Traditional / Folk Wester Score LINK
  • 1960's The Magnificent Seven - Classic Western Score LINK

  • Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid: Despite the pleasant chemistry and jokes between the two titular leads, this Western feels rather aimless, rambling, and unable to justify glorifying thieves that end up taking the lives of many. There are a handful of fun moments and some nice dialogue, but everything feels rather pointless since there’s never any genuine goal or obstacle to overcome other than don’t get caught. I don't get the "classic" status this film gets.
  • The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: A grossly overrated Western that never comes close to justifying its three-hour runtime. Like Sergio’s Once Upon a Time in the West, this film is drenched in memorable style (spaghetti Western art direction and that iconic Morricone score) but lacks genuine substance. I don’t think there’s a single thing this film does better than the two previous entries. If anything it doubles down on all the worst parts of the first two. This is the Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End of the “Dollars Trilogy” – tons of ambition, drenched in the style of the first two, but it never feels substantive or clicks like the earlier ones. The plot is a cat and mouse chase for confederate gold with the Civil War in the backdrop. The narrative always feels like a continual wheel spinning to me and I never remember it long after watching. The shootouts are dramatic and iconic (but not shot as ‘action’ scenes), and like the previously mentioned style, are the saving grace of this three bore fest.
  • Once Upon a Time in the West: My thoughts on this one are similar The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. The opening standoff sequence might be the most famous one in the entire film & it's a good bellwether for how you will like the rest of the film...I'm not a fan. I concede the great cinematography, art direction, & concept behind it, but I think it's ultimately just too indulgent. For more, check out my live tweeting during my recent viewing.

*For commentary on these three films, see the Top 25 List
  • The Homesman
  • Open Range
  • The Proposition

*That I've seen
  1. Unforgiven
  2. High Plains Drifter
  3. Pale Rider
  4. A Fistful of Dollars
  5. The Outlaw Josey Wales
  6. For a Few Dollars More
  7. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

*That I've seen
  1. Red River
  2. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
  3. The Shootist
  4. The Searchers
  5. Rio Bravo
  6. Stagecoach
  7. Fort Apache
  8. She Wore a Yellow Ribbon
  9. Rio Grande
  10. True Grit

  1. Unforgiven (A) 1992
  2. The Revenant (A)  2015
  3. The Homesman (A-) 2014
  4. The Wild Bunch (A-) 1969
  5. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (A-) 1948
  6. Red River (B+) 1948
  7. The Ox-Bow Incident (B+) 1943
  8. Dances with Wolves (B+) 1990
  9. Django Unchained (B+) 2012
  10. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (B+) 1962
  11. High Noon (B+) 1952
  12. Jeremiah Johnson (B+) 1972
  13. The Proposition (B+) 2005
  14. Hostiles (B) 2017
  15. Open Range (B) 2003
  16. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (B) 2018
  17. Lonesome Dove (B) 1989
  18. High Plains Drifter (B) 1973
  19. Shane (B) 1953
  20. True Grit (B) 2010
  21. 3:10 to Yuma (B) 2007
  22. Pale Rider (B-) 1985
  23. A Fistful of Dollars (B-) 1964
  24. The Shootist (B-) 1976
  25. News of the World (B-) 2020
  26. Tombstone (B-) 1993
  27. The Magnificent Seven (B-) 1960
  28. The Outlaw Josey Wales (B-) 1976
  29. The Searchers (B-) 1956
  30. How the West Was Won (B-) 1962
  31. Bone Tomahawk (B-) 2015
  32. For a Few Dollars More (B-) 1965
  33. The Long Riders (B-) 1980
  34. Pat Garret & Billy the Kid (B-) 1973
  35. Rio Bravo (B-) 1959
  36. 3:10 to Yuma (B-) 1957
  37. The Hateful Eight (B-) 2015
  38. Stagecoach (B-) 1939
  39. The Quick and the Dead (B-) 1995
  40. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (C+) 2007
  41. The Magnificent Seven (C+) 2016
  42. Fort Apache (C+) 1948
  43. Geronimo: An American Legend (C+) 1993
  44. My Darling Clementine (C+) 1946
  45. Wyatt Earp (C+) 1994
  46. She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (C+) 1949
  47. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (C) 1969
  48. Silverado (C) 1985
  49. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (C) 1966
  50. Heaven’s Gate (C) 1980
  51. Appaloosa (C) 2008
  52. True Grit (C) 1969 
  53. McCabe & Mrs. Miller (C) 1971 
  54. Once Upon a Time in the West (C) 1968
  55. The Lone Ranger (C-) 2013
  56. Young Guns (C-) 1988
  57. Rio Grande (C-) 1950
  58. Cimarron (C-) 1931

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