The western genre isn’t something you particularly associate with Hollywood these days. Think of westerns and you’re more likely to think of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly or The Magnificent Seven.
That’s not to say that since the turn of the millennium great westerns aren’t being made. In fact, there are plenty. We run down our favourite western movies of the last 20 years…
3:10 to Yuma
Russell Crowe was cast perfectly in this role. He grew up in Australia, a country well known for its baron landscape and he’s a fan of gambling, having once being a bingo caller. In fact, such is his love we’d be surprised if he wasn’t enjoying the vast number of bingo sites like Moon Bingo available in between sets.
Joining him in the 3:10 to Yuma is Welsh star Christian Bale, and the chemistry between the two really does make it a fantastic western. The film itself sees Crowe play outlaw Ben Wade, who must be taken to Yuma station to catch the 3:10 train by Dan Evans (Bale) in order to get to court to be tried. Many are after his blood though, many looking to rescue Wade, but as the friendship between Evans and Wade grows, will he make the train?
Released in 2010 by the Coen Brothers, True Grit is a wonderful revision of the 1968 movie, in which John Wayne won an Oscar. Starring Jeff Bridges as Rooster Cogburn the movie follows him on a quest to seek revenge, but finds a friend in the young Mattie Ross, played by Hailee Steinfeld.
It’s an all star cast that also includes Matt Damon, Josh Brolin and Barry Pepper, and continues to be lauded as one of the best westerns of more recent times.
Quentin Tarantino really went to town on the genre back in 2012 and offers up a much darker Wild West to what we’re used to. It’s ultraviolet and is the west in its absolutely wildest form.
The cast is as you’d expect from Tarantino, big and bold with brilliant performances from the likes of Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson, Kerry Washington and Christoph Waltz.
No Country For Old Men
The Coens are big fans of the genre and their second title in this list comes in the form of 2007’s No Country For Old Men. Starring Javier Barden as Anton Chigurh and Tommy Lee Jones as Ed Tom Bell, it sees them go head to head in what is often considered the death of the genre, with good failing to conquer evil. It’s a completely new take on the genre and really ruffled a few feathers when it was released.
The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford
If it isn’t the best western of the last 20 years, it certainly has the best title. It was a film that never quite got the praise it deserved and lost money at the box office, taking in $15million compared to its $30million budget.
However, critics were big fans of the film, which stars Brad Pitt, Mary-Louise Parker, Brooklyn Proulx and Casey Affleck. Pitt plays the star role, Jesse James, in this one, while Affleck takes on the role of Robert Ford, who has idolised James since childhood. He does what he can to rejoin the Missouri gang when finding out they are reforming, but things take a turn when he eventually becomes resentful of James and plots his assassination.
The film itself is based upon the 1983 novel of the same name and it’s gone on to become a well regarded movie in the genre thanks to its brilliant storytelling and gorgeous cinematography.
Released in 2005, The Proposition has an incredible cast and was actually penned by musician Nick Cave. It’s a violent and bloody watch, but one that has some incredible performances from the likes of Ray Winstone, Emily Watson, and Guy Pearce who takes the lead role as Charlie Burns, a gang leader who is captured by the police and strikes a deal with Captain Morris Stanley (Winstone) to kill his older brother within nine days in order for him to walk free.
The film follows Burns’ journey to find his brother and kill him, but a number of twists and turns follow in what is an incredibly compelling film. Of course, written by Nick Cave, the film also has an incredible soundtrack which was composed and performed by himself and violinist Warren Ellis.
Completely different to the above, Meek’s Cutoff is a more contemplative movie which falls more on thought than action. Words speak louder in this film and it’s a beautifully directed film from Kelly Reichardt.
Based loosely upon an incident that occured on the Oregon Trail in 1845, where Stephen Meek took a wagon on an ill-fated journey through the desert. It’s a powerful and emotional movie that stars Michelle Williams and Bruce Greenwood, as well as excellent performances from Shirley Henderson, Zoe Kazan and Paul Dano.
It was well received from the critics and continues to be a bit of a hidden gem, but one the genre really should be grateful for.
John Maclean’s directorial debut in 2015 really impressed with Slow West, an action-packed Western starring Michael Fassbender and Kodi Smit-McPhee. The latter plays young Scot Jay Cavendish who is on the hunt for the love of his life in the American West, and is accompanied by Fassbender, an Irish Bounty Hunter. Little does Jay know that his love, Rose Ross, is wanted with a $2,000 bounty on her head.
It’s a tale of love with heart wrenching moments and plenty of action to boot. It has a 92% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and many reviews highlight its coming-of-age tale and love amongst a harsh landscape which really make it stand out among the rest in the genre.