June 19, 2008

AFI's best Westerns

AFI released its list of top 10 genre films, including the top 10 Westerns. Perhaps not surprisingly, Indians play a role in only two of them--and a negative role at that.

Best of 10:  AFI releases top-10 genre film listsWESTERN

1. “The Searchers,” 1956.
2. “High Noon,” 1952.
3. “Shane,” 1953.
4. “Unforgiven,” 1992.
5. “Red River,” 1948.
6. “The Wild Bunch,” 1969.
7. “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” 1969.
8. “McCabe & Mrs. Miller,” 1971.
9. “Stagecoach,” 1939.
10. “Cat Ballou,” 1965.
Comment:  I haven't seen Unforgiven, Red River, or The Wild Bunch. As for the rest, yes to High Noon and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Maybe to Stagecoach--it's been a long time since I've seen it. Maybe to Shane--it isn't a great movie, but it's iconic. No to the others, especially The Searchers. No also to Lonesome Dove, which some have called the best Western ever.

Leaving Unforgiven on the list because it's an Academy Award winner, here's my tentative top 10 Westerns:

High Noon
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Dances with Wolves
Broken Arrow
Little Big Man
Once Upon a Time in the West
They Died with Their Boots On
Sergeant Rutledge
Open Range

Note that my list has five movies that feature Indians, not merely two. That's because our "cowboys vs. Indians" legends offer the richest vein of stories to mine. As Frederick Jackson Turner suggested in his Frontier Thesis, the West is synonymous with Indians.

Sadly, there aren't that many great Westerns. It's hard to making a gripping drama out of people shooting at each other from behind doors or rocks. Most of the movies on my list are about the characters, not a big gunfight at the OK Corral (or wherever).

For more on the subject, see The Best Indian Movies.


writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
Though many of your choices match writerfella's, his list would include Robert Altman's MCCABE & MRS. MILLER (1971) and BUFFALO BILL & THE INDIANS (1976), then to include Henry Hathaway's RAWHIDE (1950), Val Lewton's APACHE DRUMS (1951), and two modern films, NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN and THERE WILL BE BLOOD (both 2007). Because...
All Best
Russ Bates

writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
POSTSCRIPTUM -- writerfella forgot one particular film: 1962's LONELY ARE THE BRAVE, with Kirk Douglas as Jack Burns, part-Native "last free cowboy in the whole country," someone who avoids cities, the draft, and other people. Burns hears that his best friend from his youth has been jailed for helping illegal aliens and comes down out of the mountains to try to break him out. Once arrested and in jail, Burns finds that his friend has gotten older, has accepted modern life, and just wants to serve his sentence. Burns breaks out himself and becomes the target of a growing manhunt as he and his horse head over mountains trying to make it to Mexico. Past mid-point, the film becomes both gripping and humorous as you root for Burns and want to know if he makes it or not...
All Best
Russ Bates

Charles said...

You thought "They Died With Their Boots On", where they portrayed that butcher Custer in such a positive and heroic light, was good?

And you haven't seen "Unforgiven"?

Maybe you shouldn't write about movies.

Rob said...

I liked They Died with Their Boots On for reasons other than its phony history lessons. I'm complex like that. I can appreciate things even if they're flawed.

No one has seen more than a subset of the universe of movies. And I wasn't aware that Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven had Indians in it. I watch Westerns primarily for their Native aspects.