Pistoleers & Pioneers Vol. 2: Ten Amazing Modern Westerns

Top lists always suck. Not only do you have to limit yourself to a certain number, but then you have to think about the order, whether you’ve excluded a movie merely because you haven’t seen it yet, and then there’s a million other people with a million lists. Nobody fucking knows why geeks make top lists, but hey, we are geeks, and here’s my list. These are 10 modern westerns that I consider among the best, those you shouldn’t have missed. By no means an exclusive list, but certainly 10 flix that you won’t be ashamed of. The heavy focus is post 1980s, but I’m all over the place with this one. Make sure you read my preceding blog post about why I think the western ain’t dead, as well. In case you missed it, click here for part one of this series, where Peter listed 10 really amazing classic westerns.

In no particular order:

Seraphim Falls

I was so blown away by this one I’m having trouble describing it. A gritty, realistic and intense cat and mouse game, a hunt through the wild lands, a bitter animosity and a merciless and – surreal – finale. An absolute must see with Pierce Brosnan and Liam Neeson facing each other off in one of the most overlooked and under-marketed modern westerns! (Amazon)

Open Range

That’s why I hate Costner-bashers: Aside from a few slips that guy makes amazing movies. And this one is one of the most realistic, honest and beautiful modern westerns I’ve seen. From the life of the freegrazer to the shabby frontier city life, the thundering gun battle and the love between people with different backgrounds, this one has it all. So, “they don’t make ’em like that no more” really is a wrong saying. And oh boy that gunfight at the end, a knockout. (Amazon)

Pale Rider

Before Clint started making melodramatic mainstream films with political subtexts, and even before he made little crime stories, he made a few post-Leone westerns. I have excluded High Plains Drifter because it’s even older, and Hang ‘Em High as well, so I decided to pick Pale Rider, because it kicks ass, doesn’t hide where it’s coming from and will give spaghetti western nerds a decent western boner, ahaha. A really classy, gritty flick. (Amazon)

It’s got a pretty solid rating on Imdb, check it out (and vote)

Unforgiven

This list would not be worth its name without this one. Clint makes the western to end them all, unraveling the myths, stripping the heroes naked, ripping all the glory from the genre, and at the same time creating a monument for it. This is the western’s epitaph resurrected. And one of the best movies ever made. (Amazon)

The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada

Here’s an example for an indie flick that will grab your heart, make your eyes cry and make you by the DVD. This is such a beautiful, emotional and deep motion picture, a small gem in a rough see of crappy movies, this one really has quality, guts and heart. If you’ve never heard of this movie, you are now free to leave the room and be ashamed of yourself. (Amazon)

Appaloosa

I had really low expectations, but with some really classy actors, a good dose of R-rated action and some really cool scenes, this is a nice western actioner that makes for perfect prime time entertainment and shows that there are still westerns out there that clearly weren’t made to show that there are good westerns out there but, and I know this sounds complicated, to show that you can just make a decent movie that by chance just so happens to be a western. And that’s the secret: you don’t have to try too hard, just make a great movie. (Amazon)

3:10 to Yuma

A remake, yes, but Mangold knows his trade, and the cast he assembles here doesn’t leave room for much doubt. It is the only movie on this list I had to think twice, as I think it is a bit too Hollywood-ish, but then again consider it the “light appetizer”. Definitely very entertaining and with lots of punch, and with quite a few movie references. (Amazon)

Dances With Wolves

Heaven's Gate poster

Poster for Heaven’s Gate

Say what you want, but this movie is amazing. I am of course talking about the long version, not the short one. An amazing so-so retelling of the Pocahontas story-concept, a beautiful testimony to the conquest of the American west, a fascinating character study and an epic, overwhelming western movie with enough pseudo-realism to almost make you forget it isn’t a western. At the same time it is a sad reminder of the injustices that befell the Native American peoples when their continent was taken from them. One of the best movies of all times, I think. (Amazon)

Maverick

A western doesn’t have to take place in the dusty plains, how about the poker table? That’s why I love this movie, it’s a different setting, a different pace, and just tons of fun. Mel Gibson when he was still cool. I do think this would’ve been even better with more raunchiness and grit, but hey, it’s fun! (Amazon)

Heaven’s Gate

Unfortunately this one is famous for sinking United Artists, and being one of the biggest box office bombs in movie history. At the same time however, despite its length and tough to swallow subject matter, it is an excellent epic period piece without which there would be no There Will Be Blood and no Boardwalk Empire. Cimino is a cinematic genius, not a business man. This movie is like traveling through time. (Amazon)

ALRIGHT, I hope that was enough inspiration for some of you readers, as always we’ve attached some fitting Amazon picks below, and we look forward to reading your comments and additions. Disagree with my list? Hey, please do, I am curious what changes you would make to it.

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Sebastian

Founder of FuriousCinema.com, also started Tarantino.info, Spaghetti-western.net, Nischenkino.de and a few others. I love furious movies!

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6 Responses

  1. I love the opening line: Top lists always suck. Ya know, I agree. Thats why I never do em. This is the first Top 10 list Ive done in years.

  2. Paul Vernon says:

    Have any of you checked out VERMIJO on Amazon where it is free if you have Prime.
    A pretty decent low budget indie western – even if I do say so myself!

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