Best Western Movies of All Time

Welcome to Rotten Tomatoes’ list of the 100 best-reviewed Western movies of all time, sorted by Adjusted Tomatometer with at least 20 reviews for each selection. Additionally, we picked only classical period films, so you get outta here with that Best Picture-winning neo-Western nonsense! Now, it’s time to put on your best pa-avenging chaps, slide a bad hombre down the saloon bar top, and ride on to see how the West was Fresh!

#100
Adjusted Score: 72815%
Critics Consensus: A visually stunning film that may be too predictable and politically correct for adults, but should serve children well.
Synopsis: Follows the adventures of a wild and rambunctious mustang stallion as he journeys through the untamed American frontier. Encountering man... [More]
Directed By: Kelly Asbury, Lorna Cook

#99

The Salvation (2014)
72%

#99
Adjusted Score: 73630%
Critics Consensus: It's all but impossible to add anything new or fresh to the traditional Western, but -- thanks in no small part to Mads Mikkelson's performance -- The Salvation comes close.
Synopsis: After shooting the man who murdered his wife, a Danish settler (Mads Mikkelsen) incurs the wrath of the man's brother... [More]
Directed By: Kristian Levring

#98

Blackthorn (2011)
75%

#98
Adjusted Score: 76231%
Critics Consensus: Blackthorn invites comparisons to a classic Western -- and survives, thanks largely to a charismatic performance by a well-chosen Sam Shepard.
Synopsis: Leaving Bolivia and heading back to the U.S., the outlaw formerly known as Butch Cassidy (Sam Shepard) has a final... [More]
Directed By: Mateo Gil

#97
#97
Adjusted Score: 82937%
Critics Consensus: The Magnificent Seven never really lives up to the superlative in its title -- or the classics from which it draws inspiration -- but remains a moderately diverting action thriller on its own merits.
Synopsis: Looking to mine for gold, greedy industrialist Bartholomew Bogue seizes control of the Old West town of Rose Creek. With... [More]
Directed By: Antoine Fuqua

#96

Dead Man (1995)
71%

#96
Adjusted Score: 74039%
Critics Consensus: While decidedly not for all tastes, Dead Man marks an alluring change of pace for writer-director Jim Jarmusch that demonstrates an assured command of challenging material.
Synopsis: Circumstances transform a mild-mannered accountant (Johnny Depp) into a notorious Old West gunslinger.... [More]
Directed By: Jim Jarmusch

#95
#95
Adjusted Score: 76015%
Critics Consensus: With a vibrant pastel color scheme and stylized action sequences, Tears of the Black Tiger is a bizarre, yet thoroughly entertaining Thai western.
Synopsis: A handsome bandit (Chartchai Ngamsan) falls in love with a wealthy woman (Stella Malucchi) while a policeman pursues the man's... [More]
Directed By: Wisit Sasanatieng

#94
#94
Adjusted Score: 75687%
Critics Consensus: It might be a bit too eager to tug the heartstrings, but The Horse Whisperer is typically graceful, well-crafted Redford -- on both sides of the camera.
Synopsis: When teenage Grace (Scarlett Johansson) is traumatized by a riding accident that badly injures her horse, her mother Annie (Kristin... [More]
Directed By: Robert Redford

#93

The Keeping Room (2014)
74%

#93
Adjusted Score: 78720%
Critics Consensus: Aided by its spare setting and committed performances, The Keeping Room is just fascinatingly off-kilter enough to overcome its frustrating stumbles.
Synopsis: During the waning days of the Civil War, two Southern sisters (Brit Marling, Hailee Steinfeld) and a slave (Muna Otaru)... [More]
Directed By: Daniel Barber

#92
#92
Adjusted Score: 79588%
Critics Consensus: In a Valley of Violence offers a smartly conceived homage to classic Westerns that transcends pastiche with absurdist humor and a terrific cast.
Synopsis: A mysterious drifter (Ethan Hawke) and his dog journey toward Mexico through the barren desert of the Old West. Hoping... [More]
Directed By: Ti West

#91

Silverado (1985)
76%

#91
Adjusted Score: 78315%
Critics Consensus: Boasting rich detail and well-told story, Silverado is a rare example of an '80s Hollywood Western done right.
Synopsis: Rambling man Emmett (Scott Glenn) assembles a group of misfit cowboys (Kevin Costner), (Kevin Kline, Danny Glover). After helping a... [More]
Directed By: Lawrence Kasdan

#90
#90
Adjusted Score: 81355%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A merciless cowboy sets out on a dangerous journey across the frontier, determined to do whatever it takes to avenge... [More]
Directed By: Jared Moshé

#89

Duel in the Sun (1946)
78%

#89
Adjusted Score: 80007%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Tragedy seems to follow Pearl Chavez (Jennifer Jones) everywhere she goes. After a domestic dispute results in the death of... [More]
Directed By: King Vidor

#88

Red Hill (2010)
79%

#88
Adjusted Score: 80929%
Critics Consensus: Though its attempts to rework genre conventions may fall flat with some, Red Hill is a beautifully shot, tightly paced thriller that marks a strong debut for director Patrick Hughes.
Synopsis: A rookie cop (Ryan Kwanten) must contend with an escaped murderer (Tom E. Lewis) who has come to town seeking... [More]
Directed By: Patrick Hughes

#87

Hostiles (2017)
71%

#87
Adjusted Score: 83456%
Critics Consensus: Hostiles benefits from stunning visuals and a solid central performance from Christian Bale, both of which help elevate its uneven story.
Synopsis: In 1892, legendary Army Capt. Joseph Blocker reluctantly agrees to escort a dying Cheyenne war chief and his family back... [More]
Directed By: Scott Cooper

#86

Appaloosa (2008)
76%

#86
Adjusted Score: 82353%
Critics Consensus: A traditional genre western, Appaloosa sets itself apart with smart psychology, an intriguing love triangle, and good chemistry between the leads.
Synopsis: Virgil Cole (Ed Harris) and his longtime friend and partner Everett Hitch (Viggo Mortensen) travel the 1880s Southwest, bringing justice... [More]
Directed By: Ed Harris

#85
Adjusted Score: 82891%
Critics Consensus: On the strength of its two lead performances Assassination is an expertly crafted period piece, and an insightful look at one of the enduring figures of American lore.
Synopsis: Infamous and unpredictable, Jesse James (Brad Pitt), nicknamed the fastest gun in the west, plans his next big heist while... [More]
Directed By: Andrew Dominik

#84
Adjusted Score: 82914%
Critics Consensus: Back to the Future Part III draws the trilogy to a satisfying close with a simpler, sweeter round of time-travel antics.
Synopsis: In this final chapter, Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) obtains a 70-year-old message from the time-traveling Dr. Emmett Brown (Christopher... [More]
Directed By: Robert Zemeckis

#83

Tombstone (1993)
74%

#83
Adjusted Score: 76459%
Critics Consensus: If you're seeking a stylish modern western with a solid story and a well-chosen ensemble cast, Tombstone is your huckleberry.
Synopsis: Wyatt Earp (Kurt Russell) and his brothers, Morgan (Bill Paxton) and Virgil (Sam Elliott), have left their gunslinger ways behind... [More]
Directed By: George P. Cosmatos

#82

The Wind (2018)
81%

#82
Adjusted Score: 84591%
Critics Consensus: Imperfect yet intriguing, The Wind offers horror fans an admirably ambitious story further distinguished by its fresh perspective and effective scares.
Synopsis: Lizzy is a tough, resourceful frontierswoman settling a remote stretch of land on the 19th-century American frontier. Isolated from civilization... [More]
Directed By: Emma Tammi

#81
Adjusted Score: 82802%
Critics Consensus: Whilst never taking itself too seriously, this riotous and rollicking Sergio Leone-inspired Korean Western is serious fun.
Synopsis: In 1930s Manchuria, an encounter on a train triggers an epic crusade for a treasure map, prompting a marathon chase... [More]
Directed By: Kim Jee-woon

#80

Shanghai Noon (2000)
79%

#80
Adjusted Score: 83982%
Critics Consensus: Although the plot is really nothing to brag about, Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson work well together. The cinematography looks great, and Jackie delivers a hilarious performance. This is an old-fashioned crowd-pleaser.
Synopsis: Bumbling Chon Wang (Jackie Chan) works as an Imperial guard in the Forbidden City of China. When Princess Pei Pei... [More]
Directed By: Tom Dey

#79

Open Range (2003)
79%

#79
Adjusted Score: 85226%
Critics Consensus: Greatly benefiting from the tremendous chemistry between Kevin Costner and Robert Duvall, Open Range is a sturdy modern Western with classic roots.
Synopsis: Boss Spearman (Robert Duvall) and his cowhands Charley (Kevin Costner) and Mose (Abraham Benrubi) are driving cattle across a large... [More]
Directed By: Kevin Costner

#78

El topo (1971)
80%

#78
Adjusted Score: 83304%
Critics Consensus: By turns intoxicating and confounding, El Topo contains the creative multitudes that made writer-director Alejandro Jodorowsky such a singular talent.
Synopsis: A black-clad gunfighter (Alejandro Jodorowsky) embarks on a symbolic quest in an Old West version of Sodom and Gomorrah.... [More]
Directed By: Alejandro Jodorowsky

#77

The Long Riders (1980)
81%

#77
Adjusted Score: 82889%
Critics Consensus: With its pared down storytelling, The Long Riders delivers with an evocative atmosphere and artful brutality.
Synopsis: During a bank robbery by the legendary James-Younger Gang, Ed Miller (Dennis Quaid) impulsively kills a man, much to the... [More]
Directed By: Walter Hill

#76
Adjusted Score: 91244%
Critics Consensus: Its unusual approach won't be for all viewers, but True History of the Kelly Gang takes a distinctively postmodern look at Australia's past.
Synopsis: An exploration of Australian bushranger Ned Kelly and his gang as they attempt to evade authorities during the 1870s.... [More]
Directed By: Justin Kurzel

#75

Hud (1963)
83%

#75
Adjusted Score: 85548%
Critics Consensus: A Western that swaps out the Hollywood glamor for shades of moral gray, Hud is a sobering showcase for a sterling ensemble of actors at the top of their respective games.
Synopsis: Hard-drinking, arrogant, womanizing Hud Bannon (Paul Newman) lives a self-centered, indolent life supported by his hard-working and morally upstanding father,... [More]
Directed By: Martin Ritt

#74

The Homesman (2014)
80%

#74
Adjusted Score: 85984%
Critics Consensus: A squarely traditional yet somewhat progressive Western, The Homesman adds another absorbing entry to Tommy Lee Jones' directorial résumé.
Synopsis: A frontier farm woman (Hilary Swank) saves the life of a claim-jumper (Tommy Lee Jones) and persuades him to help... [More]
Directed By: Tommy Lee Jones

#73
Adjusted Score: 86331%
Critics Consensus: Sam Peckinpah tips his hat in mournful salute to the bygone West in this somber showdown, pitting a James Coburn against Kris Kristofferson in a meditative game of cat and mouse.
Synopsis: Sheriff Pat Garrett (James Coburn) is ordered by Governor Wallace (Jason Robards) to go after the outlaw Billy the Kid... [More]
Directed By: Sam Peckinpah

#72
#72
Adjusted Score: 88087%
Critics Consensus: The Hateful Eight offers another well-aimed round from Quentin Tarantino's signature blend of action, humor, and over-the-top violence -- all while demonstrating an even stronger grip on his filmmaking craft.
Synopsis: While racing toward the town of Red Rock in post-Civil War Wyoming, bounty hunter John "The Hangman" Ruth (Kurt Russell)... [More]
Directed By: Quentin Tarantino

#71
#71
Adjusted Score: 87424%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Setting off on a journey to the west in the 1830s, the Prescott family run into a man named Linus... [More]

#70
#70
Adjusted Score: 87614%
Critics Consensus: Dances with Wolves suffers from a simplistic view of the culture it attempts to honor, but the end result remains a stirring western whose noble intentions are often matched by its epic grandeur.
Synopsis: A Civil War soldier develops a relationship with a band of Lakota Indians. Attracted by the simplicity of their lifestyle,... [More]
Directed By: Kevin Costner

#69

Meek's Cutoff (2010)
86%

#69
Adjusted Score: 90600%
Critics Consensus: Moving at a contemplative speed unseen in most westerns, Meek's Cutoff is an effective, intense journey of terror and survival in the untamed frontier.
Synopsis: During the 1840s, six settlers and their guide are caught in a dangerous situation: They are lost, food and water... [More]
Directed By: Kelly Reichardt

#68
Adjusted Score: 89657%
Critics Consensus: Tommy Lee Jones' directorial debut is both a potent western and a powerful morality tale.
Synopsis: When brash Texas border officer Mike Norton (Barry Pepper) wrongfully kills and buries the friend and ranch hand of Pete... [More]
Directed By: Tommy Lee Jones

#67

The Proposition (2005)
85%

#67
Adjusted Score: 90145%
Critics Consensus: Brutal, unflinching, and violent, but thought-provoking and with excellent performances, this Australian western is the one of the best examples of the genre to come along in recent times.
Synopsis: In 1880s Australia, a lawman (Ray Winstone) offers renegade Charlie Burns (Guy Pearce) a difficult choice. In order to save... [More]
Directed By: John Hillcoat

#66

City Slickers (1991)
91%

#66
Adjusted Score: 92853%
Critics Consensus: With a supremely talented cast and just enough midlife drama to add weight to its wildly silly overtones, City Slickers uses universal themes to earn big laughs.
Synopsis: Every year, three friends take a vacation away from their wives. This year, henpecked Phil (Daniel Stern), newly married Ed... [More]
Directed By: Ron Underwood

#65

Never Grow Old (2019)
90%

#65
Adjusted Score: 90378%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A once-peaceful frontier town becomes a den of vice after vicious outlaw Dutch Albert and his gang arrive and begin... [More]
Directed By: Ivan Kavanagh

#64

Westworld (1973)
85%

#64
Adjusted Score: 88554%
Critics Consensus: Yul Brynner gives a memorable performance as a robotic cowboy in this amusing sci-fi/western hybrid.
Synopsis: Westworld is a futuristic theme park where paying guests can pretend to be gunslingers in an artificial Wild West populated... [More]
Directed By: Michael Crichton

#63

The Shootist (1976)
87%

#63
Adjusted Score: 87582%
Critics Consensus: Simple in story while sophisticated in texture, The Shootist is a fittingly elegiac swan song for one of Hollywood's most iconic stars.
Synopsis: J.B. Books (John Wayne, in his final film role) is an aging gunfighter diagnosed with cancer who comes to Nevada... [More]
Directed By: Don Siegel

#62

Near Dark (1987)
81%

#62
Adjusted Score: 85530%
Critics Consensus: Near Dark is at once a creepy vampire film, a thrilling western, and a poignant family tale, with humor and scares in abundance.
Synopsis: Cowboy Caleb Colton (Adrian Pasdar) meets gorgeous Mae (Jenny Wright) at a bar, and the two have an immediate attraction.... [More]
Directed By: Kathryn Bigelow

#61
#61
Adjusted Score: 88631%
Critics Consensus: McCabe & Mrs. Miller offers revisionist Western fans a landmark early addition to the genre while marking an early apogee for director Robert Altman.
Synopsis: Charismatic gambler John McCabe (Warren Beatty) arrives in a mining community and decides to open a brothel. The local residents... [More]
Directed By: Robert Altman

#60

Mystery Road (2013)
92%

#60
Adjusted Score: 91692%
Critics Consensus: Mystery Road evokes classic Westerns while using its Australian outback setting to delve into a surprisingly layered -- and powerfully impactful -- array of social issues.
Synopsis: An aboriginal detective returns to the Outback to investigate the murder of a teenage girl.... [More]
Directed By: Ivan Sen

#59
#59
Adjusted Score: 92431%
Critics Consensus: The Magnificent Seven transplants Seven Samurai into the Old West with a terrific cast of Hollywood stars -- and without losing any of the story's thematic richness.
Synopsis: A Mexican village is at the mercy of Calvera, the leader of a band of outlaws. The townspeople, too afraid... [More]
Directed By: John Sturges

#58

The Revenant (2015)
78%

#58
Adjusted Score: 102654%
Critics Consensus: As starkly beautiful as it is harshly uncompromising, The Revenant uses Leonardo DiCaprio's committed performance as fuel for an absorbing drama that offers punishing challenges -- and rich rewards.
Synopsis: While exploring the uncharted wilderness in 1823, frontiersman Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) sustains life-threatening injuries from a brutal bear attack.... [More]
Directed By:

#57
#57
Adjusted Score: 92981%
Critics Consensus: Duck, You Sucker is a saucy helping of spaghetti western, with James Coburn and Rod Steiger's chemistry igniting the screen and Sergio Leone's bravura style on full display.
Synopsis: At the beginning of the Mexican Revolution in 1913, greedy bandit Juan Miranda (Rod Steiger) and idealist John H. Mallory... [More]
Directed By: Sergio Leone

#56

Bone Tomahawk (2015)
91%

#56
Adjusted Score: 93392%
Critics Consensus: Bone Tomahawk's peculiar genre blend won't be for everyone, but its gripping performances and a slow-burning story should satisfy those in search of something different.
Synopsis: In the Old West, a sheriff (Kurt Russell), his deputy (Richard Jenkins), a gunslinger (Matthew Fox),and a cowboy (Patrick Wilson)... [More]
Directed By: S. Craig Zahler

#55
#55
Adjusted Score: 93711%
Critics Consensus: Recreating the essence of his iconic Man With No Name in a post-Civil War Western, director Clint Eastwood delivered the first of his great revisionist works of the genre.
Synopsis: Josey Wales (Clint Eastwood) watches helplessly as his wife and child are murdered, by Union men led by Capt. Terrill... [More]
Directed By: Clint Eastwood

#54
#54
Adjusted Score: 92722%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: In this classic Western, wanderers Gil Carter (Henry Fonda) and Art Croft (Henry Morgan) ride into a small Nevada town... [More]
Directed By: William Wellman

#53

Pale Rider (1985)
93%

#53
Adjusted Score: 93635%
Critics Consensus: Nearly a decade after The Outlaw Josey Wales, Clint Eastwood returns as a director to the genre that made his name with this elegant, spiritual Western that riffs on the classic Shane.
Synopsis: When property owner Coy LaHood (Richard Dysart) starts using a band of hooligans to terrorize a group of small-town gold... [More]
Directed By: Clint Eastwood

#52

True Grit (1969)
89%

#52
Adjusted Score: 95981%
Critics Consensus: True Grit rides along on the strength of a lived-in late-period John Wayne performance, adding its own entertaining spin to the oft-adapted source material.
Synopsis: After hired hand Tom Chaney (Jeff Corey) murders the father of 14-year-old Mattie Ross (Kim Darby), she seeks vengeance and... [More]
Directed By: Henry Hathaway

#51

El Mariachi (1992)
91%

#51
Adjusted Score: 96269%
Critics Consensus: Made on a shoestring budget, El Mariachi's story is not new. However, the movie has so much energy that it's thoroughly enjoyable.
Synopsis: El Mariachi (Carlos Gallardo) is a traveling guitar player with the modest desire to play music for a living. Looking... [More]
Directed By: Robert Rodriguez

#50

Cat Ballou (1965)
89%

#50
Adjusted Score: 92381%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: When hired gun Tim Strawn (Lee Marvin) kills her rancher father, Cat Ballou (Jane Fonda) becomes an outlaw set on... [More]
Directed By: Elliot Silverstein

#49

Rango (2011)
88%

#49
Adjusted Score: 95564%
Critics Consensus: Rango is a smart, giddily creative burst of beautifully animated entertainment, and Johnny Depp gives a colorful vocal performance as a household pet in an unfamiliar world.
Synopsis: A chameleon (Johnny Depp) who has lived as a sheltered family pet finds himself in the grip of an identity... [More]
Directed By: Gore Verbinski

#48
#48
Adjusted Score: 93959%
Critics Consensus: With Clint Eastwood in the lead, Ennio Morricone on the score, and Sergio Leone's stylish direction, For a Few Dollars More earns its recognition as a genre classic.
Synopsis: In the Wild West, a murderous outlaw known as El Indio (Gian Maria Volonte) and his gang are terrorizing and... [More]
Directed By: Sergio Leone

#47

Blazing Saddles (1974)
88%

#47
Adjusted Score: 93998%
Critics Consensus: Daring, provocative, and laugh-out-loud funny, Blazing Saddles is a gleefully vulgar spoof of Westerns that marks a high point in Mel Brooks' storied career.
Synopsis: In this satirical take on Westerns, crafty railroad worker Bart (Cleavon Little) becomes the first black sheriff of Rock Ridge,... [More]
Directed By: Mel Brooks

#46
#46
Adjusted Score: 98364%
Critics Consensus: The Sisters Brothers rides familiar genre trails in occasionally unexpected ways - a satisfying journey further elevated by its well-matched leading men.
Synopsis: It's 1851, and Charlie and Eli Sisters are both brothers and assassins, boys grown to men in a savage and... [More]
Directed By: Jacques Audiard

#45

Lone Star (1996)
94%

#45
Adjusted Score: 95436%
Critics Consensus: Smart and absorbing, Lone Star represents a career high point for writer-director John Sayles -- and '90s independent cinema in general.
Synopsis: In the Texas border town of Frontera, Sheriff Sam Deeds (Chris Cooper) digs up the past when he finds an... [More]
Directed By: John Sayles

#44
Adjusted Score: 94836%
Critics Consensus: With its iconic pairing of Paul Newman and Robert Redford, jaunty screenplay and Burt Bacharach score, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid has gone down as among the defining moments in late-'60s American cinema.
Synopsis: The true story of fast-draws and wild rides, battles with posses, train and bank robberies, a torrid love affair and... [More]
Directed By: George Roy Hill

#43

3:10 to Yuma (2007)
89%

#43
Adjusted Score: 97719%
Critics Consensus: This remake of a classic Western improves on the original, thanks to fiery performances from Russell Crowe and Christian Bale as well as sharp direction from James Mangold.
Synopsis: Outlaw Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) terrorizes 1800s Arizona, especially the Southern Railroad, until he is finally captured. Wade must be... [More]
Directed By: James Mangold

#42

Slow West (2015)
92%

#42
Adjusted Score: 96050%
Critics Consensus: Slow West serves as an impressive calling card for first-time writer-director John M. Maclean -- and offers an inventive treat for fans of the Western.
Synopsis: A bounty hunter (Michael Fassbender) keeps his true motive a secret from the naive Scottish teenager (Kodi Smit-McPhee) he's offered... [More]
Directed By: John Maclean

#41

Bisbee '17 (2018)
93%

#41
Adjusted Score: 95855%
Critics Consensus: Bisbee '17 offers one town's reckoning with its own history as a compelling argument that the mistakes of the past are truly corrected only when they're faced head on.
Synopsis: Locals stage re-creations of the town's controversial past.... [More]
Starring:
Directed By: Robert Greene

#40

Jeremiah Johnson (1972)
95%

#40
Adjusted Score: 96484%
Critics Consensus: Jeremiah Johnson's deliberate pace demands an investment from the viewer, but it's rewarded with a thoughtful drama anchored by a starring performance from Robert Redford.
Synopsis: A Mexican-American War veteran, Jeremiah Johnson (Robert Redford), heads to the mountains to live in isolation. Woefully unequipped for the... [More]
Directed By: Sydney Pollack

#39

Nighthawk (2019)
93%

#39
Adjusted Score: 103391%
Critics Consensus: Formally thrilling and narratively daring, Bacurau draws on modern Brazilian sociopolitical concerns to deliver a hard-hitting, genre-blurring drama.
Synopsis: ... [More]

#38
Adjusted Score: 97289%
Critics Consensus: Featuring a trio of classic leading men and a rich story captured by a director at the peak of his craft, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is one of the finest Westerns ever filmed.
Synopsis: Questions arise when Senator Stoddard (James Stewart) attends the funeral of a local man named Tom Doniphon (John Wayne) in... [More]
Directed By: John Ford

#37

Django Unchained (2012)
86%

#37
Adjusted Score: 98832%
Critics Consensus: Bold, bloody, and stylistically daring, Django Unchained is another incendiary masterpiece from Quentin Tarantino.
Synopsis: Two years before the Civil War, Django (Jamie Foxx), a slave, finds himself accompanying an unorthodox German bounty hunter named... [More]
Directed By: Quentin Tarantino

#36
#36
Adjusted Score: 94235%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: The last job of Calvary Captain Nathan Brittles (John Wayne) before retirement is to soothe relations with the Cheyenne and... [More]
Directed By: John Ford

#35

Johnny Guitar (1954)
94%

#35
Adjusted Score: 97727%
Critics Consensus: Johnny Guitar confidently strides through genre conventions, emerging with a brilliant statement that transcends its period setting -- and left an indelible mark.
Synopsis: On the outskirts of town, the hard-nosed Vienna (Joan Crawford) owns a saloon frequented by the undesirables of the region,... [More]
Directed By: Nicholas Ray

#34
#34
Adjusted Score: 95220%
Critics Consensus: Clint Eastwood's sophomore outing as director sees him back in the saddle as a mysterious stranger, as the result is one of his most memorable Westerns.
Synopsis: In this Western, a drifter with no name (Clint Eastwood) wanders into a small town, where his gun-slinging abilities are... [More]
Directed By: Clint Eastwood

#33

Wind River (2017)
87%

#33
Adjusted Score: 105882%
Critics Consensus: Wind River lures viewers into a character-driven mystery with smart writing, a strong cast, and a skillfully rendered setting that delivers the bitter chill promised by its title.
Synopsis: Cory Lambert is a wildlife officer who finds the body of an 18-year-old woman on an American Indian reservation in... [More]
Directed By: Taylor Sheridan

#32

Sweetgrass (2009)
97%

#32
Adjusted Score: 97720%
Critics Consensus: At once tender and unsentimental, Sweetgrass gracefully captures the beauty and hardships of a dying way of life.
Synopsis: This spare documentary follows a group of shepherds as they guide hundreds of sheep through endless miles of Montana wilderness.... [More]
Starring:

#31
#31
Adjusted Score: 97841%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: The small town of Bottleneck is under the control of Kent (Brian Donlevy), a power-hungry boss who gets control over... [More]
Directed By: George Marshall

#30

Little Big Man (1970)
96%

#30
Adjusted Score: 98134%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: When a curious oral historian (William Hickey) turns up to hear the life story of 121-year-old Jack Crabb (Dustin Hoffman),... [More]
Directed By: Arthur Penn

#29

Sweet Country (2017)
96%

#29
Adjusted Score: 99975%
Critics Consensus: Sweet Country makes brilliant use of the Australian outback as the setting for a hard-hitting story that satisfies as a character study as well as a sociopolitical statement.
Synopsis: An Aboriginal man goes on the run after he kills a white man in self-defense.... [More]
Directed By: Warwick Thornton

#28

3:10 to Yuma (1957)
96%

#28
Adjusted Score: 98807%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Dan Evans (Van Heflin), a drought-plagued Arizona rancher, volunteers to take captured stagecoach robber and murderer Ben Wade (Glenn Ford)... [More]
Directed By: Delmer Daves

#27

The Misfits (1961)
97%

#27
Adjusted Score: 98557%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: While filing for a divorce, beautiful ex-stripper Roslyn Taber (Marilyn Monroe) ends up meeting aging cowboy-turned-gambler Gay Langland (Clark Gable)... [More]
Directed By: John Huston

#26

The Wild Bunch (1969)
90%

#26
Adjusted Score: 98142%
Critics Consensus: The Wild Bunch is Sam Peckinpah's shocking, violent ballad to an old world and a dying genre.
Synopsis: In this gritty Western classic, aging outlaw Pike Bishop (William Holden) prepares to retire after one final robbery. Joined by... [More]
Directed By: Sam Peckinpah

#25
Adjusted Score: 103035%
Critics Consensus: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs avoids anthology pitfalls with a consistent collection tied together by the Coen brothers' signature blend of dark drama and black humor.
Synopsis: An anthology of six short films that take place in 19th-century post-Civil War era during the settling of the Old... [More]
Directed By: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

#24
#24
Adjusted Score: 98958%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: When John J. Macreedy (Spencer Tracy), a one-armed war veteran, arrives in the small desert town of Black Rock, he's... [More]
Directed By: John Sturges

#23

Giant (1956)
91%

#23
Adjusted Score: 95315%
Critics Consensus: Giant earns its imposing name with a towering narrative supported by striking cinematography, big ideas, and powerful work from a trio of legendary Hollywood leads.
Synopsis: Wealthy Texas rancher Bick Benedict (Rock Hudson) shakes things up at home when he returns from a trip to the... [More]
Directed By: George Stevens

#22

Major Dundee (1965)
97%

#22
Adjusted Score: 101639%
Critics Consensus: Major Dundee is a Western-type with big war scenes, shot with bombast typical of Sam Peckinpah.
Synopsis: During the end of the Civil War, Major Dundee guards Confederate prisoners, Union deserters and ordinary hard-bitten criminals in a... [More]
Directed By: Sam Peckinpah

#21

The Shooting (1967)
100%

#21
Adjusted Score: 101199%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: In the American West, Willet Gashade (Warren Oates), a former bounty hunter, and Coley Boyard (Will Hutchins), his dimwitted partner,... [More]
Directed By: Monte Hellman

#20

Shane (1953)
97%

#20
Adjusted Score: 100585%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Enigmatic gunslinger Shane (Alan Ladd) rides into a small Wyoming town with hopes of quietly settling down as a farmhand.... [More]
Directed By: George Stevens

#19
Adjusted Score: 103436%
Critics Consensus: A landmark Sergio Leone spaghetti western masterpiece featuring a classic Morricone score.
Synopsis: There's a single piece of land around Flagstone with water on it, and rail baron Morton (Gabriele Ferzetti) aims to... [More]
Directed By: Sergio Leone

#18

El Dorado (1967)
100%

#18
Adjusted Score: 101529%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Heartless tycoon Bart Jason (Edward Asner) hires a group of thugs to force the MacDonald family out of El Dorado... [More]
Directed By: Howard Hawks

#17

Old Yeller (1957)
100%

#17
Adjusted Score: 101991%
Critics Consensus: Old Yeller is an exemplary coming of age tale, packing an emotional wallop through smart pacing and a keen understanding of the elemental bonding between humanity and their furry best friends.
Synopsis: While Jim Coates (Fess Parker) is off on a cattle drive, his wife, Katie (Dorothy McGuire), and sons, Travis (Tommy... [More]
Directed By: Robert Stevenson

#16

Fort Apache (1948)
100%

#16
Adjusted Score: 102014%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: When arrogant and stubborn Civil War hero Lieutenant Colonel Owen Thursday (Henry Fonda) arrives in Arizona with his daughter, Philadelphia... [More]
Directed By: John Ford

#15

The Rider (2017)
97%

#15
Adjusted Score: 108143%
Critics Consensus: The Rider's hard-hitting drama is only made more effective through writer-director Chloé Zhao's use of untrained actors to tell the movie's fact-based tale.
Synopsis: After a riding accident leaves him unable to compete on the rodeo circuit, a young cowboy searches for a new... [More]
Directed By: Chloé Zhao

#14
#14
Adjusted Score: 102507%
Critics Consensus: With Akira Kurosawa's Yojimbo as his template, Sergio Leone's A Fistful of Dollars helped define a new era for the Western and usher in its most iconic star, Clint Eastwood.
Synopsis: The Man With No Name (Clint Eastwood) enters the Mexican village of San Miguel in the midst of a power... [More]
Directed By: Sergio Leone

#13
#13
Adjusted Score: 105781%
Critics Consensus: Bolstered by powerful lead performances from Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin, and Tommy Lee Jones, No Country for Old Men finds the Coen brothers spinning cinematic gold out of Cormac McCarthy's grim, darkly funny novel.
Synopsis: While out hunting, Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) finds the grisly aftermath of a drug deal. Though he knows better, he... [More]
Directed By: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

#12

Winchester '73 (1950)
100%

#12
Adjusted Score: 102113%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Lin McAdam (James Stewart) pursues notorious outlaw Henry "Dutch" Brown (Millard Mitchell) into Dodge City, Kansas. There, in an effort... [More]
Directed By: Anthony Mann

#11

Red River (1948)
100%

#11
Adjusted Score: 103323%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Headstrong Thomas Dunson (John Wayne) starts a thriving Texas cattle ranch with the help of his faithful trail hand, Groot... [More]
Directed By: Howard Hawks

#10

The Searchers (1956)
96%

#10
Adjusted Score: 100777%
Critics Consensus: The Searchers is an epic John Wayne Western that introduces dark ambivalence to the genre that remains fashionable today.
Synopsis: In this revered Western, Ethan Edwards (John Wayne) returns home to Texas after the Civil War. When members of his... [More]
Directed By: John Ford

#9
#9
Adjusted Score: 103050%
Critics Consensus: Canny and coolly confident, My Darling Clementine is a definitive dramatization of the Wyatt Earp legend that shoots from the hip and hits its target in breezy style.
Synopsis: In the middle of a long cattle drive, Wyatt Earp (Henry Fonda) and his brothers stop off for a night... [More]
Directed By: John Ford

#8

Unforgiven (1992)
96%

#8
Adjusted Score: 105273%
Critics Consensus: As both director and star, Clint Eastwood strips away decades of Hollywood varnish applied to the Wild West, and emerges with a series of harshly eloquent statements about the nature of violence.
Synopsis: When prostitute Delilah Fitzgerald (Anna Thomson) is disfigured by a pair of cowboys in Big Whiskey, Wyoming, her fellow brothel... [More]
Directed By: Clint Eastwood

#7

True Grit (2010)
95%

#7
Adjusted Score: 105689%
Critics Consensus: Girded by strong performances from Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, and newcomer Hailee Steinfeld, and lifted by some of the Coens' most finely tuned, unaffected work, True Grit is a worthy companion to the Charles Portis book.
Synopsis: After an outlaw named Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin) murders her father, feisty 14-year-old farm girl Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) hires... [More]
Directed By: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

#6
#6
Adjusted Score: 114023%
Critics Consensus: Hell or High Water offers a solidly crafted, well-acted Western heist thriller that eschews mindless gunplay in favor of confident pacing and full-bodied characters.
Synopsis: Toby is a divorced father who's trying to make a better life for his son. His brother Tanner is an... [More]
Directed By: David Mackenzie

#5

Rio Bravo (1959)
98%

#5
Adjusted Score: 100829%
Critics Consensus: Rio Bravo finds director Howard Hawks -- and his stellar ensemble cast -- working at peak performance, and the end result is a towering classic of the Western genre.
Synopsis: When gunslinger Joe Burdette (Claude Akins) kills a man in a saloon, Sheriff John T. Chance (John Wayne) arrests him... [More]
Directed By: Howard Hawks

#4

Stagecoach (1939)
100%

#4
Adjusted Score: 104114%
Critics Consensus: Typifying the best that the Western genre has to offer, Stagecoach is a rip-roaring adventure given dramatic heft by John Ford's dynamic direction and John Wayne's mesmerizing star turn.
Synopsis: John Ford's landmark Western revolves around an assorted group of colorful passengers aboard the Overland stagecoach bound for Lordsburg, New... [More]
Directed By: John Ford

#3

High Noon (1952)
95%

#3
Adjusted Score: 103655%
Critics Consensus: A classic of the Western genre that broke with many of the traditions at the time, High Noon endures -- in no small part thanks to Gary Cooper's defiant, Oscar-winning performance.
Synopsis: Former marshal Will Kane (Gary Cooper) is preparing to leave the small town of Hadleyville, New Mexico, with his new... [More]
Directed By: Fred Zinnemann

#2
Adjusted Score: 106494%
Critics Consensus: Remade but never duplicated, this darkly humorous morality tale represents John Huston at his finest.
Synopsis: In this classic adventure film, two rough-and-tumble wanderers, Dobbs (Humphrey Bogart) and Curtin (Tim Holt), meet up with a veteran... [More]
Directed By: John Huston

#1
Adjusted Score: 104467%
Critics Consensus: Arguably the greatest of the spaghetti westerns, this epic features a compelling story, memorable performances, breathtaking landscapes, and a haunting score.
Synopsis: In the Southwest during the Civil War, a mysterious stranger, Joe (Clint Eastwood), and a Mexican outlaw, Tuco (Eli Wallach),... [More]
Directed By: Sergio Leone

As any student of popular American cinema knows, the name Lawrence Kasdan is synonymous with some defining movie experiences among audiences of a certain age. One of Hollywood’s hot young screenwriters in the ’70s, Kasdan was enlisted by George Lucas to help pen The Empire Strikes Back, the film that — along with the Kasdan co-written Return of the Jedi — helped transform Star Wars from blockbuster movie into cultural myth. Soon after, Kasdan’s second film as director, The Big Chill, effectively captured — for better or worse — the feelings (and musical tastes) of a generation of Baby Boomers entering thirtysomething adult life. And between those films, Kasdan’s screenplay for Raiders of the Lost Ark was turned into another massive hit — and enduring piece of movie iconography — by Steven Spielberg.

As a director, Kasdan has moved from thrillers (Body Heat) to Westerns (Silverado, Wyatt Earp) to drama (Grand Canyon) and comedy (The Accidental Tourist), picking up four Oscar nominations along the way. He returns after a lengthy hiatus with this week’s Darling Companion, a comedy starring Kevin Kline and Diane Keaton about the search for a lost dog that brings on some typically Kasdan-esque moments of life assessment.

We sat down for a chat with Kasdan earlier this week, in which he talked about his new film, his long collaboration with Kline, and his favorite memory writing on Empire. Read on for that, but first, he talks about his five favorite movies.

Shampoo (Hal Ashby, 1975; 61% Tomatometer)



I have a 1000… I have a top 100. I can tell you five movies that are important to me, but as I say, I could go on and on. Shampoo is important to me. Hal Ashby, one of the great directors of our time, died very young, and is sometimes overlooked; but he did The Last Detail, and Being There, and he is a great director. And Robert Towne wrote the script with Warren Beatty. It’s a brilliant script, a portrait of LA at a certain time and the United States when we were going through a spasm of political activity that was very discouraging — it ends with the election of Nixon and Agnew. It’s hilarious, it’s sexy; it deals with all the variety of complications of people’s behavior. Jack Warden is brilliant in it; hilarious in one of the greatest scenes ever shot: At the end of the movie when Beatty comes back to his house and he thinks that Jack Warden’s gonna have him killed ’cause he’s slept with both Warden’s wife and his daughter, Carrie Fisher. It’s a great, great film, but Warden is brilliant in that scene. The movie is full of great writing; it’s almost like a French farce, but very modern. Beatty is at his absolute best. Everybody in it is great. Julie Christie’s a knockout. So that’s an important movie that not enough people have seen.

Yojimbo (Akira Kurosawa, 1961; 97% Tomatometer)



Yojimbo is the most entertaining movie ever made. Kurosawa’s flat-out entertaining. He said “I wanna make a movie that’s delicious enough to eat,” and that’s the way it is — it’s the most entertaining movie you can possibly think of. It’s been redone, as you know, as Fistful of Dollars, and it owes a lot to Red Harvest: It’s about any stranger that comes in to a corrupt town, and there are a lot forces at work. It’s very much like Red Harvest, Dashiell Hammett’s novel, in which he puts all the bad forces at work against each other. Yojimbo is hilarious. Toshirô Mifune in as great a role as he ever played, and he’s great in about 20 Kurosawa films. It’s just delightful from first shot, which is him walking along the road and then deciding where to go by throwing a stick up in the air and following the direction the stick lands, and he immediately comes upon a peasant boy who’s leaving home and wants a more exciting life, and that boy is seen throughout the film as he becomes involved in the criminal element in town; and at the end Mifune spares his life and tells him to go back to eating rice or whatever he’s complained about at the very beginning. The photography is phenomenal. Kurosawa’s the greatest filmmaker of all time. The use of lenses, the mise en scène — absolutely spectacular.

Did you ever have the chance to meet him?

I met him once. It wasn’t like a long meeting. [Laughs] It was [in Los Angeles], he was being honored. The DGA gave him an award when he was 80 years old, and he said “I’m just beginning to understand what film is about.” I met John Huston that same night. It was quite a night.

Out of the Past (Jacques Tourneur, 1947; 96% Tomatometer)


Out of the Past is my favorite film noir. I ripped it off viciously and completely — that and Double Indemnity — for Body Heat. [Laughs]

Well, it’s a good one to rip off.

[Laughs] I just saw a thing with Springsteen from South by Southwest — did you see his speech? Fabulous. He talks about the Animals song, “We Gotta Get out of This Place,” and he says “That’s every song I’ve ever written.” And there’s no shame in that, when you’ve been inspired by… when someone’s spoken to all your issues and all your aesthetic. Out of the Past, directed by Jacques Tourneur and written by Daniel Mainwaring, based on a novel with a great title — Build My Gallows High. Mitchum is spectacular. Jane Greer, who was 21 years old or something, and seems like she’s 35, she’s a great femme fatale. Kirk Douglas is in the third lead, as the villain, and he’s beautiful — you can see why he’s gonna be a star in a matter of years; a couple of years later he was a big star, and he’s hilarious. The talk is some of the best dialogue ever written. There’s a moment when Jane Greer, who’s already betrayed Mitchum twice in the movie, comes in to once again try to work her spell on him, and she says “I’ve thought about you, I prayed for you” and he says, “You prayed, Kathie?” — and he says it with the greatest line reading of all time — “Get out of here, I’ve gotta sleep in this room.” So Out of the Past — see it.

Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (Stanley Kubrick, 1964; 100% Tomatometer)



Strangelove — you can watch it again and again. Brilliant. To me, maybe the funniest movie ever made. Huge variety in the styles of the movie. Some of it’s shot like cinéma vérité documentary. Some of it’s very stylized. The mise en scène changes radically. When you’re in the bomber it’s hand-held — it might as well be Richie Leacock, or one of the Pennebakers making a movie; that’s how free-form it is. Totally realistic, even though you have Slim Pickens as the pilot of the jet that’s taking the atomic bomb to Russia. He’s hilarious, and yet you have a sense of this is really what it looks like — what their equipment looks like, what the gauges and the codes look like. They do a really funny sequence where they open up their survival box and there’s a condom, and there’s a 45, and it’s totally believable. And of course it ends with Slim Pickens riding the atomic bomb down like a wild horse toward Russia, and the world ending. And Sterling Hayden, absolutely hilarious throughout the movie, and Sellers playing five parts, I think. The scenes between him and Sterling Hayden, where he’s the British officer who’s been assigned to this airbase and Sterling Hayden is completely wacko and is convinced that they’re stealing his precious bodily fluids, because when he had sex he felt depleted. [Laughs].

Red River (Howard Hawks, 1948; 100% Tomatometer)



One more. I’d have to say Red River. Great Western. John Wayne, Monty Clift — Monty Clift couldn’t be more wrong for a Western, and yet it totally works. When they finally have their fist fight at the end, they’ve taken and shot Wayne to even out the fight, because Wayne was about six inches taller than Clift, and 80 pounds heavier, and the fight works fine. The spirit of the cattle drive is extraordinary, the amount of drama that happens; the father and son struggle — in essence the Oedipal struggle, even though he’s not actually his son — between Clift and John Wayne, is magnificent. It’s pure Hawks: Men on the trail doing something dangerous, and doing it well. You can’t ask for a better Western. It talks about the whole opening of Texas, and it talks about the relationship between men. It talks about the dynamics of leadership, talks about betrayal. It’s Shakespearian, really, without any pretention. Pure Hawks.

Next, Kasdan chats about his new movie Darling Companion and reflects upon his favorite parts of writing The Empire Strikes Back.

 

Darling Companion revolves around the frantic search for a lost dog. The story is that you were inspired by you and your wife finding and losing your own dog, Mac?

Lawrence Kasdan: Yes, Mac. We rescued him and then we had him for a couple of years and then we lost him, in the mountains. We had gone away for a wedding with a friend and he got scared and he ran away. And we searched and searched and did all the things that are in the movie: We put it on the radio, we put signs everywhere, and we almost gave up, and then a woman we knew said, “Don’t give up — he’s out there.”

Was she similar to Ayelet Zurer’s psychic character in the film?

She is similar. She felt that she had an affinity for animals that was beyond the normal thing. She felt that she could tell that he was alive. But what she did that was most valuable for us, was she said, “You must not give up on this.” That really was the difference, I think.

And he’s still with you?

Yes. He’s at home, a few miles from here. He’s 14 years of age.

Some are calling this movie a part of a trilogy, along with The Big Chill (1983) and Grand Canyon (1991). Is there something in your mind that circles around every decade or so that makes you take stock of where you are in life?

I don’t think it’s a conscious thing, but obviously there is some sort of rhythm going on, because when I was in my ’30s I did make The Big Chill and in the ’40s I made Grand Canyon. And it’s not about generation. It’s about people that I knew, and concerns that we had, and raising two children in Los Angeles, and what’s it like to have your children move out — and that’s in Darling Companion.

It’s about How do you find that companion that’s gonna last you a lifetime? What makes someone special to you that you can trust them, that they’re gonna be there forever? They may not look right — like Richard Jenkins doesn’t look right to other people, but he’s the perfect man for the Dianne Wiest character. It’s about young love and it’s about old love. It’s about all the varieties of companionship.

Will you and Kevin Kline reunite in another 20 years for your Cocoon or On Golden Pond?

[Laughs] I don’t know — we may be ready for that sooner. [Laughs] The one thing I’ve realized is that you don’t know what’s gonna happen, and every time you get to make a movie, and every time you get to work with people you like, you’re really lucky. And that’s happened six times with Kevin. It’s been a real delight. I think he’s wonderful, and he’s really fun to work with. He can do anything. He was a great cowboy, he was a great rider, in Silverado (1985); he handled the guns really well. And then he was a Frenchman, and an Italian, and an American for me — he’s done everything. He’s the funniest guy I know.

The scene I liked best in the film is when Diane Keaton is trying to pop his dislocated shoulder back in, because it shows how good he is — how good both of them are — at simultaneously playing comedy and drama in the same moment.

I’m so glad you said that; that’s my favorite scene in the movie.

What is it about you and Kevin two that works as a collaboration?

I think it’s the trust: I trust his instincts, he trusts mine. If I say “Give me a little less, do a little less, do a little more,” he will do it. He’s all about the work. No ego. He’s all, “What’s the best way to do it?”, “What about this, what about that.” He gives you a million choices. You’re happy to see him when you get there in the morning.

How did you guys meet, originally?

I was casting Body Heat (1981) and there was an amazing explosion of talent in new York theater. I had seen a lot of people out in LA; I went to New York and I met Bill Hurt and Kevin Kline and John Heard and Chris Walken, they were all that age, they were all emerging at that moment. Quite a line up — and there were more. It was incredible period of acting in this country. I hired Bill Hurt for Body Heat, but I remembered Kline and said, “I gotta work with this guy.” He’d already won two TONYs at that point, I think. He could do anything: He’s an athlete, a dancer, a singer; everything. When I put together The Big Chill I wanted him at the center of it.

 

There’s an unmistakable line in Darling Companion, I think it’s spoken by Dianne Wiest’s character: “The dark side is strong…”

[Laughs]

You’d have to be one of the few writers to reference your own work like that and get away with it, because it’s now part of the popular lexicon. When you include a line like that, does it feel like you’re just pulling something out of the cultural ether or do you consciously remember, “I worked on that script”?

[Laughs] Oh, I remember it very well. That’s a very vivid time for me. I had just written Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) for those guys, and I went to give it to George [Lucas] and he said, “Do you wanna write Empire?” And I said, “Don’t you wanna read Raiders first?” He literally offered it to me as I handed it to him, and he said, “I’m gonna read it tonight, and if I don’t like it I’m gonna take back this offer for Empire.” But he liked it. [Laughs]

Lucky he liked it.

Yes. [Laughs] I remember working on it. We did it really fast. [Director Irvin] Kershner was involved. He was a fascinating guy. An odd choice for Empire, but he wound up making the best Star Wars movie, I think — even though the first one is really the breakthrough. That’s astounding, the first movie, ’cause no-one had thought like that before; but Empire, I think, is maybe the best one.

I’m not gonna argue with you.

[Laughs]

Do you have a favorite line that you wrote for that film?

Well there were a lot of things, you know. We invented the way Yoda would talk. When I started talking to George about it, he said, “We’ve got this character and I don’t know how he should talk. Should he talk backwards? How should he talk?” And I wrote all that stuff, and Frank Oz did that voice and he was spectacular. It’s amazing, to create something like that, and then have the whole world sort of embrace it.


Darling Companion opens in New York and LA this week, with more locations to follow.

Wes-Craven-600

(Photo by Frazer Harrison / Staff / Getty Images)

 

No director in recent history has made their particular genre as much their own as Wes Craven. The legendary helmer virtually redefined the horror movies with the likes of The Hills Have Eyes and The Nightmare on Elm Street. His very first film was the horrifically violent box-office smash The Last House on the Left. Unlike Elm Street – which is being reinvented without any input from Craven – Last House is being remade with the director’s blessing, under the stewardship of Dennis Iliadis, and hits UK screens this Friday. RT had some time with Craven, and with the scaremongering legend on the other end of our phone, we just couldn’t resist asking him for his five favourite films.


The Virgin Spring (1959) 87%

“Firstly I’m going to go for The Virgin Spring. It’s a film that may surprise people but it really had an impact on me and I was just amazed by it. I saw it in a relatively short period of my life when I was teaching at college. When I was younger I hadn’t been allowed to watch any because I went to a Baptist College, but by this time I had put the religion behind me and that was one of the first art films I saw and I was very impressed by it. I mean, I could list you a dozen movies from that era by European by European film directors by Godard, TruffautBreathless, 400 Blows, all those wonderful European movies.”

To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) 93%

“Thinking about my upbringing, this was actually one of the first movies I saw. I was about 15. I was always told that films were evil and such, but I started to realise what a load of crap it was that something this good should be forbidden. I had been allowed to read as much as I wanted when I was younger, so I recognised great art when I saw it, I just didn’t realise it would be at the cinema as well. And so I walked away from that. To Kill a Mockingbird was so important because it was such adult film-making – to see something that dealt with such an important issue and had such an enlightened outlook on the world.”

Red River (1948) 100%

“For some reason. I think the combination of the gruff, tyrannical old man pursuing the unruly, rebellious son really appeals to me. The scenario is, in some odd way, almost as scary as Freddy Krueger, you know! The evil father is an idea that’s really fascinating to me. Hawks is great, The Treasure of Sierra Madre, The Big Sleep… He could do the Salt-of-the-Earth very well. He was a very smooth director; a very good film architect in terms of his storytelling. That’s how he constructed this film, and got so deep into the characters.”

Night of the Living Dead (1968) 96%

“I saw this movie when it first came out and at that point I’d never see a horror film, believe it or not! I had a girlfriend at the time, she was an anthropology student, and she said, ‘I heard there’s this new film called Night of the Living Dead, c’mon lets go.’ Eventually we left and when we got there the theatre was buzzing before the film even started. And then it starts, and we’re in the cemetery with the brothers and sisters bickering and then the zombie lurches towards them! Some people are screaming, some were saying the lines of the characters and suddenly I was swept into it and jumping and laughing and afraid, and I realised that this guy Romero was incredible.

“It also made me realise that with a genre film, as long as it scared you, you could say anything; about politics, about psychology. It made me realise as well that fear is one of the primary thresholds you experience things through. Fear of anything – even sex – is scary! The first time you do it you’re like, ‘Oh my God, what am I doing? Am I going to fail?’ And you get through it and you realise it’s a wonderful thing. That’s what’s great about the horror genre is that you’re getting a load of people together in the cinema at the same place and the same time, having them all experience extreme fear, and come out alive at the end. It’s an uplifting experience and there’s a sense of elation.”

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) 89%

“This really scared me coming out of it. You knew it was made for 10 cents – that was obvious – but it actually had some fabulous performances. Some of the moments – like when Leatherface kicks open the door and comes after them – I mean your blood just runs cold. It was just amazingly visceral visual storytelling. A few years earlier, I was at college and I wrote a synopsis for a novel and my teacher feedback was “this would make a great movie!” And I was crestfallen, but it made me realise I had a great visual imagination as well, and for years I fought it but eventually realised that was the thing I could do.”

RT Obscura with Kim Newman

RT Obscura, the exclusive column by renowned critic Kim Newman, sees the writer plumbing the depths of the RT archive in search of some forgotten gems. In his 19th column, Kim explores an earlier take on the assassination of Jesse James, as Samuel Fuller’s first feature casts John Ireland in a powerful performance as Robert Ford years before Casey Affleck joined the party.

I Shot Jesse James, director-writer Sam Fuller‘s first feature covers much the same ground as The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, albeit inside 81 minutes and with a grafted-on three-way romance which sets up a peculiarly a-historical finish.

Fuller went on record as approving of Ford, deriding Jesse James’ Robin Hood reputation as a sham mask for a murderous hypocrite; however, in his film, Reed Hadley plays the outlaw as an upright Lincoln lookalike, which theoretically makes backshooting Bob (John Ireland) even more of a villain than he’s portrayed in print-the-legend biopics like Jesse James (where John Carradine wields a shaky gun to administer the treacherous shot). It wouldn’t be until Robert Duvall in Philip Kaufman‘s underrated The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid that we’d get a screen depiction of Jesse James as the kind of total bastard Fuller thought he was.

I Shot Jesse James

The opening of I Shot Jesse James is direct, gripping and unusual. It opens in the middle of a bank robbery, panning without benefit of establishing shots from credits that appear as posters on a wall to a close-up of Jesse holding a gun on a sweating clerk (Stanley Price) whose foot is inching closer to an alarm trigger (a very 20th Century-seeming device). The cashier sets off the alarm and shooting starts (if Fuller had really wanted to make Jesse a bad hat, he could have had the outlaw gutshoot the bank official), but the bandits get away — albeit without loot, and with Jesse personally saving a wounded Bob.

Then, we skip months and find Jesse living quietly as ‘Mr Howard’ and planning a return to crime and his wife (Barbara Woodell) nagging about the continued presence of ‘best friend’ Bob in the house. When Bob hears that there’s amnesty and a reward on offer for any of the gang who turns Jesse in, he thinks not of the cash but the freedom to walk down the street unmolested — mostly so he can marry his actress sweetheart Cynthy (Barbara Britton).

I Shot Jesse James

In a scene with a surprising gay undertone, Bob finds Jesse taking a bath and picks up a snazzy gun which Jesse gives him as a present. Jesse says ‘there’s my back’ and asks his friend to scrub it — Fuller shows a POV shot of Jesse’s naked back, with moles where the bullet holes would go. The next time Jesse turns his back on Bob, getting up to straighten a picture, the temptation is too much and Bob draws the gift gun and fires.

Of course, nothing works out as planned — the governor reneges on the reward (claiming it was for capture and conviction, not assassination), and Bob becomes one of the most hated men in the West. Fuller’s best scenes show Bob’s slide from puzzlement to self-hatred as he becomes aware of what he has done. Cynthy’s manager (J. Edward Bromberg) adds him to the bill in a re-enactment of his dark deed but on the first night, with an audience staring hatred at him, he is unable to go through with the charade.

RT Obscura with Kim Newman

In a saloon to steady his nerves, Bob is accosted by a singer (Robin Short) who serenades him with ‘The Ballad of Jesse James’, a song that repeatedly refers to him as ‘the dirty little coward who murdered Mr Howard’. Ireland and Short are superb in this exchange, especially when Bob tells the singer who he is and forces the man to continue the song. As the terrified troubadour goes on, he has a moment of dreadful sympathy for the hard-faced, self-hating man whose misery he is perpetuating.

Directly after these two horrible experiences, Bob is shot at from across the street by a gawky kid (Gene Collins) out to make a reputation as the man who gunned down the man who gunned down Jesse James (only Fuller would have this character plead with Bob to stop shooting back when he runs out of bullets). Most Westerns are about landscape and action, but Fuller delivers one-on-one stand-offs, confrontations and conversations, with shots of angry, agonised or neurotic characters staring directly at the camera: even the love scenes are suspenseful and vaguely disturbing.

I Shot Jesse James

Though Ireland’s complicated, ambiguous performance remains strong, Fuller clutters up the second half of the film with unlikely business. Aside from a sub-plot about Bob’s silver-mining partnership with a whiskery coot (Victor Killian) who could have come from a 1930s kiddie matinee Western, the storyline is sidetracked by Cynthy’s feelings for a rival named John Kelley (top-billed Preston Foster). Kelley winds in and out of the story, an ardent fan of Cynthy’s who gets a job as Marshal. When he cuts in on Bob’s girl, Kelley becomes the proxy instrument of the James Boys’ revenge.

Frank James (Tom Tyler) shows up in town and everyone expects him to gun down Bob, but he actually fells his enemy with gossip — striding into a saloon and telling Bob that Cynthy is seeing another man. This prompts a final shoot-out (Kelley tauntingly presents his back to the advancing killer) which leaves Bob dying in the dust. The real Edward O’Kelley, who shot Bob Ford, was more like that nameless kid out to make a fast rep — and it’s strange that a movie otherwise concerned with setting a record straight rethink him as a conventional hero (the 1953 oater Jack McCall, Desperado did the same for Wild Bill Hickock’s murderer).

I Shot Jesse James

However, even in this relatively less interesting section, Fuller delivers solid character moments — Britton’s best scene comes as she admits she’s put off telling Bob she won’t marry him because she’s terrified of her former lover. In 1949, the idea of psychological depth in a Western was relatively new — even the A-feature Westerns of the 1940s tended to be mythic rather than complex. Ireland, a supporting player in one of the key grown-up Westerns (Red River), usually played straight-out baddies (he plays different characters on the wrong side of Wyatt Earp in My Darling Clementine and The Gunfight at OK Corral) and was an inspired choice for Bob Ford.

Billing or not, this is a whole film about the agonies and yearnings of the sort of characters Ireland always played as taken-for-granted villains who snarl in a few scenes and get shot. By highlighting someone usually played as a minor character, this is almost a Western Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, and it’s Fuller and Ireland’s achievement that, decades before Andrew Dominik and Casey Affleck, he made audiences sympathise with the tragic Bob Ford. Ireland’s Bob dies admitting, “I want to tell you something I ain’t never told no one. I’m sorry for what I done to Jess … I loved him.”

Much has been made lately of singer-songwriter Bob Dylan‘s demands to screen the Weinstein Co.’s upcoming Oscar hopeful, but it’s only the latest in a growing trend of troubling rumors surrounding the Edie Sedgwick biopic.

"Factory Girl" has been buzzed about as Sienna Miller‘s big break, the role that could send the British actress from "Layer Cake" eye-candy to breakout star. Distributor Weinstein Co. even pushed the flick towards a last-minute December 29 release to qualify for awards season; months ago, Hollywood Elsewhere‘s Jeffrey Wells rough cut rave hailed it as a contender (and suggested there’s Oscar potential in both Miller’s star turn and co-star Guy Pearce‘s portrayal of Andy Warhol).


Miller as Sedgwick in "Factory Girl"

The film, directed by documentarian George Hickenlooper ("Hearts of Darkness," "Mayor of the Sunset Strip"), chronicles the up-down trajectory of Warhol celebutante Sedgwick, the pixie-headed model-actress who was briefly a member of the Factory in the 1960s, dated Bob Dylan, and died of a drug overdose in 1971. Miller herself is a dead-on doppelganger for Sedgwick and stars alongside Pearce, Hayden Christensen, Ileana Douglas, Mary-Kate Olsen, Jimmy Fallon, Mena Suvari, and various members of Weezer.

It’s Christensen’s character, "Billy Quinn," that has drawn the ire of Dylan and his lawyers; though the name is different, the character bears enough resemblance to the folk legend and implies that their break-up inadvertently led to Sedgwick’s demise. From the LA Times: "[The character] has Dylan’s mannerisms and sports a checked scarf like the one Dylan sports on the cover of his classic "Blonde on Blonde" album — on which, legend has it, Sedgwick inspired two songs, "Just Like a Woman" and "Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat."


Sedgwick (Miller) with Andy Warhol (Pearce)

Consequently, Dylan is demanding the film’s release and all early screenings be cancelled until he can view it and give his approval — or else producers Bob Yari and Holly Wiersma will be sued for defamation. (Coincidentally, Yari is the guy who was embroiled in a lawsuit around this time last year over snubbed producing credits for "Crash" and is currently in a public sparring match with Warner Bros. over what he considers a flawed Oscar campaign for his upcoming film, "The Painted Veil.")

Add that to recent rumors of Weinstein-mandated re-shoots and "Girl" champions might have cause to worry about the flick (and it’s stars’) chances come February. And then there’s the message board shouting match over at Cinematical about the Hickenlooper film, a failed competing Edie Sedgwick project, and a quite entertaining, if hard to follow, ensuing war of words from supporters of both camps (scroll down to the comments, it’s worth it!).

Elsewhere in Indie News

Sharon Stone To Play Jimmy Fallon’s MILF in Indie Pic


Stone in last year’s "Broken Flowers"

Jimmy Fallon and Sharon Stone are teaming up for the indie drama "Eliot Rockett." The film, which will begin shooting in February, tells the story of a workaholic/commitment-phobe man returning to his hometown due to a family illness; a reunion with his mother (Stone) rekindles his feelings of dysfunction. "Eliot Rockett" marks the directorial debut of co-screenwriter Patrick Sisam.

Lionsgate to Show Crowe’s "Tenderness"


Crowe earning his Golden Globe in "A Beautiful Mind"

The Russell Crowe-starrer "Tenderness" has been picked up by Lionsgate. The indie drama, which also features the talents of Laura Dern, Jon Foster, and Sophie Traub, tells the story of a cop on the trail of a serial killer, who’s become a bit too friendly with a local girl. The film is currently in post-production, and will likely hit theaters in late 2007.

Judge Unleashes "Alpha Dog"


"Alpha Dog": Coming to theaters before going to trial

It’s finally a go for teen crime flick "Alpha Dog," the Nick Cassavetes-helmed biopic based on the life of a young drug lord known as Jesse James Hollywood that premiered at Sundance nearly a year ago. Thanks to a federal judge’s ruling, Universal can release the film as planned this January; Hollywood’s defense attorney still maintains that releasing the flick will infringe upon his client’s right to a fair trial (to take place next year) and will continue to seek legal restraints.

The pic, starring Emile Hirsch, Justin Timberlake, Sharon Stone, Bruce Willis, and a lot more young Hollywood thesps, details the kidnapping and murder of a young man allegedly orchestrated by Hollywood, who consequently became the youngest person on the FBI’s most wanted list. The wealthy, fast-living criminal fled to Brazil, where he was apprehended in 2005.

Tomatometers for Last Week’s Limited Releases


Sarah Polley in Isabel Coixet’s "The Secret Life of Words"

Also playing this week in limited release: "The Secret Life of Words," starring Tim Robbins and Sarah Polley in a tale of high drama on an oil rig, is at 76 percent with 25 reviews; "Automatons," a zero-budget dystopian sci-fi flick, is at 67 percent with 6 reviews; "Breaking and Entering," a story of the tangled webs weaved after a burglary starring Jude Law and Juliette Binoche, is at 50 percent with 36 reviews; "The Good German," Steven Soderbergh‘s "Casablanca"-esque drama set in post-WWII Berlin starring George Clooney and Cate Blanchett, is at 33 percent with 70 reviews; and "Home of the Brave," about the trials of vets returning home from Iraq starring Samuel L. Jackson, Jessica Biel, and 50 Cent, is at 21 percent with 33 reviews.

Top Performing Limiteds



Penelope and Pedro, still going strong…

In the indie box office battle last week, Pedro Almodovar‘s "Volver" again claims the top spot, taking in a per screen average of $6,965 of 45 screens in its seventh week of release for a total of just under $2.9 million. The runner-up was the debut drama "The Secret Life of Words" starring Tim Robbins and Sarah Polley; it took in $5,309 in one theater. The suburban drama "Little Children" starring Kate Winslet came in third, claiming $3,695 on 21 screens in its 11th week of release (for a total of just over $2 million). The theatrical adaptation of "The History Boys" finished fourth, taking in $2,889 on 76 screens in its fourth week of release for a total of $795,000. Finally, the Bollywood drama/adventure, "Kabul Express," made $2,852 on 50 screens in its first week of release, for a total of $142,000.

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