#1 LONESOME DOVE 1989
This highly acclaimed mini-series, later turned into a movie, is quite simply the greatest western ever made or ever likely to be. Apart from the two principles, Robert Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones, everyone in the cast performs to the highest standards. I cannot think of a single dull moment in the picture’s entirety.
#2 TOMBSTONE 1993
Detractors would probably say this picture is far too stylised, and I agree with them. The West was never as clean as this. Nevertheless, I just love the characters and the snappy dialogue. Stephen Lang as Ike Clanton, Powers Boothe as Curly Bill Brocius, and Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday have a great time with their characters. Historically, it is pretty close to the mark as well.
#3 TRUE WOMEN 1997
If you watch this tele-movie be sure to see the 172 minute version (on DVD), and not the 97 minute cut down print. It is a bit of a ‘western-soapy’, I suppose, but Dana Delany, Annabeth Gish and Powers Boothe elevate it well beyond that. Frankly, I just enjoy the look and the ‘feel’ of it.
#4 GUNFIGHT AT THE OK CORRAL 1957
Tombstone handles the gunfight more accurately than does this picture, but other than that, this version stands up very well considering it was made over half a century ago. Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster are surprisingly good under the direction of John Sturges, and the cinematography is of the highest quality. A good western except for that crazy gunfight at the end.
#5 BUTCH CASSIDY & THE SUNDANCE KID 1969
Man was this a popular picture or not? Everybody and his dog went along to see its two charismatic stars, Paul Newman and Robert Redford strut their stuff, and few were disappointed. The picture has just the right mix of action and humor. Entertainment plus.
#6 TOM HORN 1980
Steve McQueen is a fine choice to play the enigmatic Horn. To this day there is still some doubt about whether or not he killed who was supposed to have killed, yet he seems to have been a man who was prepared to do just about anything if the price was right. McQueen makes an ordinary movie better than the sum of its parts.
#7 JEREMIAH JOHNSON 1972
If you thought life as a mountain man trapping beaver was tough, then this movie certainly confirms that opinion. As if the weather and wild animals weren’t enough to contend with, Jeremiah has half the Crow nation out to scalp him, so life was seldom dull. Based on the true story of one ‘Liver-Eatin’ Johnston.
#8 GERONIMO: AN AMERICAN LEGEND 1993
It has taken a while, but we are finally getting to see movies about American Indians that portray them as they really were, instead of one dimensional blood-thirsty killers. Wes Studi, who seems to play every type of Indian known to humankind, gives a strong performance in the title role.
#9 BROKEN ARROW 1950
Tom Jeffords must have had a lot of hard bark on him. Anyone who would boldly ride unarmed into Cochise’s Apache stronghold, just to ask him if he would allow the mail to go through his territory in safety, is one courageous man. Jeff Chandler became the first actor to play an Indian chief in a dignified manner in this film, a pioneer if you will. The movie is historically accurate if you don’t count the sappy love story that is.
#10 YOUNG GUNS
Billy the Kid was such an iconic figure in the old west, so I just had to include him in this list somewhere. Young Guns is no masterpiece, but it sticks reasonably close to the truth (more so than most pictures about ‘the Kid’ anyway). Then, of course, there is Emilio Estevez and that idiotic giggle…