I don’t about you, but for me, Red Dead Redemption was a Game of the Year-caliber game — the kind that has you calling in sick to work on launch day. I’m not saying that I’m obsessed with the release of its sequel, Red Dead Redemption 2. But there are teenage K-Pop fans who are more calm and mature about their pop culture crushes than I am about RDR2. (And I wouldn’t have had to change the screensaver on my phone to John Marston if my wife had gone along with my very reasonable request to put a poster of him in the living room.)
Given the anticipation for the game, Rockstar’s admirable-but-frustrating determination to take all the time it needs to produce a quality product has left us as sick as a dog passing peach pits in Larrabee’s old barn. (Or something like that. I’m not from the Old West, so colorful sayings don’t come naturally to me.)
But while we’re waiting, there is something we can do to pass the time and get in the right frame of mind to go huntin’ outlaws and raisin’ hell: watch a few movies that really evoke that cowboy spirit.
So here’s a short list of awesome Westerns that can help scratch that itch until RDR2 drops:
This movie is a classic from 1985. I know that probably dates me, but the hell with you young whippersnappers. Silverado is a solid Western and was written and directed by Lawrence Kasdan. If you don’t know the name, let me jog your memory with a few other movies he has done or been involved in, like: Raiders of the Lost Ark, Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back, and more recently Star Wars: The Force Awakens. You’re welcome.
Incidentally, this movie also has a great cast, including Scott Glen, Danny Glover, Kevin Kline, Kevin Costner, and Jeff Goldblum. Plus, John Cleese shows up to play a very British-y Western sheriff.
In this movie, we get to watch Ed Harris and Viggo Mortensen explore the classic Western story of the two lawmen protecting the small town from the local rancher. If two actors were ever born to play cowboys, it would have to be Harris and Mortenson, and they do an incredible job here. If you only think of Mortenson as a serious guy dragging around a sword, you will be pleasantly surprised to see that he confounds that stereotype by having a gun in this movie.
It’s a Tarantino western. With Kurt Russell. And Samuel Jackson. In a “locked room” situation. Plus Walton Goggins, who (after his turn in “Justified”) should be on every Director’s shortlist for the role of “oddly appealing bad guy.”
Obviously, there’s a ton of killing and clever dialogue — it’s a Tarantino after all. But there’s also an interesting psychological thread running through the movie. And dammit, why am I even trying to convince you to watch this? It’s a Tarantino western. It’s like sending the Wolf to take care of your screw-up. That’s all I had to say.
I’m your huckleberry.
This here is my favorite western of all time. As a kid of the ’80s and ’90s, this movie was made at a time when my young brain was eagerly gobbling up the pop-culture pieces that would later turn me into the kind of person who plays old clips on YouTube and demands younger people appreciate their genius. Despite the fact that it bathes you in ’90s nostalgia, that isn’t why I love this movie. I love this move because it’s the epitome of the fun, Hollywood western. Not every western has to be a grim slog through an unforgiving wilderness that explores man’s inhumanity to man. Sometimes you just want cool gunplay and great one-liners.
And Val Kilmer is the badass king of one-liners in this movie. He basically has one job in this film: to mock people mercilessly before shooting them. And he does it all while coughing up blood and generally looking like a man who knows he’s going to die and who plans to take a lot of assholes down with him. Not only is there the, “I’m your huckleberry,” line, there’s also, “Maybe poker just isn’t your game, Ike. I know! Let’s have a spelling contest!” And, “I have not yet begun to defile myself.”
And you know what? Just watch the damned movie.
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