My Musings

Top 10 Westerns

Top 10 Westerns

The Western movie is a uniquely American invention.  I like them, in part, because I like sermons.  In their own way, most Westerns preach on such themes as justice, courage, right over wrong, manliness, protection and a pioneer spirit—qualities we see in decline today.  They honor the rugged individual, but often in ways the call that individual to self-sacrifice for the good of the family or community.  The selections below are merely my own favorites, in reverse order.  Some gems were left out, but such is the nature of top ten lists!

 

10. True Grit (1969 – Director: Henry Hathaway), starring John Wayne, Kim Darby, Glen Campbell and Robert Duvall.  A tale of revenge and justice, with a daughter’s love for her dad setting the stage.  Kim Darby shows youthful wisdom when she says; “Enough is as good as a feast.” Also, great music and lousy acting from Glen Campbell.

 

 

9. High Noon (1952 – Dir. Fred Zimmerman), starring Gary Cooper, Grace Kelly and Lloyd Bridges.  This film features the courage of a solitary hero contrasting the cowardly townspeople.  Evil does not go away when people hide from it.  Key line: “You’re a good-looking boy: you’ve big, broad shoulders. But he’s a man. And it takes more than big, broad shoulders to make a man.” (Helen Ramirez to the young passionate Lloyd Bridges character).

 

 

8. Comanche Station (1960 – Dir. Budd Boetticher), starring Randolph Scott and Nancy Gates.  A man saves a woman kidnapped by Comanches, then struggles to get her home alive.  The conclusion gives cynicism a kick in the back side.

 

 

 

7. Man From Snowy River (1982 – Dir. George Miller), with Tom Burlenson, Kirk Douglas and Sigrid Thorton.  Manhood on the make!  Set on a horse ranch in Australia with awesome scenery.  It also deals with old secrets coming to light and the challenge of forgiveness.

 

 

 

6. Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, The (1960 – Dir. John Ford), with John Wayne, James Stewart, Vera Miles, Lee Marvin, Andy Devine and Strother Martin.  The significance of an old man who dies is lost on the townspeople until a Senator and his wife come to his funeral.  I like the line: “”You taught her how to read, now give her something to read about.”  There’s a difference between living life and reading about it.

 

 

5. Shane (1953 – Dir. George Stevens), starring Alan Ladd, Jean Arthur, Van Heflin and Jack Palance.  One of the toughest tools used by evil forces is intimidation.  The viewer wonders if the forces of decency will be safe and flee, or take a stand.  Memorable line: “A gun is as good or as bad as the man using it. Remember that.” (Alan Ladd).

 

 

4. How the West Was Won (1962- Dir. Henry Hathaway and John Ford), starring Debbie Reynolds, Karl Malden, James Stewart, John Wayne, Walter Brennan, Henry Fonda, Robert Preston and Richard Witmark.  A family-friendly epic musical from the sixties that found a place in my heart as a child and never left.  Dealing with inevitable change presents many heart-rending challenges over time.

 

 

3. Destry Rides Again (1939 – Dir. George Marshall), starring James Stewart, Brian Donlevy and Una Merkel.  Gun slinging is not the only way to handle bad guys.  The townswomen step up too.

 

 

 

 

2. Ride the High Country (1962 – Dir. Sam Peckinpah), starring Joel McCrea, Randolph Scott and Mariette Hartley.  Honesty meets up with greed and a longtime friendship is tested.  Key line: “All I want is to enter my house justified.” (Steve Judd, played by Joel McCrea).

 

My clear favorite:

 

1. The Searchers (1956 – Dir. John Ford), starring John Wayne (as Ethan Edwards), Jeffrey Hunter, Natalie Wood and Ward Bond.  We see an unshakable resolve seasoned with patience in the John Wayne character, all rising from a deep family loyalty in the heart of a rugged individual.  Near the end, a man says to Ethan, “I thought you gave up.”  He answers, “That’ll be the day.”

 

 

Honorable Mention:

The Plainsman (1936 – Dir. Cecil B. DeMille), with Gary Cooper, Jean Arthur, Gary Cooper and James Ellison.  An adventurous Western that concludes with the following text on the screen:

 

 

 

It shall be as it was in the past…

Not with dreams, but with strength and courage,

Shall a nation be molded to last.

 

The views expressed on this blog are personal and belong to Joel Solliday unless otherwise stated. They are not, intended to characterize the views of the Lewiston Church of Christ or other organizations to which I may refer.

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About the Author:

Joel graduated from Pepperdine University with a B.A., completing two majors: Art and Religion. He went on to earn the Master of Divinity degree from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. The views expressed on this blog are personal and belong to Joel Solliday unless otherwise stated. They are not, intended to characterize the views of the Lewiston Church of Christ or other organizations to which I may refer.

Discussion

  1. Claire  February 7, 2012

    Wow! I knew I was a little thin in Westerns, but I haven’t seen any of these! I saw the 2010 remake of _True Grit_. Does that count?

    (reply)
    • Anonymous  February 7, 2012

      I have not seen the new “True Grit” either. But sure, count it!

      (reply)
  2. Joelsolliday  February 8, 2012

    That last quote (from the last frame of the movie “The Plainsman”) is profound: “It shall be as it was in the past… Not with dreams, but with strength and courage, shall a nation be molded to last.” That our culture is currently binging on “dreams” and “dreaming” at the same time we are losing (in my view) the best aspects of our original identiy and national character, may be no mere coincidence.

    (reply)

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