Clint Eastwood’s “Unforgiven” (directed and starred) is not just one of the great westerns ever made, the screenplay by David Webb Peoples is widely considered to be one of the best ever written.
The script floated around Hollywood with dozens of legendary western stars all vying to play the lead, William Munny. But once Eastwood got his hands on it, he asked Peoples to wait fifteen years until he was old enough to play the role properly. Peoples obliged him evidently because Eastwood directed this masterpiece in 1992.
And if you loved Clint Eastwood’s “Unforgiven” then you’ll love these three modern westerns.
3:10 to Yuma (2007)
The 2007 remake of “3:10 to Yuma” is based on the original Delmer Daves directed film of the same name that also starred Glenn Ford, Van Heflin and Felicia Farr. This James Mangold directed remake – known for “Logan” “Walk the Line” and the highly anticipated upcoming “Ford v Ferrari” is one of the best modern westerns.
It stars two of the best actors working today; Russell Crowe and Christian Bale. A broke small-time rancher, Dan Evans (Bale), agrees to hold a captured vicious outlaw, Ben Wade (Crowe), who’s awaiting a train to go to court in Yuma. It becomes a battle of the wits between Wade’s posse and the lawmen and Evans who desperately needs to get Wade on the 3:10 to Yuma.
Outside of Crowe and Bale’s outstanding performances, Ben Foster’s performance as Charlie Prince, the leader of Wade’s outlaw gang in his absence, is a ruthless villain for the ages. Foster is phenomenal in that role. This may be a little more violent and action-packed than “Unforgiven,” but it should not be overlooked as one of the best modern westerns.
Ed Harris has turned in some iconic roles in his career like “Apollo 13,” “Glengarry Glen Ross” and “The Abyss.” And “Appaloosa” should not be overlooked. The 2008 film is based on the 2005 crime novel by Robert B. Parker and also directed by Ed Harris.
It’s 1882 inside a New Mexico Territory in a small town called Appaloosa. Virgil Cole (Harris) and Everett Hitch (Viggo Mortensen) are nomadic guns-for-hire lawmen, sought out by desperate towns as marshal and deputy. The city of Appaloosa hire them after Randall Bragg (Jeremy Irons), a newly-arrived rancher with money and a gang of thugs, disrupts commerce and kills three local lawmen. Cole and Hitch contrive to arrest Bragg and bring him to trial, but hanging him proves to be more difficult than they could’ve ever imagined. “Appaloosa” is like a combination of “Unforgiven” and “High Noon.”
Who doesn’t love Kurt Russell? He’s been one of those consistently great but also oddly overlooked actors of the last thirty years. Remember “Tombstone?” The only reason why “Tombstone” didn’t make this list is because, like “Unforgiven” it’s very coveted as being a favorite movie amongst many fans of the Western genre.
Russell turns in another great Western performance as Sheriff Hunt in “Bone Tomahawk.” Also like “Unforgiven,” it takes place at a time when the old west is fading. It’s about an outlaw who unknowingly leads a band of cannibalistic cave dwellers into the peaceful western town of Bright Hope, they kidnap several settlers, including the wife of a local rancher. Despite his injured leg the rancher joins a small rescue party with the sheriff, his aging deputy and a strong-willed gunslinger.
This isn’t your typical western, but it is wildly entertaining nonetheless. It’s a little violent, even bordering on ultra violent, but if you can get past that; it’s one of the most overlooked Westerns of this century.
There are a lot of great modern Westerns but these are by far the most overlooked in recent memory.