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Classic Westerns: 3 Movies That Helped Shaped the Genre

Image: Classic Westerns: 3 Movies That Helped Shaped the Genre
High Noon, 1954; The Searchers, 1956; Once Upon a Time in the West, 1968. (imdb.com)

By    |   Wednesday, 15 Apr 2015 05:20 PM

Although the genre has struggled at the movie box office in recent years, there was a time when westerns were king on the big screen. Cowboy movies, as they've often been referred to, immortalized characters played by the likes of John Wayne and Clint Eastwood, and turned directors like John Ford, Sam Peckinpah, and Sergio Leone into legends. Here's a look at three westerns that helped define the genre.

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1. "High Noon" (1954)

The black-and-white movie classic about Marshal Will Kane's (Gary Cooper) epic showdown with outlaw Frank Miller (Ian McDonald) ranks second to "The Searchers" on AFI's list of the top 10 Westerns of all time.

The film contains several classic scenes, not the least of which the pulse-pounding clock sequence as the seconds tick closer to high noon, when Miller is due to arrive on a train. It's one of those rare Westerns were the building anticipation is every bit exciting as the final shootout itself.

Rotten Tomatoes, ranked "High Noon" No. 4 on its list of 100 top Westerns (behind "The Searchers" at No. 3) with a 96 percent "fresh" rating.

2. "The Searchers" (1956)


While a lot of casual fans of Westerns associate John Wayne with his character Rooster Cogburn in such classics as "True Grit" (1969) and "Rooster Cogburn" (1975), many fans of the genre feel "The Searchers" is The Duke's best. Wayne plays Ethan Edwards, who vows to track down the parties responsible after members of his brother's family have been either killed or kidnapped by Comanches.

The American Film Institute ranked "The Searchers" No. 1 on its list of the top 10 Westerns of all time, while critics on the film review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a rare 100 percent "fresh" rating.

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In addition, AFI ranked the film No. 12 on its "100 Years … 100 Movies" list in 2007, an astounding jump from its No. 96 ranking on the organization's first "100 Years … 100 Movies" list 10 years before.

3. "Once Upon a Time in the West" (1968)

When it comes to the opinions of cowboys – or at least the editors of American Cowboy – the Sergio Leone epic "Once Upon a Time in the West" is the greatest Western of all time, as opposed to "The Searchers," which they ranked No. 2 in their compilation book, "The 100 Greatest Western Movies of All Time: Including Five You've Never Heard Of."

"Once Upon a Time in the West" was Leone's first film after he completed his "Man With No Name" trilogy – "A Fistful of Dollars" (1964), "For a Few Dollars More" (1965) and "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" (1966) – all of which starred Clint Eastwood. "Once Upon a Time in the West" starred Charles Bronson as a harmonica-toting gunman looking to even the score with the man (Henry Fonda) who killed his brother.

Hollywood.com also declared "Once Upon a Time in the West" No. 1 on its list of the "25 Greatest Westerns of All Time."

"It's like Leone distilled the Western to its most minimalist, iconic foundation-myth elements. Simply, the best," according to the site.

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Although the genre has struggled at the movie box office in recent years, there was a time when westerns were king on the big screen. Cowboy movies, as they've often been referred to, immortalized characters played by the likes of John Wayne and Clint Eastwood.
classic, westerns, movies, hollywood, acting
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2015-20-15
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