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Greatest Modern Western Characters: 5 Roles That Live on Through the Big Screen

By    |   Monday, 27 Apr 2015 09:10 AM

After serving as a faithful staple of Hollywood and the American cinema for nearly a century, the Western motion picture and characters are almost a dying breed. However, a handful of classic movies have prevented the Western from vanishing entirely from the silver screen.

Western film icon Clint Eastwood may have the best explanation why. He is quoted in David Graham's book, "The Very Best of Clint Eastwood: Inside the Mind of a Hollywood Legend," "People love westerns worldwide. There's something fantasy-like about an individual fighting the elements. Or even bad guys and the elements. It's a simpler time. There's no organized laws and stuff."

Here are five modern Western characters who have helped preserve this genre's continued existence on the American movie landscape:

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1. William Munny ("Unforgiven")

According to Taste of Cinema, Eastwood kept possession of the script for this film for a decade until he believed he was old enough to play the part of Munny, a struggling farmer who comes out of retirement as a gunfighter to track down two cowboys accused of brutally assaulting a hooker. "Unforgiven" thrilled audiences in 1992 with its tense, revisionist storytelling and all-star cast, according to IGN, but it was Eastwood who shined brightest of all on the screen in what has been his last of a series of legendary Westerns.

2. Rooster Cogburn ("True Grit")

Critics universally hailed the 2011 remake of "True Grit" as superior to John Wayne's 1969 "True Grit," and one of the primary reasons was the performance of Jeff Bridges as Rooster Cogburn. Bridges plays a marshal hired to find the man who murdered a young girl's father, imbuing his character with a mesmerizing mix of determination, old-world wisdom, cantankerousness and charm, according to What Culture's website.

3. Jesse James ("The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford")

Roger Ebert praised Brad Pitt's take on the infamous and often-portrayed 1800s bank robber and murderer. In his review, Ebert remarked, "Brad Pitt embodies Jesse James' mythic stature as if long accustomed to it." The film itself was described by one critic as "one of the most wrongly neglected masterpieces of its era," according to the Art of Manliness website.

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4. John Dunbar ("Dances with Wolves")

Kevin Costner starred and directed the 1991 Oscar-winning picture, which captured the country's imagination with its epic story about an army lieutenant's integration into a Sioux tribe. Costner's earnest portrayal of John Dunbar formed the moral center of a Western adventure that re-ignited the public's interest in the genre, according to the New York Times.

5. Doc Holliday ("Tombstone")

Val Kilmer's interpretation of the famed Western villain in "Tombstone" helped him stand out from an ensemble cast for this highly entertaining 1993 film. IGN's review lauded Kilmer's charming and edgy performance: "Playing an ailing Doc Holliday, Kilmer relishes every smart-aleck comment and delivers line after line of quotable dialogue."

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After serving as a faithful staple of Hollywood and the American cinema for nearly a century, the Western motion picture and characters are almost a dying breed. However, a handful of modern movies have prevented the Western from vanishing entirely.
modern, western, characters, movies, films
505
2015-10-27
Monday, 27 Apr 2015 09:10 AM
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