Yes, there are loads of bona-fide classic Westerns out there, with the bulk being from the ’50s and ’60s. That said, there new ones being made all the time. It’s a genre that continues to fascinate us as moviegoers.
And with these new stories, filmmakers are finding new ways to tell them and present them, and make them relevant for a modern audience. Here are some that I like to come back to whenever I can.
Open Range (2003)
Cattle herders Kevin Costner and Robert Duvall run into Michael Gambon’s despicable rancher. He takes a dislike to them coming to town with their cattle and the whole films builds to an almighty showdown. It’s a thoughtful, considered type of story though, with solid performances across the board.
3:10 To Yuma (2007)
Christian Bale and Russell Crowe were both on fine form in this story, one where Bale, an ex-rifleman, becomes the reluctant minder of Crowe’s notories outlaw. His mission: to get him onto the prison train to Yuma, all the while being pursued by his gang who are trying to free him.
The Assassination of Jessie James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)
With cinematography from the great Roger Deakins and masterful performances from both Casey Affleck as Ford and Brad Pitt as James, this is both a critically acclaimed film and one overlooked by the general public. It’s worth your time, though.
Kurt Russell as Wyatt Earp and Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday, and a cast that also included Bill Paxton and Sam Elliott as good guys and Powers Boothe, Stephen Lang and Michael Biehn as the bad guys, what’s not to love? There’s even a scene where two characters insult each other in Latin.
Django Unchained (2012)
Originally, Tarantino wanted Will Smith in the lead role, however Jamie Foxx smashes it. It’s also heightened by a powerhouse performance from DiCaprio. Not that you would expect anything less.
For this post I’d like to discuss the career and my chosen favourite roles of Mr William Bradley Pitt. But where are some of his recent critically acclaimed films you may ask? Well, I can only list films I’ve seen and I have yet to see Tree of Life, Moneyball and Babel, so cannot include them. From what I’ve heard, they’d probably make my list. Alas, not this time.
Tyler Durden, Fight Club (1999)
Mesmerising scenes, endlessly quotable dialogue. Became a cult hit largely due to Pitt’s character and performance. Raw, edgy, masculine and totally cool.
Detective David Mills, Se7en (1995)
Here he convinced as a young, headstrong detective. The conflicting emotions portrayed in the climactic scene were astounding.
Lt. Aldo Raine, Inglourious Basterds (2009)
Perfectly cast as the leader of the Basterds, with some great comic moments. His Italian scene was a classic.
John Smith, Mr and Mrs Smith (2005)
Take two of the most attractive and charismatic stars in the world, throw in assassination, action and zinging one liners and what do you get? Pure chemistry.
Louis du point du lac, Interview with the Vampire (1994)
Beautiful and distant with deep, melancholic eyes, Pitt played Louis the conflicted vampire perfectly. Watch his revenge scene.
Jeffrey Goines, Twelve Monkeys (1995)
Twitchy, edgy, mischievous and full of mayhem. He was nominated for an Academy Award and won a Golden Globe for his performance in one of Terry Gilliam’s best films.
Jesse James, The Assassination of Jesse James (2007)
This film divided critics. It’s beautifully shot with a strong, understated performance from Pitt. He gives James a melancholic weariness, which is both troubling and beautiful. The assassination scene will stay with you.
Mickey O’Neil, Snatch (2000)
With an accent that was impossible to understand, Pitt’s take on the hard-fighting pikey gypsy was truly memorable. Switching effortlessly from wisecracking to intense, unwavering aggression.
Floyd, True Romance (1993)
A year before – what I consider – his breakout role in Interview with the Vampire, he appeared as a stoner providing comic relief in this Tarantino scripted, Tony Scott directed film. Don’t con-den-sen-in me man!
Jerry Welbach, The Mexican (2001)
Hapless, romantic, but well-meaning. Pitt gives Jerry a warmth and charm so you root for him throughout. An underrated performance.
In terms of characters, a mixed bunch. For me, Pitt is at his best when combining comedy and intensity. With the exception of Se7en, Interview with the Vampire and Jesse James, the rest of my list are – to a degree – comically driven characters. Or at least, that’s how he played them.
I think what defines a lot of his performances is charisma. Magnetism, sex appeal, the ability to hold the screen – whatever you want to call it, all the best have it. Take his scenes in True Romance as an example. Genius.