Cowboy Movies

Top 10 Most Unique Cowboy Movies Ever

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The Western has been a staple of worldwide cinema for decades at this point, and it’s taken on some unique forms over the years.

The Western has been a staple of worldwide cinema for decades at this point, and it’s taken on many forms, from the traditional 1950s style to the ever-popular Spaghetti Western. The genre was pushed to prominence by such big-name actors as Clint Eastwood, John Wayne, and Sam Elliott, to name but a few.

Along the way, attempts were made by filmmakers to juice up the Western genre with a little pizazz by adding in different elements. This included genre crossovers, unique storylines, or characters that bucked the “mysterious gunslinger” stereotype. They weren’t all created equal, but they do deserve some recognition for jumping off the proverbial wagon.

1, Back To The Future, Part III (1990)

The Back to the Future franchise spent its first two installments time-hopping between the distant past, and a future that managed to predict our own by about halfway. By the time the series was set to wrap, it was decided the final installment would take place in the Wild West, just to shake things up a bit.

Depending on the fan, this was either a major blessing or a huge misstep. Regardless, Back to the Future III is still a fun romp, even if it spends most of its time trying to make a tough-guy gunslinger out of Marty McFly. It essentially set up an opening for a fourth film, but that never happened.

2, Quigley Down Under (1990)

This amazing Western doesn’t actually take place in the Wild West at all. Rather, it flips the locale from America to the Australian outback, where lead character Matthew Quigley (played superbly by Tom Selleck) is hired by a nefarious landowner to pick off the local aboriginals using his sharpshooting skills.

Quigley soon finds himself at odds with his employer, and he decides to protect the aboriginals by taking the fight directly to him. The film is notable for Quigley’s use of an iconic single-shot 1874 Sharps rifle with a 34-inch barrel, which he can use to shoot the keyhole out of an outhouse from a mile out. Definitely one of the best, and most underrated cowboy movies around.

3, Westworld (1973)

Long before HBO got ahold of the Westworld franchise and turned it into a convoluted philosophical mess, Ten Commandments star Yul Brynner starred in a 1973 movie based on Michael Crichton’s original novel. Crichton also directed the film, which was shot at rapid-fire at an eye-watering 30 days.

The end result is a cult classic that isn’t perfect but is still a fascinating watch. Brynner’s performance as a homicidal cyborg cowboy predates Schwarzenegger in The Terminator by a decade, and it’s surreal to see the similarities between the two films, even though their stories are quite different.

4, Pale Rider (1985)

One of Clint Eastwood’s most famous films is this 1985 Western that put him in the role of a tough guy Preacher in 19th century California. It’s atypical of the kind of straightforward Western films that preceded it, focusing more on the unusual characters, and the inventive scenes.

The film involves the titular character defending a group of prospectors from a ruthless mining baron. Eventually, things spiral more and more out of control, and the Preacher trades in his collar for a pair of revolvers. What ensues is a classic Eastwood Western, perhaps his greatest.

5, The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly (1966)

Few Western films are as recognizable as this Clint Eastwood classic. Rather than take center stage, Eastwood shares the screen with Lee Van Cleef and Eli Wallach as a three-man ensemble comprising the titular trio. To date, it remains possibly the most famous Spaghetti Western film ever committed to film.

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The entire film centers around three opportunistic men searching for a major payday who just happen to get in each other’s way repeatedly. The film ends with an inventive three-way gunfight and an unusual resolution, making it an instant classic. Plus, that theme song never gets old.

6, Zachariah (1971)

Long before Don Johnson was tearing it up in a white sports jacket and a Testarossa, he was cutting his teeth on oddball pictures like Zachariah. Here, the young Johnson starred in what was called the “first electric Western,” a reference to the number of cameos and roles played by so many talented musicians of the time period.

It was half Western, half musical, with such iconic acts as Country Joe and the Fish, Elvin Jones, and the New York Rock & Roll Ensemble, to name a few. At one point, even Cream’s drummer Ginger Baker was attached to the film. It’s bizarre to watch, but entertaining at the same time, with one of the quirkiest (and happiest) endings in Western cinema.

7, Curse Of The Undead (1959)

Universal decided to fiddle with the traditional Western formula in 1959 by injecting some good old-fashioned horror into the mix. The 1950s was the start of a horror revival, thanks largely to films from Hammer, but Curse of the Undead tried to balance both genres equally, with so/so results.

Part of the blame can be put on the fact that Curse of the Undead was designed from the ground up to poke fun at the vampire satire of 1950s cinema at the time. By coupling it with the Old West, it inadvertently helped influence future Western/horror combos throughout the decades, leading up to such guilty pleasures as Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

8, Johnny Guitar (1954)

The controversial Joan Crawford starred in this 1954 Western as a saloon owner who teams up with a former lover named Johnny Guitar to take on a female rival and her gang. It’s a classic Western in every sense, while still feeling totally unique among its contemporaries from that time period.

The film was criticized for a decent story undermined by a lack of any real character depth, save that of the relationship between the characters of Vienna and Johnny, but it’s since been hailed as a classic of the genre with a very high score attached to it. What a shame many Western fans have never seen it.

9, Ravenous (1999)

Guy Pearce and Robert Carlyle headlined this oddball dark comedy Western about humans who supposedly gain powers after consuming human flesh. It’s an uncomfortable take on the cannibalism genre, showcasing the madness and obsession faced by multiple individuals who decide to make it an official diet.

There’s a mixture of great cinematography, an excellent cast, and an altogether different storyline that makes Ravenous such a unique take on the genre. Viewers may feel like they need to take a shower after watching it, but that’s all part of the fun.

10, Cowboys & Aliens (2011)

Jon Favreau directed this unusual cocktail of Wild West and sci-fi alien invasion themes, adding James Bond alum Daniel Craig and the iconic Harrison Ford into the cast. The result is an interesting cult hit that failed to ignite the box office, but at least it tried to do something interesting with the traditional Western motif.

Craig plays Jake Lonergan, a man who awakens with a strange piece of alien tech around his wrist that can be harnessed as a weapon. That’s good news, given that 19th century Earth is about to be invaded by nefarious and antagonist extraterrestrials.

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