I’m not sure who said it first but the genius of McCabe is that it, a year before (!), inverted what The Godfather put across - It’s the story of a man who refuses an offer he can’t afford to.....and in that story the country is off on the wrong foot – saving the institution and forgetting the man, preserving the myth and not the facts. The most American of all Westerns to me, a sort of template for failing that is an undercurrent in all subsequent American generations.
The 70s had revisionist mysteries and war films and this is the decades great revisionist Western.
(alphabetically) 3:10 to Yuma (1957) The Ballad of Buster Scruggs The Cowboys The Culpepper Cattle Company The General The Good, the Bad, and the Weird Jeremiah Johnson The Man from Laramie No Country for Old Men Rango The Shootist Young Guns
Ahh I would've put The General and NCFOM on my ballot but letterboxd didn't have them as westerns.
Ah, thought maybe it'd squeeeze up to the 4 or 5 spot! My #1 of all time so easily my top pick here. There's no other movie I'm more deeply and ineffably absorbed by. A poetic masterpiece, a complete re-evaluation of its genre, a stunningly realistic portrait of its period, a romantic tragedy, with ever relevant thematic heft.
The Great Silence is the bleakest Western ever made. There is no way out of it, no flaw in its merciless and unforgiving logic – and it ends exactly as it should and spares no one, character or viewer. Like all great tragedies you don’t get depressed by it, rather you just nod your head because it speaks some kind distinct, horrible truth.
I will say while it features Wayne's best performance, one of the greatest endings ever, and some incredible heights throughout. Mose, the goofy Vera Miles/Ken Curtis scenes, and the Native wife scenes keep it far from this high for me though.
What makes The Good, The Bad and The Ugly Leone’s best (it is) is the breadth of his vision – and it’s deceptive too in how it weaves its strands together. There is of course near the end the amazing scene when his camera spans across the cemetery and their faces and you get his point without him beating it into the ground – that no matter what these men have done they will never match the senseless death and loss and devastation of what a war does to men, to families, to a people.
That’s not just a great Western – that’s a profound statement that transcends the genre too.
And when pacinoyes saw the breadth of his domain, he wept, for there were no more worlds to conquer
Assassination of Jesse James is a visual tour de force but I don't think it's that good and I only rate it slightly higher than Fuller's I Shot Jesse James which is a really solid bite-size psychological portrait of Ford, the sad irony of his outcome, and its subtext is certainly more daring (and this in 1949) than the Dominik.