Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Top 10 westerns for 2012

Here’s a year’s end tally of the best of the 48 westerns reviewed this year at BITS.

Comanche Station (1960)
This is a gem of a 1950s western (released in 1960) and another fine one from the team of Budd Boetticher, Burt Kennedy, and Randolph Scott. It’s a high-stakes and tightly knit story with a handful of well-drawn characters. Shot in CinemaScope in the Alabama Hills of Lone Pine, California, the film is also gloriously handsome. More…

Hour of the Gun (1967)
Historians may object to the liberties taken in this story about the aftermath of the gunfight at the OK Corral in 1881. But in its broad outlines, it doesn’t depart too widely from the record. The feud between Ike Clanton and the Earp Brothers did not end on that October day in Tombstone. More lives were to be taken, including that of Wyatt’s brother Morgan. More…

Day of the Outlaw (1959)
This western noir stars Robert Ryan in another of his hard-bitten and slightly psychotic roles. Shot in black and white, the story is set in a small mountain town knee-deep in Wyoming winter snow. The location photography gives the film a gritty realism. So does the adult material. This is not a western for kids. More…

Tracker (2010)
I’m calling this a western even though it was shot and takes place in New Zealand. It has most of the elements of a good western—sweeping unpopulated landscapes, guns, horses, immigrants, soldiers, and natives. It’s 1903; the story is of searchers on the trail of a man wanted for murder; there’s plenty of action, and most of it happens outdoors. More. . .

Rio Grande (1950)
The story goes that Herb Yates at Republic Pictures agreed to make John Ford’s The Quiet Man only if he’d make another western first. So Ford went with a script from a James Warner Bellah story to Moab, Utah, and shot this classic western with John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. More…

The Hi-Lo Country (1998)
The Hi-Lo Country is an area of northeast New Mexico, celebrated by writer Max Evans in his novels. Published in 1960, The Hi-Lo Country was made into a film in 1998 by British director, Stephen Frears. Set in the 1940s, it recalls an even earlier era of the West, when cattle ranching and cowboys ruled the open range. More. . .

6 Black Horses (1962)
This western based on a Burt Kennedy script is a perfect vehicle for Audie Murphy. He gets to play a decent man, a cowpuncher down on his luck, who gets involved in a desert quest with a trail partner (Dan Duryea) and a blonde with money (Joan O’Brien). More…

Good Day for a Hanging (1959)
You don’t think westerns when you think of Fred MacMurray, but he was a versatile actor and equally at home in just about any kind of role. Here he plays a character found in other 1950s westerns, a lawman alone against a town that has lost faith in him. More…

Gun the Man Down (1956)
As interested in character as it is in action, this film brings together the talents of a screenwriter, two actors, and a director at the beginning of long successful careers. In 1956, James Arness was about to begin his 20-year tenure as marshal Matt Dillon in TV’s Gunsmoke. Angie Dickinson had her first feature role in the film. More…

El Dorado (1967)
This Howard Hawks western bears a strong resemblance to his previous western, Rio Bravo (1959). The elements are much the same, as if Hawks wanted to have another go at them. John Wayne appears again, this time as a hired gun. Particular about who hires him, he turns down a dirty job in the opening scenes offered by a land-greedy rancher (Ed Asner). Wayne ends up working instead with a sheriff (Robert Mitchum) to help a family keep their ranch out of Asner’s hands. More…

Looking forward to a 2013 that's full of more of the same great westerns from the past, and some good ones worth a mention from the present.

Coming up: Top 10 early western novels for 2012


  1. Looks like I've got some good viewing ahead of me.

    1. Do that, Charles, and you might start having western dreams. . .

  2. I've seen all these films except for The Hi-Lo Country. Somehow I missed your review. I just ordered it from amazon. Also saw some rave reviews about The Good Old Boys based on the Elmer Kelton novel. Ordered it also. Great, two more westerns for me to see for the first time. Usually I'm watching ones I've seen more than once.

    1. I have a copy of Max Evans' novella and think I'll be reading it next. Kelton's book has been a recommendation to me I've been meaning to read, too.

  3. All fine movies to enjoy over and over.

    1. Saw a bit of EL DORADO on TV yesterday and it was like finding an old friend. Hate the commercial interruptions, though, and switched to something else.

  4. Ron, thanks for reviewing all these fine western films—there are so many I haven't seen yet and look forward to viewing at least some of the 48 movies in 2013.