I’m not talking about the hotels here.
This afternoon my husband came home for lunch and surfed Netflix streaming until he found “El Dorado.” This is a western starring the one and only John Wayne. I sat down to fold clothes while he watched, just to hang out with him.
Now, I’ve seen this one before, a long time ago, and I remember liking it. But this time through, I was listening to the dialogue. Oh, my heck! Whoever wrote this was a genius at banter. There are so many quotable lines in this film. We kept exchanging looks and laughing out loud.
Not only does it star The Duke himself, it also boasts Robert Mitchum, who has a western gentleman flair, and surprisingly James Caan, in his pre-gangster-movie days. Who knew James Caan was such a looker in his youth? Yowza.
That got me thinking. While I don’t watch a ton of westerns unless they’re thrust upon me during my husband’s lunch hour, there are, in fact, quite a few movies of that genre that are in fact excellent, and that I count among my favorite movies of any genre. Here they are in no particular order.
1. El Dorado. As noted, this stars John Wayne and James Caan. It has fabulous dialogue, quotable lines, and a great multi-faceted revenge plot. Plus, a really ugly hat.
2. High Noon. This stars Gary Cooper and Grace Kelley, and it’s actually more of a psychological thriller set in the Old West than a standard western. I once heard it said the story plays out in real time, but I’d have to watch a real clock (not the clock on the wall in the sheriff’s office in the movie) to verify that. Gary Cooper’s character is so full of integrity, I can’t help but love this movie. I love a movie with a truly good Good Guy.
3. The Magnificent Seven. This is a remake of a Japanese film by Akira Kurosawa called The Seven Samurai. It’s a vigilante justice plot, where a small town hires some mercernaries to protect them from banditos. Yul Brenner, James Coburn, and lots of other magnificent actors populate this film. At first the gunmen are just in it for the money, but their hearts do turn. Besides the greatness of this movie, it has one of the best spoofy spin-offs of all time (in my opinion): The Three Amigos. Happy trails to you.
4. Big Country. This one is super long, but worth every minute you invest. Why? Because Burl Ives is in it as the patriarch of a conclave of idiot outlaws with a great line: “Teach your grandmother to suck eggs!” It’s worth the wait for that line alone. But along the way, you’re treated to (drumroll, please) Charlton Heston and Gregory Peck. Yes! Seriously! And they have an all-nighter fistfight. It plays out pretty long on the screen as well. Both of them are vying for the heart of the same heiress daughter of a rancher, and Gregory Peck is the “better man.” But does she deserve him?
5. Quigley Down Under. Now, I know this is not technically a western, being set in Australia. But it has the same landscape and is in the same time setting, plus Tom Selleck wears a cowboy hat the whole time so I count it. It counts, okay? It has one of the best unconventional romances in any movie, and I don’t think I’ll ever forget when Crazy Cora describes the event that triggered her instability. The baby who wouldn’t stop crying when the gunmen approached? I still get all sniffly when I think of it.
There you have it. My list. Five Best Westerns–to me. Maybe I’m leaving something out. Maybe this should be the list of ten best. I don’t know. But we had to stop watching El Dorado 42 minutes into the film (at a spot where they had to have shot the movie in Old Tucson, if I know my landscape and mountain ranges right), and about half my laundry still needs to be folded. After my preschooler and I go on a walk.