The origins of Western cinema and storytelling came about to reflect the hardcore American values of the untamed and unsettled new frontier. The genre dates back to the early 1900s but has since evolved and stuck around to offer some of the most memorable modern-day films.
A great modern-day Western encapsulates the drama, high stakes, and tense battles of the Old West. It will captivate its audience and allow them to ride on into the era to experience the thrill and action personally.
We have gone ahead and analyzed these characteristics that go into making a great Western movie to compile what we believe are the 3 best Western movies since 2010.
Director: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, Hailee Steinfeld, Barry Pepper
Watch it here.
True Grit is a faithful adaptation of the novel by Charles Portis, which is widely considered a classic of Western literature. The filmmakers took care to stay true to the source material, and this is reflected in the movie’s strong storytelling and character development.
Performances: The movie features outstanding performances by its cast, including Jeff Bridges as the grizzled U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn, Hailee Steinfeld as the determined young heroine Mattie Ross, and Matt Damon as Texas Ranger LaBoeuf. The actors bring their characters to life with nuance and depth, making them feel like real people rather than mere archetypes.
Cinematography: The cinematography is stunning, with sweeping vistas of the Western landscape and vividly realized action sequences. The filmmakers use the visual language of the Western genre to great effect, creating a sense of time and place that is both authentic and cinematic.
Themes: “True Grit” deals with themes that are central to the Western genre, including justice and revenge. The movie explores these themes in a nuanced way, showing how they can drive people to do extraordinary things and how they can also be sources of conflict and tragedy.
Overall, “True Grit” is a well-crafted and entertaining modern Western movie that pays homage to the genre’s traditions while also bringing its unique perspective and style.
Director: David Mackenzie
Starring: Chris Pine, Ben Foster, Jeff Bridges
Watch it here.
Hell or High Water is set in West Texas, which is often associated with the classic Western genre. The open landscapes, dusty towns, and rugged terrain are all reminiscent of classic Western films. The film captures the essence of the Western genre while also depicting a modern-day landscape, creating a unique blend of old and new.
Characters: The film features compelling and well-developed characters, who are complex and multi-dimensional. The two main characters, played by Chris Pine and Ben Foster, are brothers who turn to bank robbery to save their family’s ranch from foreclosure. The film also features a veteran Texas Ranger, played by Jeff Bridges, who is hot on their trail. The characters are not simply good or bad; they are flawed and nuanced, which makes them more relatable and interesting.
Themes: The film explores themes such as family, justice, and the changing face of America. It touches on the economic struggles of rural communities and the impact of corporate greed on small towns. The film also depicts the tensions between law enforcement and the communities they serve.
Cinematography: The film was directed by David Mackenzie, who created a visually stunning and atmospheric movie. The cinematography captures the beauty and harshness of the West Texas landscape, with sweeping vistas and intimate close-ups. The film’s pacing is excellent, with a tense and gripping plot that keeps the audience engaged.
Overall, “Hell or High Water” is a well-crafted film that pays homage to the classic Western genre while also telling a contemporary story. It features strong performances, compelling characters, and themes that resonate with modern audiences.
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio
Watch it here.
Quentin Tarantino is known for his iconic films and when he took on the Western genre, he was certainly able to retain his legacy.
“Django Unchained” tells the story of a freed slave who sets out to rescue his wife from a cruel plantation owner with the help of a bounty hunter. The movie features a unique storyline that combines elements of the classic Western genre with a historical perspective on slavery in America.
Acting: The film features an impressive cast, including Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Christoph Waltz, who all deliver powerful performances. The chemistry between the actors is excellent, and they bring depth and complexity to their characters.
Cinematography: The movie was directed by Quentin Tarantino, who is known for his distinctive visual style. The film features stunning cinematography, with beautiful landscapes and striking close-up shots that capture the emotions of the characters.
Music: The movie also has a great soundtrack that features classic Western music as well as original songs by contemporary artists like Rick Ross and John Legend.
Social commentary: In addition to being a thrilling western, “Django Unchained” also serves as a commentary on slavery and racism in America. The movie exposes the brutality of slavery and highlights the courage of those who fought against it.
Overall, “Django Unchained” is a good modern-day Western movie because it combines a unique storyline, great acting, stunning cinematography, powerful music, and social commentary to create a memorable and impactful film.
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh
Watch it here.
“The Hateful Eight” is a good modern-day Western movie for several reasons:
Tarantino’s unique style: Director Quentin Tarantino is known for his distinctive approach to filmmaking, which combines elements of humor, violence, and dialogue-driven storytelling. “The Hateful Eight” is no exception, with its cleverly crafted dialogue and suspenseful plot twists.
Performances: The film features an ensemble cast of talented actors, including Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Tim Roth, all of whom deliver outstanding performances.
Themes: Despite its modern setting, “The Hateful Eight” contains many classic Western themes, such as rugged landscapes, isolated towns, and the struggle for survival in a harsh and unforgiving environment.
Cinematography and Music: The movie’s cinematography and soundtrack also contribute to its success. The wide-angle shots of the snow-covered landscapes, combined with the haunting music, create an eerie and atmospheric ambiance that adds to the tension of the film.
Overall, “The Hateful Eight” is a well-crafted movie that successfully blends classic Western themes with Tarantino’s signature style, resulting in a unique and entertaining viewing experience.
Director: Alejandro G. Iñárritu
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Will Poulter
Watch it here.
“The Revenant” is a compelling story of survival and revenge set in the harsh and unforgiving environment of the American frontier. It explores themes such as resilience, betrayal, and the unbreakable human spirit, which are common in Westerns.
Cinematography: The movie’s cinematography is breathtaking, and it creates a visually stunning experience for the audience. The film features long, uninterrupted takes, natural lighting, and beautiful landscape shots that transport the viewer into the wilderness.
Acting: Leonardo DiCaprio gives an exceptional performance as Hugh Glass, the film’s protagonist. His portrayal of the character’s struggle for survival is intense and believable, and he effectively communicates the physical and emotional pain that Glass experiences.
Authenticity: The movie’s attention to detail and historical accuracy make it a realistic portrayal of the time period. The filmmakers went to great lengths to recreate the setting and costumes of the era, and the use of indigenous languages and cultural practices adds to the movie’s authenticity.
Overall, “The Revenant” is a well-made film that combines excellent cinematography, acting, and storytelling to create a gripping and unforgettable modern-day Western movie.
Director: Taylor Sheridan
Starring: Elizabeth Olsen, Jeremy Renner, Graham Greene
Watch it here.
Wind River captures the essence of the classic Western genre while also bringing a contemporary perspective to the story.
Wind River is set in the vast wilderness of Wyoming, where a sense of lawlessness and frontier spirit still exists. The desolate landscape and harsh weather conditions create a sense of isolation and danger that is reminiscent of the classic Western setting.
Characters: The main characters in Wind River are both flawed and complex, which adds depth and realism to the story. Jeremy Renner’s character, Cory Lambert, is a skilled tracker haunted by his past, while Elizabeth Olsen’s character, Jane Banner, is an inexperienced FBI agent struggling to adapt to the rugged environment.
Story: The story of Wind River deals with themes that are relevant to modern-day issues, such as violence against women and the struggles of Native American communities. At the same time, it pays homage to classic Western tropes such as revenge and redemption.
Direction: The movie was directed by Taylor Sheridan, who is known for his work on other critically acclaimed modern-day westerns such as Sicario and Hell or High Water. Sheridan’s direction creates a sense of tension and suspense that builds throughout the movie, leading to a powerful and emotional climax.
Overall, Wind River is a well-crafted movie that captures the spirit of the classic Western while also bringing a contemporary perspective to the story. It is a must-watch for fans of the genre and anyone who appreciates a well-told story with complex characters and themes.
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