Of all genres of film, the Western is perhaps the one which has produced the greatest number of movies that have endured in popularity. Here, we examine some of the roughest, toughest Westerns ever made, so put on your cowboy boots and come along for the ride:
The Outlaw Josie Wales
Clint Eastwood is at his gritty best in this 1976 classic. He turns in a great tough-guy performance as lead character Josie Wales, a Midwestern farmer out for blood vengeance. After his wife and son are murdered, he takes the law into his own hands, stabbing and shooting his way to satisfactory revenge. Eastwood did double duty on this as both actor and director.
Hang ‘Em High
Eastwood takes on nine men who had previously attempted to lynch him in this 1968 film directed by Ted Post. He plays cattleman Jed Cooper, the main character, who is attacked by a group of men who leave him for dead, hanging from a tree. In classic Western fashion, all the men in the posse get their comeuppance in the end.
The Wild Bunch
Sam Peckinpah directed this 1969 film, which is set in 1913. Its bloody and violent themes were soundly criticized when it was released, and it remains one of the most brutal Westerns ever made. Peckinpah chose to make the film an allegory to Vietnam, rejecting the “cleaner” and less bloody television-type Westerns. The movie went on to be nominated for two Academy Awards including Best Original Screen Play and Best Original Musical Score.
Without question, this modern-day Western is one of the toughest, meanest films ever made in any genre. Director Quentin Tarantino stays true to his deep love of vendetta as he brings us the story of Django, a former slave who seeks to free his wife. Jamie Foxx plays Django, who is certainly tough, but it’s the brutality of the character Calvin Candie, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, which delivers the most cringe-inducing moments of this film. It was nominated for five Academy Awards and won in two categories: Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Christoph Waltz) and Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen.
It’s not just cowboy hats that abound in this 1971 film. John Wayne dishes out plenty of gunshots and a heaping helping of toughness with his portrayal of main character Jake McCandles. This is widely considered to be Wayne’s most violent film, which reflected the shift in societal expectations about the amount of violence movies of this genre could contain.
Well, Pardners, we sure hope you enjoyed this retrospective of the toughest Westerns ever made. Why not rent a couple of these gritty favorites tonight?
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