The Best Weird Westerns of All Time

Friday, June 18, 2010 at 5:24 am

With the recent release of Jonah Hex, I thought this would be a good opportunity to release a list of the best weird Westerns of all time. In case you’re wondering, a weird Western mixes elements of the Old West with the supernatural, which makes for a unique sub-genre. Some people also consider sci-fi and Western combos such as Outlander to fall into this category. (See Odd Films for more weird movies in other genres.)

Netflix carries each of the films mentioned in this list of the best weird Westerns of all time, and you can become a subscriber simply by clicking on this link. We do get a small commission if you sign up, but it goes right back into the site. And you’ll be joining millions of other customers who’ve discovered the convenience of using an online movie rental service, which is a major upgrade over the limited selection of brick-and-mortar video stores.

Blueberry (2004) – A French adaptation of the comic book series by Jean Giraud, better known as Moebius. Vincent Cassel is U.S. Marshal Mike Donavan, a peacekeeper in the 1870’s Old West who was raised by both whites and Native Americans. He helps keep a delicate peace between the two peoples, but the appearance of a sinister white sorcerer (Michael Madsen) threatens to start an all-out war. Filled with plenty of tribal mysticism and psychedelic visions.

High Plains Drifter (1973) – After the cowardly residents of a mining town stand by while a local lawman is whipped to death, his reincarnated spirit returns as The Stranger (Clint Eastwood). He agrees to protect them from a gang of criminals who are due to be released from prison, but he also sets about getting revenge on the townspeople for their betrayal. A haunting film filled with hellish imagery–especially when the whole town is painted red–and the usual amount of badass Eastwood gunplay.

Billy the Kid vs. Dracula (1966) – When I think of dream fights, one that readily springs to mind is Billy the Kid taking on Dracula. Imagine my pleasure when I actually got to see it take place, courtesy of Dracula’s plan to turn Billy’s fiancee into his vampire bride. It’s actually pretty silly, but fans of the Weird West should get a real kick out of it. John Carradine stars as Count Dracula. You may also want to check out the other film in the series, Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter (no, I’m not kidding).

Westworld (1973) – In the future, tourists can attend a Western theme park and engage in barroom brawls, shootouts, and all manner of other countrified behavior. But when a computer virus causes the park’s androids to start killing the guests, two pals (James Brolin and Richard Benjamin) must fight for their lives, especially against the lethal Gunslinger (Yul Brynner). Directed and written by Michael Crichton.

Near Dark (1987) – Before she won an Oscar for The Hurt Locker, director Catherine Bigelow helmed this fusion of the Western and vampire genres. After small-town Oklahoma boy Caleb Colton (Adrian Pasdar) meets a mysterious young woman and gets bitten on the neck, he finds himself turning into a vampire and adopted by her undead “family” on a trial basis. Lance Henriksen plays the head vampire, and Bill Paxton is great as the murderous bloodsucker known as Severen.

The Burrowers (2008) – In 1879, settlers in the Dakota Territory are picked off by the horrific Burrowers, a species of underground creatures who paralyze their victims, bury them alive, and then begin to feed once decomposition sets in. But the settlers aren’t going to go quietly, and an expedition sets out to discover the truth. In addition to the elements of the weird West, the film also has something to say about the environment, race relations, and the extreme methods of the U.S. cavalry. Familiar faces include Clancy Brown, Laura Leighton, Sean Patrick Thomas, and William Mapother (Tom Cruise‘s first cousin).

The White Buffalo (1977) – When it comes to the best weird Westerns of all time, it’s hard to beat The White Buffalo for sheer strangeness. Charles Bronson plays legendary gunfighter Wild Bill Hickok, a man tormented by dreams of a massive white buffalo. The dreams are so vivid, in fact, that he starts roaming the land in order to kill the beast. During his travels he encounters Crazy Horse (Will Sampson), who’s also chasing a giant white buffalo that killed his daughter. The two men team up to stop the creature, and the Weird West will never be the same.

Pale Rider (1985) – Clint Eastwood once again appears on our list of the best weird Westerns of all time. In this film, he’s a traveling preacher with no name, but he quickly demonstrates his skills with an axe handle and six-shooter when taking on the goons of the local villain (Richard Dysart). Siding with a group of hard-working miners (including Michael Moriarty), “Preacher” battles a number of henchmen, a giant (Richard Kiel), and a sinister U.S. Marshal and his “deputies.” Eastwood stated in an interview that Preacher is a ghost sent to answer the prayers of a young girl in the mining camp.

Ravenous (1999) – Guy Pearce and Robert Carlyle star in this weird Western that combines cannibalism and dark comedy. Pearce plays an Army officer who gets a promotion during the Mexican-American War but is then reassigned to a lonely outpost in the wilderness of California. As he settles in, the sleepy fort is visited by Colquhoun (Carlyle), a delirious stranger who tells a tale of a madman feasting on a group of settlers. Co-starring Jeremy Davies, Jeffrey Jones, and David Arquette.

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Ginger Snaps Back (2004) – Two hundred years prior to the events in Ginger Snaps, the identical ancestors of Ginger (Katharine Isabelle) and Brigitte (Emily Perkins) Fitzgerald deal with rampaging werewolves at an isolated fort in 1815 Canada. Fans of Twlight should check this entire series out, and it’s also strong enough to appeal to older viewers.

If you’re a complete geek for the weird western genre, you might also want to check out the role-playing game known as Deadlands. It’s set in the Old West, but it includes mad science, demons, zombies and all manner of other supernatural creatures. It’s published by Pinnacle Entertainment Group, who happen to hold the trademark to the phrase “Weird West.”

For more suggestions on the western genre, be sure to check out these links from OGM:

This entry was posted on Friday, June 18th, 2010 at 5:24 am and is filed under Good Movies. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

3 Responses to “The Best Weird Westerns of All Time”

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February 24, 2011

Edward M. Erdelac

You should seek out the Brad Dourif/James Earl Jones weird western ‘Grim Prairie Tales.’ Two guys telling bizarre weird western stories around a campfire.

February 26, 2011

Shane

I’ve seen Grim Prairie Tales, but it was many, many years ago. Now I guess I’ll have to go back and give it another look. :)

Thanks for the suggestion, Edward.

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