Cowboy Movies

Wednesday, November 3, 2010 at 11:41 pm

While most movies set in the Old West feature gunslingers walking down dusty streets with one hand on their six-shooter, cowboy movies tend to place more of an emphasis on bustin’ broncos, herding cattle, and scratching out a living in the harsh landscape of 19th century America. And don’t forget the modern-day movies about cowboys, often taking place in and around rodeos and honky-tonks. This list includes a mixture of old and new westerns, but each film is guaranteed to feature the cowboy in all his hat-wearing glory.

For even more cowboy movies, be sure to mosey on over and become a member of Netflix. They offer over 100,000 films to choose from, plus free shipping and no late fees. Their selection of Western films is truly impressive, with everything from Roy Rodgers sing-a-longs to Kevin Costner epics.

Open Range (2003) -Kevin Costner and Robert Duvall generate a quite chemistry as a pair of free-range cattlemen who run afoul of a land baron (Michael Gambon) in 1882 Montana. This leads to a series of conflicts, eventually culminating in one of the best gunfight sequences you’ll ever see. Between scenes of violence and male bonding, Costner’s Charley Waite begins to fall for Susan Barlow (Annette Bening), the unmarried sister of the town doctor. Costner also directed the film, and he gets additional help in the acting department from Diego Luna, Abraham Benrubi, James Russo, and Michael Jeter (in his last on-screen role). Duvall is as cantankerous as usual, and Open Range would be equally at home among the classic movies of the ‘40s or ‘50s (with a little violence trimmed out, of course).

City Slickers (1991) – Billy Crystal, Daniel Stern, and Bruno Kirby co-star in this comedy about three friends who go on a two-week cattle drive to escape from the doldrums of a midlife crisis. They’re assisted in their travels by a tough trail boss named Curly (Jack Palance), but later events force the men to complete the journey on their own through torrential rain and raging rapids. You’ll love the cute little calf named Norman, and Palance’s performance steals the show (and earned the veteran actor an Academy Award). Co-starring Helen Slater, Noble Willingham, Jeffrey Tambor, and 10-year-old Jake Gyllenhaal (in his film debut).

Urban Cowboy (1980) – Not all cowboys work on a ranch, and John Travolta goes a long way towards proving that in this beer-soaked tale set in the oil refineries and bars of southern Texas. Bud Davis (Travolta) spends every night at the honky-tonk known as Gilley’s, where he demonstrates his ability to down shots of tequila, drink beer, and dance to country music hits. After meeting and marrying a fellow bar patron (Debra Winger), the duo fight, make love, and have a falling out over an upcoming mechanical bull-riding contest. Scott Glenn is appropriately grimy as the felon who catches Winger’s character on the rebound and intends to defeat Bud in the film’s climactic competition.

Junior Bonner (1972) – Considered by many to be the most sentimental of director Sam Peckinpah’s films, Junior Bonner follows a veteran rodeo rider (Steve McQueen) as he returns to his hometown to take another shot at one of the meanest bulls around. Meanwhile, he reconnects with his family, including a greedy brother (Joe Don Baker) and a father (Robert Preston) who dreams of moving to Australia to mine for gold. A stirring tale about the death of honor in the face of encroaching capitalism, Junior Bonner features the always-charismatic McQueen at his rugged best.

The Hired Hand (1971) – After seven years of wandering though the American southwest, Harry Collings (Peter Fonda) decides to return to the wife he abandoned. Leaving his longtime pal (Warren Oates) behind, Harry finally arrives home to a less-than-friendly reception by his estranged spouse (Verna Bloom). He stays on as a ranch hand, doing whatever she asks and slowly rekindling the passions of their marriage. But Harry’s past comes back to haunt him, as a man he once crippled (Severn Darden) seeks revenge. Considered by some to be a “Hippie Western,” The Hired Hand marked Fonda’s directorial debut. His efforts are helped considerably by the top-notch score from Bruce Langhorne and the efforts of cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond.

Join Netflix today and enjoy all the best cowboy movies.

Hondo (1953) – Based on a short story by Louis L’Amour and originally shown in 3D, Hondo stars John Wayne as an Army scout who slowly begins to fall in love with a plucky homesteader played by Geraldine Page (in an Oscar-nominated role). But her no-good husband is still skulking around somewhere, and the local Apache are getting increasingly bold. Wayne is his usual self-assured, swaggering self, and Page (relatively unknown at the time) delivers a memorable and subtle performance as a woman torn between love and the bonds of marriage. John Ford may not have helmed this Wayne western, but it still remains an entertaining motion picture.

The Big Country (1958) – Gregory Peck plays a fish-out-of-water as James McKay, a retired sea captain who gets engaged and heads to his fiancée’s family ranch. There, he finds her family locked in a feud with the uncouth Hannassey clan (led by Burl Ives in an Oscar-winning role), with both sides trying to gain favor with the owner of a ranch (Jean Simmons) called “The Big Muddy” due to its important water supply. McKay aggravates many of the locals with his refusal to prove his manhood, especially foreman Steve Leech (Charlton Heston). As the conflict between the two families grows more intense, McKay finds himself falling for another woman and getting drawn into the impending violence. Co-starring Carroll Baker, Charles Bickford, and Chuck Connors, the film was once shown four nights in a row at the White House by President Dwight Eisenhower.

The Cowboys (1972) – While taking part in a 400-mile cattle drive, all of Wil Anderson’s (John Wayne) ranch hands abandon him to take part in a gold rush. Desperate to get help, he resorts to hiring a group of schoolboys to assist with the arduous journey. The young men learn to rope and ride under the tutelage of Andersen, and a bond slowly forms between them. But there’s danger lurking around ever corner, especially from a group of cattle rustlers led by “Long Hair” Asa Watts (Bruce Dern). Following its release, Dern had trouble getting anything other than movie villain roles. Watch it once and you’ll see why.

The Electric Horseman (1979) – The third pairing of Robert Redford and Jane Fonda finds him portraying Sonny Steele, a former rodeo champ who now makes ends meet by hawking cereal for a corporation. Dissatisfied with his life, Sonny winds up stealing an injured thoroughbred (no, not Secretariat) and heading cross country to release it into the wild. Fonda is the ambitious reporter who trails him and ends up falling in love. An entertaining look at the individual struggling against big business. John Saxon and Willie Nelson co-star.

Jubal (1956) – Glenn Ford shows off his intense and underrated acting skills in this Western adapted from the novel by Paul Wellman. Jubal Troop (Ford) is found unconscious in the road and taken to the ranch of Shep Horgan (Ernest Borgnine) to recuperate. Shep quickly takes a liking to the principled Jubal, and so does Shep’s much younger and overly-amorous wife (Valerie French). A ranch hand named Pinky (a delightfully sinister Rod Steiger) also enjoys the wife’s attention, and he sets out to drive a wedge between Jubal and Shep. Co-starring Charles Bronson, Jack Elam, and Felicia Farr (who would later marry Jack Lemmon). Think of it as an Old West version of Macbeth.

If you’ve worked up a powerful hankerin’ for more cowboy movies, saddle up your horse and ride on over to Netflix. They offer multiple subscription plans to meet every budget, and they’ve never once driven someone off their land or shot a man for snoring. Click here to become a Netflix member. By the way, the small commission we receive for sending you there doesn’t add anything to your final price. Yee-haw!

This entry was posted on Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010 at 11:41 pm 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.

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