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5 Epic Westerns That Never Get Old

Updated on December 30, 2014

Gunfights, Great Acting, Humor, and a bit of Romance

Why I wrote this hub.

I love westerns. I grew up in a family of all guys except for me and my mother. I decided to write this hub on my top five epic westerns. I say epic because these movies are long. I will add a brief synopsis on the story without giving too much away. I will also list the cast, the year the movie came out, my favorite scene from the movie, it’s rating, and running time. This is merely my pick of favorites. I know that opinions vary but I believe these 5 are well-done, well-acted, and truly moving to watch. Each offers a hero and a villain. Each features great landscaping and the dry rustic appeal that makes a western great. There are parts that are gritty. There is also humor and romance. I think even the ladies will enjoy these five as they are done in a great western storytelling style. I hope you enjoy my hub and check out these great movies.

Gregory Peck

The Big Country

My first pick is The Big Country. This movie came out in 1958 and is in color. It is not rated but I would say it is equivalent to a PG rating nowadays. The running time on this movie is 2hours and 47 minutes. It features Gregory Peck as the unassuming hero. Charlton Heston plays an uncharacteristic hot-headed bad guy. It also features Burl Ives, Jean Simmons, and Carrol Baker. Gregory Peck is Jim an Eastern sea captain come to the Midwest to marry the woman he loves. His future bride is the daughter of a cattle ranch owner in the midst of a civil war with another cattle ranch owner(Ives). Their war is over the only available water for their thirsty cows. Both gentlemen are after the piece of land that has this water. Both men are stubborn, take the law into their own hands, forces of nature. Gregory Peck’s character is quiet and wise and cares little for the opinions of others. He cares about what is right and what is good. He is a man of integrity and a man of character. I will say that the running time seems a bit long in the scene with the horse and in the scene where Gregory Peck and Charlton Heston fight. Other than that, this movie is a must-see. It is so different from your typical western. It features a show of mercy rather than a call for revenge. I highly recommend this classic tale for its outstanding acting and great story.

Fighting Words

Clint Eastwood, Eli Wallach, and Lee Van Cleef

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

My second pick is The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. A person can’t really talk about westerns without including the name Clint Eastwood. Out of all of Mr. Eastwood’s westerns, I believe this one to be the most iconic. It came out in 1966 and has a running time of 2 hours and 41 minutes. It is rated R but that is by 1966 standards. It is not as violent as the rated R movies coming out today. It features Clint Eastwood as the Good, Lee Van Cleef as the Bad, and Eli Wallach as the Ugly. It is set during the time of the Civil War but our characters are after some gold. Clint Eastwood is never given a name but merely called “Blondie”. He and Eli Wallach’s character Tuco are constantly trying to outwit and outsmart one another. I enjoy the dry wit of Mr. Eastwood in this movie. It is a very stark and realistic view of the old west. People look dirty and worn and sunburned. It is as I imagine it was. The music is unforgettable as are the characters and the last scene is so well done, I never get tired of watching it. The pan of the camera from the eyes to the boots to the hands just near the guns is brilliant. Even Lee Van Cleef’s missing part of his finger is shown and draws you into the story. This is a story of good versus evil and if I am being honest even the good is a little questionable sometimes. From the wry grin on Clint Eastwood’s face to the mercy he shows a dying soldier as he gives him one last puff on his cigar, I believe you will love this movie and want to watch it again.

The Showdown

Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen

The Magnificent Seven

My third pick is The Magnificent Seven. The Magnificent Seven came out in 1960 and featured an all-star cast. The villain was once again played by the very talented Eli Wallach. The film included Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, and Robert Vaughn. The running time of this movie is 2 hours and 8 minutes. It is not rated. I would say it is equivalent to a PG rating nowadays. The story finds a small peasant town at the mercy of Eli Wallach's gang. Men from the village search for help and find some unlikely heroes. Our unlikely heroes are gun slingers and knife slingers. They are men from all walks of life. They come to the small towns’ aid with the promise of very little money. I love this movie because these men who seem to have it all find that they are respectful and even a little envious of the peasant farmers’ way of life. I like everything about this movie. It is another classic tale of good versus evil and of the sacrifices one makes for the life that they choose. The acting is well done and the characters unforgettable.

"Ride On"

Val Kilmer and Kurt Russell

Tombstone

My fourth pick is Tombstone. Tombstone is rated R and was released in 1993. It has a running time of 2 hours and 10 minutes. It features an all-star cast. Kurt Russell plays the iconic Wyatt Earp while Val Kilmer, in what I believe to be one of his greatest roles, plays his ever faithful and unforgettable friend Doc Holliday. Sam Elliot, Bill Paxton, Powers Booth, Dana Delany, and Michael Biehn complete this amazing cast. There is even a small cameo role from the great Charlton Heston. At the heart of this movie is the amazing story of Wyatt Earp and his quest for justice. His fearless and unrelenting determination is the stuff of legend. He is supported by his brothers and by his friend Doc. I love everything about this movie. The acting is superb as are the gunfights. I find myself lost in the words of this movie. The quotes are amusing and profound. There is even a little romance for the ladies. Wyatt finds himself in love with an actress played by Dana Delany. I think my favorite part of this movie is Wyatt’s friendship with Doc. While Doc has his many problems he is what we would all want in a friend and what we should strive to be. I highly recommend Tombstone to anyone who has never had the pleasure of seeing it.

Reckoning

Kevin Costner and Annette Benning

Open Range

My fifth and final pick is actually my favorite of the epic westerns. It is Open Range. It came out in 2004 and has a running time of 2 hours and 19 minutes. It is Rated R for some strong violence in the last scene. That being said, I have never seen a better gunfight. It stars Kevin Costner, Robert Duvall, and Annette Benning. The scenes in this movie are breathtaking. I have never seen a more beautifully filmed western. Kevin Costner stars as Charlie and Robert Duvall stars as Boss. They run cattle across the land and let them free graze. They are a bother to the man in charge of a small town. They mind their peace but are pushed into a fight they do not want. Charlie and Boss’s friendship and respect for each other is clearly seen and felt. They are two very different men with different ways of doing things but they listen to each other and decide what must be done. The conversations between these two men will bring a smile to your face because, yes, the acting is just so good. In the midst of this wonderfully well done tale is a romantic story that will touch your heart. It is a story of right and wrong and a story of redemption. It never gets olds and I never tire of watching it. I can’t say enough how good this movie is. There is nothing to complain about here.

You're Men Aren't Ya

Another Great Western

What classic western about a man alone draws you in by the close-ups of a clock on the wall?

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Good Storytelling

These are my 5 picks for the epic westerns. They are long but they are worth your time. All are available on Amazon and all would make great gifts. I hope you enjoyed my hub and take the time to see these classic tales of the old west.

Western Friendships

Open Range
Open Range
Tombstone
Tombstone

Tombstone

Open Range

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

The Magnificent Seven

The Big Country

High Noon

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    • joycampbell profile image
      Author

      Joy Campbell 2 years ago from Oklahoma

      You're very welcome. I hope you get a chance to check them out.

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 2 years ago from California

      Guess I haven't been keeping up on westerns lately. Thanks for helping me out.

    • joycampbell profile image
      Author

      Joy Campbell 3 years ago from Oklahoma

      I agree. They are always good. Thank you for your comment.

    • profile image

      wongpal 3 years ago

      My best westerns are Open Range and The Good The Bad and The Ugly. I never tired of watching them.

    • joycampbell profile image
      Author

      Joy Campbell 3 years ago from Oklahoma

      Thanks. Big Country is really good. It is very different from your usual western. I agree about Open Range.

    • profile image

      bingham 3 years ago

      have not seen big country...good article...love open range...