Honor roll: Western films

Each of these Western films has received at least one award nomination. They are ranked by honors received.

Film:Unforgiven

Unforgiven

Clint Eastwood

Winner of four Academy Awards, including best picture, director, supporting actor, and best editing, Clint Eastwood’s 1992 masterpiece stands as one of the greatest and most thematically compelling Westerns ever made. “The movie summarized everything I feel about the Western,” said Eastwood at the time of the film’s release. “The moral is the concern with gunplay.” To illustrate that theme, Eastwood stars as a retired, once-ruthless killer-turned-gentle-widower and hog farmer. He accepts one last bounty-hunter mission—to find the men who brutalized a…

Film:Brokeback Mountain

Brokeback Mountain

Ang Lee

A sad, melancholy ache pervades Brokeback Mountain, Ang Lee’s haunting, moving film that, like his other movies, explores societal constraints and the passions that lurk underneath. This time, however, instead of taking on ancient China, 19th-century England, or ‘70s suburbia, Lee uses the tableau of the American West in the early ‘60s to show how two lovers are bound by their expected roles, how they rebel against them, and the repercussions for each of doing so—but the romance here is between two men. Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake…

Film:Dances with Wolves

Dances with Wolves

Kevin Costner

Kevin Costner’s 1990 epic won a bundle of Oscars for a moving, engrossing story of a white soldier (Costner) who singlehandedly mans a post in the 1870 Dakotas, and becomes a part of the Lakota Sioux community who live nearby. The film may not be a masterpiece, but it is far more than the sum of good intentions. The characters are strong, the development of relationships is both ambitious and careful, the love story between Costner and Mary McDonnell’s character is captivating. Only the third-act portrait of white intruders as morons feels overbearing, but even…

Film:Django Unchained (2012)

Django Unchained

Quentin Tarantino

Set in the South two years before the Civil War, Django Unchained stars Jamie Foxx as Django, a slave whose brutal history with his former owners lands him face-to-face with German-born bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz). Schultz is on the trail of the murderous Brittle brothers, and only Django can lead him to his bounty. Honing vital hunting skills, Django remains focused on one goal: finding and rescuing Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), the wife he lost to the slave trade long ago. Django and Schultz’s search ultimately leads them to Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), the proprietor of “Candyland,” an infamous plantation. Exploring the compound under false pretenses, Django and Schultz arouse the suspicion of Stephen (Samuel L. Jackson), Candie’s trusted house slave.

Film:True Grit

True Grit

Ethan Coen, Joel Coen

Fourteen-year-old Mattie Ross’s (Hailee Steinfeld) father has been shot in cold blood by the coward Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin), and she is determined to bring him to justice. Enlisting the help of a trigger-happy, drunken U.S. Marshal, Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges), she sets out with him—over his objections—to hunt down Chaney. Her father’s blood demands that she pursue the criminal into Indian territory and find him before a Texas Ranger named LeBoeuf (Matt Damon) catches him and brings him back to Texas for the murder of another man.

Film:The Mask of Zorro

The Mask of Zorro

Martin Campbell

In this day of movies in which one can’t tell whether the action was manufactured by computer generation or by a cookie cutter, The Mask of Zorro is a grand throwback. It recalls and celebrates the fantasy workshop that Hollywood was and can be at its best. It’s an audience pleaser in the best sense of the word, combining great-looking performers with gorgeous vistas and production design, a story that is familiar yet never insults the viewer’s intelligence, and plenty of eye-popping action.

Anthony Hopkins stars as the original Zorro, a masked…

Film:Back to the Future: Part 3 of trilogy

Back to the Future: Part 3 of trilogy

Robert Zemeckis

Shot back-to-back with Back to the Future II, this final chapter in the series is less hectic than that film and has the same sweet spirit of the first, albeit in a whole new setting. This time, Michael J. Fox’s character ends up in the Old West of 1885, trying to prevent the death of mad scientist Christopher Lloyd at the hands of a gunman. Director Robert Zemeckis successfully blends exciting special effects with the traditions of a Western, and comes up with something original and fun. —Tom Keogh

Film:3:10 to Yuma

3:10 to Yuma

James Mangold

In Arizona in the late 1800s, infamous outlaw Ben Wade and his vicious gang of thieves and murderers have plagued the Southern Railroad. When Wade is captured, Civil War veteran Dan Evans, struggling to survive on his drought-plagued ranch, volunteers to deliver him alive to the “3:10 to Yuma,” a train that will take the killer to trial. On the trail, Evans and Wade, each from very different worlds, begin to earn each other’s respect. But with Wade’s outfit on their trail—and dangers at every turn—the mission soon becomes a violent, impossible journey toward each man’s destiny.

Film:The Missing

The Missing

Ron Howard

The Missing is the story of Maggie Gilkeson (Cate Blanchett), a young woman raising her two daughters in an isolated and lawless wilderness. When her oldest daughter (Evan Rachel Wood) is kidnapped by a psychopathic killer with mystical powers (Eric Schweig), Maggie is forced to re-unite with her long estranged father (Tommy Lee Jones) to rescue her. The killer and his brutal cult of desperados have kidnapped several other teenage girls, leaving a trail of death and horror across the desolate landscape of the American Southwest.

Film:Legends of the Fall

Legends of the Fall

Edward Zwick

A box-office hit when released in 1994, this sprawling, frequently overwrought familial melodrama may get sillier as its plot progresses, but it’s the kind of lusty, character-based epic that Hollywood should attempt more often. It’s also an unabashedly flattering star vehicle for Brad Pitt as Tristan—the rebellious middle son of a fiercely independent Montana rancher and military veteran (Anthony Hopkins)—who is routinely at odds with his more responsible older brother, Alfred (Aidan Quinn), and younger brother, Samuel (Henry Thomas). From the battlefields of…

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