From the golden age of John Wayne up to a young Clint Eastwood in films like A Fistful of Dollars, film-goers have always loved the action and adventure of the Wild West. One of the greats of the era was undoubtedly the original The Magnificent Seven from 1960 starring Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen. This gun-slinging wagon ride of a movie was itself a remake of a Japanese-language film called Seven Samurai. And proving the enduring appeal of the genre, the latest trailer has dropped for the 2016 reboot starring heavyweights like Denzel Washington, Ethan Hawke, and Chris Pratt.
In recent decades, there’s been a reimagining of the film type by movie makers. Director of the new The Magnificent Seven, Antoine Fuqua, the man behind Training Day and now reuniting Washington and Hawke, will hope his latest big-screen outing lives up to the success of these more modern day Hollywood upgrades of the tales of the Old West.
Dances with Wolves (1990)
The winner of seven Academy Awards, Dances with Wolves is seen by many as the fuse that reignited the appeal of the Western in Hollywood. Directed, produced by, and starring Kevin Costner, it is the story of a Union Army lieutenant and his interaction with a tribe of Lakota Indians. Based on a book by Michael Blake with whom Costner had previously worked, the actor bought the production rights himself.
Did you know? Along with its box-office success, the movie is also known for its iconic soundtrack, composed by John Barry, which also picked up an Oscar.
Clint Eastwood’s award-winning story about ageing outlaw William Munny was critically acclaimed for its darker take on the genre. Eastwood joined a cast including Gene Hackman, Morgan Freeman, and Richard Harris for the tale of the gunman-turned-farmer who comes out of retirement for one last job. Unforgiven became the third Western to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards, picking up four gongs in total.
Did you know? In 2008 the American Film Institute named the movie the fourth best Western ever, while Eastwood himself said it was the greatest one he’d ever done.
Open Range (2003)
Costner was back in the director’s chair when he teamed up with Robert Duvall and Annette Bening for another critically-acclaimed production. Duvall as ‘Boss Spearman’ and Costner’s ‘Charly’ are cowhands driving a herd across Montana when they become embroiled, as most cowboys do, in a conflict with a ruthless gang.
Did you know? For filming, Costner, who turned down the role of Bill in Kill Bill to make the movie, had a town constructed from scratch which needed its own access road as it was placed in such a remote location.
True Grit (2010)
Celebrated directors the Coen Brothers reimagined the John Wayne classic and cast Jeff Bridges as the iconic U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn. Hailee Steinfeld excels as teenage Mattie Ross who hires the alcohol-fuelled lawman to hunt down Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin), the man who killed her father. The movie, also starring Matt Damon as a Texas Ranger, was nominated for ten Oscars, though it didn’t actually win any.
Did you know? Bridges who won the award for Best Actor the previous year for Crazy Heart, was stepping into John ‘The Duke’ Wayne’s boots, the man who had himself picked up the Academy Award for playing Rooster Cogburn in the 1969 original.
Django Unchained (2012)
The Western was given the Quentin Tarantino treatment for his story of Jamie Foxx’s Django, a slave, teaming up with German bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz, played by Christoph Waltz. Also starring Leonardo Di Caprio and Kerry Washington, the movie is often called a Tarantino tribute to the Spaghetti Western, a term used to describe a collection of films produced by Europeans, particularly Italians. Tarantino won the Oscar for Best Screenplay while Waltz earned the accolade for Best Supporting Actor.
Did you know? The film was inspired by an original Italian production called Django, and the title star of that movie Franco Nero makes a cameo appearance.