While playing Red Dead Redemption 2, a handful of Westerns keep coming to mind. Many of those films are most likely explicit influences, but others simply are evocative or reminiscent.
For me, at least.
After each round of Red Dead Redemption 2, my list of movies I want to rewatch keeps growing. So far, it is...
(Note that while some of the trailers are dated, the actual movies are, in my opinion, worth watching—or re-watching.)
The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly
This movie continues to get better with age.
Fistful of Dollars
Fistful of Dollars not only lifted the plot from Yojimbo but like Kurosawa’s film, completely reinvented a genre.
Along with Sam Fuller’s Forty Guns, Johnny Guitar is one of the most unusual Westerns of the 1950s. Before becoming a director, Nicholas Ray had studied briefly under Frank Lloyd Wright. Throughout his career, Ray often used environments, especially architecture, to reflect characters. Likewise, Rockstar’s characters and stories often reflect or contrast their environments.
Marlon Brando directed one film in his life and boy, did he ever direct a doozy. This is a wonderfully strange Western. Is it good? Well, it is bloated and self-indulgent, but also compelling, haunting and beautiful.
Once Upon A Time In The West
When originally released, critics hated it and the picture flopped. Henry Fonda was reluctant to take the role, but this is perhaps the best performance of his career. Woody Strode and Charles Bronson are also in top form in the movie that brought Sergio Leone back to the Western genre. This might be my favorite Leone Western. Thematically, it’s closest to the Red Dead games.
The film’s story was conceived by Dario Argento and Bernardo Bertolucci, and Charles Bronson accepted the role of “Harmonica” after Clint Eastwood turned it down. Bronson had previously turned down the role of The Man With No Name in Fistful of Dollars.
Howard Hawks often made movies about groups of people coming together to pull something off. Here, it’s defending a jail from outlaws. There’s comedy, humanity and Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson singing. The movie is so good that Howard Hawks remade it several years later as El Dorado (below) with Robert Mitchum as the drunk, originally played by Dean Martin, and a young James Caan as the new kid, originally played by Ricky Nelson.
John Carpenter remade Rio Bravo into Assault on Precinct 13 in 1976, which was then remade in 2005 with Laurence Fishburne and Ethan Hawke.
This might be blasphemous to say as a Western aficionado, but I’ve never been a huge John Ford fan. I’ve always preferred the John Wayne of Howard Hawks’ Westerns.
I do enjoy Ford’s interviews with Peter Bogdanovich!
Stagecoach, though, has long been a favorite ever since as a kid I learned of how it influenced Raiders of the Lost Ark. Red Dead’s humor and the characters sometimes remind me of something out of John Ford.
Just as Red Dead Redemption 2 bucks current gaming trends, decades earlier, Unforgiven did the same thing for gunslinger movies. I remember seeing the movie when it first came out, and I recently re-watched it. In just over two hours, Unforgiven tears down much of the Western mythos Eastwood’s earlier films spent decades building.
The Wild Bunch
Do the Red Dead games owe more to Leone? Or to Sam Peckinpah?
When the Wild Bunch premiered in 1969, it incited cheers and booing. Director Sam Peckinpah was attempting to outdo the violence in Depression Era gangster yarn Bonnie and Clyde. He did. During an early screening, one patron apparently got so ill that he threw up during the final gunfight.
Sam Peckinpah’s use of slow-motion and different film speeds was revolutionary for its time. Violent and beautiful, The Wild Bunch would later inspire a generation of American, European and Hong Kong filmmakers.
Jimmy Stewart made a series of Westerns with filmmaker Anthony Mann during the 1950s. Stewart was looking to change his affable good guy typecasting, while Mann, who had previously directed crime film classics like Raw Deal, would bring his film noir sensibility to the cowboy genre.
This the first collaboration between Stewart and Mann. It focuses on the journey a prized Winchester rifle makes as it changes hands, reminding me of how I’ve acquired some of my pistols in Red Dead Redemption 2. There’s also an outlaw named Dutch!
Feel free to add any Westerns to watch below.