An informal poll of the emplyees of G4 revealed that 100 percent of gamers want to play or are playing Rockstar's Red Dead Redemption, but only 33 percent were familliar with the best Western films ever made. As a public service, we've compiled a list of six must-see Westerns made over the last 60 years, in reverse chronological order. All of these films are perfect for Red Dead Redemption fans.
The Proposition: One of the major influences that Rockstar has cited for Red Dead Redemption was John Hillcoat’s absolutely fantastic western flick, The Proposition. Not only does Red Dead also take place during the dying days of the Wild West, but it also tells the story of a former outlaw forced to do the government’s bidding in exchange for his and his family’s freedom.
The only slight difference is that in The Proposition, Guy Pearce’s Charlie Burns has to kill his older brother to save his younger brother, and in Red Dead, John Marston has to hunt down his former gang mates to save his wife and kid. Minor points really, since the overall structure is identical. It's no wonder then that The Proposition, along with the remake of 3:10 to Yuma, are Rockstar's picks for "favorite Westerns of the last decade."
If you’re playing Red Dead and you haven’t seen The Proposition, it’s a must-watch. Even if you’re aren’t planning to play the game, check out the movie. It’s brilliant. Interestingly enough, Hillcoat actually directed the 30-minute Red Dead Redemption animated short that will be airing on Fox May 29 at midnight.
The Quick and the Dead: Sam Raimi’s criminally under-appreciated riff on the Western Genre features an incredible cast (Sharon Stone, Leonardo DiCaprio, Gene Hackman, Russel Crowe) and the kind of frenetic camera work Raimi is known for. More light-hearted than the other Westerns on this list, The Quick and the Dead is more over-the-top homage or love letter to the Western genre than “straight” Western, but if you like Red Dead’s broader characters, you’ll find a lot to like about this fast-paced, exciting movie. Plus, you get to see Sharon Stone in her prime doing a credible job playing a badass cowgirl. That’s worth a rental, right?
Silverado: There's something to be said about mounting up and finding a good posse to ride with in Red Dead Redemption; mostly that's an effort in finding some fellow gamers who don't teamkill. That's pretty much what 1985's Silverado was all about. This film unites the ragtag team of heat-packin' dudes: Scott Glenn, Kevin Costner, Kevin Kline, and Danny Glover. They blaze their way to justice against a corrupt local sheriff, and It's all about the bond of friendship over blood. It also contains a lot of good lessons educating you on why you shouldn't turn and pop one of your partners in the head. Plus, check out the pimp-tastic poker suit that Jeff Goldblum's character "Slick" sports and tell us Rockstar didn't lift those duds directly.
The Wild Bunch: If you're a fan of bullets flying and people dying in slow-motion, then The Wild Bunch was tailor made for you. If ever there was an actual cinematic film that the Wachowskis stole bullet-time from for The Matrix, it was this 1969 movie. Directed by the wizard of slow-mo death, Sam Peckinpah, it is arguably his finest film and he wanted audiences to really feel what it was like to be gunned down. It's about a rough-and-tumble group of aging gunslingers trying to survive in the updated world of the 1900s while pulling off one final heist. Of course, things don't go as planned, and this leads to plenty of shootouts. While struggling to remain relevant in a new world of automobiles, this bunch discovers that one thing never goes out of style: guns.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: In the 1960s, virtually the entire Italian film industry began making films about cowboys, and the best of this bumper crop of “Spaghetti Westerns” is Sergio Leone's The Good, The Bad and the Ugly. In this flick, the untamed West isn’t a geographic space as much as an existential plain populated by the archetypes of the title, whose deeds and personalities are so big and so badass, they are more Gods than men.
While the cowboys of The Good, The Bad and the Ugly are locked in eternal struggle outside of Space and Time, their common enemy, Civilization and the mundanity it brings, slowly, relentlessly approaches to destroy their Universe. It’s Greek Mythology with gunfights, and Clint Eastwood is so cool, his character doesn’t even have a name.
Red Dead’s protagonist owes his whole look to Clint Eastwood’s iconic hero, and the soundtrack to this game couldn’t exist without Enrico Morricone ’s spare, whistle-driven score. The game’s main theme of the encroachment of civilization on the residents of The Old West will seem familiar to Red Dead players too.
Shane: One man, one gun, one mission. Well, many different missions, if you're playing Red Dead. But Shane was all about one mission: defend poor homesteaders from a powerful cattle baron who is forcing all of the locals off of their land. That's a theme you'll find familiar throughout the game, unless you choose to let your six-gun do all the speaking for you.
This 1956 film was one of the first Westerns that truly defined the genre. A mysterious gunslinger with one name drifts into a small town and quickly finds himself wedged between a wholesome family and the local baddie. He's wearing a white (ish) hat, so you know where things are going. But that doesn't stop you from enjoying the gunplay between the steely Alan Ladd as Shane, and the smirking badass that is Jack Palance as black-hatted gun-for-hire Jack Wilson. Eastwood would later make his living portraying a version of Shane, usually with no name.