The remake of The Magnificent Seven is the latest classic Western film to get a remake, bringing back fond memories of the original 1960 version. The movie joins other similar films in the genre that have been updated in recent years, including True Grit, The Alamo and 3:10 to Yuma, to name only a few of the more high profile ones. Clearly, the Western movie genre is starting to ride high in the saddle again after suffering a slump in the 1990s and early 2000s. With that in mind, we look at 10 other classic Westerns that Hollywood studios should consider remaking.
10. The Searchers (1956)
Some people may claim that it would be sacrilege to remake this classic western that starred John Wayne, Jeffrey Hunter (who went on to play Captain Christopher Pike in the pilot episode of Star Trek) and Natalie Wood. The movie is about a middle-aged Civil War veteran who spends years looking for his niece, who has been abducted by Native Americans. While the original movie remains a classic and features stunning cinematography of mountain vistas and rolling green valleys, the film has aged quite a bit, most notably in its dialogue and the way in which it treats the inherent racism of the movie’s main character, Ethan Edwards (John Wayne) towards Native Americans. An updated version of The Searchers could treat the dark subject matter of the film more realistically and delve more into the brutality and genocide that was inflicted on Native Americans, while retaining the fantastic cinematography and set locations that make the original so compelling.
9. Paint Your Wagon (1969)
Western movies appear to be back in vogue, and musicals are always in style. Well, Paint Your Wagon is one of the few western musicals that can straddle the two genres. That’s right, it wasn’t just a fake movie made up for an episode of The Simpsons, it actually exists (although sadly, the song from the episode is not in it). The original was made in 1969 and based on a successful Broadway show, starring Lee Marvin and Clint Eastwood (yes, Clint sings in the film), and is about a group of gold miners in northern California. Taking two actors known for playing silent tough guys on screen and having them sing, dance and serenade various female co-stars did not go over well with critics, who mostly panned this attempt by Marvin and Eastwood to soften their respective images. However, audiences liked the movie more than critics, and currently it has a 69% audience approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. With the right cast, an updated version of Paint Your Wagon could work, pulling in both people who appreciate a good western as well as those who like a musical.
8. Winchester ’73 (1950)
Another darker western from the Golden Age of Hollywood is Winchester ’73, which starred Jimmy Stewart and Shelly Winters. What’s interesting about Winchester ’73 is the film’s rather inventive plot, which is about the journey of a prized Winchester rifle as it travels from one ill-fated owner to another, a journey which also parallels a cowboy’s search for a murderous fugitive. Dark and gritty, this is a film that could work really well if remade by the right director. The original script won numerous awards, and the movie is good enough that the United States Library of Congress selected the film for preservation in the National Film Registry in 2015. Still, it is not a Western that is widely known to audiences and a remake could introduce it to a whole new generation of moviegoers.
7. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
This movie is a true classic, and one of the best buddy movies ever made, as Paul Newman as Butch Cassidy and Robert Redford as the Sundance Kid make for one of the best on-screen duos ever. It also features a great script by William Goldman, who won an Oscar for this movie, and infuses the film with same offbeat humor he would later use in The Princess Bride. So why remake such a classic movie? Mostly because enough time has passed, making the 1960’s sensibilities and anti-establishment leanings found in the movie dated. Updating this movie with a new cast and giving it a contemporary edge could be great. To be sure, there have been several made for television remakes of this movie over the years, as well as a disastrous 1979 prequel film called Butch and Sundance: The Early Days. But a proper and high quality big screen remake could definitely work now.
6. Ride The High Country (1962)
Ride The High Country is a film that featured some inventive casting, putting actors Randolph Scott and Joel McCrea in the lead roles as two aging guns for hire who take a job transporting gold from a mining community through dangerous territory. Scott and McCrea were two actors who had starred in a number of low budget B-movie Westerns in the 1930s and 1940, and director Sam Peckinpah brought them out of semi-retirement to star in this film. The movie also features one of the great double crosses in film history. It would be great to see this movie remade today with two contemporary older actors in the lead roles. As the original was basically an action movie, a lot could be done in a remake with action sequences and stunt work to make it a really great genre film.
5. Goin’ South (1978)
The movie Goin’ South that both starred and was directed by Jack Nicholson never got its due when it was released. A western comedy film that co-stars Marry Steenburgen (in her first movie), John Belushi (also his first film role), Danny DeVito and Christopher Lloyd, Goin’ South was savaged by critics and ignored by audiences, and marked one of the few flops Nicholson had in the 70’s. However, the movie’s rough treatment had more to do with people’s unwillingness to accept Nicholson in a comedy than it did with the quality of the film. The movie is about a cattle thief who is saved from hanging at the gallows by a woman, who agrees to marry the crook if he’ll help her with a goldmine left to her by her dead father, and keep the railroad from taking her land. The movie actually has a great script, some genuine laughs, and, at its heart, is a warm love story. There could be an opportunity to remake this movie and finally get it the attention it has always deserved.
4. Little Big Man (1970)
Like Goin’ South, this quirky western comedy film starring Dustin Hoffman never connected with audiences when released. While critics loved the movie, audiences weren’t sure how to take it and largely stayed away. Directed by Arthur Penn, the film is about a white male child who is raised by the Cheyenne nation during the 19th century. Told in a series of episodic flashbacks, the movie contrasts the lives of American pioneers and Native Americans through a series of often hilarious scenes and situations. This is such a quirky film, it may be difficult to remake, but with the right director and tone, it could work well. As always, casting would be key, and a serious actor who can straddle both comedy and drama would be needed in the lead role.
3. How the West Was Won (1962)
If they can remake Birth of a Nation, then they can also remake How the West Was Won, the epic movie that boasted an all-star cast of western movie legends such as John Wayne, Richard Widmark, Jimmy Stewart, Gregory Peck and Henry Fonda. The filme follows four generations of a family as they leave New York on the East Coast and make their way westward to the Pacific Ocean. Along the way they encounter all manner of problems with bandits, thieves, Native Americans and the encroaching railroad, as well as the American Civil War. One of the last epic films from the studio system era of Hollywood, How the West Was Won enjoyed great critical and commercial success when released, and was nominated for eight Oscars, including Best Picture. Remaking this movie with an all-star cast of today, and giving it a more realistic tone about the Civil War and treatment of indigenous people could create a second excellent film with a similar pedigree as this first.
2. Shane (1953)
Probably the movie on this list that we’d most like to see remade is the classic film Shane, which is about a gunfighter with a mysterious past who helps a group of homesteaders stand up to an evil cattle baron intent on driving them off their land. Widely considered a classic and ranked at number 45 on the American Film Institute’s Top 100 Movies list, Shane set a template for the western movies that followed it, but has nevertheless fallen by the wayside to a large degree. It also appears to be horribly outdated with its costumes, weak fight scenes and dialogue. After all, there is only so many times you can hear a cowboy exclaim “Gee Whiz” unironically in this day and age. Frankly, in the original, Shane is about as threatening as a golden retriever. A contemporary remake of Shane should make the film darker and more violent, and expand on Shane’s secret past.
1. High Noon (1952)
Yes, this is a classic film. And yes, it stars screen legend Gary Cooper in his signature role. But the reality is that this black and white film has dated quite a bit over the past 60-plus years and is overdue for a modern retelling. The movie takes place in nearly real time, and tells the simple story of a town marshal forced to face a gang of killers all by himself, after the townsfolk he has spent his career defending abandon him in his own time of need. The tension is ratcheted up as the Marshall waits for a train to arrive carrying the gang’s leader. Essentially about a man who refuses to run from a fight and let evil win, even if it costs him his own life, High Noon could definitely benefit from a contemporary update. Modern dialogue and action scenes could help liven up this classic story and bring it to the attention of a whole new generation of movie lovers.