As other New Yorkers head to theaters for the TriBeCa Film Festival, I am mining my Netflix Watch Instantly arsenal to create my own very small-screen film festival. Westerns are on my brain right now for quite a few reasons: the spellbinding creativity of Rango, wanderlust for a road trip through Monument Valley, and the lingering obsession with Proenza Schouler’s southwest influenced Spring 2011 show. The selection on Netflix Instant spans a range from classic to contemporary revisionist, and these are my picks for the best.

Stagecoach, 1939
Director: John Ford
Starring: John Wayne

Seminal work with genre giants John Ford and John Wayne, Stagecoach has all of the qualities that define Westerns: the outlaw gunslinger hero, a hooker with a heart of gold, Apache raids, and a theme of revenge.

High Noon, 1952
Fred Zinnemann, with Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly

A heroic Marshall defends his town from a band of criminals, who are arriving on the noon train.

River of No Return, 1954
Otto Preminger, with Robert Mitchum and Marilyn Monroe

There Western stock character- a sultry saloon singer with a secretly pure heart- who is the equivalent of Marilyn Monroe’s screen persona. So in this film, Monroe is playing her own Western stereotype, and it works.

Giant, 1956
George Stevens, with Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, James Dean

This epic is an epic time commitment, but worth it.

Hud, 1963
Martin Ritt, with Paul Newman

Paul Newman stars in this atypical Western as an unlikeable anti-hero, but SO easy on the eyes.

Cheyenne Autumn, 1964
John Ford, with Ricardo Montalbon and Jimmy Stewart

A reversal of the stereotypical villainous Indian in Westerns, this film reveals the abuse by the United States government of the Cheyenne Indians as they attempt to move their tribe from Oklahoma to Wyoming to avoid starvation in 1878.

Blazing Saddles, 1974
Mel Brooks, with Gene Wilder

Mel Brooks is at his absolute best in this hilarious send-up of the genre.

Dances with Wolves, 1990
Kevin Costner, directing and starring

Love Costner or hate him, this movie is beautifully shot and a moving revisionist Western.

The Good the Bad and the Weird, 2008
Ji-Woon Kim

A South Korean interpretation of Sergio Leone’s influential Spaghetti Western starring Clint Eastwood, 1966 The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.


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