The Magnificent Seven remake is about to hit theaters next week and Western fans are psyched. Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, and Ethan Hawke will soon be treading the same ground that Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen did in 1960. The original is a perfect example of Western ensembles where multiple gunslingers band together for a noble cause.
Many movies over the years have taken the Western ensemble trope and run with it. From the golden era of Westerns on, action and adventure films use rogues who seem at odds with each other that eventually come together. War films like The Dirty Dozen and Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds wouldn’t exist without the old West as an influence. Here are some of the best Westerns that feature ensemble casts, beginning with the one that started it all.
The Magnificent Seven
The original version of The Magnificent Seven was a near carbon copy of the Akira Kurosawa classic Seven Samurai. An army of bandits led by the sinister Calvera (the amazing Eli Wallach) descends on a poor village every year. The townspeople look towards a hero played by Yul Brenner to help them, and in time, he assembles a fighting force of some of the best cowboys he can find. The final shootout in the film is exciting, and many of the supporting cast including Charles Bronson, Robert Vaughn, and James Coburn would go on to be immortalized for their performances in the film.
The Hateful Eight
The Hateful Eight is Quentin Tarantino’s latest and some believe greatest film to date. Many of Tarantino’s stable of regulars appear on-screen, including Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, and Samuel Jackson. But it’s Kurt Russell’s role as the gruff hangman John Ruth that seals the deal for Western fans. The graphic violence, language, and gore in The Hateful Eight make it one of the most extreme films in the genre, but the overall polish and presentation make the movie absolutely captivating. Everything from Ennio Morricone’s score to the nods at Carpenter’s The Thing elevate this one as a standout entry in the genre.
Once Upon a Time in the West
Possibly the biggest filmmaking achievement to come out of the Italian spaghetti Western era, Once Upon a Time in the West is an absolute must-see. Director Sergio Leone cemented his legacy with his Man with No Name trilogy that made Clint Eastwood into one of the biggest stars in the world, but Once Upon a Time is a masterpiece. The premise for the film is a dark tale about a woman who finds her family killed and seeks revenge. Henry Fonda, best known for his roles as strong men of character and values, erupts in the film as the cold-blooded killer, Frank. This is an epic in every sense of the word.
The Wild Bunch
The Wild Bunch is Sam Peckinpah’s version of a tough, gritty, and very bloody cowboy Western. The ensemble in this piece is a mix of some of Hollywood’s top character actors. Ernest Borgnine stands out alongside William Holden and Warren Oates in a movie that pushed boundaries and turned the genre on its head. The Wild Bunch separated itself from the trope of having good guys working together for a positive outcome. The story starts with a brutal shootout involving outlaws and ends with an even more intense scene during an escape. It’s a movie for the Western fan who roots for the bad guys.
If the ’80s had a seminal Western the decade could call it’s own, it would be Young Guns. Some of the hottest stars of the time banded together for this tale that also featured rogue gunmen. Emilio Estevez plays the character that eventually becomes Billy the Kid. Alongside Kiefer Sutherland, Charlie Sheen, Dermot Mulroney, and Lou Diamond Phillips, he brings the action when their group faces off against corrupt killers. Despite having a lackluster sequel that retconned the first film, Young Guns still stands as a fun and highly entertaining throwback to a time when outlaws were the coolest kids in town.