Firefly was the first binge watch for some of us. Joss Whedon’s legendary space western told some great stories over its scant few hours. The western half, with cows on a ship and fancy cotillions helped make the space parts more memorable. Fans of the show are more likely to be familiar with the sci-fi elements of Firefly compared to the western ones. Luckily, streaming sites are riding to the rescue here with some classic Westerns currently available when many of us have more time to catch up on our cinematic backlogs.
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly ( Netflix)
The whole Man With No Name trilogy (A Fistful of Dollars, For A Few Dollars More, The Good, The Bad And The Ugly) is worth checking out, but this third collaboration between director Sergio Leone and actor Clint Eastwood features their storytelling firing on all cylinders. It’s a race between Eastwood’s Blondie, Lee Van Cleef’s brutal Angel Eyes and Eli Wallach’s slimy-yet-charming Tuco for stolen gold. The final three way duel is one you’ve probably seen in memes but worth checking out in its original format with Leone’s tense direction and Ennio Morricone’s iconic score.
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance ( Amazon Prime)
John Ford is best known for big, breathtaking westerns shot in full color in some of the most scenic parts of the country. This smaller story focuses on the uneasy alliance of two men as they bring down the titular bad guy. Both stars play variations on their usual movie personas but the smaller scope gives us a deeper look at each that shows the flaws in the characters. Jimmy Stewart’s everyman hero shows flares of righteous anger hinting at self destructiveness, while John Wayne’s stoic cowboy has a note of sad romanticism from a man who knows he has nowhere to go but down.
Blazing Saddles ( Hulu)
Blazing Saddles is to Westerns what Galaxy Quest is to Star Trek; a send up of the genre done by people who clearly love the thing being mocked. Now, Peter Quincy Taggart didn’t have an extended farting scene, but Blazing Saddles led the way in the rapid fire, outrageous humor that comedy still uses today. It even tips its hand to the meta nature of modern comedy by spilling out of the western backlot, across the studio, and somehow to its own premiere in a way that would make Bugs Bunny proud. Blazing Saddles isn’t just the greatest Western comedy; it’s also the last great Warner Brothers cartoon.
True Grit ( Hulu)
One of the quickest ways to soften up a grizzled gunslinger is to pair them up with an adorable kid. (Just ask the Mandalorian). The relationship between True Grit’s Rooster Cogburn and Mattie Ross is more complex than it seems. Jeff Bridges and Hailee Steinfeld display different shades in this surprisingly straightforward effort from the Coen brothers. The only time they tip their hand into their usual black humor is with Matt Damon’s vain Texas Ranger La Boeuf.
The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. ( Amazon Prime/IMDb)
Looking for another single season heartbreaker sci-fi/western starring an intensely handsome geek icon? Bruce Campbell steampunks his way across the west in this classic 90s serial. He’s looking for his father’s killer but also unraveling a conspiracy around a powerful artifact with the help of allies like his very smart horse and rival bounty hunter Lord Bowler.
Featured Image: Fox