'True Grit' exclusive: Joel and Ethan Coen pick their favorite Westerns

true-grit-coensImage Credit: Wilson WebbJoel and Ethan Coen aren’t just great filmmakers, they’re world-class cinephiles as well. Take a look at their filmography and you’ll find movies that are love letters to Old Hollywood gangster flicks (Miller’s Crossing), film noir (Blood Simple, The Man Who Wasn’t There), screwball comedies (The Hudsucker Proxy), and even Wallace Beery wrestling pictures (Barton Fink). For True Grit, their first foray into the sagebrush-and-saddle territory of John Wayne, EW reached out to the brothers Coen to find out their picks for their favorite Westerns. Here, in their own words, are their all-time faves:

1. Once Upon a Time in the West (1968, PG-13) “Sergio Leone movie. Good hat brims.”

2. The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976, PG) “Clint Eastwood movie from the 1970s, when the major studios were, on the evidence here, less uptight.”

3. Greaser’s Palace (1972, R) “Robert Downey Sr. movie. The Putney Swope of Westerns.”

4. Doc (1971, PG). “Frank Perry movie, written by Pete Hamill. We haven’t actually seen this one but saw a clip of the first scene, and the opening gag makes us suspect the movie belongs on the list. Stacy Keach fights consumption, dust, and bad men as Doc Holliday. This movie is for you if you like to watch people cough. Stacy was warming up to play one of cinema’s great lawmen in the Cheech and Chong movies.”

5. The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (1972, PG)  “Interestingly, it turns out that most of the best Westerns were made in the ’70s, hardly our expectation when we started the list. This one has another great opening scene — again with Stacy Keach, this time as Bad Bob. Admittedly this John Huston movie is, apart from the opening scene, less swinging than the others on the list, but it has Paul Newman with his limpid blue eyes. “

What do you think of Coen’s list, pardners? What Westerns would make your list?

Read more:
‘True Grit’ EW review
Box office update: ‘True Grit’ celebrates New Year’s Eve with $8.2 million
‘True Grit’ John Wayne vs. Jeff Bridges — which one has more grit?

Comments (41 total) Add your comment
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  • Donnie

    What; you were expecting The Searchers, Rio Bravo, or Winchester ’73?

    • FromChicago

      Red River and Lonesome Dove. Open Range. 3:10 to Yuma. They missed all the good ones.

      • Donnie

        Darn tootin’. I think the Coens are dicking with us.

  • Andy

    Shane! Come back!

  • waya

    “Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” is my fav western. Face it, the best westerns were made in Italy. ;o)

  • mickey

    Where’s “Unforgiven,” “Shane,” and “Fistful of Dollars,” not to mention the all time Gene Wilder/Harrison Ford classic “The Frisco Kid?”

  • Jon

    I like how the descriptions dwindle as they got to number 1 — starting with a full paragraph and ending with chopped sentences. The list actually seems to be somewhat mocking.

    • Strepsi

      The clue is in the introduction, “EW reached out to the brothers Coen” — they don’t say they talked to them — this list was probably pulled out of the Coens’ a** and texted to EW within 5 minutes…

  • nickstuart118

    mine are : dollars trilogy
    the “bravo” films
    the original true grit
    3:10 to yuma (both original and re-make)
    the outlaw josie wales

  • Davey

    Rio Bravo, Red River, Once Upon a Time in the West, My Darling Clementine, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, Ride the High Country

    And the Japanese version: The Seven Samurai

  • Stacie

    Is High Noon not a Western anymore?

  • Peter

    I don’t like Westerns in general. But I liked the Coens’ “True Grit”, and I love “Treasure of the Sierra Madre” and “The Quick and the Dead”. On the fringes of the genre, I liked “The Burrowers”, “Maverick”, and “Blazing Saddles”.

    • Peter

      Oh! Forgot “El Diablo” (Anthony Edwards and Lou Gossett Jr). and I grew up with “Centennial”, which is mostly a Western.

  • bambam

    Hooray for JOsey Wales. I am not a fan of Eastwood with a camera, and I am not a fan of westerns, but put a gun in Clint’s hand and just step back.

    I don’t know if Josey Wales is less of a western than a “Clint with a gun and an attitude” genre.

    I think Clint could probably beat down Chuck Norris…

  • Sara

    “Dances With Wolves.” Its lost a little bit of its luster from the year of its first release, but its still a beautiful film and was so important with what it did in our culture.

    • blades

      Total chick view of a western, or in other words a chick western flick.

  • Jeremy DC

    1. Once Upon a Time In the West
    2. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
    3. No Country for Old Men.
    (I consider it a western)
    4. The Searchers
    5. Tombstone

    • blades

      John Wayne’s 1947 Angel and the Bad Man. Fun Fun Fun. Especially when the Quakers give John Wayne’s character a bible. He totally freaks and goes on a party spree. Love it!

  • fenn138

    Pale Rider; Tombstone; Quick and the Dead.

  • Rashy

    Assassination of Jessie James by the Coward Robert Ford and The Proposition for most recent. Love’em

  • Ray W.

    1. Outlaw Josey Wales
    2. Once Upon a Time in the West
    3. Bad Day at Black Rock
    4. Last Train from Gun Hill
    5. Gunfight at the OK Corral
    The last 3 ’cause I’m a big John Sturges fan.

    • Strepsi

      Bad Day at Black Rock — good one!

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