From the very moment of its inception, the Western was destined to change. At first, that particular change came across very slow. Quite a lot happened to John Ford between 1939, when the troubling Drums Along the Mohawk, and 1956, when he unleashed The Searchers, in which he seemingly faced the history of ugly racist archetypes that he had hinged several of his films on. Some of those were big hits.
So, a fictional corrective like Django Unchained is welcome, as is it’s superior follow-up, The Hateful Eight. Though the genre is not without its misfires, neo-westerns that either replicate the time or echo it in a different, even alien time have a special nostalgic place in my heart. And with the relative success of something like Hell or High Water, my fascination with the genre doesn’t seem to be all that unique in the make-up of the tastes of the modern movie-going public.
They’re also fertile ground for remakes. The way a director handles the period detail, or decides to upgrade it, often says quite a lot about that director’s stylistic personality. The original Magnificent Seven, a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s classic Seven Samurai, is not a particularly thrilling shootout, and the idea of rejiggering the formula for a new take remains a promising concept. We won’t know how Antoine Fuqua’s take on that classic turns out until this weekend, but there have been plenty of great neo-westerns to be released in theaters over the last few decades. Here are a handful of titles you should check out immediately.