Eight Great Western Comedies You Should Watch
Lorey Sebastian/Universal Studios Seth with sheep in A Million Ways to Die in the West, the latest in a long line of comedy Westerns
The Western genre isn't entirely comprised of spaghetti or John Wayne talking out the side of his mouth: From its earliest days, filmmakers were putting a comic spin on stories set on the dusty trail, with the genre hitting its apex between the mid '70s and mid '80s. We've gathered this collection of comedy Westerns -- some you've seen and some you haven't -- to watch maybe after you see Seth MacFarlane's A Million Ways to Die in the West.
Released in 1974, this classic comedy takes place exactly a century earlier, in Mel Brooks's wacky, wily version of the Wild West. Throughout a hilarious plot full of fart jokes and racial tension, a conniving politician (Harvey Korman) and his band of mismatched henchman take on an accidental sheriff (Cleavon Little) and his drunken sidekick "The Waco Kid" (Gene Wilder) over the shenanigans-filled fate of a small town named Rock Ridge. But it isn't until the people of Rock Ridge build a fake town that things start to get real -- a little too real -- with an ending that uses humor to blend the borders between Hollywood and historical fiction.
-- Kelsey Whipple
Few comedic westerns earn the status of cult classic, but 1986's ¡Three Amigos! rightfully wears that crown. Why? In part because it was borne out of Saturday Night Live royalty. Written by frequent guest Steve Martin and executive producer Lorne Michaels and starring SNL OGs Chevy Chase, Martin Short and Martin himself, this buddy comedy seemed destined for greatness. In reality, it opened to mixed reviews, but nonetheless, it's remained a popular Sunday afternoon cable TV staple.
-- Ali Trachta
In December 2012, we wrote that Quentin Tarantino had upended the Western with Django Unchained, a movie filled with memorable gags, both obvious ("[Jamie] Foxx riding to a Tennessee plantation in full Little Lord Fauntleroy regalia," wrote film critic Stephanie Zacharek), and subtle (the silly name of Leonardo DiCaprio's villain, Calvin Candie).
In our interview with Tarantino before the movie came out, the director said he had been Googling "Django," looking for articles about the movie, and finding most of them purely speculative: "I'm gonna actually have to get rid of my iPad for a while," he said then. Eighteen months later, the movie's got a grip on an 88 percent "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes -- placing it behind only Pulp Fiction (94%), Reservoir Dogs (92%), and Inglourious Basterds (89%). Despite the pre-release worry that it might be his undercooked Western, it's really only ever pissed off the far right (and America's bigots -- "'kill white people?' I am outraged!"), an honor in its own right. We can hardly wait for The Hateful Eight.
-- Nick Lucchesi
You won't see the Jack Nicholson-directed Western Goin' South on many top ten lists -- maybe because Nicholson, who looks like a drifter you'd avoid eye contact with if you passed him on the dusty trail, tries to win us over the way Lemmy did with Motörhead -- which is to say, by being a total slimeball. Opposite a young Mary Steenburgen -- who only appears to be an ingénue -- as Julie Tate, his well-mannered, normal, last-minute wife, the horse thief Nicholson has barely escaped the gallows and plays a total creep who plans on stealing Steenburgen's gold. They dislike each other until they don't, and of course, there's a cache of gold involved and a trip to Old Mexico. Trivia: Steenburgen would pair up with Christopher Lloyd (who played the town sheriff), some twelve years later for 1990's Back to the Future Part III, a Western that would have made this list had it not aged so, so poorly.
-- Nick Lucchesi
List continues on the next page.