In the midst of the harsh California winter, members of a ranching family are quarreling among themselves while the two sons go hunting for the panther that is killing their cattle.
The reveal of a black panther that drives the story becomes part of a grander metaphor for the root of the family’s issues. Thanks to A.I. Bezzeride’s screenplay, the story never loses its grip.
Day of the Outlaw (André De Toth, 1959)
Cattleman Blaise Starrett (Robert Ryan) and farmer Hal Crane (Alan Marshal) get into a nasty dispute that borders on danger. That all changes when their town is under siege from a band of thugs. Our hero Starrett rises to the challenge and attempts to restore his name.
With great cinematography that captures the helpless townspeople, André De Toth creates a truly gripping western.
Forty Guns (Samuel Fuller, 1957)
Some Western romance we have here. When a cattle queen gun "lord" falls for an upstanding sheriff, things get messy. There are a lot of guns and a lot of violence, but at least a feel-good Hollywood "fixes it all" moment.
It's also interesting to know that this Samuel Fuller classic had a ridiculously low budget was shot in 10 days.
Lone Star (1996, John Sayles)
This masterpiece somehow flew under the radar. Chris Cooper portrays a curious Lone Star named Sam Deeds who sets out to solve the 25-year-old murder of a sadistic predecessor. Sam digs up a dirty past that possibly even involves his own father.
This rich and complex film juggles many characters like an acrobatic act!
Meek's Cutoff (2010, Kelly Reichardt)
Considered to be even anti-western, "Meek's Cutoff" is still a must for this list. The film explores the vast and neverending west and omnipresent violence rather than the occasional gunfights.
Enjoy the scene of the Oregon desert and a brilliant Michelle Williams performance.