Well, that happened. Even though Cowboys & Aliens failed to make the most of it’s premise and awesome casting, there are still some must-see genre-bending western classics for you to check out in case that movie left a sour taste in your mouth like it did in mine. But hey, even if you liked it (to each his own) that’s okay too (I guess). Here are a few amazing genre-bending westerns to watch instead of (or in addition to) Cowboys & Aliens.

Westworld (1973)
Ah, Westworld. I think I originally caught this on T.V. and just thought it was the coolest thing ever. It’s about a western-themed amusement park for adults, where you can pretend as if you’re actually living in the wild west. For a fee, you can do anything you want, and the theme park’s android inhabits will indulge your every whim (when I mean every whim, I mean it, ya get me?). This movie also gave us the iconic gunslinger, played by Yul Brynner, and it was made in the 70’s, so it’s got all of that “man vs. machine” stuff, while mixing some cool 70’s sci-fi imagery with legit western tropes. It was also Michael Crichton’s (you know, the dinosaur guy) big screen directorial debut. Fun Fact: It was the first movie to use digital image processing, to simulate the androids’ pixelated points of view. TRAILER

Near Dark (1987)
This movie, I actually only saw recently, but when I did I completely fell in love. It was Kathryn Bigelow’s directorial debut, and she’d later go on to make seminal 90’s classics such as Point Break, the criminally underrated Strange Days, and even more recently, The Hurt Locker. So the movie’s sort of a vampire-western. It’s about young dude in a small Oklahoma town, who meets a drifter one night, and before dawn breaks, he’s a vampire. This isn’t Twilight fluff, and it bears some resemblance to The Lost Boys, but it’s pretty cool how if you take away the vampirism and substitute it with bandit drifters, it plays out like a modern setting western. TRAILER

Serenity (2005)
I have a special place in my heart for this movie. I’m not full browncoat, but I respect this series not just for being an amazingly inspired space western opera, but for also knowing how to have fun, without being completely devoid of substance. This has the most epic scale in this list of movies, since there is a lot of space travel it is very futuristic. This movie itself is the endnote to the late Firefly series, but the beauty of it is that whether you’ve watched the show or not, it’s still either a really enriching experience, or an almost perfect, fun, genre-bending pop movie. Captain Mal Reynolds and his cadre of space bandits are just such strong characters, while the movie expertly capitalizes on the genuine rapport, wit, and charisma of it’s cast. This is a Joss Whedon (the Buffy guy) movie, but it’s the reason why I think The Avengers (which Whedon is also doing) is going to succeed. He’s taken an ensemble cast of characters, made them all work together (that’s the key), within a larger story, and he does it without sacrificing fun, or substance. TRAILER

The Burrowers (2008)
Out of all the movies on this list, this might be the least seen. I don’t even remember how I heard of it, but I’m glad to have seen it. This movie does exactly what Cowboys & Aliens tried to do. It starts out as a genuine western-mystery, and slow burns to illuminate tragic, shocking human atrocity. Yes there is a horror/creature element, and what’s even better is the way it fits into the story and how it contributes to the movies end message. It’s not perfect by any means, but it’s definitely underrated and under-appreciated. The cast in this is great BTW. TRAILER

The Good, The Bad, The Weird (2008)
Out of every movie on this list, I’d have to say that this is my absolute favorite. It’s obviously directly inspired by Sergio Leone’s off-kilter spaghetti westerns, and it just takes you to places you’d never expect. There’s a thief, a bounty hunter, and a criminal, all looking for a mythical map, which may or may not save all 1930’s Manchuria. Kim-Ji-woon directs like a master, using every trick in the directors handbook in completely fresh, and awe-inspiring ways. The opening train sequence alone is one of the best opening scenes in recent history, and seeing Leone’s style translated into extremely bizarre, hyper-kinetic scenarios, is a treat. Seriously, the action scenes in here are INSANE. But don’t worry, there is a story as well; one that’s intensely provincial and a non-pretentious, pseudo commentary on early Asia history. TRAILER

Special Mention: High Plains Drifter (1973)
I’m throwing this one in here because I hear that it’s completely brilliant, and I want to see it. It’s about a gunslinger (played by Clint Eastwood), who drifts into a corrupt mining town to wreak havoc. There’s an understated supernatural element to it, and he may or may not be a dead man, brought back to life to take vengeance on the town that wronged him. Has anyone seen it? Let me know your thoughts below. TRAILER

SG