TOP 5: International Western Films

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Two cowboys stare at each other, their hands hovering over their six shooters. A tumbleweed blows across the dirt road. Then, suddenly, a group of German-speaking Native Americans storms in on horses, followed by Japanese samurais in chaps and boots. What the hell is going on?

As it turns out, the United States isn’t the only country that loves a good shootout. For decades, the American Old West has inspired many popular foreign films. There are “spaghetti Westerns” from Italy, “sauerkraut Westerns” from Germany, “sukiyaki Westerns” from Japan, and “curry Westerns” from India—all featuring cowboys, horse chases, and shootouts. Hey, who said that cowboys have to speak English?

Here are our picks for the Top 5 International Western Films:

#5 Old Shatterhand (1964, Germany)

A Native American chief and his German American blood brother ("Old Shatterhand") seek to unravel the mysterious death of several ranchers. Based on a character created by Karl May, one of the most popular German writers of all time, this movie was filmed in English but immediately translated into German and released in West Germany four years before its American debut. Unlike American Westerns, German Westerns tend to feature Native American protagonists, depicting American settlers as the “bad guys.”

Tagline: "A Mighty Movie of the West at its Wildest!"

#4 Sukiyaki Western Django (2007, Japan)

This tongue-in-cheek Japanese flick is set in an alternate Western universe where Nevada towns are filled with Japanese characters wearing cowboy-samurai outfits and speaking in heavily accented English. A lone gunman with an ambiguous past and a fast draw rides into a town ruined by two rival gangs; flurries of Japanese samurai swords and tennis-ball-sized bullets quickly follow. The film features over-the-top Matrix-style acrobatics, as well as a cameo by Quentin Tarantino.

Tagline: "An epic tale of blood, lust, and greed."

#3 The Proposition (2005, Australia)

This epic Western, which takes place in the Australian outback in the 1880s, is not for the squeamish—blood and sweat flow heavily from everyone involved. With a plot that boasts no clear “bad guys” and no traditional Western heroes, The Proposition sets scenes of intense violence against heartbreakingly beautiful backdrops. British policies toward Aborigines and tensions between Irish rangers and the British military add historical complexities unique to Australia.

Tagline: "This land will be civilized."

#2 They Call Me Trinity (1970, Italy)

Credited with starting the Western comedy craze in Italy in the 1970s, this farcical take on the spaghetti Western is full of slaps to the face and pistol shots. Trinity, who teams up with his brother Bambino to protect a group of pacifist Mormons from the greedy Major Harriman, plans on marrying two Mormon sisters—that is, until he realizes that Mormonism means a life of virtue and hard work. The story continues in its acclaimed sequel: Trinity Is STILL My Name!

Tagline: “Doc, Wild Bill, Butch, Jesse, Sundance, Ballou… And Now Trinity, Superstar!”

#1 Sholay (1975, India)

Between shootouts and horse chases, the characters in Sholay take time out to sing, in traditional Bollywood style. Musical numbers include a motorcycle duet and a barefoot dance on shattered glass. Sholay is the highest-grossing Indian film of all time, after adjustments for inflation. In 1999, BBC India declared it the “film of the millennium.” Its impact on Indian culture can still be seen today—in the 2009 Best Picture Slumdog Millionaire, the main character gets covered in feces as he escapes from an outhouse in order to obtain an autograph from Amitabh Bachnan, star of Sholay.

Tagline: "The greatest story ever told!"



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