10 Great 1970s Western Movie Classics You Probably Haven’t Seen

It’s not the golden age anymore and western films are no longer the major box office hits they used to be but still, the 1970s was a good enough decade for the genre. Clint Eastwood was still a major star and was delivering classics like “The Outlaw Josey Wales” and if we wanted to have a laugh, Mel Brooks was there with his “Blazing Saddles”.

However, it was the era of the new groundbreaking filmmakers who preferred to make films in contemporary settings with relevant social messages. That’s just one of the reasons why Westerns got overlooked, especially the traditional ones. Here are ten films from the decade that you might enjoy, both traditional and non-traditional.


10. Eagle’s Wing (1979)

A white man steals a white Mustang from a Kiowa Native and then the chase starts. Director Anthony Harvey was attracted to Michael Syson’s short story despite it’s not structured as a movie script. He thought it was kind of story that demands strong kind of visual direction to deliver the story effectively, so it’ll be an exciting challenge for him. Besides, it’s a British film and it adds its own flavor to the western mythology. It’s hard to classify what kind of western this is and that’s probably what makes the film so fascinating to watch.

You can see various plot points you’ve seen from different Westerns like “man vs. nature” or “white woman kidnapped by the Indians” and of course, two enemies who fight against each other but the movie is never just one thing which makes it all more complex. Harvey goes for a very realistic tone here with even somewhat of an unpredictable storyline. The locations are all gorgeous and the cast which features names like Martin Sheen, Sam Waterston, and Harvey Keitel are all excellent. Worth checking out for fans of revisionist westerns and especially to see this cast, because for whatever reason Sheen or Keitel didn’t really get much of a chance to do westerns.


9. The Hunting Party (1971)

After a ruthless, rich rancher’s wife is kidnapped, a gang of bandits is wiped out in a bloody massacre by him and his helpers. “The Wild Bunch” was very much successful and still an influential Western of the era, it also opened the doors for other films of the genre to be violent without fear. That said, this movie is no “The Wild Bunch” which is much more character-driven and better choreographed but for those who love their westerns very violent, “The Hunting Party” is still a great watch for the very same reason.

Another thing that works here is definitely the performances. The script is not rich with complex characterizations but all three leads, especially Gene Hackman who won an Oscar for “The French Connection” of the same year shine in the movie. This is the genre that finally brought him another Oscar decades later anyway. The cinematography is very absorbing and the locations of Spain are well used as a stand-in for Texas. It’s a violent film even by today’s standards and that’s probably why critics were too harsh on it but if you’re interested in how gory Westerns can get, give this one a watch. Hackman and Candice Bergen later re-united for an excellent western “Bite the Bullet” which you should watch also in case you didn’t.


8. From Noon Till Three (1976)

Graham Dorsey is on his way to Gladstone City with Buck Bowers’ gang to rob the bank there. However, a nightmare he had makes him a bit uneasy as he thinks the plan might not work out well and indeed his horse breaks an ankle. That’s why he stays for a few hours with the young widow Amanda Starbuck, who lives alone in an elegant old mansion near Gladstone City. This will change the turn of events for everyone.

Graham Dorsey is portrayed by Charles Bronson but it’s one of his most unusual parts probably. He’s even charming here and his performance is filled with lots of humor. Since he shares the scene with his real-life wife Jill Ireland, it’s hard to not see the chemistry there also and for a romantic comedy to work, chemistry is everything. Yes, after a revisionist arthouse-ish western and a rather brutal, violent one, it only makes sense to follow the list with something more light in the vein of a romantic comedy.

This is a delightful film and what’s special about it here is that works on multiple levels; as a both Western and a romantic comedy. Not to mention, it also deals with myth-making and “truth vs. legend” themes which the Western genre loves. It’s a low-cost production but an amusing story, fine editing and great cast will not make you think about it.


7. Oklahoma Crude (1973)

At the beginning of the 20th century, a woman in Oklahoma is fighting for her business. She has a small oil drilling site and is being pushed out by a powerful corporation. Stanley Kramer was often celebrated for the films he made with relevant social issues and he also directed one of the greatest Western films of all time in “High Noon”. He had his own fair share of critics who called his stuff rather surface-level films that is afraid to offend anyone, hence lacking complexity.

“Oklahoma Crude” should be free of such criticisms as it’s one of the director’s more edgy projects. Weird enough this time he was attacked for having no social message and for just delivering an entertaining picture. The production design here is dazzling and both leads George C. Scott and Faye Dunaway are shining. Scott is the type of actor who can electrify the scene by doing nothing and his presence is certainly missed on screen. Dunaway is also a very charismatic here and one would wish she made more Westerns back in the time.

There’s also a plenty of violence but you won’t find any of it unnecessary. Impressively blending the genres of Western, adventure, comedy, and drama – it’s an amusing film and probably the best of Kramer’s late career. This is also the screenwriting debut for Marc Norman who later went on to win Oscars for writing and producing “Shakespeare in Love”.


6. Monte Walsh (1970)

The Old West is finally coming to an end and a group of cowboys trying to hold on. That’s the story of one of those: an aging cowboy on a lonely ranch who can no longer find his way in the rapidly changing times. His name is Monte Walsh (a great Lee Marvin) and often hangs around with his friend Chet Rollins (Jack Palance). Monte’s girlfriend, Martine (Jeanne Moreau), suffers from tuberculosis and when Monte realizes that life as a cowboy will soon be a thing of the past, he asks her to be his wife. But more challenges are waiting for him, both professionally and privately.

The film might look simple but that’s where the beauty lies. It’s a beautiful tribute to old-school Westerns. It’s not much of a plot-driven movie, but rather observation of a man at the end days of the cowboy life. It’s kind of a film made for the ones who loved old-school Western films, not because it’s an entirely old-school Western type film but a lovely tribute to them. This is a quiet, tender, and thoughtful film. There’s also a very fine TV remake of this with Tom Selleck and if you’ve enjoyed this one, you can check that out as well. We should also give a shout-out John Barry’s leading score.