One of the things that I love most about writing for The Streaming Adviser is that Ryan doesn’t really give me any limitations on what I can write about. If it pertains to streaming, in any form, he’s interested in hearing my opinion and reading my take on something. Today I’m going to step out of the normal bounds of what I usually write about and dive into something a little different. Westerns.
Growing up I was never a huge western fan. Don’t get me wrong, I watched them, mostly because my dad, always the western watcher, would tell me to stop changing channels when he could see a man wearing a cowboy hat riding
a horse. Plus I had always known John Wayne as playing ‘the Cowboy’ character in the movies, despite the fact that I had seen him more frequently in the war movies like Sands of Iwo Jima and Flying Tigers then I did sitting on a horse.
Westerns were, in my view, old-fashioned. They were living in the past. I was more the “Star Wars” or “Star Trek” guy. But seeing how I was 9 years old when George Lucas released his classic, it’s no secret that I embraced it especially after being a regular watcher of Star Trek and Space: 1999 before R2D2 and C3PO hit the big screen.
But in the 90’s I began to take on a new appreciation for Westerns because I began to see them in a whole different light. They were actually showing me the same stories that I had already seen watching via the science-fiction branding. Instead of our heroes being chased across the landscape in floating bicycle like objects, they were being chased across the landscape on horses. Instead of a lone planet or base station, they were taking place out in the wild frontier or small town in the middle of it. Instead of exotic aliens that were fighting, they were Indians or outlaws.
And in case, you are wondering after reading my opening, yes, I am well aware of Joss Whedon and his Firefly TV/
Movie franchise and yes, it ranks up there in my top Sci-fi TV shows.
So far I’ve written about different channels you can get on your Roku, different devices you can connect to your TV in order to stream content and I’ve shared my knowledge of Plex, but today I’m going to talk about some of my favorite westerns that you can find on Roku as of this writing. The reason why is simply because if you like watching westerns, no doubt that you have probably heard of these movies, and while ‘favorite’ is always subjective, the ones that I have listed will no doubt be ranked as some good ones, if not necessarily the best.
But I’m also going to focus only one the ones that you don’t need to pay a subscription too in order to watch. No paying Netflix or Hulu a monthly fee, no paying your local cable company for the privilege of flipping through the channels and finding out it’s playing a half hour after it started or even worse catching the last fifteen minutes of the movie. Instead, these are all on-demand and available to watch from beginning to end for nothing more than going to your local store, purchasing a Roku, connecting it to your internet and TV set, and installing these channels for free.
In short, here are some movies that you’ll be able to watch that would cost you less then if you were to go out and purchase all of them from the Wal-Mart bargain bin and still be able to start watching at your convenience… so long as they are still available.
Quigley Down Under
This movie is probably the one movie that began my love for the Western genre. In the early 90’s I was a semi-truck driver and while in Virginia I was told by my dispatcher that I would be stranded for the night, so to sit back, relax and take the rest of the night off. The guy in the truck next to me had been told the same thing, so we were chatting back and forth about what our plans were. Both of us had a decent collection of VHS tapes and both decided that we would just kick back and watch a movie in the confines of our own truck and the topic of trading movies came up. I had just purchased “Speed” and had thoroughly enjoyed it telling him that he should watch it while he had just gotten “Quigley Down Under” and suggested it. To be perfectly honest, my plan was to fall asleep with the TV on and give him the movie back in the morning telling him ‘Great movie! Thanks man!’ then going on my merry way.
It didn’t work that way. While classified as a Western, it doesn’t actually take place in the old west but rather Australia during the same time frame. Quigley, our hero from Wyoming, has been hired by a landowner in The Land Down Under, to be a sharpshooter. When he arrives he concludes that he’s not interested in the job and lets his new boss know.
I was glued to the TV screen from the time he climbed off the boat after arriving in Australia to the time that he climbed onto another boat heading back to the States and if you watch it, you’ll understand why.
I know I know… When you talk to the purists out there, westerns take place in a specific time frame. Specificity between the Civil War and the turn of the Century, but this movie based on real events that took place in Texas almost a generation before the Civil War does, but it stars John Wayne and has many of the classic western themes in it and while I get that my first two choices here can’t be called “Westerns” in the strictest sense of the term, they are both popular with the followers of the genre so just allow me to indulge myself.
The Alamo was a labor of love for John Wayne and he had been wanting to make a movie version of the famous stand for Texas independence for several years and this movie nearly broke him due to it’s cost as well as its lack of box office returns, but it has become more popular in later years. If you want to know where the battle cry “Remember the Alamo” comes from, after seeing this movie it will leave no doubt in your mind.
And for the record, while I love John Wayne as an actor, his portrayal of Davy Crockett does not hold a candle to Fess Parker’s portrayal in Davy Crockett: King of the Wild Frontier that doesn’t mean that this movie isn’t worth watching. See IMDB
The Alamo can be seen on The Roku Channel.
Now we’re going to get into the heart of the Western Genre with this movie. It’s the movie that propelled John Wayne to stardom. While a classic western it’s also a character study about a group of people put into a confined place.
This has long been popular movie premise that has been done several times in different ways such as Alfred Hitchcock’s Lifeboat and some may even argue that the Alien storyline took some elements from this movie. Cool note the famous scene in Raiders of the Lost Arc where Indiana Jones is dragged under the German truck was taken directly from this movie. Once you watch it you will see why John Wayne became a movie star. See IMDB
The Magnificent Seven
I’ve saved this movie for last because it ranks as one of my favorites. This is the original 1960 version not the remake staring some of the greatest actors from yesterday. Yul Brynner, James Coburn, Robert Vaughn, Charles Bronson and of course Steve McQueen and all I can say is that if you have not seen this movie you are missing out. While in essence a remake of a Japanese movie called The Seven Samurai it was done so well that the director of The Seven Samurai Akira Kurosawa awarded John Sturges with a ceremonial sword because of this movie.
The storyline is simple, a small Mexican village is being harassed by a bunch of ruffians so the village ends up hiring a bunch of mercenaries to protect it. If you’ve never heard of The Seven Samurai or The Magnificent Seven but the storyline sounds vaguely familiar, it should because it has been used over and over again. Battle Beyond the Stars, A Bug’s Life and Mystery Men are all variants of this plot. It’s also a basic theme for the A-Team as well.
While not even close to the only westerns you can watch for free, in fact, many John Wayne movies from poverty row have fallen into the public domain and can be easily found, these are the ones that I can vouch for having watched them.
Many of the Roku Channels that I listed have a western category giving you plenty of movies to choose from such as Clint Eastwood’s “Hang’em High” and “The Quick and the Dead” starring Gene Hackman, Sharon Stone, Russell Crow and Leonardo DiCaprio as well as others. And while I understand that Westerns don’t have the popularity with my generation or later I hope you’ll try watching them. These movies were made in an era where it wasn’t about special effects to tell a story, it was good dialog and plot that made movies great meaning that they will stand the test of time and won’t be ‘dated’ as many modern drama’s or Sci-fi movies are.
Movie posters taken from screen shots on IMDB