Every Western You Need to Watch Before You Play Red Dead Redemption 2

With Red Dead Redemption 2 only a couple of weeks away, there’s been no better time to put on a cowboy hat and swing a lasso in the air as you marathon some of the finest western movies that have released so far. Seeing as how Rockstar’s massive upcoming game promises a sprawling open world to explore, the following list of essential films can be used as inspiration for the antics you and your friends will get into while riding across a golden desert terrain or interacting with lawless settlers. Of course, each is worthy of a viewing regardless of whether or not you plan on picking up Red Dead Redemption 2. Indeed, each movie below is noteworthy for its impact on modern cinema and general badassery.

Red Dead Redemption 2 Westerns – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

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Image courtesy of United Artists

Nearly every presentational aspect of the Red Dead franchise owes itself to the “Spaghetti Western” legacy that Sergio Leone helped cultivate through The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. Released in 1966, the film tells the story of three gunslingers who compete among one another for a buried cache of Confederate gold, presumably left behind after the events of the American Civil War.

Opting for widescreen cinematography and a sweeping score that’s instantly recognized by cinema lovers around the world today, perhaps The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly‘s greatest achievement lies in solidifying the look and feel of a noteworthy western film. Plus Clint Eastwood’s in it, and you do not want to mess with that guy.

Red Dead Redemption 2 Westerns – Tombstone

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Image courtesy of Buena Vista Pictures

Tombstone accurately depicts the perpetual dichotomy that exists between order and chaos. At the beginning of the film, an outlaw gang strolls into a Mexican town to interrupt a local police officer’s wedding. They proceed to massacre every policeman assembled in the crowd as retribution for killing two of their members. The priest warns the gang that its actions will have consequences and that the people of the town will have their vengeance, one way or another.

In Red Dead Redemption 2, Arthur Morgan’s decisions will have a lasting effect on the people he interacts with. Should he decide to rampage through a town and mercilessly murder people without a care in the world, he will create more enemies willing to track him down and kill him in cold blood. Players must pick and choose their fights so as to make their lives easier later on in the game. Upsetting the wrong people from the get-go may end with Arthur dead most of the time.

Red Dead Redemption 2 Westerns – Unforgiven

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Image courtesy of Warner Bros.

Clint Eastwood made more than one good western film. In 1992’s Unforgiven, the actor plays a retired gunslinger named William Munny who’s forced back into work after witnessing his town’s rampant crime and the police’s inability to do anything about it. This western version of Batman explores such themes as age, heroism, courage, and violence, debating whether or not there are any crimes in this world worthy of turning a blind eye to. Regarded by some as the greatest Wild West film ever made, Unforgiven won the Oscar for Best Picture the year after it debuted.

The Red Dead franchise is no stranger to tackling the subject of violence and the consequences it brings. Unforgiven very much serves as inspiration for John Marston’s plight in the original Red Dead Redemption and the fate decided for him by the United States government. In this way, each is poignant in similar albeit depressing ways.

Red Dead Redemption 2 Westerns – 3:10 to Yuma

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Image courtesy of Columbia Pictures

Directed by the versatile Delmer Daves, 3:10 to Yuma is a 1957 film starring Glenn Ford and Van Heflin that tells the story of a failed rancher who takes upon the job of capturing an outlaw and bringing him to the appropriate authorities. It’s a quaint tale of good versus evil, one that sees the sides develop a brotherly relationship that’s hard to describe in words. Each character is incredibly complex and has his own definitions of right and wrong, ultimately leaving it up to viewers to decide who is most justified in his actions.

This exploration of the moral gray is something that the Red Dead franchise has explored before. For those yearning for a more modern take on the concept, a remake of 3:10 to Yuma was released in 2007 and stars Russell Crowe, Christian Bale, and Ben Foster.

Red Dead Redemption 2 Westerns – The Wild Bunch

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Image courtesy of Warner Bros.

Red Dead Redemption 2‘s premise revolves around a gang of outlaws on the run from the encroaching influence of the United States government. The Wild Bunch tackles this same conflict, following a gang on the Mexican-American border as each man tries to maintain his values in a changing world where modern civilization threatens to replace the chaos that is the Wild West. Led by an aging cowboy called Pike Bishop, the group seeks to conduct one last train robbery so that each outlaw can live out the rest of his life with wealth and influence.

Acclaimed by audiences and critics for its engaging story and clever plot twists, The Wild Bunch is perhaps best known for its unbridled violence – something that will undoubtedly get western fans pining for Red Dead Redemption 2 even more. The over-the-top action, however, seeks to accurately portray just how savage the west was in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Red Dead Redemption 2 Westerns – Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

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Image courtesy of 20th Century Fox

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid pioneered the concept of “buddy films” in the vein of Lethal Weapon or Rush Hour. Though there’s some comedy to be found here, the star of the show is the dynamic that evolves between the titular pair, whose sole mission is to get away with as many train robberies as they can before the law catches up with them. Red Dead Redemption 2 will also explore a relationship that grows between Arthur Morgan and his gang. Though it remains to be seen just how dramatic these connections will become, the potential is there for Arthur to have a couple of buddies tag along for a casual robbery or two.

Though we don’t see much of them anymore, westerns are a staple of quality entertainment. Whether through video games, movies, or books, the charm of the Wild West deserves to be passed down for other generations to experience indefinitely, or at least until we invent technology that allows us to explore the vastness of space. For now, we can all live vicariously through the fictional anti-heroes of yesteryear.