10 Best Performances In Western Movies

A Fistful of Oscars.

Tombstone Doc Holliday Val Kilmer
Buena Vista Pictures

The western genre emerged onto the scene in the early 20th century, and with it came a host of iconic characters who have since become beloved icons of the film medium. The western approach to filmmaking perhaps peaked in the 1960s with the 'Spaghetti' sub-genre thanks to Sergio Leone's revered Dollars Trilogy bringing Clint Eastwood's iconic snarl into households across the globe.

Western films place heavy emphasis on gunslingers, tumbleweed and wayfaring strangers and are largely set around the closing stages of the 19th century. Though the reality of cowboy culture in the late 1800s is far less interesting than its (typical) onscreen depictions, there's simply no denying that the genre has spat out a heap of exceptional narratives and mesmerising characters.

Protagonists in the western genre often share a handful of similarities, from frightening frowns to dashing good looks, so it stands testament to the talented actors who make a role their own and in turn provide cinema with performances fitting of the films they inhabit.

The influence of western films are felt in a plethora of movies outside the genre, and while what is considered a 'western' is expanding by the day, so too are the Oscar-worthy performances.

10. Val Kilmer As Doc Holliday - Tombstone (1993)

Tombstone Doc Holliday Val Kilmer
Hollywood Pictures

Before his inclusion as the caped crusader in Schumacher's first Batman film, Val Kilmer was Doc Holliday in George Cosmatos' Tombstone, a return to form for western filmmaking as the genre struggled to find its footing through the 1980s.

Despite Tombstone's star-studded cast including the likes of Kurt Russell, Sam Elliott and Bill Paxton, Val Kilmer's take on Doc Holliday, a gambler and gunfighter whose antics during the Gunfight at the O.K Corral were instrumental, still stands out as the film's best performance.

Kilmer oozes confidence and charisma, and though his wiry frame gives off the impression that his character is all style and no substance, there's never a moment where it doesn't feel as though he has control of the entire room.

Holliday speaks with a soft confidence and carries a devilish aura, and though you're constantly aware of his often threatening presence, you can't help but swoon at his unrelenting charm.

Kilmer's career would flourish through the 1990s and into the 21st century with roles in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and The Prince of Egypt, and while his performance as Bruce Wayne in Schumacher's Batman Forever is unfortunate, his take on Doc Holliday is mesmerising.


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