Stories from the new American frontier have long captivated a cinematic audience. For the better part of the last century, the film landscape has often turned to the Wild West for its stories. The many classic spaghetti westerns from Sergio Leone set the blueprint for the genre at first. It was a golden age that persisted through the sixties and seventies.
From the 1990s onwards, a new focus emerged; the neo-western. Productions like Unforgiven and High Plains Drifter moved away from romanticism in favour of more harsh and unflinching portrayals. It was a natural evolution that progressed beyond the older classics.
The western may not be as common as it was decades ago, but it still offers a varied pursuit to both filmmakers and audiences alike. Unfortunately in amongst the hidden gems, there are many failed outings that are unable to properly leverage characters and setting to their own benefit.
Confusing direction, inconsistencies or simply tacking the genre on for good measure, the following ten films are best avoided. If nothing else, they're a reminder of what a western needs to get right to succeed.
10. Jane Got A Gun
With a title that appears to take inspiration from the Aerosmith song, Jane Got A Gun goes for a more female-oriented perspective. The titular character, played by Natalie Portman, triggers the wrath of the Bishop Boys after her husband is badly wounded by the gang.
It's unfortunate then that everything feels so pedestrian. The film went through multiple rewrites and changes to its director and cast. The end result is rather bland and predictable; Jane takes up her guns to protect her family and a showdown between her and the outlaws ensues, nothing more and nothing less.
It doesn't help that much of the cast is severely lacking in the distinctive characteristics you'd expect. Ewan Mcgregor is easily the film's biggest fault. As the leader of the Bishop Boys, he has no intimidating presence to speak of. Even the film's central premise falls short; it attempts to put Jane front and centre but instead she's often the one who has to be rescued.
Outside of a worthy performance from Natalie Portman, the hackneyed and troubled production Jane Got a Gun really shows. It didn't sit well with audiences either, bombing at the box office with a mere 3.8 million take against its 25 million dollar budget.