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10 Weirdest Westerns Ever Made

10 Weirdest Westerns Ever Made

There’s the Wild West, a place full of outlaws, sheriffs, gunslingers, ranches, and the great frontier of the American Dream. Then there is that side of the West that got a little weird. The weird Western has been around since the birth of the genre. Things were a little more conservative back when movies made their way into theaters, and nothing fits the bill more than the genre of Westerns, so making films that were a little more abstract may not have sat well with audiences at the time.



However, as the 1960s rolled around and with the arrival of acid Westerns and Spaghetti Westerns, the genre got turned on its head a little bit. All the elements are there with what you see in your straight-forward westerns, but something else gets injected into it that makes for a more odd take on the genre that leaves a lasting impact on its audience rather than your run-of-the-mill, John Wayne classic (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

The weird Western, so to speak, is here to stay, as in any genre, no matter the characters or setting, things can just get kind of weird in life.

10 The Valley of Gwangi (1969)

The Valley of Gwangi is a genre-blending cult classic. It follows members of a stunt show in the West who are looking to create a big fortune. Tuck Kirby (James Franciscus) is the showman who looks to bring his act to life for thousands; in doing so, he seeks out the legend of an Allosaurus living in a nearby Mexican valley. He plans to capture it, but his mission turns dangerous when the reality of what he is doing sets in.

Cowboys and Dinosaurs

You have cowboys and prehistoric dinosaurs; what is there not to like? By the late 1960s, there were a lot of last-ditch efforts to make a good western or switch things up a bit to keep the genre alive, as the audience had begun to outgrow it a bit.

The Valley of Gwangi is admired by fans of Ray Harryhausen’s contribution to visual effects, as he has gone on to become the king of stop-motion animation. It’s a weird film, but you can’t help but watch it and fall back in love with the idea that dinosaurs once roamed the earth. The Valley of Gwangi is available for rent on Prime Video.

9 Ghosts of Mars (2001)

2001’s late-summer release, Ghosts of Mars, is one of the last films directed by John Carpenter. It’s about Mars becoming the inhabitants of the people of earth now. The police pick up a highly dangerous criminal (Ice Cube) at a mining outpost. Before they can transport him, they learn that the mining that is happening has awakened a martian race, and now the police and the criminal they now have captive have to fight back against the aliens.

Carpenter’s Sci-Fi Western

Now, it is easy for one to want to jump at this and think that this isn’t a Western. Well, the formula for it to be one is all there. Outlaws and cops have to work together against a common enemy. The film paces like a western, as it moves slightly slowly and has dialogue that is synonymous with how Carpenter presents his characters.

Carpenter, who has used Westerns as references throughout his movies, does it just right here. Films of his like Assaulton Precinct 13, a loose remake you could say of Rio Bravo, are prevalent in his filmography. Lastly, Escape from New York is another of his films with strong western themes, and oddly enough, Ghosts of Mars was rumored to be a third “Escape” movie, but the studio didn’t want it. Carpenter clearly always wanted to. Ghosts of Mars is available for rent on Prime Video.

Related: Best John Carpenter Movies, Ranked

8 Django Kill…If You Live, Shoot! (1967)

Django Kill…If You Live, Shoot! is about a stranger who tracks down former partners who robbed and betrayed him after a gold robbery. On his journey to find the gang of thieves who wronged him, he stumbles into a town full of even more dangerous people, and chaos ensues.

Django on Acid

Some would argue that the subgenre Acid Western came from Spaghetti Westerns like this one. There is no character in the film named Django. The mention of the name was to get butts in seats because Sergio Corbucci’s film Django with Franco Nero was a big hit in the Italian Western market.

The protagonist of the film may not even be alive, as we initially see him crawling out of a grave. His descent into a town full of violent residents may or may not be an allegory for purgatory or even hell. There is a ton of wild editing that adds to the psychedelic atmosphere. Lastly, a horse explodes. It’s wild. Django Kill…If You Live, Shoot! is available to stream on Tubi.

7 Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974)

Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia is a more modern take on the Western (for 1970s standards), as it is about a pianist and a prostitute who travel down to Mexico and get involved with the criminal underworld as they take part in hunting down Alfredo Garcia, a man with a massive bounty on his head.

The Greatest Title of All Time

Sam Peckinpah wrote and directed this neo-Western with the likes of Warren Oates, Kris Kristofferson, and Emilio Fernandez. It’s the only film Peckinpah had a final cut on; his other films had massive studio interference. The movie’s straightforward plot throws many for a loop with its hallucinatory imagery.

It’s a road movie that goes full bloodbath when it kicks into high gear. How could you not take your audience for a ride with one of the best movie titles of all time? Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia is not streaming anywhere.

6 Billy the Kid vs Dracula (1966)

Billy the Kid vs. Dracula has Count Dracula himself makes his way to the American West, where he looks to make his mark on a young woman, but is instead introduced to her fiancée, who goes by the name William Bonney, aka Billy the Kid. Billy is warned by many others of their suspicions that the man he has recently crossed paths with is indeed a vampire.

A B-Movie Interpretation of Dracula

Many have downed the wardrobe and persona of the Count and done well. Let us not overlook John Carradine’s presence here in this unforgettable B-movie. You get what you think you’re going to get just by reading the title. Seventy-four minutes of late 1960s drive-in movie theater vibes.

It’s a silly film that is loaded with plot holes and inconsistencies, and Carradine called it the worst movie he has ever acted in. But if you want weird midnight movies to laugh at, Billy the Kid vs. Dracula is the right film to put on. Billy the Kid vs. Dracula is streaming on Tubi.

5 Ravenous (1999)

Ravenous follows Capt. John Boyd (Guy Pearce) on an investigation on the Western frontier during the 19th century. His task is for him and his regiment to take part in a rescue mission at an Army outpost. Things take a turn for the worse when they encounter sadistic cannibals in the wilderness.

A Newly Appreciated Horror Western

With recent films like Bone Tomahawk finding their audience, Ravenous has found theirs two decades later. Fusing the time period of the West and the horrors of cannibalism didn’t sound like a popular idea in the late 1990s, and it wasn’t, as Ravenous was overlooked.

The cat-and-mouse game between Pearce’s role as John Boyd and Robert Carlyle as Col. Ives is a thrill to watch. It’s got slick dark humor in it, blood splatter, physicality, and roots in arthouse cinema that don’t go unnoticed. Ravenous is available to rent on Prime Video.

4 Dead Man (1995)

Jim Jarmusch’s dive into the strange world of the ol’ West makes for a perfect hybrid of a movie in 1995’s Dead Man. The film follows an accountant by the name of William Blake (Johnny Depp), who heads out on the run after murdering a man. While on the lam, he encounters a man named Nobody (Gary Farmer), who aids him with the knowledge of the spiritual world.

Jim Jarmusch Transcends the Genre

With beautiful black-and-white cinematography, Jim Jarmusch takes his aesthetic and art-house way of telling a story and brings it into the American Western with Dead Man. It’s a Johnny Depp-led film in a time when Johnny Depp could still do films like this rather than massive blockbusters.

Depp’s prehistory as a man who most likely will be killed soon for his murder aligns perfectly with the character Nobody, who shows him deep spiritual themes of the world after our life here is done. It’s bizarre, but also hauntingly beautiful. You don’t have to fully understand Dead Man, but it’s easy to slip into and go along for the journey the film takes you. Dead Man is available to stream on Max.

Related: These Are Jim Jarmusch’s Best Films, Ranked

3 Dust Devil (1992)

Richard Stanley, although controversial these days, directed this neo-Western film called Dust Devil. With huge elements of psychedelic horror all over the movie, it’s about a shape-shifter who comes out of the desert looking for humans to prey on. The Dust Devil himself hitchhikes into the car of a woman who has left her husband and now preys on her weaknesses as he tries to torment her to death.

South African Neo-Western

Dust Devil was produced in South Africa and stars character actor Robert John Burke in the title role. Although taking place in modern times with regard to when the film was produced, Dust Devil works with the Western trope of the mysterious drifter.

It’s a film with a lot of atmosphere, with grim, nihilistic tones that can keep you up at night. Like 1986’s The Hitcher, it reminds you to maybe keep it going when you encounter a hitchhiker. There are a lot of unsung ’90s horror movies that we continue to dig up; Dust Devil needs to be one of them. Dust Devil is available to rent on Prime Video.

2 Westworld (1973)

Written and directed by Michael Crichton, Westworld is about a futuristic theme park that has guests pay to play the role of gunslingers in the Old West. A pair of friends (James Brolin and Richard Benjamin) are planning on unwinding in the saloons and in the immersive world. However, once one of them is shot and killed by a robot that malfunctions (Yul Brynner), the relaxing getaway turns deadly.

The Threat of Artificial Intelligence

With all the issues around AI these days, here is a perfect film from fifty years ago that reminds you again that if the robots take over, we’re doomed. Yul Brynner’s presence in the film feels like a precursor to The Terminator or Michael Myers if he had spoken in Halloween.

Westworld hit screens as the great American films that defined the genre had become a thing of the past, and new ideas were beginning to be ushered in with the films being released. There are a lot of big themes to the film (and its TV series that would later be produced) that many fans of John Ford classics wouldn’t seem to catch onto. Westworld is available to rent on Prime Video.

1 El Topo (1970)

El Topo is about a mystical gunslinger, dressed in black, who roams the dream-like Western landscape. In his adventures, he encounters many different characters. On his journey, El Topo confronts the warriors of the mystical world, which helps make his journey even more transformative.

The Weirdest of Them All

To call this film “weird” is a disrespect to the arthouse feel to it that only some can appreciate. El Topo is a masterpiece in cult cinema. It’s a film that has had a lasting impact on artists like David Lynch, Sam Fuller, John Lennon, Bob Dylan, and Marilyn Manson. Alejandro Jodorowsky (who also plays the title role) sets up this world that feels like a Western, but the themes and imagery are often symbolic of Eastern religions.

It’s an LSD trip of a movie that kicks off in a Spaghetti Western kind of way and then blends into an allegory for the New Testament. Jodorowsky is saying a lot about our surrounding society in the film, but some argue the hero’s journey is done in a very arthouse manner. El Topo isn’t just another weird art house movie; it’s something meant to be studied whenever one wants to open up their mind a little bit. El Topo is available to rent on Prime Video.

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