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15 Underrated Comedy Westerns That Don’t Get Enough Attention


15 Underrated Comedy Westerns That Don’t Get Enough Attention


Western films don’t always take themselves too seriously, and some Western comedies have become beloved icons in their own right. Such films include Blazing Saddles and Three Amigos. Some international Western films have also proven popular, such as Der Schuh des Manitu, a parody of the Winnetou novels, which is considered one of the most successful German productions ever made. Even Rango won Best Animated Feature at the Oscars.

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However, Western comedies also have a few hidden gems that have come out over the years. Some are more experimental in nature and combine the story with other genres. Many, especially more modern Western comedies, are meant as throwbacks to classic Western films, even if it’s done in a tongue-in-cheek manner. Western comedies also have a larger range than most would assume.

Not only have Western comedies been made in countries all around the world, they have also been around for decades.

15 Go West (1940)

Go West hosts the Marx Brothers in their tenth film. Groucho Marx plays S. Quentin Quale who heads off to the American West to find his fortune, but can’t afford the ticket. He soon encounters a pair of con-artist brothers, Joseph and Rusty Panello, played by Harpo and Chico Marx. Soon, a plot unfolds involving reclaiming a stolen deed and bringing a couple back together.

The Marx Bros. Take on the Wild West

Go West, which opens up with the quote, “Go West, Young Man, go west,” serves as an early example of a Western comedy. As with earlier films, the Marx Brothers performed comedy scenes from the film in a live tour before filming.

The film has also become well-known from an allegorical story claiming that Winston Churchill was told of Rudolf Hess’ capture shortly before seeing a private screening of this film. However, other versions of this story exist using other Marx Brothers films. Rent on AppleTV.

14 My Little Chickadee (1940)

My Little Chickadee is a Western spoof starring Mae West and W. C. Fields. West plays Miss Flower Belle Lee, a Chicago singer heading West to visit her relatives. Unfortunately, her stagecoach is targeted by a masked bandit, who takes an interest in the singer, taking her with him. Flower Belle appears to have escaped on her own, appearing in town, but soon gets caught embracing the bandit. Getting run out of town, she soon makes an acquaintance with con-man Cuthbert J. Twillie, played by Fields, whom she pretends to marry.

Two Famous Comedians Join Up

One of the earliest Western comedies, My Little Chickadee actually did well during its original release, being a box office success. In addition to West and Fields, the film also notably features Margaret Hamilton as a local town gossip.

Not only do West and Fields star in the film, the two were also both credited as co-writing the film, though West allegedly claimed to have written most of the film, with Fields writing for his scenes. Rent on Prime Video.

13 Way Out West (1937)

Way Out West is a Laurel and Hardy film that starts off with the duo going on a quest to find a long-lost heiress, Mary, after her father’s death. Their journey takes them to a saloon in the West. Unfortunately, Mary’s guardians want her wealth for themselves. A comedy of errors ensues, from a sinkhole to Mary’s deed getting stolen.

Laurel and Hardy Put on a Show

The film is especially known for its music, such as the songs “Trail of the Lonesome Pine” and “At the Ball, That’s All,” the latter of which is performed with an improvised dance number from Laurel and Hardy. The Avalon Boys, a singing group popular in the 1930s, also memorably appear in the film.

In popular culture, James Finlayson’s catchphrase “D’oh!,” which appears in the film, would later become adopted as Homer’s catchphrase on The Simpsons. In this film, Finlayson’s character, Mickey Finn, says it after accidentally shooting his rifle. Rent on Apple TV.

12 An American Tail: Fievel Goes West (1991)

An American Tail: Fievel Goes West (1991)

Release Date
November 22, 1991

Director
Phil Nibbelink , Simon Wells

Cast
James Stewart , John Cleese , Amy Irving , Phillip Glasser , Erica Yohn , Cathy Cavadini , Nehemiah Persoff , Dom DeLuise

Runtime
75 Minutes

An American Tail: Fievel Goes West is an animated follow-up to 1986’s An American Tail, which sees the Mousekewitzes leave New York for the Wild West. Unfortunately, the villainous Cat R. Waul has a sinister motive for drawing in mice to the area. The little mouse hero Fievel learns what’s going on, but the only one who believes him is the former sheriff, Wylie Burp. Meanwhile, Fievel’s sister Tanya becomes a budding star thanks to her new job as a saloon singer.

One Man’s Sunset Is Another Man’s Dawn

The film is a love-letter to a lot of classic Western media, complete with Tiger, Fievel’s feline friend from the first film, having a new love-interest named Miss Kitty.

While the film wasn’t too well-received upon release, it has since gained something of a cult-following. The film also notably inspired the series, Fievel’s American Tails, and two direct-to-video sequels. Rent on Apple TV.

11 The Mask of Zorro (1998)

The Mask of Zorro is a swashbuckler film based around the classic character of the same name. The original Zorro. Don Diego de la Vega, reunites with his daughter and wants to get revenge on the governor, Rafael Montero, who he blames for the death of his wife. He soon joins forces with Alejandro, a thief who he has trained to take on the Zorro mantle, who wants to avenge the death of his brother.

A Tale of Two Zorros

Both Don Diego and Alejandro have endured tragedies in their lives, but the film still has its comedic moments, even during the fight scenes. The story incorporates elements from historical events into its narrative. Notably, Antonio Banderas’ character, Alejandro, is a fictitious brother of the real-life Mexican outlaw Joaquin Murrieta.

The film was later followed up with The Legend of Zorro. While the original film takes place before California became part of the U.S., the sequel ends with it becoming the 31st state. Rent on AppleTV.

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10 McLintock! (1963)

McLintock! sees John Wayne play cattle baron George Washington “G.W.” McLintock, who has become estranged from his wife Katherine, played by Maureen O’Hara. In time, McLintock takes in a mother and son as his new cook and ranch-hand. Meanwhile, McLintock contends with the bureaucrat Matt Douglas and the return of his ex-wife, who wants a divorce and custody of their college-aged daughter.

A Tender Love Story and a Savage Showdown

One of the film’s most notable scenes is a mud brawl sequence, considered one of its funniest moments, in which Wayne even uses his trademark “Pilgrim” catchphrase. The film is also notable for advocating against racism towards the Native American characters, allegedly at John Wayne’s insistence, who are portrayed sympathetically and are seen as mistreated at the hands of bureaucrats. The film is also known for having entered the public domain in 1991. Stream for free on Plex.

9 Shanghai Noon (2000)

Shanghai Noon

Shanghai Noon

Release Date
May 26, 2000

Director
Tom Dey

Runtime
110 Minutes

Shanghai Noon is a comedy film that combines elements of a martial arts film and a Western, taking place in 19th-century Nevada. A Chinese guard, Chon Wang, comes to America in hopes of finding a kidnapped princess, Pei-Pei. Along the way, he teams up with a robber who fancies himself a great gunslinger, Roy O’Bannon.

Martial Arts Meets the Wild West

As mentioned, the film combines various genres, complete with elements of a “Buddy Cop” film thrown in for good measure. Even one of the lead’s names, Chon Wang, reflects this, being a pun on famous Western star John Wayne. Various historical figures also have a presence in the film, such as Wyatt Earp. The film is notable for its cast, which includes Jackie Chan, Lucy Liu, and Owen Wilson. The film was also followed up with a sequel, Shanghai Knights. Rent on AppleTV.

8 Maverick (1994)

maverick

Maverick

Release Date
May 20, 1994

Runtime
127

Maverick revolves around Bret Maverick is a gambler set on winning a poker championship, hoping to prove himself as the best in his business. Unfortunately, he can’t afford the full entry fee. While trying to raise the funds, he encounters all sorts of figures, such as a young con-artist and a famed lawman. When their stagecoach loses its driver, they agree to help a group of evangelist settlers. All the while, an antagonist schemes to keep Maverick from reaching the game.

Even the Original Maverick Returned

Maverick is an adaptation of the 1950s television series of the same name. In fact, James Garner, who plays lawman Marshal Zane Cooper in the film, played Bret Maverick in the original series. As the film goes on, Cooper is revealed to have a surprising connection to Maverick, which further highlights Garner’s casting. Various country singers and actors associated with Westerns also appear throughout the film. Rent on Apple TV.

7 My Name Is Nobody (1973)

My Name Is Nobody, also known as Il mio nome è Nessuno, is an international co-production poking fun at Spaghetti Westerns. The story revolves around the titular Nobody, who tries to help an aging gunslinger, Jack Beauregard, end his career in style. The way to do this is to take down 150 bandits known as the Wild Bunch all at once.

Faster Than Him? Nobody!

The film sets up so that there will be a showdown between Nobody and his hero. After all, “nobody” can take on such a legendary gunslinger. However, while such a showdown plays out towards the climax, it soon turns out to be staged.

Even the casting is a meta-joke, Terence Hill’s Nobody, a typical Spaghetti Western hero, taking the place of a more traditional Western protagonist, played by Henry Fonda. The Wild Bunch are named for, but otherwise has little to do with, a real-life group. My Name Is Nobody did well in Europe, but was less popular in the United States. The film later gained a sequel of sorts in Nobody’s the Greatest. Stream for free on Plex.

6 Support Your Local Sheriff! (1969)

Support Your Local Sheriff! takes place in the Western town of Calendar, which seemingly starts overnight when gold is found inside a fresh grave. Unfortunately, the townspeople find themselves at the mercy of Danby family, who make them pay for using the road. Meanwhile, Jason McCullough is a talented gunfighter who hopes to move to Australia, takes on the role of the town’s much-needed sheriff.

The Cast Even Returned for a Follow-Up Film

The story pokes fun at the classic trope of a stranger bringing law into a lawless town. The ending even breaks the fourth wall to explain the fate of the characters, with McCollough becoming Colorado’s first governor, but never making it to Australia, with his stable boy-turned-deputy becoming the new sheriff. The film later gained a follow-up of sorts in Support Your Local Gunfighter, which hosted a new set of characters, but saw many of the first film’s actors return. Rent on Apple TV.

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5 The Good, The Bad, and the Weird (2008)

The Good, The Bad, and the Weird is a Western film from South Korea, spoofing the famous Spaghetti Western, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. The story revolves around three Korean characters in Japanese-occupied Manchuria.

Park Chang-yi is tasked with stealing a treasure map from a Japanese official on a train, only to find a train robber, Yoon Tae-goo has already obtained it. Meanwhile, a bounty hunter, Park Do-won wants to claim a bounty on Chang-yi. Added to this, Manchurian bandits also have an interest in the map.

A Western Film Set in Manchuria

The film has been described as something of a “Kimchi Western.” While an action film, it also takes itself less seriously than a typical Spaghetti Western. As with the title, Chang-yi represents the “Bad,” Do-won represents the “Good,” and Tae-goo represents the “Weird.” Tae-goo especially serves as a source of comedy for the film, but the story proves there is more to the character than he initially appears to be. Stream on AMC+.

4 There Was a Crooked Man… (1970)

There Was a Crooked Man… is a Western film that sees Paris Pitman Jr. hide half a million stolen dollars in a rattlesnake nest. After getting arrested, he schemes to escape the penitentiary, which is located in the middle of a desert, and regain the stolen fortune. Meanwhile, a new warden, Woodward W. Lopeman, is installed, and he hopes to improve things for the convicts.

You Never Know Who You Can Trust

Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, the film is known for its somewhat biting humor. Paris Pitman, the main character, is a manipulative thief who even kills one of his accomplices in the opening scene. By contrast, Woodward W. Lopeman starts out idealistic, wanting to help, and usually overcomes repeated temptations to commit unsavory behavior. This makes the ending all the more surprising. After Pitman is killed by a rattlesnake, Lopeman ultimately leaves the prison with Pitman’s money. Stream for free on Plex.

3 Cat Ballou (1965)

Cat Ballou is a comedic Western based on the book, The Ballad of Cat Ballou, starring Jane Fonda and Lee Marvin. Fonda plays Catherine “Cat” Ballou, a schoolteacher who helps an accused cattle thief, Clay Boone, escape a sheriff while on the way to visit her father. She soon learns that her father’s ranch is in danger, she finds unlikely allies in Clay and his uncle, as well as hiring famed gunman Kid Shelleen. When things take a dark turn, Cat swears revenge and becomes an outlaw.

Lee Marvin Does Double Duty

Marvin plays both Kid Shelleen and the hired killer, Tim Strawn, also known as Silvernose, who threatens and ultimately kills Cat’s father. The resemblance is eventually explained with the two being brothers. The casting allows Marvin to both play against type as the comedic, washed up Shelleen, who begins to shape up as the story goes on, and the villainous Strawn.

For many, Marvin’s horse stole the show, being one of the more comedic characters. The film also memorably features a Greek chorus of sorts in Nat King Cole and Stubby Kaye, who appear as traveling musicians. Stream for free on Plex.

2 The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is an anthology film featuring six unrelated stories unfolding in the Wild West, using a storybook framing device. The title chapter revolves around a friendly singing cowboy, with other stories revolving around prospectors looking for gold, adventures on stagecoaches, and a bank robbing plot.

A Song Never Fails…

The film indulges in a variety of dark comedy. For example, Buster Scruggs is as cartoonishly violent as he is affable, even ending his story singing with the man who killed him in the afterlife. In essence, Buster Scruggs is a parody of a charming cowboy character from the 1940s or 1950s, but living in a grittier Western film. In another story, a would-be bank robber known as the “Cowboy” finds himself in a cycle of getting sentenced to death, seemingly getting rescued, and getting left to die all over again. Stream on Netflix.

1 Paint Your Wagon (1969)

Paint Your Wagon is a movie musical based on the Lerner and Loewe Broadway musical of the same name. Set during the California Gold Rush, a prospector, Ben Rumson, rescues a survivor of a wagon crash, played by Clint Eastwood, who he names “Pardner.” This is just the start of a series of events that impact the mining camp, known as “No Name City,” such as the discovery of gold, which will see the start and end of a new settlement.

I’m on My Way…

In the world of popular culture, Paint Your Wagon is probably best known for a famous joke on The Simpsons, in which Homer rents the movie thinking it’s a more traditional Western, and is horrified to realize it’s a musical. However, Lisa finds Lee Marvin dreamy. Thanks to the parody, many viewers are surprised to learn Paint Your Wagon is indeed a real film, though the songs used for the scene don’t appear in the actual film.

That said, the movie did leave its mark in other ways. Notably, Lee Marvin’s performance of “Wand’rin’ Star” proved especially popular in the UK, becoming a number-one hit single. Stream on Apple TV.

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