In honor of my 10th blog post ever (although technically 11th if you count the rewards posting)… ok, let me re-phrase. In honor of my 10th meaningful blog post, I will be revealing to you ‘my’ top 10 Sci-fi westerns of all-time!
Hopefully you noticed my emphasis on the word ‘my’ because I just want to forewarn everyone in advance that there were no scientific formulas used or analysis done when creating this list. Thus, dissension and disagreement are welcome. Please just try to be mature and respectful about it, and most importantly, don’t make me cry. Not that it’s easy to do… although Pixar movies tend to have that effect on me.
Anyways, I digress. Without further ado… here we go:
Honorable Mention: Cowboy Bebop (TV: 1998 – 99)
I had to throw this in here because I felt like I might get some hate mail if I didn’t. I want to be very upfront with my fellow Outlaws in that I’ve never really been into Anime. However, this show has been suggested to me by several and given the sci-fi western genre it falls into, I’m not one to stick my nose up at it without at least giving it a try.
To this point, I’ve only seen a few episodes, and I must say I do find it intriguing. The Anime style is still something I’m not a huge fan of, but the story is growing on me. For that, I wanted to give a thank you to all the Outlaws who recommended this… I will provide a review of it once Ive gone through the whole series.
10) Westworld (Movie: 1973)
I had honestly never heard of this until recently upon doing some research, but after reading about the concept I was instantly fascinated. After reading it was also written and directed by my one of my favorite authors, Michael Crichton (R.I.P.), I knew I needed to watch this flick as soon as my software could illegally download it! (KIDDING… kind of.)
For those as unaware of the movie as I was, the story takes place well into the future where the latest vacationing craze is an amusement park called Delos. It consists of a lifelike worlds known as RomanWorld, MedievalWorld and WestWorld, which is a lifelike recreation of the American Old West where most of the movie takes place. Since all of the population of each world are super intelligent robots (minus the guests) you can probably guess what transpires.
This project has Crichton’s fingerprints all over it. This definitely feels like a mix of Jurassic Park, Terminator and Total Recall all wrapped up in an old-school blanket.
Overall the movie itself was very entertaining, if not a bit dated. However, that is to be expected from a movie that was released a good five years before I was even a glint in my parents eyes. There has been talk of a remake over the past few years, and with Russel Crowe as a possible leading man no less. If that were to happen, I’d be in line for the reboot before they began filming.
9) Legend (TV: 1995)
In this short-lived (a term that unfortunately plagues this list) western tale with a sci-fi twist, Ernest Pratt (Richard Dean Anderson) is introduced as a gambling, womanizing, cowardly, alcoholic writer. Think David Duchovney’s Hank Moody from Californication, but trapped in the old west of Sheridan, Colorado versus the wild west of Los Angeles, California.
With the help of quirky scientist Janos Bartok played by John de Lancie (‘Q’ fame from Star Trek), Pratt transforms his sunken identity into Nicodemus Legend, who is the literary hero from his own novels. While I liked the show, it was mainly because of the concept which steals several ideas – minus the charm – from it’s more entertaining big brother Brisco County Jr.
Few people may know this was Richard Dean Anderson’s first leading role post MacGyver… and unfortunately that’s probably a good thing. The series was fun, but could have been better.
8 ) The Wild Wild West (Movie: 1999)
Based loosely on the TV series of the same name, the big-screen (and budget) adaption also follows Captain James West (wiki-wiki-wild Will Smith) and Marshal Atremus Gordon (Kevin Klein) as they try to protect the U.S. and Ulysses S. Grant (also Klein) from the insidious Dr. Arliss Loveless, played by the always up for the task Kenneth Branagh.
Despite being generally panned by critics – most of whom wouldn’t recognize a good movie even if it crash landed into their house in a spaceship made of $100 dollar bills – I actually enjoyed the Will Smith remake. Of course the main difference between me and a professional critic is I don’t get paid for my sometimes questionable taste in cinema.
Still, can you really go wrong with Will Smith’s witty one liners, giant mechanical spiders and Salma Hayek in a corset so tight her chest required it’s own widescreen camera?
7) Cowboys & Aliens (Movie: 2011)
If the title of this comic book-based flick of the same name, starring Harrison Ford (Indiana Jones) and Daniel Criag (007), doesn’t scream science fiction and western, then you should just stop reading this post right now. KIDDING, KIDDING! Please keep reading… PLEASE!?
As might be expected, the acting isn’t stellar, but the effects and action are. Not to mention there were some frightening moments that required the need of underwear replacement by the end credits. Of everything on this list, this is also the newest major addition, so it definitely has that modern blockbuster feel, which is actually refreshing in and of itself.
Cowboys & Aliens succeeds in that it doesn’t try to be more than what it is: A good old fashion shootout at the O.K. Corral with 10-foot tall slimy extra-terrestrials that make the aliens from the Predator movies look like runway models. Hell, what’s not to like about aliens who also lasso their victims!
6) The Wild Wild West (TV: 1965 – 69)
As with the movie (#8), the Wild Wild West tells the story of Secret Service agents James T. West (Robert Conrad) and the master of disguise gadget guru Atremus Gordon (Ross Martin) as they continually protected President Grant and the rest of the country from every dangerous threat you could imagine (with the exception of the hippie invasion).
Admittedly, I was late to the party with the original series and saw the movie first. However, as in most cases, the original is almost always the superior product after all things are considered. Given that we get more time with our charismatic leads over a four season run, it makes the series and characters much more likeable over the long-run.
While there was definitely a sci-fi element to the show (alternate history story line, etc.) the series came across more as a western James Bond with the use of crazy gadgets, over-acting villains, and extremely sexy women. Don’t let the #6 rank fool you though, this series represents the birth place of the sci-fi western genre.
Ok, calm down. I know what you are thinking, “Only #4 & 5, what are you smoking?!” To answer your question, I’m not sure. However, if you remember my earlier forewarning, this is ‘my’ top 10 list, and I’ll incur your wrath if I want to. As many of my fellow outlaws know, the short-lived (there’s that word again) Firefly series and Serenity movie follow-up revolve around a group of rag-tag space rebels trying to make ends meet. They are led by the rough around the edges, but eventually likable, Malcolm “Mal” Reynolds (Nathan Fillion).
The western element of the show is derived from the plot-point that several groups of people (including the crew of Serenity) are forced to live on less technologically advanced frontier like outskirts of the Alliance controlled solar system. These planets inhabitants were on the losing side of the civil war versus the Alliance (which is compromised of the only two surviving superpowers of the year 2517). Scary in that it might not be such a far-fetched idea.
The Firefly / Serenity franchise is another sci-f western hybrid that I just recently immersed myself into. To say I fell in love with all of it would be fairly accurate… although a more accurate statement would be I fell in love with Kaylee (Jewel Staite).
So why not ranked higher? While the series had some western themes (gracefully mentioned above), the futuristic science-fiction space backdrop seemed to overshadow the few bits of western charm. Now if they could have gotten Kaylee into some skimpier outfits, we can talk top 2…
3) Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (Movie: 1989)
Some of you are going to read at this and say, “huh?” Well, about five days ago, I would have said the same thing but then something strange happened… I actually thought about the movie a little more. (The strange part being I was actually thinking without doing irreparable damage)
Seriously though, think about Indy’s Last Crusade… well the last one before the last one with the alien vodka skulls. Indiana Jones riding around on horseback during several scenes (young & old), gun-slinging fights and hand-to-hand saloon fist-a-cuffs much of which takes place in desert-type settings. Hell, Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) and his posse ride off into the sunset in the very last scene as the ever recognizable and infamous score comes to life.
Yes, in general Indiana Jones isn’t your ‘typical’ western hero, but of all three films this one had the most western elements. And yes, I know I just knocked FireFly / Serenity for NOT being a typical western. However the difference is that the Last Crusade just ‘feels’ more like a western. Add to that the sci-fi mysticism of the Holy Grail, the hilarity of Sean Connery as Indy’s papa, bake at 432 degrees and what you get is a great – slightly western – sci-fi masterpiece (and one of my favorite movies of all time.)
2) Back to the Future III (Movie: 1990)
“Great Scott!” That’s right, the time traveling duo of Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) and the scientist without a hair brush, Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd), land in the #2 spot on my coveted sci-fi western list. Not much explaining should be needed about the third and final installment of the Back to the Future movie series; and if it is, you need to re-examine your geek tendencies immediately. The first step would be asking yourself what you are doing with your life not having seen the entire BTTF trilogy?
For those that need a gentle refresher, in short, Marty finds himself taking our favorite DeLorean to Hill Valley of the old west during 1885 order to rescue his best buddy Doc from an earlier than expected demise. Unless you are from another timeline completely, the first of the series is without argument the best of the threesome. However, the last of the trilogy is definitely my next favorite and a surprisingly strong movie standing on its own flux-capacitor.
How could you go wrong with the mixture of time travel, the old west, action, humorous western references, and of course Doc and Marty! It was no doubt a little sad seeing our favorite time jumpers ride off into the sunset, but it was undoubtedly one hell of a ride.
1) The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. (TV: 1993 – 94)
So here we are at good ol’ #1. I know, many of you are still in shock and protesting my leaving Firefly & Serenity out of the top 2, but hear me out…. or shall I say, hear Brisco out. The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. takes place in the old American West of 1893 and follows… well… Brisco County Jr. (Bruce Campbell), a Harvard Lawyer turned bounty hunter in order to avenge his bounty hunter father’s death. In the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it department”, his dad’s name was also, wait for it… Brisco County.
Brisco County Jr. rode onto the scene in 1993 on a little fledgling network called FOX. The show was created by Jeffery Boam and Carlton Cuse (LOST fame) as an actual request by a FOX executive (Bob Greenblat) because he (among millions of others) were impressed with his work on Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (are we seeing a theme yet?)
Brisco had a little bit off everything, including the sci-fi arc of the all powerful orb and kooky yet lovable professor played by John Astin. The show also had plenty of action, lots of humor, an awesome Indy inspired theme song, a stubborn horse companion, hilarious supporting characters like Lord Bowler (Julius Carrey) and Pistol Pete (John Pyper-Ferguson), and sexy love interests around every haystack.
Still, there are no ifs, ands or buts about it, Bruce Campbell made Brisco click. I mean really, is there anything that he hasn’t been charismatic and likeable in?
While at one point it was a lead in to the X-Files, in what turned out to be the beginning of an unwelcome trend, Fox also didn’t market the series very well and it suffered a demise much like that of Firefly. Alas, Brisco did manage 27 episodes; unfortunately it still felt far too short a run.
Here’s a little Brisco Firefly Mashup for ya from You Tube:
While Brisco does have its small cult following – a total of 4 people (myself and my dog being two of them) – unlike Firefly, it has never reached mainstream cult recognition in its afterlife existence. The reasons for this are debatable, but my guess is the show wasn’t sci-fi enough for the average die-hard geek, and with everything in life, it’s all about timing.
So if my controversial top 10 list of sci-fi westerns hasn’t caused you to unsubscribe to Geek Outlaw or report me to the proper authorities, I highly recommend trying to revisit everything in the top 10 (especially Brisco). I promise you definitley won’t be sorry, partnerd!