Caroline Lawrence's top 5 Western films for kids (and adults!)

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Caroline Lawrence's top 5 Western films for kids (and adults!)

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Summary: It is always a little worrying when an author finishes a popular and well-loved series to start something new. Will the new characters be as interesting as the old, familiar ones? Will the books just be a pale retelling of the plots in a new context? But fans of Caroline Lawrence's Roman Mysteries need not worry. She's gone Western! To introduce us to the genre, and her new series, Caroline called into Bookbag Towers to tell us all about her favourite Western movies.
Date: 3 June 2011

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Caroline Lawrence's top 5 Western films for kids (and adults!)

It is always a little worrying when an author finishes a popular and well-loved series to start something new. Will the new characters be as interesting as the old, familiar ones? Will the books just be a pale retelling of the plots in a new context? But fans of Caroline Lawrence's Roman Mysteries need not worry. She's gone Western! To introduce us to the genre, and her new series, Caroline called into Bookbag Towers to tell us all about her favourite Western movies.


I've just written the first in a new history-mystery series for kids, hoping to spark a revival in the Western genre. If youre a kid aged 8 to 12 and you liked The Case of the Deadly Desperados and now you want to see some Western films, beware! Most of them are pretty violent and full of unsuitable things like smoking, drinking and gambling. But here are five I can recommend to start your education:

1. Toy Story 3 (2010) rated U

OK, your parents dont have to be in the room for this one. Thats because its not really a Western (which I define as a story of the old American west with wilderness, six-shooters and horses). But the beginning sequence is a bit like a western, until the toy pig comes down in his spaceship, that is... Also, Woody is the typical square-jawed hero from those TV Westerns your grandparents loved: hes loyal, honest and peaceable. In fact hes so peaceable that he doesnt even carry a gun in his holster. (Did you ever notice that?)

2. A Fistful of Dollars (1964) rated 15

This is the most violent of the Westerns Im recommending here, and you should watch it with your parents, or at least with their permission. But its worth seeing for several reasons. One: it stars Clint Eastwood, one of the greatest western actors of our day. In fact, this film made Clint Eastwood, who first appears here with his trademark poncho, squint and cheroot as the Man with No Name. Two: its a good example of a spaghetti western, i.e. a movie supposed to be set in American but actually filmed in Spain or Itay, often by Italians (hence spaghetti). Three: Sergio Leone, who directed this film, was a short, tubby, clownish-looking man with bottle-bottom glasses and broken English. He was also a genius of storytelling. Four: one of Leones inspirations was to use another genius, composer Ennio Morricone, to score his films.

3. Back to the Future part 3 (1990) rated PG

Although this is a time-travel film, the central section meets all my requirements for a Western. Its set in 1885 and partly filmed in Monument Valley. There are six-shooters and horses, not to mention runaway buckboards, steam trains, stagecoaches, shootouts and best of all, a saloon scene featuring a spittoon. Exciting, funny and fast-paced, this film makes lots of witty references to other Westerns. For example, the main character calls himself Clint Eastwood, wears a poncho and uses one of the Man-with-No-Names tricks to survive a shootout.

4. Rango (2011) rated PG

This brand new movie is a very clever and funny animated take on the Western film: all the characters are desert critters and the horses are roadrunners. Like Back to the Future 3, it references a lot of other Western and non-Western films. But even if you don't get the references, its still good fun. One of my favourite things about Rango is the ripsnorting soundtrack by Hans Zimmer. It contributes to the deadpan humour of the film and will have you laughing during the film and humming after its over.

5. Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid (1969) rated PG

This is a fun spin on a Western because has the outlaws as likeable heroes. Some people say that means it isnt a proper Western but I disagree. Its set in the west, has six-shooters and horses. There is one scene which doesnt seem like a Western where two characters are riding a bicycle to the sound of a 60s pop song, but I say keep it fresh! After all, thats what Im trying to do: a fresh take on the Western genre.

PS I cant resist listing my five fave Westerns for adults.

1. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)

2. HBO's Deadwood (2004-6) TV series

3. Dances With Wolves (1990)

4. Lonesome Dove (1989) TV mini series

5. Little Big Man (1970)


Thanks, Caroline! You have great taste! Readers - don't forget to visit the fantastic Western Mysteries website. It's here.