With 'Blackthorn' in theaters, an excuse to assess the genre
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3. "Unforgiven" (Clint Eastwood, 1992)
Clint Eastwood sat on David Webb Peoples's "The Cut-Whore Killings" for a decade until he took it out of his desk, dusted it off and decided he was old enough to fashion it as "Unforgiven," one of only three films in the genre to ever win the Academy Award for Best Picture. It's an anti-western of sorts, turning every trope on its ear. Here the noble sheriff is supplanted by a murderous villain. The celebrity gunslinger is a feeble joke. The cock-sure wannabe hasn't the stomach for it. And the heroic image of the cowboy can't even mount his own horse. It's an immaculately crafted masterpiece.