A 10-film trip through the "acid western"

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2020/01/13/a-10-film-trip-through-the-a.html


Since the list includes Zachariah, it must be legit. That’s definitely the film that defines the genre, and the only one on the list I’ve seen (and own on DVD).

But isn’t Easy Rider sort of a western?


waggles hand back-and-forth You could build that case, but it’s a thin one IMHO. “Easy Rider” is a road movie, plain and simple.


High Plains Drifter was the only one I’ve seen all the way through (one sleep-aborted attempt at Dead Man notwithstanding), and I recommend most folks see it. What’s crazy is that it’s not the only movie where Clint Eastwood comes back from the dead to avenge himself in a western, but the other one (Pale Rider) is much more palatable to a typical western audience and is generally not as good.


Now I remember the film I was really thinking of. I was watching “The Postman” and some of it reminds me if “Dances with Wolves”, both starring Kevin Costner. There’s even a scene where the reconstituted postal service is on horses looking like the cavalry.

I don’t care much how Easy Rider is classified, but their bikes seem to be a stand in for horses and they do visit the townsfolks of the commune.

Blazing Saddles isn’t quite psychedelic, but it is sort of New Age.


What no Blueberry? Yes I know it’s ayahuasca.


I’ve seen all these movies! Hoo boy, I do have some disagreements with this list, but I’ll summarize them for the sake of humanity.

The Shooting (1966) - Good, but weird. Agree with the term “acid western”.
Ride in the Whirlwind (1966) - Good, but weird. Also easy to mix-up with “The Shooting”. Agree with the term “acid western”.
El Topo (1970) - Weird with a side-car of distilled bizarre. I cannot honestly say if this movie is good or bad. It’s memorable, that’s for sure. Agree with the term “acid western”.
A Girl Is a Gun (1971) - This is a bad movie, with a bad ending. It’s a western, through the eyes of the french. Do not agree with the term “acid western”.
Zachariah (1971) - This is a bad movie, but a great extended music video. They’ve got cowboy hats and Country Joe and the Fish so, sure, a western. Do not agree with the term “acid western”.
Glen and Randa (1971) - Post-apocalyptic mess of a movie, but not bad. Lots of 70’s style sex scenes, and some good acting from a bunch of nobodies, but it’s a road movie. Not a western. Do not agree with the term “acid western”.
The Last Movie (1971) - Bad. Very bad. Why you do dis, Dennis Hopper? Am reluctantly forced to agree with the term “acid western”, only because cowboy hats and watching this will feel like you had a bad acid trip.
Greaser’s Palace (1972) - My best description is that if the Marx Brothers were forced at gunpoint to make a western movie starring Jesus Christ, this is what you’d get. It’s bad. Agree with the term “acid western”.
High Plains Drifter (1973) - Yes! This movie is great, and doesn’t try hard to make sense. Clint shoots a lot of people, and may or may not be a ghost. Agree with the term “acid western”.
Dead Man (1995) - Whoa Nelly, it’s good, but kind of a complete mess. Agree with the term “acid western”, but feel like “peyote western” fits better.


A pretty spiffy list. I highly recommend Zachariah, Dead Man, The Shooting and The Last Movie. Zachariah probably being the most explicable and The Last Movie being the least.

On my one viewing of El Topo, I wasn’t terribly enthused, although I’ve loved some of Jodorowsky’s other films.


Okay, I need to hear your reasoning behind recommending “The Last Movie”. I have, shall we say, strong feelings about that one.


Well, it’s been ages since I saw it, so I don’t know if I can go into great detail. (I’ve seen it twice years apart and still dug it both times, so I’ll stand by my approval, though.)

As I recall, I enjoyed the challenge of figuring out what was going on and/or what if anything it meant, I enjoyed Hopper’s acting, and especially liked the, shall we say, anti-illusionist ending, which oddly enough the previously mentioned Jodorowsky may just have borrowed.


Huh. Okay, thanks. Your enjoyment, the challenge of figuring out what was going on, was exactly why I did not enjoy “The Last Movie.” If a movie is going to screw with me, fine, I can get behind that. If it’s not going to screw with me, also fine. But don’t put a bunch of things in front of my eyeballs and then clearly show that my efforts to figure it out were wasted, hah hah, it was a metaphor the whole time you fool! The ending enraged me.

But I can respect your viewpoint, so thanks for replying.


I forgot about Dead Man.
Thanks for reminding me of a film I loved.


I have only seen El Topo and Dead Man in full. Caught pieces of High Plains Drifter back when cable was not cuttable yet.
Highly recommended by friends, I eventually was able to watch El Topo. It was fantastic and remains one of my favorite movies, but it is strange and likely not for everybody.
It commits to its mystical Buddhist Zen morality as it follows is hero’s journey.


It is deeply weird to me that we’ve been making movies about the Wild West for at least 3 times longer than it existed.


This movie is the closest a film has ever come to being like a dream, an actual sleeping-and-dreaming stream-of-consciousness montage of stuff that sort of makes sense as you watch and yet is inexplicable afterwards.


It’s a Western like Star Wars is a Western. As in: yes it is.


I’m inclined to argue with you, but Star Wars arguments are a can of worms I’d rather not open.



“Pale Rider” is what you get when you finish making “High Plains Drifter” and say to yourself “You know, there’s probably a slightly more entertaining way to do this same exact movie.”