When high noon strikes, there isn’t any time to spare. Heritage Manufacturing has brought back the firearms that won the most famous duels in history, with exceptional performance in every condition and an eye-catching appeal that makes it a perfect fit for every shooter’s collection. But that’s not all these iconic weapons could achieve. From the fastest draws in the west to the trick shots that entertained crowd after crowd, the wheel guns that feel pulled right out of Heritage’s catalogue have been immortalized in pop culture, in both their most proficient… and outlandish uses. From the most realistic gun fights that have us at the edge of our seats to the ones that leave us laughing and wondering who could come up with such a thing, movies have kept us all entertained with shootouts truly done right…and quite a few that missed the mark
Hitting the Bullseye
In this exploration of some of the most memorable shootouts in Hollywood history, we will see just a few of the gun fights that stand the test of time, regardless of their realism, and others we couldn’t help but mention. All of these are worth watching on their own merit, and while you can relive the wild west era with Heritage Manufacturing’s firearms, it wouldn’t be in your best interest to take some of these lessons shown to heart. After all, they don’t call it Hollywood magic for nothing.
First, we kick things off with a film that became an instant classic. One that became the definitive representation of a shootout which carved out a place in history that will never be forgotten. The shootout at the O.K. Corral was brought to life like never before in the 1993 hit movie Tombstone featuring Kurt Russell as Wyatt Earp, Sam Elliot as his brother Virgil and Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday. The fast flying led and shocking turn of events of a deadly firefight portrayed in the movie captures the wild west duality of law and order facing down outlaws that still hold our interest today. This is one of the few entries where it isn’t only the shootout that stands out, but how the standoff is able to capture the ideals we remember most of the wild west. Heroes of the law face off in a timeless fight against their rival outlaws. As the old saying goes, it’s one for the ages.
Not every spectacular shootout on film is connected to a historical event, however. The next entry hardly needs an introduction and has undeniably earned its place among the best ever when it comes to iconic stand offs. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly featuring Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef set the bar high in 1966 with its final duel alongside Eli Wallach. It’s a definitive moment that thrives in the tension before the trigger pull and is punctuated by an iconic soundtrack. The quickdraws and shooting accuracy are impressive, but the final minutes of the film deliver one of the best shootouts ever seen on film. Whether it’s the classic six shooter, the go-to lever action or the flashy revolving carbine, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly showcases the very best of what classic shootouts have to offer.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966)
Often underappreciated and sometimes controversial, but as timeless as ever, The Wild Bunch from 1969 gave us one of the most memorable shootouts on film ever created. It was described by the famed director Quentin Tarentino as one of the few perfect films ever made, and while that is left to debate, it was a film that carved its place in history thanks to its violent, sometimes shocking gunfights. Far from a typical exploitation Hollywood film, The Wild Bunch broke the mold for westerns of its time. This helped it to stand out from the rest just as the golden age of the genre in movies reached its precipice. Ask anyone who’s seen the movie and they will all say the same thing — it’s grim. But where few were willing to delve into the powerful consequences and dramatic flair of firefights that so often resulted in loss for everyone involved, The Wild Bunch reveled in it, delivering an unforgettable experience that made it an instant classic.
Broad Side of a Barn
While there are quite a few spectacular shootouts that have come out of Hollywood, for every strong representation of firearm prowess there are about a hundred that miss the mark completely. This isn’t always a bad thing, however, as some can still be timeless in their own way. Wildly inaccurate but entertaining nonetheless, sometimes these will surprise you.
The most recent being a 2018 anthology film from Netflix titled The Ballad of Buster Scruggs from the Coen brothers. Not every short in this movie features a fantastic shootout, but the very first entry will leave you laughing, trying to figure out what just happened, and questioning how they even pulled it off. The movie is all about life on the frontier surrounded by doom and gloom mixed with dark humor, but the first short features a singing quickdraw cowboy Buster Scruggs played by Tim Blake Nelson who unbelievably shoots down almost everyone in the town while whistling a tune. It’s full of ridiculous and impossible shots that only get more far-fetched as the story continues, before it ends in a ricochet behind-the-back with a mirror shot that doesn’t quite go as you’d expect. Memorable doesn’t even begin to cut it, but please don’t try these trick shots at home.
One true classic in the western genre many will be surprised to find in this section of our exploration, 2003’s hit film Open Range directed by Kevin Costner. This film is found on lists of best western films all over the internet and for good reason, it’s well worth seeing. But Open Range finds itself in a precarious position in one of the more violent shootouts featuring Kevin Costner himself involving a six-shooter that fires off well over ten rounds in a few seconds without reloading. This has been debated and even presented to Costner who explained in an interview that he simply always wanted to fan a six-shooter and the scene was worth including because of it. Is it awesome? Yes. Realistic? Not so much. Even then, it’s one you won’t be sorry you watched.
Our final entry for spectacular shootouts that just missed the mark is the commercial and critical success Shane which released in 1953 featuring Alan Ladd. It’s a movie about a mysterious gunslinging drifter hired as a farmhand just before things go south. The ending relies on the emotional impact of a shootout gone wrong – which we won’t spoil here – but forgets to include much in the way of plausibility which unfortunately pulls us out of the movie every chance it gets. Over sixty years later, Shane is undoubtedly an enjoyable movie, but it’s a testament to filmmaking before realism was much of a factor. People standing around in the middle of a firefight and acting painfully unaware of the troubles right in front of them, sometimes not even firing back despite holding a six-shooter, all make this a sometimes painful watch even if enjoyable. It’s the kind of movie that gets just about everything right except the shootout.
Get Your Popcorn Ready
Whether they are going in guns blazing or fumbling at the holster, Hollywood has tried its damndest to give us as many different spectacular shootouts on screen as we can imagine, and even a few we couldn’t even begin to. The wheel guns that were used in these firefights are alive and well thanks to Heritage Manufacturing and even continue to grace the big screen still today. Though the movies can be hit or miss, when the led starts flying, whether you are Wyatt Earp or Buster Scruggs…you can be sure it will be one heck of a show.