Marty McFly, Mal Reynolds, El Mariachi - the ten coolest offbeat cowboys

Categories: Lists

Gritty Cowboy Redu by longhorndave.jpg
longhorndave via Flickr.com
These mustaches will kick your ass
We've always loved cowboys, with their twirling lariats and dusty bandanas. Today, about 17,000 of the bowlegged rough riders are convening at the tiny area of Hamel for its 30th annual rodeo. To celebrate, we've compiled a list of the 10 coolest cowboys in film. But our list has a twist: They're all characters that fulfill the cowboy archetype -- the lanky, lonesome gunslinger -- but in an unexpected package, whether as a child's toy or a space pilot.

Malcolm Reynolds
Firefly

Joss Whedon's Serenity, in addition to being a rollicking sci-fi adventure series, was also a space Western set in the time after a cataclysmic war (a Civil War, dare we say?). The frontier is unexplored, and savage Reavers (American Indians?) plague the outer borders of civilization. Malcolm Reynolds, a retired soldier from the losing side of the war, makes a living rustling cattle, hauling contraband, and anything else that will render enough cash to keep his ship in the sky. He wears a duster and low-slung pistol, speaks in a Southern drawl, and manages to get himself in to all manner of traditional cowboy scrapes--quick-draw battles, numerous fistfights and bar brawls, and a train robbery (in the series on which Serenity is based, Firefly) are amongst the most memorable.


Ed Tom Bell
No Country for Old Men

Sheriff Bell isn't the traditional main character of No Country for Old Men - that honor falls to Llewelyn Moss, who spends the entire movie being chased down by diabolical hitman Anton Chigurh. But Tommy Lee Jones' character steals the show just by dutifully riding in behind the firefights and explosions, examining each scene of destruction for clues and being ready to go toe-to-toe with Chigurh if need be. Ultimately, the six-gun toting, horse-riding sheriff admits to his inadequacy in the closing monologue, after having failed to stop Chigurh or do much of anything beyond clean up the mess. In his own defeat, he reveals the strong character and quiet resignation common to the cowboy archetype.


Woody
Toy Story

Poor, abused Woody: As the favorite toy in the closet he is worn, torn, thrown down stairs, and left lying at awkward angles for hours. In his spare time, though, he strides the prairies of Andy's bedroom with a bowlegged gait, wooing Bo-Peep. Unfortunately, when Buzz Lightyear shows up, his rural lifestyle is thrown for a loop and the two gallop off for adventures. Despite the shiny lights and flip-out wings of Toy Story's space ranger, our hearts remain with Tom Hanks' stuffed cattle-man, whose simplicity and loyalty make him a credit to cowboys everywhere.


Han Solo
Star Wars

It's easy to get distracted by the galactic scope of the Star Wars story - the Jedis and their lightsabers, the Empire and its evil grasp -- and never come to the realization that Han Solo is basically a stand-in for the Lone Ranger. A bastard, conniving sort of Lone Ranger, admittedly, but think about it -- he wears a pistol low on his hip, rides his favorite steed, the Millenium Falcon, into battle, and has a savage sidekick who sports most of the duo's common sense. Nowhere is the Han Solo-as-cowboy revelation stronger than in his shootout with Greedo -- kicked up against the adobe wall of the Mos Eisly cantina, you can almost see the Stetson knocked back over his eyes and the poker cards in his hand.


Gunslinger
Westworld

Westworld has one of the cooler plots of '70s sci-fi; in a futuristic amusement park, android cowboys wander the dusty streets of Westworld, ready for action. Guests can challenge these gunslingers to an old-fashioned shoot-out and win every time, thanks to the robots' non-lethal programming. Yul Brynner plays the Gunslinger, a robot pistol fighter who goes rogue and starts killing the amusement park's guests like a retro, wild-west terminator. Unfortunately (spoiler alert) the Gunslinger finally succumbs to damage and deactivates permanently by the end of the film, but his freaky bald visage is burned into history as the coolest amusement park robot cowboy gunslinger villain of all time.

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