The really amazing thing about these goofy Westerns is the A-list talent that shows up in them; every actor wants to play cowboy at least once in a career. You might like to kick off a wacky Western marathon with Destry Rides Again (1939) and Rio Bravo (1959), two light-hearted but more traditional Westerns that will give you an insider’s knowledge of what the jokes in these movies are all about.
1. Cat Ballou (1965)
2. Paint Your Wagon (1969)
3. Support Your Local Sheriff (1969)
4. Blazing Saddles (1974)
5. The Frisco Kid (1979)
6. The Villain (1979)
7. Rustler’s Rhapsody (1985)
8. Three Amigos (1986)
9. Back to the Future III (1990)
10. Shanghai Noon (2000)
The Headliner: Blazing Saddles (1974)
Dir. Mel Brooks
Mel Brooks’ hysterical parody of the Western isn’t for the faint of heart; racial jokes and bathroom humor abound, and the ending is an over-the-top orgy of chaos typical of many 1970s comedies. Still, the cast is like a who’s who list of comedians, with Cleavon Little, Gene Wilder, Mel Brooks, Harry Morgan, Harvey Korman and more going all out for laughs. Madeline Kahn’s turn as a caricature of Marlene Dietrich in Destry Rides Again netted her an Oscar nomination.
The Hidden Gem: Rustler’s Rhapsody (1985)
Dir. Hugh Wilson
While Blazing Saddles is broader and better known, Rustler’s Rhapsody delivers a charming (and more family appropriate) parody of the singing cowboy picture, the once fabled terrain of Roy Rogers and Gene Autry. Tom Berenger is delightfully straight-laced as singing cowboy Rex O’Herlihan, while Andy Griffith seems to enjoy himself immensely in the unusual role of villain. All the stock types and plots of the Western take their turns as the targets of the film’s humor, which unfolds like a parodic history of the genre.
The Cult Classic: The Villain (1979)
Dir. Hal Needham
You’ll either think this is one of the funniest movies ever or it will leave you completely cold, but those who love to see big stars do ridiculous films will have a very good time. Kirk Douglas stars as the titular anti-hero, although he’s upstaged by almost everyone who shows up in a shot, including his own horse, much to his frustration. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Ann-Margaret fill out the other lead roles, with cameos and small parts featuring basically every 1970s comedian who isn’t in Blazing Saddles. (My personal favorite is Paul Lynde’s turn as Nervous Elk.) The movie is often compared to a Road Runner cartoon, and not without good reason.