I, like many other gamers, have now spent weeks playing Red Dead Redemption 2 — Rockstar Games’ latest video game masterpiece that you can lose yourself in. While I was playing the game, I thought of many different films, some of which the game includes visual homages to. So, today I want to highlight some films that you should check out if you loved, liked, or even just had fun with Red Dead Redemption 2.
Now, this could easily be a list of the best western films, but I don’t want to just post a simple list of good western films. Similarly, I won’t post any television shows in the actual list, even though a certain sci-fi western HBO show was clearly inspired by the previous game.
So, let’s just get this out of the way: Yes, you should watch the Man with No Name-Trilogy, and, yes, I would recommend the first season of Westworld, if you liked this game. But let’s now get to the actual list of films that I thought about during the game, and the recent films you just have to see if you enjoyed it.
#1 – The First Film I Thought Of
- The Hateful Eight, 2015, dir. Quentin Tarantino.
So, you start the game, and immediately you are met with a long and unwieldy tutorial chapter which takes place somewhere in the cold mountains. You are not really sure who you can trust (but you have a pretty good idea about that John Marston guy, obviously). It’s dark. It’s snowy. It’s cold. Oh, and, again, the section is definitely too long. Obviously, this section made me think about Quentin Tarantino’s popular western epic, The Hateful Eight. It has plenty of interesting characters, some of which may remind you of characters in the game, and, just like the opening section of the game, my one big problem with it is that it is overlong.
#2 – The Bear
- The Revenant, 2015, dir. Alejandro G. Iñárritu.
Now, eventually, you leave the snowy mountains to try to find a new temporary home for your camp. But, as you’ll find out, in one of your first missions in your next camp location, the nature of this part of the world is unrelenting and, well, wild. Sooner rather than later, you start tracking a bear, which gives you your first real challenge that isn’t just a gunfight or a duel.
The best western epic about a violent bear is obviously The Revenant, but there is more to it than just that. I’m not a big fan of this film, but, like the game, it is one of the most beautiful representations of the wild 1800s in America. This is the kind of film you watch for the cinematography, just like some people might say Red Dead Redemption 2 is a technical achievement, but not a great game due to what some call a less-than-stellar user experience and disappointing gameplay mechanics.
#3 – The Netflix Film
- The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, 2018, dir. Joel & Ethan Coen.
But maybe you don’t want to watch these films with punishing runtimes. Maybe you don’t own the two previous films. Maybe a western epic is too much of a commitment for someone who just spent 70 hours in the world of Red Dead. Well, you’re in luck. Because, just recently, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs premiered on Netflix exclusively.
If you press play on your Netflix app, search through its catalog, and locate the most recent Coen Brothers-film, then you’ll be met with six bite-sized western narratives in various different genres. Maybe you want to have some fun with the western genre, in which case the eponymous story (the first bite-sized narrative in the film) might be right up your alley. But if you want something serious, something sad, or something beautiful, then this is still made for you.
You’ve got Netflix, right? Exactly. Give it a shot.
#4 – The One You Have To Watch
- The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, 2007, dir. Andrew Dominik.
And now for a film with a title that is impossible to say five times in a row without getting exhausted. Go ahead. Give it a try. This article will still be here when you’re done. It’s tough, right? It’s a herculean task compared to the act of saying Beetlejuice three times in a row. Anyway, Andrew Dominik’s western epic isn’t for everyone, and the truth is that it has largely been forgotten.
However, it might actually be my favorite Brad Pitt film, and Casey Affleck is great in the film as well. This masterpiece is as gorgeous as the game, as slow as the game, but also just as rewarding as the masterpiece that you just spent 70 hours playing through.
But what did this film remind me of? Well, this game has a great train robbery sequence that is completely stolen from this film (they don’t try to hide it). It is a great visual homage to the great train robbery in Dominik’s film which has a mouthful of a title.
What films did you think of as you were playing the game? Sound off in the comments.
– Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.