4 Movies Like Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)

Staff & contributors

, 1985

An attempt to articulate just how vast and magnificent the scope of Akira Kurosawa’s 乱 (Ran) is will inevitably fall short. Recognized as a master of epics, including his 七人の侍 (Seven Samurai, 1954), Kurosawa reimagines Shakespeare’s tragic King Lear set in medieval Japan. Each shot is labored and precise, as sublime landscapes overwhelm the screen, dwarfing the armies of men fighting below. 

At the center of the ensuing wars is Hidetora Ichimonji, an aging warlord. Ichimonji divides his conquered land between his three sons, Taro, Jiro, Saburo. The Ichimonji clan, however, will not settle for less than everything. Father and sons scheme against one another, leading to violent plots for control over the kingdom. Greed poisons the Ichimonji’s bloodline, pervasive and all-consuming. The tragedy that unfolds is indeed as poignant as any great Shakespeare work. 

The road ahead is lined with bodies, blood, jealousy, paranoia—and it’s a long way to the bottom from the throne. Kurosawa, confronting his own mortality and legacy, achieves a titanic masterpiece with Ran. Few films so deeply grasp the tragedy of war at this visceral level. While Ran is not an easy watch, it’s a must-watch for all.

Genre: Action, Drama, History

Actor: Akira Terao, Daisuke Ryû, Haruko Tôgô, Hisashi Igawa, Hitoshi Ueki, Jinpachi Nezu, Jun Tazaki, Kazuo Katô, Kenji Kodama, Kumeko Otowa, Mansai Nomura, Masayuki Yui, Mieko Harada, Norio Matsui, Pîtâ, Reiko Nanjo, Shinnosuke Ikehata, Susumu Terajima, Takeshi Katō, Tatsuya Nakadai, Tetsuo Yamashita, Tokie Kanda, Toshiya Ito, Yoshiko Miyazaki, Yoshitaka Zushi, 井川比佐志

Director: Akira Kurosawa

This gorgeous Scandinavian movie is based on a true story and stars the ever-reliable Stellan Skarsgard. He plays the governor of a strict youth correctional facility in Norway in 1915. The arrival of a feared kid kickstarts events that are very famous in Norway but little-known elsewhere: an uprising within the facility that will eventually require the army to get involved. A strong movie with stellar (Stellan) performances.

Genre: Action, Drama

Actor: Benjamin Helstad, Ellen Dorrit Petersen, Frank-Thomas Andersen, Kimmo Rajala, Kristoffer Joner, Magnar Botten, Martin Slaatto, Per Gørvell, Stellan Skarsgård, Trond Nilssen

Director: Marius Holst

Rating: Not Rated

A dark and existential comedy, Wristcutters: A Love Story follows Zia (Patrick Fugit), a young man who commits suicide, only to find himself in a bleak afterlife filled with other suicide victims. He discovers that his former partner has just joined him in this dreary realm and sets out to find her. From there, the film transitions into a macabre road-trip film as Zia and several acquaintances strike out in a beat-up old car in the name of love and redemption. Based on a short story by award-winning Israeli writer Etgar Karet, Wristcutters is a stunningly original film that will haunt viewers forever.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Fantasy, Romance

Actor: Abraham Benrubi, Adam Gifford, Amy Seimetz, Anthony Azizi, Azazel Jacobs, Azura Skye, Bonnie Aarons, Bridget Powers, Cameron Bowen, Chase Ellison, Clayne Crawford, Eddie Steeples, Goran Dukić, Irwin Keyes, Jake Busey, Jazzmun, John Hawkes, Julia Sanford, Leslie Bibb, Mark Boone Junior, Mark Fredrichs, Mary Pat Gleason, Mikal P. Lazarev, Nick Offerman, Nils Allen Stewart, Patrick Fugit, Reedy Gibbs, Sarah Roemer, Shannyn Sossamon, Sharone Meir, Shea Whigham, Tom Waits, Will Arnett, Zia Harris

Director: Goran Dukić

Rating: R

Nostalgia for the Light is a documentary about Atacama desert and the two activities that go on there: astronomers in ALMA space observatory examine the sky, and the relatives of murdered people dig the ground hoping to find their loved ones. The way the director compares these seemingly totally different topics (searching the sky and searching the sand) is pure poetry. It's a serious, but not depressing nor boring movie. All the interviewed people are amazingly relevant and have great insight. They made me feel like I want to get to know them personally. If you're looking for a detailed "for dummies" introduction about Chile, ALMA observatory or Pinochet's concentration camps, this movie is not for you. It's for viewers who want to learn to appreciate the beauty of life and history, and the surprising parallels they sometimes offer us.

Genre: Documentary, Drama

Actor: Gaspar Galaz, Lautaro Núñez, Luís Henríquez

Director: Patricio Guzmán