6 westerns to watch before you play Red Dead Redemption 2

Catch up on some of cinema's greatest westerns before next month.

With Red Dead Redemption 2 almost six weeks away, you’re likely sitting there twiddling your thumbs trying to figure out how to pass the time until the highly anticipated western releases. Lucky for you, we know just the way to do so.

We handpicked six films that you can watch to make the wait a bit more bearable. These are not only some of the most acclaimed westerns ever produced but also films with thematic similarities to Red Dead Redemption 2.

These films deal with nasty outlaws and those who dare cross them as well as the brotherly bond that these notorious gang share with each other. We tried to find a variety of movies both new and old so hopefully, there’s something for everyone!

You can choose to watch them all back to back if you really want or you can watch one a week leading up to the release of the game.

  1. 3:10 To Yuma (2007) *Available on Amazon Prime

This remake of a classic western is directed by Logan director James Mangold and stars Christian Bale and Russell Crowe as two men on opposite sides of the law. Bale plays a crippled rancher named Dan Evans who seeks redemption from his children after they see him being pushed around by a group of men he owes money to.

Only hoping to gain the approval of his family and pay the men bullying him, Evans signs up to escort notorious outlaw and gang leader, Ben Wade, to a train which will take him to prison. The only problem is, Wade’s gang is hunting the lawmen and Evans in order to free Wade.

There’s an incredible rivalry between Wade and Evans and even a bit of a subtle friendship of some kind over the course of the film despite their incredible differences. It’s an incredibly complex relationship that can’t really even be verbalized but is so fascinating to watch as it unfolds.

Of course, one could compare Ben Wade to Dutch van der Linde as they’re both ruthless gang leaders and their men are devoted to both of them until the end. There may be good in both of them though, it’s up to you to decide as a viewer/player how morally justified they are, though.

2. The Wild Bunch (1969)

If there’s any movie that is clearly a massive inspiration for the Red Dead series, it’s The Wild Bunch. This hyper-violent gritty western follows a gang on the Mexican-American border attempting to survive in a world they no longer belong in as civilization moves past the Wild West into the modern age.

The Wild Bunch was both an acclaimed film for its well-written story and great themes but also a controversial one due to its excessive violence used to showcase the lengths these men were willing to go to survive.

With Red Dead Redemption 2 following a gang sent on the run as the law begins to crackdown on outlaws, this should definitely be a film you watch before you play the game.

3. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)

Following a string of train robberies, two men are sent on the run when the law comes after them. Their strong bond helped form the basic premise of the “buddy” film genre (buddy cop movies like Lethal Weapon) with intense action, high stakes, and fantastic characters.

With a major focus in Red Dead Redemption 2 being this close bond you share with the gang, pretty much making them your family, a movie about criminal friendship makes Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid a must-watch.

4. Unforgiven (1992) 

What’s probably the most famous western of all-time due to its Best Picture win at the Oscars in 1992, Unforgiven marked the peak of the genre with an outstanding script and performance from Clint Eastwood.

Eastwood plays an aging former gunslinger named William Munny who comes out of retirement to bring justice to a town filled with crime and less than stellar police work. While this recommendation probably fits better with the first RDR, it’s still a stellar western that feels like required viewing before we head back to the Wild West in October.

5. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)

One of the most dangerous men in all of the West, Jesse James, is being hunted across America as he continues his deadly crime spree. Just like Dutch’s gang, James is a highly sought after criminal due to his ability to make away with pockets of money. A man like that can only run for so long before someone eventually catches up with him, though…

This is a film definitely fitting for both games, you could really divide the movie into each respective game but we won’t really get into those reasons for sake of spoilers. Watch the movie, you’ll figure out what we mean pretty quickly if you played the first Red Dead Redemption to completion.

6. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) 

While Rockstar has been very secretive about the plot of Red Dead Redemption 2, we know it’ll chronicle the fall of Dutch’s gang. Of course, the fall begins when the law cracks the whip down on crime once and for all and sends the gang running north but there’s probably many more layers as to why they couldn’t survive.

A large portion of the game seems to center around heists whether that be bank heists, train robberies, or something else entirely, and why else would you perform a heist other than because of greed?

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is a classic western all about how greed corrupts. A group of men stumble upon some riches and face difficulties with bandits but perhaps something worse as well: themselves. Without giving too much away, we believe that The Treasure of the Sierra Madre will likely be an essential watch when it comes time to play Red Dead Redemption 2.

Red Dead Redemption 2 releases for Xbox One and PlayStation 4 on October 26th, 2018.