Sam Peckinpah was an American film director, screenwriter and producer. He is best known for his films The Wild Bunch (1969), Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1972) and The Getaway (1972).

Who Is Sam Peckinpah?

Peckinpah was born in Laredo, Texas on December 10, 1928. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in philosophy from Baylor University in 1949.

He then attended UCLA School of Theater to study under Richard Brooks, who had taught him at Baylor.

After graduating from UCLA, Peckinpah joined the faculty at USC School of Cinema-Television where he taught until his death.

Peckinpah also worked as a journalist for several newspapers including The Los Angeles Herald-Examiner and The Tucson Daily Citizen prior to becoming a film director.

His first job as a journalist was writing about boxing matches at Golden State Stadium in Fresno, California where he grew up.

Best Sam Peckinpah Movies

Let’s take a look at some of Peckinpah’s best films.

1. The Wild Bunch (1969)

In 1969, Sam Peckinpah directed The Wild Bunch, a film about the American Civil War. The film stars William Holden as Pike Bishop, Robert Ryan as Ben Wade, Ernest Borgnine as Pike’s partner Silas Selleck and Robert Ryan’s real-life brother, Edmond O’Brien.

The film also features an all-star cast of character actors including Ben Johnson, David Huddleston, Jack Elam and Martin Landau.

The primary focus of The Wild Bunch is on the conflict between two groups of Texas Rangers who are trying to protect their families from Mexican bandits known as The Wild Bunch.

However, there are other themes that run through the film. Most notably, there is a subplot about a woman who has been raped by Mexican soldiers during one of their raids. She learns how to use her gun skillfully and takes revenge against her attackers by killing them with her own gun.

The Wild Bunch
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • William Holden, Ernest Borgnine, Robert Ryan (Actors)
  • Sam Peckinpah (Director) - Walon Green (Writer) - Phil Feldman (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

2. Ride the High Country (1962)

Sam Peckinpah’s Ride the High Country is one of the most controversial films of all time. It’s a Western that focuses on an extended family, and its story is about how they deal with each other in a state of flux.

The film tells the story of a ranching family in Wyoming who are struggling to survive in a changing world. They face tough economic times and gunfights with other ranchers as well as their own internal conflicts.

It’s an uncompromising look at human nature, where no one is spared from criticism or judgment.

The film premiered at Cannes in 1962 and was met with mixed reviews from critics who praised its cinematography but criticized its message and lack of structure.

It was banned in Australia for nearly a decade due to its violent content before being released there on DVD in 2003. The movie has been described as “a brutal, disturbing masterpiece” by various critics across the world, with some going so far as to call it “the best Western ever made.”

Ride The High Country
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Randolph Scott, Joel McCrea, Mariette Hartley (Actors)
  • Sam Peckinpah (Director) - N.B. Stone Jr. (Writer) - Richard E. Lyons (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

3. Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid (1973)

This is a great Western, but it’s not very good. It doesn’t have the epic scope or the historical importance of High Noon. It’s just a Western.

There are some good scenes, though. I loved the scene where Garrett meets Billy as he rides up at the stagecoach stop with his men and they start shooting at him.

It’s a great moment because we never see their faces and we know that Garrett is going to win this one, but we can’t see it coming either. And the scene where Garrett takes Billy prisoner, after he has been shot in the back by an outlaw, is also really well done.

The problem with this movie is that it doesn’t have enough action sequences in it. We don’t get to see any shootouts between these two men, which would have made it more interesting than just a straight-up western with them fighting each other over land rights or something like that.

It’s just too slow for my tastes – too much downtime in between the action sequences where there isn’t anything happening except for them sitting around talking about old times together or something along those lines

Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • James Coburn, Matt Clark, Kris Kristofferson (Actors)
  • Sam Peckinpah (Director) - Rudolph Wurlitzer (Writer) - Gordon Carroll (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

4. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974)

Sam Peckinpah’s Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia is a brutal and relentless Western, with its story told in flashbacks. The film follows a Mexican border town sheriff who must deal with an army officer (William Smith) who has come to town to take over the town’s water supply.

This movie is set in Arizona, but there’s no mention of the state or its history. Rather, it seems like Peckinpah was trying to create something out of nothing; he tries to graft his own experiences into this film and make something that feels authentic and true. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite work as well as he hoped.

The film starts off promisingly enough. We meet Robert Forster as Genaro Garcia (who would go on to play him in both Sons of Anarchy and The Long Ride Home), who is being held prisoner by an officer named Colton (William Smith).

We see that Colton has been offered money by a mysterious man named “Baron” if he can find Forster so that he can be killed by Baron’s men. We also see that Colton has two guns pointed at Forster’s head after having killed someone else

Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974) ( Tráiganme la cabeza de Alfredo García ) [ NON-USA FORMAT, Blu-Ray, Reg.B Import - Germany ]
  • Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974) ( Tráiganme la cabeza de Alfredo García )
  • Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974)
  • Tráiganme la cabeza de Alfredo García
  • Warren Oates, Kris Kristofferson, Isela Vega (Actors)
  • Sam Peckinpah (Director) - Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974) ( Tráiganme la cabeza de...

5. Junior Bonner (1972)

 Junior Bonner (1972) is a film starring Robert Mitchum, Liza Minnelli, and George Kennedy. It was directed by Sam Peckinpah and written by James Leo Herlihy and Sam Peckinpah.

The story revolves around a man (Mitchum) who is brought back to life after being shot in order to help capture a criminal gang.

In 1968, Robert Mitchum was approached by Universal Studios about making a film about the life of Wild Bill Hickok. He turned down the offer because he did not want to do another Western role like his role as Ransome in The Ballad of Cable Hogue (1968).

Peckinpah got involved with the script because he wanted to work with Mitchum again after they had worked together on Ride the High Country (1971).

Peckinpah wanted to shoot Junior Bonner in Monument Valley near Utah Lake in Utah so that it would look like it was shot during the old west days. However, due to budget constraints Universal decided not to shoot there and instead filmed scenes at Pinewood Studios outside London.

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6. The Ballad of Cable Hogue (1970)

Sam Peckinpah’s The Ballad of Cable Hogue is a Western that doesn’t quite fit the mold. It’s an anti-Western, in fact, and it was Peckinpah’s first feature film since his 1962 masterpiece, The Wild Bunch.

It also marked a return to the Western genre for Peckinpah after he’d turned away from it for many years.

The Ballad of Cable Hogue tells the story of two brothers who are hired to deliver a message back to their home town. While en route, they kill two men who were trying to rob them and then kill their informant so that they can keep the horse he was riding. However, when they arrive at their destination,

they find that everyone in town has disappeared except for one man who refuses to tell them anything about what happened or where everyone else has gone. This man turns out to be Cable Hogue (Burt Reynolds), a former Union soldier who lives with his daughter Emmy (Susan Blakely).

He refuses to reveal where all the others went; but when he discovers that one of his sons is still alive, he decides that he

The Ballad of Cable Hogue
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Jason Robards, Stella Stevens, David Warner (Actors)
  • Sam Peckinpah (Director) - John Crawford (Writer) - Sam Peckinpah (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

7. The Getaway (1972)  

 When you’re on an adventure, the first thing you want to do is get away. And when you’re in a car chase, the last thing you want to do is get away. That’s where Sam Peckinpah’s The Getaway comes in.

Peckinpah’s direction is never as smooth as it could be and he always has a hard time getting his actors to play consistently against each other. But his use of slow motion,

quick cuts and camera angles that move through different planes of space provide a sense of speed and movement that makes this movie feel more like an action film than it actually is.

The Getaway also features one of the greatest car chases in movie history: a sequence that takes place on both sides of a river and involves over 20 cars speeding down roads,

driving through fields and driving down train tracks. Peckinpah uses this long shot from behind one car so much that there are times when it feels like they’re in slow motion themselves!

The Getaway
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Steve McQueen, Ali MacGraw, Ben Johnson (Actors)
  • Sam Peckinpah (Director) - Walter Hill (Writer) - David Foster (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

8. Straw Dogs (1971)     

 Straw Dogs is a 1971 British-American psychological thriller film directed by Sam Peckinpah. The screenplay was written by David Mercer and Robin Hardy, based on the play Straw Dogs by Ted Lewis (based on his own novel of the same name) and starring Dustin Hoffman,

Susan George and T.P. McKenna. It was filmed at Pinewood Studios in Iver Heath, Buckinghamshire, England, with some locations in nearby Milton Keynes.[2]

The film tells the story of two men who break into a house to steal money from a woman they believe to be having an affair with her husband. They discover she has been raped by him, and murder him in retribution.

The film’s title derives from one such act of violence: “When you cut off a dog’s tail it bleeds to death.”

The film received generally positive reviews from critics upon release and became a cult favorite among fans of Peckinpah’s work. It won three awards at the Venice Film Festival (Best Actor for Hoffman,

Best Actress for George and Best Screenplay) and was nominated for another four awards overall (Best Foreign Language Film; Best Cinematography; Best Sound; and Best Director).

Straw Dogs [1971] [DVD]
  • English (Publication Language)

9. Major Dundee (1965)               

The first of Peckinpah’s films to win an Oscar for Best Picture, Major Dundee is a powerful picture about a man’s search for redemption. It features an amazing performance by John Wayne as Major Terence Mann.

Mann is a tough, hard-drinking Irishman who has come to the American West to fight Indians and become a legend in his own time.

He is also searching for his son, who was kidnapped by Indians when he was young. The film also stars Robert Ryan as one of the Indians who kidnapped Mann’s son,

Richard Harris as a white cavalry officer who becomes involved with the search for the boy, and Richard Boone as one of the Indians who helped kidnap his son.

The film was directed by Peckinpah, who wrote it with Frank Nugent based on a story they had written together while working on Ride Beyond Vengeance (1959). The cinematography was done by Lucien Ballard and the music score by Alexandre Rabinovitch.

Major Dundee
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Charlton Heston, Richard Harris, Jim Hutton (Actors)
  • Sam Peckinpah (Director) - Sam Peckinpah (Writer) - Jerry Bresler (Producer)
  • (Playback Language)

10. Convoy (1978)           

Sam Peckinpah’s Convoy is a film that takes place in the heat of the Vietnam War. It follows a group of soldiers as they travel through enemy territory, fighting for their lives while trying to protect a convoy of trucks loaded with supplies.

The film was based on the true story of a real-life convoy that was attacked by Viet Cong soldiers in August 1972 and lost thirty-three U.S. soldiers during that attack. It was also inspired by Peckinpah’s experiences as an infantryman in the war.

The film stars Kris Kristofferson as Major Earl Boyett and Ernest Borgnine as Colonel Paul Foster, two members of a small military patrol team that get caught up in an ambush near an outpost in South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. As they attempt to escape from their attackers and make their way through enemy territory,

they are joined by Sergeant William Sanderson (Randy Quaid), who has been injured earlier but has managed to survive until now; Corporal Jimmy Cross (Elliott Gould), who is also injured but manages to survive;

Private Jerry Daniels (Burt Reynolds), who has recently arrived at his new unit after being discharged from another unit; Private First Class Robert Zmuda (Jack

Convoy
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Sam Peckinpah (Director)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)
  • Audience Rating: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)

Characteristics of Sam Peckinpah Movies

Sam Peckinpah was a director who made his name with the violent westerns of the 1960s and ’70s, but who was also known for his lushly filmed dramas.

His work is often compared to that of other directors such as John Ford and Sergio Leone, but Peckinpah’s style was uniquely his own.

Characteristics of Sam Peckinpah Movies

Peckinpah’s films are characterized by a sense of unease and violence that runs through them like a current. They are violent, but not without some kind of humanity.

Peckinpah’s protagonists are generally not saints, but they aren’t villains either: they are simply people trying to survive in a world where their deepest desires can be fulfilled only at great cost.

The characters in these films feel deeply alone, even when surrounded by others; they have no family or friends, only the people they kill.

Themes in Sam Peckinpah Movies

Peckinpah’s themes were many and varied: he explored religion in several films including The Wild Bunch (1969), he explored political corruption in Ride the High Country (1962) and in The Getaway (1972). He was also influenced by Japanese cinema

Best Sam Peckinpah Movies – Wrapping Up

Sam Peckinpah is one of the most unique filmmakers to ever work in Hollywood. His films are gritty, violent and bloody, but they also have a strong sense of character and story.

We hope you’be enjoyed this list of the best Sam Peckinpah movies. Most are all available on DVD or Blu-ray — so you can watch them whenever you like.

 

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