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)

The Wild Bunch is a masterpiece of the Western genre that leaves a lasting impact on its viewers.

Director Sam Peckinpah brings a raw and gritty realism to the story of a group of aging outlaws on the brink of extinction in the changing world of the early 1900s.

The film features a star-studded cast, including William Holden, Ernest Borgnine and Robert, who deliver powerful performances that capture the complexities of their characters.

Peckinpah’s use of slow-motion and intense violence is both shocking and beautiful, as he showcases the harsh realities of the time period.

The final shootout is a cinematic tour de force that is both brutal and poetic, leaving the audience with a gut-wrenching emotional impact.

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)

“Ride the High Country” is a classic Western that will take you on a thrilling ride through the Old West. The film tells the story of two aging lawmen who team up for one last adventure, tasked with transporting gold from a mining town to a bank.

What is tale of, and redemption that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

   

Director Sam Peckinpah’s attention to detail is evident in every frame of the film, from the sweeping landscapes to the intricately choreographed action sequences.

The performances by the lead actors, Joel McCrea and Randolph Scott, are nothing short of outstanding as they bring a depth and complexity to their characters that is rare in Westerns.

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)

Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid is a classic western film directed by Sam Peckinpah and starring James Coburn and Kris Kristofferson Set in New Mexico in the0s the film tells the story of the legendary outlaw Billy the Kid and his former friend turned lawman, Pat Garrett.

This film is a prime example of Peckinpah’s unique style, featuring slow-motion action sequences and a non-linear narrative structure that keeps the viewer engaged from beginning to end.

The performances by Coburn and Kristofferson are outstanding, with Coburn bringing a stoic and determined presence to the role of Pat Garrett, and Kristofferson perfectly capturing the rebellious spirit of Billy the Kid.

The film also boasts a fantastic soundtrack by Bob Dylan, who also has a small role in the film.

The music adds a haunting and melancholic tone to the story, perfectly complementing the film’s themes of friendship, betrayal, and the passing of an era.

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)

Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia is a gritty and intense film that will leave you breathless from start to finish.

Directed by Sam Peckinpah and starring Warren Oates, this movie tells the story of a man who is hired to bring the head of a notorious bandit to a wealthy Mexican
businessman.

The film is a masterclass in tension and suspense, with Peckinpah’s signature slow-motion action sequences and explosive violence.

Oates delivers a powerful and nuanced performance as the lead character, Bennie, who is both sympathetic and deeply flawed.

What sets Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia apart from other action films of its time is its unflinching portrayal of the brutal realities of life in Mexico.

The film is unapologetically violent and uncompromising in its depiction of the corruption and poverty that permeate Mexican society.

   

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 is a classic Western film that captures the essence and spirit of the American West.

Directed by Sam Peckinpah and starring Steve McQueen, this film is a true gem that showcases the beauty and harshness of the frontier.

McQueen plays Junior Bonner, a rodeo rider who returns to his hometown of Prescott, Arizona for the annual rodeo.

The film follows Bonner’s struggles to reconnect with his estranged family, including his alcoholic father played by Robert Preston, and his attempts to win the rodeo championship.

What makes Junior Bonner stand out is its authenticity. Peckinpah’s attention to detail and McQueen’s naturalistic acting style create a world that feels real and lived in.

The dusty streets, the rugged landscapes, and the colorful characters all add to the film’s sense of time and place.

But at its heart, Junior Bonner is a story about family and the bonds that tie us together.

McQueen delivers a powerful performance as a man who must confront his past and his present in order to find a way forward.

And the supporting cast, including Ida Lupino and Ben Johnson, add depth and nuance to their roles.

   

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6. The Ballad of Cable Hogue (1970)

“The Ballad of Cable Hogue” is a unique and underrated Western that is often overshadowed by director Sam Peckinpah’s other works.

Starring Jason Robards in the titular role, the film follows the story of a desert prospector who, after being left for dead by his former partners, sets out on a quest for revenge.

What sets this film apart from other Westerns of its time is its quirky and offbeat tone.

The character of Cable Hogue is a lovable anti-hero who is equal parts charming and cunning. Robards delivers a standout performance, bringing depth and humor to the character.

The film also features strong supporting performances from Stella Stevens as Hogue’s love interest and David Warner as his former partner turned nemesis.

The cinematography is stunning, with gorgeous desert landscapes serving as the backdrop for Hogue’s journey.

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)  

“The Getaway” is a gritty and action-packed crime thriller that leaves you on the edge of your seat from start to finish.

Directed by the legendary Sam Peckinpah and starring Steve McQueen and Ali MacGraw, this film tells the story of a recently paroled bank robber (McQueen) who sets out on a dangerous mission to pull off one last heist with his wife (MacGraw) by his side.

The chemistry between McQueen and MacGraw is electric, and their performances make you root for them despite their criminal nature.

The action sequences are intense and well-choreographed, with Peckinpah’s signature slow-motion shots adding to the tension.

The supporting cast is also noteworthy, with standout performances from Ben Johnson as the tough-as-nails sheriff and Sally Struthers as a quirky hotel clerk who gets caught up in the couple’s plans.

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 disturbing and thought-provoking film that explores the darker aspects of human nature.

Directed by Sam Peckinpah, the movie follows the story of David (played by Dustin Hoffman), a mathematician who moves to a rural English village with his wife Amy (Susan George).

As David struggles to fit in with the locals, tensions rise and violence erupts, leading to a brutal and shocking climax.

The film is a masterclass in suspense and tension-building, with Peckinpah expertly ratcheting up the stakes until the explosive finale.

Hoffman delivers a nuanced and powerful performance as the mild-mannered David, while George is equally impressive as his conflicted and complex wife.

The supporting cast is also excellent, with memorable turns from the likes of Del Henney and Peter Vaughan.

Despite its controversial subject matter and graphic violence, Straw Dogs remains a timeless classic of the thriller genre, a testament to Peckinpah’s skill as a filmmaker and the enduring power of cinema to provoke, challenge, and entertain. Highly recommended for fans of intense, thought-provoking cinema.

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

9. Major Dundee (1965)               

Major Dundee is a classic Western film that tells the story of a Union officer, played by Charlton Heston, who leads a group of Confederate prisoners on a mission to stop a band of Apaches from raiding across the Mexican border.

Directed by the legendary Sam Peckinpah, this film is a thrilling, action-packed adventure with a star-studded cast that includes Richard Harris, Jim Hutton, and James Coburn.

Peckinpah’s signature style is on full display in Major Dundee, with masterful cinematography and intense action sequences that are both brutal and beautiful.

The film’s score, composed by Daniele Amfitheatrof, perfectly captures the epic nature of the story and adds to the film’s emotional impact.

Heston delivers a powerful performance as the conflicted Major Dundee, torn between his duty as a soldier and his personal vendetta against the Apache leader.

The supporting cast is equally impressive, with standout performances from Harris as the Irish Confederate, Hutton as the young lieutenant, and Coburn as the sardonic scout.

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

10. Convoy (1978)           

Convoy is a classic action-packed film about a group of truck drivers who band together to resist corrupt law enforcement officials.

Directed by Sam Peckinpah and starring Kris Kristofferson, Ali MacGraw, and Ernest Borgnine, this movie is a must-watch for fans of the genre.

The cinematography in Convoy is stunning, with sweeping shots of the American Southwest that transport you right into the action.

The truck chases and stunts are thrilling and expertly executed, making for some heart-pumping moments.

The soundtrack is also a standout, featuring the hit song “Convoy” by C.W. McCall.

But beyond the action, Convoy also has a deeper message about standing up against authority and fighting for what’s right.

The camaraderie between the truckers is heartening, and their determination to stick together and fight against the corrupt officials is inspiring.

Convoy
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Kris Kristofferson, Ali MacGraw, Ernest Borgnine (Actors)
  • Sam Peckinpah (Director) - Bill L. Norton (B.W.L. Norton) (Writer) - Robert M. Sherman (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

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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