Appaloosa Movie Poster Image




Old-fashioned Western features great performances.
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Western
  • Release Year: 2008
  • Running Time: 114 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Extensive discussion of the battle between the rule of law and lawbreakers, the settling of the West (including "dealing" with Native American populations), and the nature of violence and the cost it exacts.


Fairly extensive, including discussions of rape and murder; many on-screen deaths from firearms (including several seen up close); fighting; scuffles; discussion of "gun work" as a profession; discussion of hanging as a punishment for capital crimes; characters being bound and threatened.


Discussions of whoring; scenes of lovers in bed talking; some female rear nudity (briefly and at a distance). Some kissing.


Occasional strong language includes "damn," "hell," "f--k," "s--t," "piss," and "goddamn." Some discussion of sexual conduct as being "whorish." Native Americans are referred to as Indians.


Some period firearms are mentioned by name.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Characters drink wine, beer, and hard liquor, occasionally to excess; cigars, cigarettes, and pipes are smoked.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this film is a classic Western -- full of gunfights, close-quarters shootings, and other violent acts. Although the violence is mostly bloodless, it's quite realistic: You clearly see its consequences in every action scene. There's also a complex depiction of the choices that a female character makes regarding her lovers that at least partially depicts the limited choices available to women in 1882. Characters also smoke, drink, swear, and talk about "whoring," and there's brief rear female nudity.

What's the story?

In the territory of New Mexico in 1882, the town of Appaloosa is besieged by rogue rancher Randall Bragg (Jeremy Irons), who protects his workers even when they break the law. After a rape-murder attracts the attention of the town sheriff, who refuses to let Bragg's men walk away from the crime, Bragg simply kills the lawman and his deputies. The town's leaders hire Virgil Cole (Ed Harris, who also directed) and his partner, Everett Hitch (Viggo Mortenson), to become the town's new lawmen and stop Bragg. For a while, the town of Appaloosa is peaceful -- so much so that Cole reaches out to the newly arrived Ms. French (Renee Zellweger), but Bragg soon chafes against the new order that Cole and Hitch are enforcing.

Is it any good?


APPALOOSA has a number of things to recommend it -- Harris is an able director, the ensemble cast is first rate, and the story is based on a novel by best-selling author Robert B. Parker. (Parker is perhaps best known for the Spenser private eye series.) But unlike revisionist modern Westerns such as Unforgiven and The Proposition, Appaloosa is a classic, old-fashioned, straightforward story -- good men and bad men, gunfights and stare-downs, long rides and short bursts of action.

That said, "straightforward" doesn't mean "simple"; there are some superbly acted moments in Appaloosa. As Bragg, Irons starts out as a grizzled lunatic, but as the storyline progresses, he becomes more civilized, more charming ... and more dangerous. Zellweger's newly arrived piano-playing mystery woman is prim and proper, but she's also got a fairly fluid sense of allegiance. Even the easy, gruff interplay between Cole and Hicks is full of shifts and unspoken truths, and Harris and Mortensen settle into playing two lifelong friends as if they were exactly that, while still holding the screen in their individual scenes. Like many classic Westerns, Appaloosa takes a hard look at what's gained -- and what's lost -- as the frontier becomes part of civilization and how the many people who shaped and settled the American West struggled to create a civilized community that had no more use for them. Beautifully shot, full of action, and far richer than it seems to be at first glance, Appaloosa is a welcome reminder of why Westerns matter on the big screen.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the film's central idea: What happens when lawbreakers become lawmakers? Is there a difference between state-sanctioned killing in the name of order and murder in the name of greed and expediency? Families can also discuss the enduring popularity of the Western genre. Are these movies a chance to re-discover America's past, or a chance to re-invent it through fiction?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:September 17, 2008
DVD/Streaming release date:January 12, 2009
Cast:Ed Harris, Jeremy Irons, Viggo Mortensen
Director:Ed Harris
Studio:New Line
Run time:114 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:some violence and language.

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Adult Written byDr.Q November 16, 2009
I found like it great that the this western took the shootings how where in those days and not making a 6 shot look a submachine. This is how a dual was kept, simple and simple. The plot was simple to follow. For me this one a western movie to see.
Parent of a 12, 18+, and 18+ year old Written bynadinepabst November 9, 2008

Great Western

Subtle humor - good story plot. This is a well done western with all the reasons 'cowboys' should not get too close to women!
Teen, 17 years old Written byXantara July 24, 2009

Terrible movie, nothing saves this spaghetti stinker. Don't bother for any age.

Um... This was a terrible movie! Don't rent it! It's a terrible movie: Everything was wrong! The plot was ghastly and really unclear and confusing and just plain stupid. The direction was terrible, cutting from scene to scene, and the lighting and makeup was bad, too. Rene looked like a sunburned chipmunk, and Viggo looked like a complete nerd, with a straight hair part. I couldn't take anything seriously, from the acting, to the plot, to the storyline. It was corny, unbelievable and cheesy. Even excellent actors didn't save this spaghetti stinker. In the end, I just wanted an hour and a half of my life back.


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