‘Deadwood’: Download the most rootin’ tootin’ Western screenplays
Following years of pining for the near-perfect show’s return, HBO made all of our dreams a reality by finally giving the Deadwood movie the go-ahead.
Considered the Wild West as Shakespeare might have drawn it, everything from the trash-talking dialogue to the rich character studies, to the engrossing dramatics are what make Deadwood arguably the best show HBO has ever done – and one fans continue to applaud David Milch for creating.
That’s why it was so surprising the show was axed after three seasons and why everyone’s beside themselves with gun-slinging glee over the news it will in fact be getting a feature-length movie, which drops at the end of this month.
To mark Deadwood the movie getting the greenlight and to celebrate the genre it sits within, we’re heading over to the inspiration station to offer up some of the best Western screenplays you can download right here, right now, for free.
Writing any kind of period piece is challenging in itself, but Westerns are bar brawl of their own. It’s so easy for a writer to fall into the trap of depending on old Western narrative and character tropes – but in the age of content abundance, old hat productions are just not going to cut it.
You need to offer up something fresh, something new, something that’s going to make your audiences scream “yeehaw” while they’re watching it. And as we always say, the best place to start is by studying and analysing the traits and stylistic techniques of your favorite artists, helping you to fine-tune your script and discover new ways to make it stand out from the crowd.
So if you’re a budding or established Western filmmaker, below you’ll find a list of some of the best Western movies and TV show scripts for you to download and learn from. Let’s get this show on the road!
Deadwood (2006 – 2008)
Screenplay by David Milch
As one of HBO’s most shining nuggets of gold, the gritty Western Deadwood features a stunning ensemble cast including Timothy Olyphant, Ian McShane, and Molly Parker, and presents a refreshingly vulgar take on the Old West that’s packed full of dynamite storytelling. It’s a true character piece, studying the lawful and awful residents who make up the titular town.
It’s a true example of rich storytelling and vivid character arcs, tied together with some foul-mouthed ferocity and moments of sheer hilarity. Deadwood is a show that demands to be watched more than once and is truly one of the great depictions of the Wild West ever put to screen. If that hasn’t convinced you to get those chops around its script, we don’t know what will. Maybe a duel?
Westworld (2016 – )
Screenplay by Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan
Although some might argue Westworld jumped the shark somewhat in S2, it does not take away from the fact that season one was a masterpiece in its own right and deserves to be studied. Once again, HBO delivered a solid contribution to the Western genre with this sci-fi hybrid that offers a seamless marriage of cowboys and native Americans with futuristic AI and corporate dystopia.
By its very nature, the show’s complex narrative, cryptic plot points, and character studies all culminate to examine existential issues regarding humanity and consciousness. Furthermore, there’s a lot to be learned from Joy and Nolan’s craft in that they masterfully respect their source material while offering a fully modernized update on the Westworld story with absorbing detail.
The Hateful Eight (2015)
Screenplay by Quentin Tarantino
What The Hateful Eight starts out with is a slow-paced road movie. But for all its low-key beginnings, it balances the scale with a bold, bright, and blood-gushing payoff. Not Tarantino’s best work by all accounts, but a worthy modern contributor to the Western canon and a good one to study for those looking to learn how to pump humor into a film by playing on the tropes of the genre.
There Will Be Blood (2007)
Screenplay by Paul Thomas Anderson
While some might argue Anderson’s historical epic There Will Be Blood isn’t a Western, most critics contend it does fit within the category by being a Western without any of the traditional characters (the gunslingers, the prostitutes, the outlaws). It’s also one of the most stylized pieces from the auteur’s masterful canon.
Smashing through the traditional movie structure and letting its conflicts do the talking among the movie’s stark landscape, the odd structure and groaning score will leave you feeling unsettled and awestruck.
There Will Be Blood studies a dysfunctional oil pioneer (played with an impeccable turn from Daniel Day-Lewis) whose trailblazing spirit is equaled only by his murderous ambition. It’s a modern-day masterpiece and one that any script writer could learn a lot from.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)
If you’re looking to create your own Western script, you’d be best off taking a look at the classical framework from which the modern greats are based upon, and what better place to start than with Sergio Leone’s definitive Spaghetti Western, starring Lee Van Cleef, Eli Wallach, and ol’ Blondie himself, Clint Eastwood.
It’s a divisive film, one that people either adore or reject for its machismo humor – whatever your views, the script is a masterclass in Western storytelling, one that if anything you can use to see what tropes with which you can satirize or play upon in your own work.