5 Standout Sci-Fi and Space Westerns Like Westworld

    These standout TV shows and movies can help pass the time between episodes of HBO's Westworld.

    HBO’s Westworld proves how exciting it can be when different genres are remixed in one thoughtful, captivating, and unique tale.If you’re a fan of the way Westworld melds elements of both science fiction and westerns, here are five other sci-fi westerns (stories using sci-fi elements in a western setting) and space westerns (stories set in space but incorporating tropes from westerns) to help you pass the time between Westworld episodes. Hi-ho, spaceship, away!

    1. Star Wars

    Just look at Han’s space cowboy swagger! Need I say more?

    Heavily inspired by the desolate depiction of frontier life in the 1956 John Wayne movie The Searchers, Star Wars incorporates many classic western tropes. This is particularly evident in A New HopeThe moisture farm where Luke grew up is a bleak and isolated frontier homestead; Mos Eisley Cantina is an analog for the seedy saloons in many a western story; and Han Solo and Greedo have a classic western shoot-out (Han shot first, just so we've got that straight).

    Star Wars was also heavily influenced by the work of Akira Kurosawa, whose movies directly inspired westerns like Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars and John Sturges’ The Magnificent Seven.

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    2. Cowboy Bebop

    Billed by its creator Shinichirō Watanabe as “a new genre unto itself,” this 1998 anime is set in 2071, after Earth has become unlivable and humans have colonized most of the Solar System. The Inter Solar System Police rely on bounty hunters (called cowboys) to wrangle criminals from across the reaches of space. Protagonist Spike Siegel and his crew of cowboys face danger as they operate out of their ship, BeBop.

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    3. The Dark Tower

    Stephen King’s sprawling seven-book magnum opus features a little bit of everything, from explicit nods to Harry Potter and Star Wars to mention of real events in the author’s personal life. However, one of the series’ most significant influences is the work of spaghetti western director Sergio Leone.

    The story centers around Roland of Gilead, a gunslinger modeled off “The Man With No Name,” a character portrayed by Clint Eastwood in Leone’s films. Interestingly, The Man With No Name was ripped from Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo —Yojimbo's producers even filed a lawsuit against Leone that was eventually settled out of court.

    The Dark Tower is a compelling and truly unique read for the way it pits a western-influenced character against sci-fi elements like cyborgs and AI, with a lot of Tolkien-inspired fantasy elements thrown in as well. If the seven-book series seems a little too intimidating, you can check out the Marvel Comics adaptation or the movie starring Idris Elba as Roland

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    4. Firefly and Serenity

    Joss Whedon’s beloved TV series Firefly, and its movie sequel Serenity, is one of the greatest space westerns ever. The story takes place after Earth’s resources have been used up. Humanity survives by terraforming new planets, but the universe (or ‘verse, in Firefly parlance) is caught in a conflict between the authoritarian Alliance and the Browncoat rebels.

    Whedon has said he was inspired to create Firefly to play with “that classic notion of the frontier,” and to represent “Not the people who made history, but the people history stepped on—the people for whom every act is the creation of civilization.” 

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    5. Star Trek: The Original Series

    Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry originally pitched the series as being like if Wagon Train, a popular 1950s western TV series about characters traveling from Missouri to California via wagon, was set in space. 

    The Original Series rarely featured explicitly western settings—aside from the season 3 episode “Spectre of the Gun,” in which Kirk and the enterprise crew are sentenced to death through a reenactment of the gunfight at the O.K. Corral—but the show focused heavily on exploring new frontiers and on conveying morality lessons to the audience, both thematic staples of westerns.

    Featured still from "Westworld" via HBO

    This article was originally published on October 3rd, 2016.

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