With so much disorderly conduct happening in movies sometimes you need a good sheriff to come in and settle things down. On the other hand, sometimes the sheriffs can be the cause of all of the unrest in the first place. Today’s Phenomenal 5 looks at a wide assortment of movie sheriffs. Whether in westerns or modern day, good movie sheriffs had added a lot to films over the years. Now with so many to consider I wouldn’t call this the definitive list. But there is no doubt in my mind that these five movie sheriffs are nothing short of phenomenal.
#5 – Sheriff Brackett (“Halloween”)
Sheriff Brackett had a pretty easy gig. Haddonfield was a pretty quite little town in Illinois. With the exception of a horrible murder of a teenaged girl by her 6-year brother fifteen years ago, the town has been quite and peaceful. Boy does that change when Michael Myers (now 21) comes back to town. At first Sheriff Brackett thinks that Michael’s return is a hoax. Afterall it is Halloween. But one murder after another proves the validity of the terror and soon Brackett is in over his head. He scrambles from one crime scene to another trying to understand the gravity of the situation as well as how to control it. He’s a fun ingredient to this horror classic.
#4 – Little Bill Daggett (“Unforgiven”)
Remember when I said that sometimes the sheriff could be part of the problem? That was definitely the case with Little Bill in Clint Eastwood’s Oscar winning western “Unforgiven”. Little Bill was a former gunfighter so he knows how to sling lead. He has a strict ‘no guns allowed’ policy in his town and if you break that policy you can expect the beatdown of your life. While this may seem like a case of good intentions gone bad, Little Bill later shows that he isn’t the true beacon of law and order that a town really needs. Gene Hackman won an Oscar for his portrayal of Little Bill and you would be hard pressed to find someone who will say he didn’t deserve it.
#3 – Sheriff Bart (“Blazing Saddles”)
It’s another western but a much different one. The Mel Brooks comedy “Blazing Saddles” would never be made today, but thank goodness we can still look back on it and enjoy all of its great satire and head-on craziness. One of the best parts was Cleavon Little as Sheriff Bart. He was simply a pawn put in as the sheriff of a small town in order to push the buttons of the racist townsfolk. But Sheriff Bart is a lot smarter than some think. In fact, he’s almost always the most intelligent person in the scene. Little plays the role with the perfect measurement of sincerity and sarcasm and he fits perfectly into this great Mel Brooks concoction.
#2 – Sheriff Buford T. Justice (“Smokey and the Bandit”)
There weren’t a lot of high expectations for “Smokey and the Bandit” when it was first conceived. Then the biggest box office draw at the time (Burt Reynolds) signed on and expectations changed. But I don’t think anyone expected that the supporting character Sheriff Buford T. Justice would drive in and steal the entire movie. The late great Jackie Gleason was given complete creative liberties to invent and add-lib which helped make the character insanely funny. Buford T. Justice was an imbecile, but he was also too arrogant to ever recognize it. That set the table for a number of hilarious encounters as he chases Bandit across a host of Southern states.
#1 – Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (“No Country for Old Men”)
Tommy Lee Jones has had a number of great movie roles throughout his career. For me this is his best. It is almost like novelist Cormac McCarthy wrote this wonderful character with Jones in mind. The Coen brothers didn’t miss the opportunity to pass up this fine seasoned actor who plays one of my favorite sheriffs. Ed Tom is ready to retire especially in light of the changing landscape of law enforcement and the new waves of violent crime. He constantly ponders the shocking ways of the new violent world while coming face-to-face with it after seeing the aftermath of a drug deal gone wrong. In a movie featuring so many fascinating characters, Sheriff Bell may be the most fascinating. That’s why he tops this list.
So what do you think? These are my top movie sheriffs. Who did I leave off? Who would you include? Please take time to share your thoughts below.