The Missouri Breaks (1976)
This underrated gem was outrageously slaughtered by contemporary critics who clearly didn't understand Arthur Penn's revisionist and nuanced look at the American west, or Marlon Brando's brilliant, eccentric performance as the gun-man and regulator Lee Clayton. Seen today, however, The Missouri Breaks has aged wonderfully and appears far more modern and rich than most of its more genre-loyal contemporaries. The film is an erratic western drama laden with humour, tension and contradictions, and Penn shifts elegantly from one mood to another. He was also one of the rare directors who didn't get in Brando's way (or on his nerves) and allowed him to express himself and improvise, and the result is not only one of Brando's most enjoyable performances, but also one of the most progressive and inventive ones from this period. Only in recent years has it gained the praise that it deserves. There's also great work from Jack Nicholson, in another powerful (if somewhat overshadowed) performance, Kathleen Lloyd as his libidinous love interest, and Harry Dean Stanton as his steadfast right-hand. Another of the film's strong points is John Williams' musical score, which is probably the best of his non-classical ones.