Sadly, acclaimed author Cormac McCarthy has died in his home in Santa Fe at the age of 89. As the writer of many dark but beloved novels such as All the Pretty Horses and Blood Meridian (the latter of which is now considered the Great American Novel), McCarthy is credited with being one of the greatest writers of the modern era.
On top of being a prolific screenwriter and playwright, McCarthy has had many of his stories adapted to the big screen with varying levels of success. Now that McCarthy has departed from this world, audiences can look back on his impressive creative legacy with these movies based on his novels and plays.
Based on McCarthy’s play of the same name, HBO’s made-for-TV movie follows a religious Black man as he tries to convince a depressed and nihilistic White man not to commit suicide following a failed attempt on his own life. Staying true to the source material, The Sunset Limited presents the story like a stage play with two men who are polar opposites of each other talking in a single room in a verbal battle of ideals.
The film is carried by the outstanding performances of Secret Invasion‘s Samuel L. Jackson and Tommy Lee Jones, both of whom feel like a natural fit in McCarthy’s often-bleak narratives. The Sunset Limited brings up many theological and philosophical musings about the meaning of life when considering the inevitability of death. Such a story forces the audience to think about the serious questions they’d rather not ponder, making it a prime example of McCarthy’s insightful and contemplative storytelling.
The Sunset Limited can be streamed on Max.
Starring Viggo Mortensen, The Old Guard‘s Charlize Theron, Robert Duvall, and Guy Pearce, this post-apocalyptic film follows a father and son as they try to survive in a world ravaged by an unknown catastrophe. Like many of McCarthy’s other stories, The Road carries a nihilistic and depressing tone as it shows a family of two struggling to stay hopeful in a dying world crawling with marauders and savage cannibals. It also shows how people can lose their morality as they resort to desperate and terrible acts of survival, which makes the audience wonder, “At one point, does someone stop being one of the ‘good guys?'”
The Road is amongst the more well-received adaptations of McCarthy’s bibliography, having received numerous award nominations, including some for the performance of then-newcomer Kodi Smit-McPhee (Nightcrawler from the X-Men movies). With a screenplay written by Mindhunter creator Joe Penhall, The Road captures the pure horrors of society’s collapse to a degree that not many stories have reached.
The Road is now streaming for free on Tubi.
This film is arguably the most well-known adaptation of one of McCarthy’s works. Directed by the Coen Brothers, this now-classic film follows Llewelyn Moss as he is hunted by a remorseless hitman sent to retrieve a briefcase full of money he stole from the site of a botched drug deal. At the same time, an old and weary sheriff pursues both men as he tries to make sense of everything and save Llewelyn’s life.
This somber, new-age Western captures the terrors of changing times, conveying a declining world rife with senseless violence and fading morality. There is no happy ending for anyone in this film, as everyone finds themselves at the receiving end of death and misfortune, giving the story a gritty realism that many popular films dare not invoke. Also, Javier Bardem became a household name thanks to his chilling performance as Anton Chigurh, who follows Llewelyn like a shadow sent to claim his soul in death, deciding the fate of those he encounters with a captive bolt pistol and the toss of a coin.
No Country for Old Men is available to rent or purchase at a variety of digital vendors like Prime Video.