Legends of the Fall [1994]

A box-office hit when released in 1994, this sprawling, frequently overwrought familial melodrama may get sillier as its plot progresses, but it's the kind of lusty, character-based epic that Hollywood should attempt more often. It's also an unabashedly flattering star vehicle for Brad Pitt as Tristan--the rebellious middle son of a fiercely independent Montana rancher and military veteran (Anthony Hopkins)--who is routinely at odds with his more responsible older brother, Alfred (Aidan Quinn), and younger brother, Samuel (Henry Thomas). From the battlefields of World War I to his adventures as an oceangoing sailor, Tristan's life is full of personal torment, especially when he returns to Montana and finds himself competing with Alfred over Samuel's beautiful widow (Julia Ormond), whose passion for Tristan disrupts the already turbulent Ludlow clan. Under the wide-open canopy of Big Sky country, this operatic tale unfolds with all the bloodlust, tragedy, and scenery-chewing performances you'd expect to find in a hokey bestselling novel (in fact, it's based on the acclaimed novella by Jim Harrison), but it's a potent mix that's highly entertaining. Not surprisingly, John Toll won an Academy Award for his breathtaking outdoor cinematography. --Jeff Shannon

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