The film: Jeremiah Johnson (1972), newly available on Blu-ray via Warner Home Video.
Why it's an Inessential Essential: The audio commentary on the new Blu-ray of Jeremiah Johnson suggests that director Sydney Pollack's time helming the serio-comic 1972 Western mirrored his inexperienced protagonist's uphill struggle to survive in pioneer America. Before making Jeremiah Johnson, Pollack directed episodes of such western tv shows as Frontier Circus and The Tall Man and even a feature-length western called The Scalphunters (1968). Still, Pollack is not normally associated with Westerns. And after hearing him talk about some of the travails he had filming Jeremiah Johnson, it's easy to see why the film was the late filmmaker's only Western.