- The Western is the only true American Film genre. Why because it is about a truly American experience of exploration and the search for a better life. No other film genre
- The least successful film genre at the box office today because it has a very limited and focused audience (mostly white male-targeted, historical-minded, action-oriented).
- Western Films can cover this time period in history (1830 – 1909) but usually focus on 1865-1895
- First Western Film: The Great Train Robbery (1903).
- 1915-1930 Western Films flooded the box office as double feature material
- 1940-1960 – The Western covers themes of Honor, Sacrifice.
- John Wayne was a major Western film star for nearly 50 years (84 Westerns from 1930-76) and earned several Oscar nominations including his first Academy Award win for Best Actor for the western True Grit (1969).
- Westerns from the 1960s and 1970s often have more pessimistic view, glorifying a rebellious anti-hero and highlighting the cynicism, brutality and inequality of the American West.
- “Spaghetti Westerns” emerged in Italy –(1960-75, 600 films) Low budget, more action and violence that Hollywood (this inspired Hollywood).
- “Spaghetti Westerns” launched career of Clint Eastwood. He went on to star and direct in numerous Westerns (1960-92) and won an Oscar in 1992 for Best Picture and Director for “The Unforgiven.”
- 1960s – Revisionist Western –challenged the traditional Western story.
- Native Americans not portrayed as savages.
- No longer typical hero vs. villain.
- More depth displayed in characters.
- Women begin to take on stronger leadership roles.
- Children called into the role leadership.
- the revisionist aspect of these films will offer this for the characters: Instead of dying bravely or stoically, characters whine, cry, and beg; instead of a hero saving the innocent, it is a villain who steps in to seek revenge.
Traditional Westerns Film Plots:
- Usually, the central plot of the western film is the classic, simple goal of maintaining law and order on the frontier in a fast-paced action story. It is normally rooted in the conflict – good vs. bad, virtue vs. evil, white hat vs. black hat, settler vs. nomad, and farmer vs. industrialist, etc.
- Many Western films after the mid-1950s were influenced by the Japanese Samurai films. For instance The Magnificent Seven (1960) was a remake of Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, and both A Fistful of Dollars (1964) and Last Man Standing (1996) were remakes of Yojimbo.
- In many ways, the cowboy of the Old West was the American version of the Japanese samurai warrior, or the Arthurian knight of medieval times. The heroes were all bound by legal codes of behavior, ethics, justice, courage, honor and chivalry.
Other Film Western Sub-genres:
- Cowboy Musicals (Roy Rogers, Gene Autrey).
- Western Comedy (Blazing Saddles, Back to the Future III, My Name is Nobody, Shanghai Noon).
- Post-Apocalyptic Western (Postman, Mad Max, Book of Eli).
- Space Western (Star Wars, Serenity, Avatar, Star Trek, Guardians of the Galaxy, Cowboys and Aliens).
- Horror-Western (Bone Tomahawk, The Burrowers, Ravenous, Gallowwalkers)
Other Western films for viewing consideration
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)
The Searchers (1956)
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966)
The Wild Bunch (1969)
Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid (1969)
Jeremiah Johnson (1972)
Pale Rider (1985)
Dances with Wolves (1990)
The Quick and the Dead (1995)
The Missing (2003)
3:10 to Yuma (2007)
True Grit (2010)
The Revenant (2015)
Agresta, M. (2013, July 24). How the western was lost (and why it matters) – The Atlantic. Retrieved from http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2013/07/how-the-western-was-lost-and-why-it-matters/278057/
AMC. (n.d.). Westerns Films. Retrieved from http://www.filmsite.org/westernfilms.html
Encyclopedia Britannica. (n.d.). western | narrative genre | Britannica.com. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/art/western
Genre: Western – The Script Lab. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://thescriptlab.com/screenplay/genre/western
Perry, C. J. (2015, March 6). The evolution of the western genre. Retrieved from http://www.filmslatemagazine.com/the-evolution-of-the-western-genre/