From the early part of the 20th century through the 1960s, Westerns were one of the most popular genres of Hollywood movies. With bankable actors such as John Wayne, Gary Cooper, and Alan Ladd starring in films such as Stagecoach, Red River, High Noon, and Shane - documentarian David Gregory estimates that nearly 40% of all films made before 1960 were a Western.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, 182 Westerns were made in the United States between 1960-69, helping establish the careers of Hollywood icons Paul Newman, Robert Redford, and Clint Eastwood.
However, over the next few decades, Westerns slowly began to decline in popularity, despite films such as Dances with Wolves and Unforgiven winning the Oscar for Best Picture in the 1990s. But while the 2010s have seen a decrease in quantity, the quality of the tales of the Old West remained high. Here is a look at a few of the better Westerns to determine if they will remain a worthy watch for future decades.
Set in the antebellum South, Quentin Tarantino's Western features monumental performances from each of the film's leads. Jamie Foxx stars as the justice-seeking former enslaved man Django, while Leonardo DiCaprio plays plantation owner Calvin Candie and Christoph Waltz takes a turn as Dr. King Schultz, the comedic relief and mentor to Foxx's Django.
As a Tarantino film, the Western includes incessant profanity, memorable dialogue, and enough bloodshed to make even the most ironclad stomach pulse with queasiness, but the film still stands as a modern classic.
Starring Hailee Steinfeld, Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, and Josh Brolin, the 2010 Coen brothers remake of the John Wayne classic follows the story of 14-year-old Mattie Ross as she hires a US Marshall to track down the man who slew her father.
Although slightly different from the original, the story creates a heartwarming connection between Bridges's and Steinfeld's characters through witty banter that keeps the audience engaged for the fill 110 minutes. True Grit was rightfully nominated for a total of 10 Academy Awards, including nods for Steinfeld and Bridges.
In the role of Hugh Glass, Leonardo DiCaprio's punishing performance finally earned him a long-awaited Academy Award for best actor. Based on true events, the story follows Glass as he fights for survival when he's seemingly slain by a bear. From fighting Indigenous people to going after his own men, DiCaprio's captures Glass's will to survive and his need for vengeance against those who abandoned him.
Director Alejandro González Iñárritu won the Oscar for best director for a second consecutive year. Repeated viewings of The Revenant allows the viewer to fully immerse themselves in a lush environment and appreciate the performance not only by DiCaprio, but of Tom Hardy as the villain.
Quentin Tarantino brings his unique filmmaking style to the Old West with this story about a ragtag group of outlaws who are snowed in together in a small Wyoming cabin. Soon enough, the story turns as the tale twists to become a good old-fashioned tale of whodunnit.
An entertaining film filled with memorable characters and wild moments that build up to a climax of intense proportions, the Western moves at a blistering pace and is filled with tension that lasts for the duration thanks to the extraordinary performances from Kurt Russell, Samuel L. Jackson, Tim Roth, and Jennifer Jason Leigh.