Western movies or westerns have entertained entire generations for decades and have become one of the most popular film genres . John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Gary Cooper, Steve McQueen , Lee Van Cleef, Terence Hill, Bud Spencer or James Stewart are just some of the names that have remained forever in the memory of those fun afternoons glued to the television.
This is a journey through those unforgettable movies of the genre called western.

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What is the western?
The western is a film genre that usually has as its central an adventure action focused on the conquest of the American West , although over time that theme has been totally overwhelmed. The public knows it more like western movies, or cowboys and Indians.
The genre debuted in 1903 with a highly successful film, Success and a Train Robbery by Edwin S. Porter. But it reached its peak in the 1940s and 1950s , with the overwhelming success of John Ford’s films, such as Stagecoach or Desert Centaurs, and the emergence of the genre known as spaghetti westerns, whose star director was Sergio Leone.
While the John Ford movies had John Wayne as the main iconand they used to focus on the classic action of confrontations between Indians and cowboys, in the spaghetti western Clint Eastwood marked a before and after in the genre, with movies that used to portray the vindictive action of a lonely cowboy.
At this time the great titles of the western and its icons were consecrated, but later it fell into disuse until in the 90s Clint Eastwood, already as director, rescued it with one of the great jewels of the genre: Without forgiveness. Since then some more films have been shot, with enormous successes and great failures. The 20 best western movies
Below we review the 20 best western movies, productions that have marked an era in the western genre- Old western movies
The great western classics belong to this era. In the 1940s, films appeared whose success turned the genre into a boom, consecrating it as one of the favorites among the public. These are some of those unforgettable titles. 1. Stagecoach (1939)
The western had become something out of fashion when in 1939 the director John Ford presented this authentic work of art in which a star was also born: John Wayne.
The merit of the film is to put on the screen a whole cast of characters that make up the most complete fresco of the essence of the western : a prostitute, a gambler, a drunken doctor, and the pregnant wife of a soldier. These are forced to leave the city of Arizona in a stagecoach.
On their way they are joined by the sheriff, who wants to apprehend the outlaw Ringo Kid (John Wayne), who is on the loose in the region. He appears in a memorable scene, joining the diligence in search of those responsible for the death of his father and his brother. In the stagecoach love is born between the prostitute and the outlaw.
There is no lack of an attack by a group of Apache Indians, in a film whose editing and camera movements revolutionized cinema . Along with John Wayne’s performance, Claire Trevor and John Carradine shone . The film won two Oscars, for best supporting actor (Thomas Mitchell) and best soundtrack. 2. Centaurs of the desert (1956) Steven Spielberg considered it the best movie of all time,and it is without a doubt one of the favorites of the public. Desert Centaurs, free translation of the movie The Searchers (1956) is the story of a pursuit of a lone ranger and his revenge against the kidnappers of his niece.
The mastery in the direction and the mixture of hate, passion, tenderness and visual poetry make it a masterpiece and, for many, the best western in history .
One of the successes is precisely that it transcends the limitations of the adventure movie and delves into the depths of the human heart, reflecting on revenge, violence and racism, with one of the best performances of John Wayne .
In this film, John Ford has perfected the recording techniqueand the chases on horseback are a real wonder that captivated the public at the time. 3. Alone in the face of danger (1952)
High Noon has left for history one of the most unforgettable scenes of the western genre. In it, an immeasurable Gary Copper is seen walking alone to meet the gang led by Frank Miller who want revenge on the former sheriff.
Fred Zinemann directed this western in 1952, it was nominated for seven Oscars of which he won four. It is not for less. The film captivated lovers of this genre because it managed to go from the traditional western to the thriller in a distressing plot in which time and suspense wrap the viewer in brutal tension.
In the film, in addition tothe captivating couple Gary Cooper-Grace Kelly , gives us the figure of the romantic hero facing death in the duty of responsibility. 4. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)
When everyone was used to classic cowboy and Indian movies, director Sergio Leone captivated audiences with a series of films that eventually created a new subgenre: the spaghetti western .
In them he combined the attraction of a lonely character with a thirst for revenge, the consolidation of Clint Eastwood as a new movie star, a stylized aesthetic but with a rough urban background and the unforgettable soundtracks of Ennio Morricone.
His three master films have gone down in history as The Dollar Trilogy, since they share similar plots and traits, and the figure of a captivating Clint Eastwood dressed in a ranchero poncho and a cigar in his mouth. The most popular was undoubtedly The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966) . With a nice argument, Sergio Leone put the public in the pocket opposing Clint Eastwood (the good), Lee Van Cleef (the bad), and Eli Wallach (the ugly) in an adventure movie that ends in a three-way duel with the epic music of Morricone. 5. Death had a price (1965)
Another memorable film in the Sergio Leone saga is Death Had a Price, which was a continuation of For a Fistful of Dollars. In that movie, two bounty hunters, Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef, are looking for the same man and decide to join forces in an adventure with a tragic ending.
Following in the footsteps of the first film, in this Leone is especially firm in a brilliant direction , whose handling of the times and captivating photography would elevate the spaghetti western as a popular genre.
The particularity of these films, in addition to their technical precision, their rough character and their entertaining plot, is that they were shot in Spanish landscapes. In the case of Death had a price, it was shot in Almeria .6. The Outlaw (1943)
Some will never forget The Outlaw because of Jane Russell’s prominent breasts, which caused its directors to face censorship at a time when this film was considered bordering on pornography.
But not only broke schemes for that. An excellent photography (by Greg Tolland, the same from The Grapes of Wrath and Wuthering Heights) and an attractive story complete a modest but profound western where betrayal, love, friendship and revenge are not lacking and which managed to captivate. to Sergio Leone. 7. The Magnificent Seven (1959)
Directed and produced by John Sturges, it put on the screen the first arrows of the cinema Olympus of the moment: Yul Brinner, Steve McQueen and Charles Bronson attract all the attention in one of the western classics that had an unforgettable soundtrack as a finishing touch. by Elmer Bernstein .
The Magnificent Seven has a simple and successful argument and an entertaining plot that narrates the action of seven mercenaries hired by the inhabitants of a place at the mercy of a gang of outlaws. The film becomes an epic adventure where the skills of the Magnificent Seven conquer the viewer.
It was a version of The Seven Samurai Akira Korasawa. Its wake has been so indelible that for decades it has inspired sequels and remakes.like the one that in 2016 brought together Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt and Ethan Hawke, among others. 8. Rio Bravo (1959)
In 1959 Howard Hawks had already directed another emblematic classic: Rio Bravo. In this case he had counted on the charisma of John Wayne and Dean Martin to complete a work that would elevate him as one of the best directors of the western genre. In this work, his narrative talent and his ability to entertain the staff stand out. The argument is simple and effective: tells the story of a sheriff who imprisons a criminal whose landowner brother tries to free him by force by laying siege to the city with a gang of bandits. The sheriff (John Wayne) aided by a drunk (Dean Martin) and a crippled man (Walter Brennan) will defend the county tooth and nail. 9. Legal Value (1969)
Henry Hathaway directed that masterpiece in 1969 with a captivating John Wayne who won the Oscar for best actor and the Golden Globe putting himself in the shoes of the unforgettable Rooster Cogburn. This is an alcoholic hired by a girl to take revenge on Tom Chaney, the murderer of his father.
The story would have passed unnoticed and as a just okay movie if John Wayne hadn’t given it a poignant depth with a performance only the best can afford. With relentless tenderness he creates a bond with the character of his unexpected companion in adventures that makes us connect with him until the end. The film became an icon that, many years later, inspired the Cohen brothers to make a more than correct remake… although without John Wayne. 10. They called him Trinidad (1970)
They called him Trinidad is a 1970 Italian spaghetti western film directed by Enzo Barboni. The film allowed us to see in action two monsters of the interpretation as Terence Hill and Bud Spencer .
Terence Hill plays one of the rudest and rudest characters in the western, Trinidad, who would have gone unnoticed in a more than simple plot if he hadn’t met the dirty potbellied gunslinger played by Bud Spencer.
The pair became one of the top-grossing couples of the 1970s , despite navigating a poor script with austere execution. The public adore them. 11. The conquest of the West (1962)
Cult work of the western genre that explains in four episodes the conquest of the West between 1830 and 1890, How the West was won or The conquest of the west gives historical character to a record that was already more than consolidated .
The film features four directors including John Ford and Henry Hathaway, and an unforgettable cast of actors including John Wayne, Henry Fonda, James Steward, Gregory Peck, Lee Van Cleef and Gorge Peppard.
The choral work won three Oscars (best original screenplay, montage and sound) and forever left a complete picture of what was the essence of the western, with its drunks, its outlaws, its avengers, its Indians and its cowboys, its civil war , its heroes, its dust and its railway. 12. Caravan of Women (1951)
The master hand of an established director like William Wellman met with wonderful performances in a brutal drama that he conquers with his silence: Caravan of Women (1951).
Wellman avoids cheap sentimentality to narrate, through a subtle script and some actors at his level, the story of Robert Taylor, a caravan director who is commissioned to take a group of women to a valley where a group of single men awaits them. who are looking for a wife.
The film begins and ends in the same place, and for two hours Wellman takes us on an elliptical and intimate journey in which the adventures are confused with pain to give rise to a brilliant mix of adventure story and heartbreaking drama. 13. They Died With Their Boots On (1943)
At the dawn of the renewed success of the western that John Ford had managed to rescue, the director Raoul Walsh signed another emblematic title that would help to popularize the genre: They Died With Their Boots On (1943).
The film, with a very classic plot centered on the figure of General George Custer (played by Errol Flynn), manages to combine the epic with humor and adventure , making it a classic acclaimed by the public.
His canonical vision of the cinematographic narrative of the great studios of the time combines fast-paced scenes with intimate moments , and gives us the priceless performance of Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland at the service of an impeccable quality script by Wally Kleine and the epic music by Max Steiner.14. A Distant Trumpet (1964)
A Distant Trumpet is the other great masterpiece by Raoul Walsh, perhaps somewhat below Died With Their Boots On but which, shot two decades later, recovered the greatness of this western master.
In it he put into action a seductive Troy Donahue who captivated the hearts of the female public , but above all Suzanne Pleshette, who beyond the plot that united them in an impossible love story, later became his wife in the real life.
This film, produced by none other than Warner Bross, is a romantic drama that, despite its apparent ingenuousness (it narrates the arrival of an officer, Troy Donahue, at a fort that he has to defend against Indian attacks while who falls in love with the wife of the commanding officer) once again demonstrated that no one like Walsh dominated the narration of the action with such ease . Modern western
films The films of the sixties and seventies were saying goodbye to the western genre in a slow and gradual agony that ended with its virtual disappearance in the eighties, a period in which science fiction had cornered the market.
But in the nineties the irruption of some truly brilliant movies brought back to many nostalgics the old aroma of western movies. 15. Unforgiven (1992)
Clint Eastwood had learned from the best, and when the western was seen as an old relic in the film museum, he signed one of its culminating works : Unforgiven (1992). And with his dazzling success, he showed that the genre had a long way to go and a more than willing public.
Clint Eastwood himself gave life to a character profile that would later accompany him in many of his successes: a lonely, taciturn, self-enclosed and cold as steel man is pushed to one last job that will give meaning to the life of him.
In this case it is about William Munny, a widower who is commissioned to take revenge, along with an old friend played by Morgan Freeman, of two men who cut the face of a prostitute.
Western lovers discover in Sin pardon not only a classic review of the genre but also a commitment to its reinvention through the epic , nihilism, harshness and intimacy characteristic of Clint Eastwood’s cinema. 16. Dances with Wolves (1990)
Another merit in the recovery of the western we owe to Kevin Costner, who in 1990 and while still very young dared to direct and star in a movie that broke the box office of theaters and took nothing less than seven Oscars, including best film and director.
Dances with Wolves had the advantage of accurately blending the epic, adventure genre, drama, and romance into one total movie. But also, it was a daring rereading of the conquest of the West through the eyes of the settlers, the indigenous people, and a disenchanted lieutenant who decides to blend in with the Sioux.
The touching relationship that Kevin Costner’s character establishes between the Indians broke all the schemes established until then by the western genre and became the key to a film that lasted three hours. 17. Open Range (2003)
Many years later, in 2003, Kevin Costner returned to the fray with Open Range, a film that, despite its box office hit, gathered very good reviews.. Through his direction, he showed that few like him had understood what the western was and what it needed. The action scenes are a real delight.
In this feature film, Kevin Costner explains the evolution of two men who, after trying to find a peaceful life walking cattle in the moonlight, are forced to take up arms and use violence when they enter the domain of a despotic rancher. In this movie Kevin Costner duets with Robert Duvall . 18. Django Unchained (2012)
Tarantino was missing a Western… And the Western was missing a Tarantino! The master of cult-turned-violence pulled out of his hat in 2012 a brilliant film that won two Oscars for best screenplay and supporting actor thatwould end up enriching the genre with a new twist.
The interpretation of the main character, Django, by Jamie Foxx, is brutal, but Christoph Waltz’s and Leonardo di Caprio’s round off a masterful work that breathes the soul of Tarantino on all four sides. Obviously, the generous feast of blood and violence is not lacking, but this is just a usual excess of the director.
What really transcends in the film is a wonderful script that takes the times, the silences and the tension to the field of the monumental, in an atypical western that reflects on slavery and racism. 19. The Revenant (2015)
That the film The Revenant has been considered as a western showsthe flexibility of the genre and its inexhaustible potential when subjected to the talent of the greats of cinema. And without a doubt Leonardo di Caprio is.
The film was released in 2015 and won three Oscars thanks to its narrative ambition and the staging of a plot as brave as it is unusual.
Because in this movie there are no fights or chases, but the agonizing odyssey of an explorer wounded by a bear attack and lost alone in a hostile territory. Critics received the feature film unevenly, as many criticized the excesses and irregularities of a weak and unstable narrative.
But it is inevitable that Leonardo di Caprio took many risks by putting on the screen the flight of a man alone for two hours, and he undoubtedly achieved one of the most plastically beautiful films . 20. The train of 3.10 (2007)
In recent decades there have been several attempts to recover the classic western with some remakes, many of them failed. This is not the case with The 3:10 Train, a film directed by James Mangold and starring the versatile Russell Crowe.
This offers a very interesting interpretive duel with Christian Bale and Peter Fonda, but the most interesting thing is the narrative and scenic proposal of the director , who successfully manages to concoct a movie of pure spectacle at the height of the classics.
In some passages the direction even runs the risk of excess and radicalism, but knows how to conjecture in beautifully shot action scenes that raise the film to the height of its adaptation. We also owe James Mangold the difficult recovery of the badly wounded genre of the western.

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