Cinema genres that have radically changed the lives of individuals, probably, there are very few really noteworthy. The western genre can be counted among these for its overwhelming and undisputed influence in classical and, subsequently, contemporary culture.

The collective imagination of the cowboy who wanders through the boundless, wild reserves, triggering panic within them, is one of those cult snapshots that still resist today, despite progress and innovation also on a cinematographic and scenographic level. 

But the cowboy identifies himself, also and above all, with that figure of connection and support between one population and another, able to mediate, in his own way, between them, not necessarily through bloodshed. 

A scenography of other times that will never die, always ready, at the same time, to renew itself in its role over the years.

American western films of a certain era are those of greatest attraction and impact for the public, thanks to the representation of heroes who exalted themselves in their respective parts and, at the same time, exalted in turn, also the spectators.

From this point of view, the identification becomes immediate and automatic, being the aspiration of most of the fans of this cinematic genre.

Origin of the western genre and its protagonists

The western originates in the world of cinema through the affirmation, in particular, of historical characters such as Clint Eastwood and John Wayne , just to name two at random.

From this point of view, Italy presents itself as a flourishing territory with a great tradition, boasting the rise of famous figures such as Sergio Leone and Franco Nero . The Italian wild west, called Spaghetti western , has forever changed over the years a certain traditional conception typically associated with the American context of reference.

Roughly speaking, the period of greatest splendor at the Italian and international level is enclosed between the 60s and the 80s, with a prolonged parenthesis in the mid-90s. These are the golden years of the wild and disruptive cinema represented by the western genre.

A chronicle of the genre: The first ever western film to be remembered is called “The Great Train Robbery” by Edwin S. Porter. Dated 1903. In Italy, on the other hand, in 1942 “Una Signora dell’ovest” was released , the first real production at national level that beats the cards under the cinematographic profile.

From that moment on there have been heroes and adventurers free from patterns and impositions, ready to attack and conquer whatever came in their way.

The myth of the Wild West

The myth of the wild west resists also and above all for those breathtaking landscapes that have always attracted the gaze and attention of the public in a particular way. Almost as if they were there to fight and enjoy the show alongside the protagonist on duty.

Undoubtedly, the settings have had a significant impact on the expansion of consensus in this respect.

The cowboy is still a highly sought-after figure in cinema today , albeit with some reinterpretations, especially at an interpretative level.

New storytelling styles and new themes come out to innovate the traditional conception that one has of the western film, made up not only of contingent struggles and oppositions, but also of much more.

The most important films of the western genre

There are many western films that have rewritten and revised, in some way, the history of cinema. Historical films, considered almost nostalgic and of other times, linked, often and willingly, to a demythologization of the classic cowboy hero of the moment who stands out for vitality and protagonism.

Let’s see below which are the most famous western, Italian and foreign films:

  • “Django” from 1966, which is inevitably associated with the figure of the legendary Italian actor Franco Nero, presents itself as the most impressive poster of the Spaghetti Western. Where violence and brutality are the masters, making themselves even more in contrast with the American western;
  • “Dances with Wolves” was the western film to win more than one Oscar in 1991. A tribute to the classic western with its historical settings relating to the American civil war against the local native populations. The protagonist of the film is a great Kevin Costner;
  • 1950’s ” A Dollar of Honor” features a border sheriff in contrast to a local criminal, whose brother was imprisoned by the same sheriff. Action and adventure, in this case, represent the two fundamental and essential components for a compelling and exciting genre;
  • “They called him Trinita” , a famous 1970 film starring the exceptional duo Terrence Hill-Bud Spencer, milestones in Italian cinema. It is nothing more than a parody of the spaghetti western genre. Here fights are the order of the day and inflame the attention of the public, exalted by those same fights excited and comical at the same time;
  • John Sturges ‘ “The Magnificent Seven” , dated 1960, chases a more nostalgic physiognomy through an exceptional cast and a rather prestigious soundtrack. In it, American gunslingers defend a Mexican village from oppressors;
  • “Noon of Fire” in 1952 has as its protagonist a sheriff named Will Kane, played by Gary Cooper, who has to face the bandit on duty, this Frank Miller, dusting off the classic and old contrast typical of western movies. A sort of anticipation of the structure that would have characterized the western typology starting from the following years, notably the 60s and 70s;
  • “The Last of the Mohicans”, performed in 1992, showcases the war between the French and the British in the conquest of the North American colonies. The film from which the legend of Hawkeye was born, an orphan adopted, precisely, by the Mohicans;
  • “Wild Paths” is inspired by the figure of the anti-hero par excellence, John Wayne, who is opposed to the Indians, authors of the kidnapping of his cousin. In 1956 he upsets the cards of the American western. Undoubtedly, a source of great inspiration for subsequent generations of directors. The film is from 1956 and directed by John Ford. In 1998 it was awarded as one of the 100 best American films of all time. Of John Wayne we can remember other memorable films, such as The Grit of 1969 and A Dollar of Honor . But in general there are many films shot by this great interpreter of the western genre;
  • “Red Crow You Won’t Have My Scalp” from 1972 with Robert Redford is inspired by a true story. A veteran of the war between Mexicans and Americans, Jeremiah Johnson, runs into a local indigenous population to escape the dangers of the ongoing conflict. In this case, the Indians are configured as a hospitable and welcoming population, transmitting a certain tolerant vision to the world;
  • The Wild Bunch  isinstead a 1969 film directed by Sam Peckinpah, rightly defined by critics as one of the 10 most beautiful western films ever, telling the story of a gang of bank attackers fleeing between the USA and Mexico, chased by the throat cutters;
  • A Fistful of Dollars is a 1964 film, the first of the so-called dollar trilogy, directed by Sergio Leone and starring a monumental Clint Eastwood , which later includes the sequels For a Few Dollars More  (1965) and  The Good, the Ugly , the bad guy (1966). Awarded by critics and considered the terms of comparison for each film of the genre. Inimitable then the soundtracks by Ennio Morricone;

Our post dedicated to western movies and the genre in general ends here. See you next time with curiosities about cinema by our portal!