Westerns are primarily devoted to telling stories from the Western United States in the later half of the 19th century.  This region represented the borderline between civilization and wilderness, a primitive society based on codes of honor, private justice, and vigilantism.  Westerns were very popular during the silent era, then, after the advent of sound, Hollywood rapidly abandoned the genre.  Director, John Ford was extremely influential in the revival of the genre with his landmark movie, Stagecoach (1939). Over the years, hundreds of these movies have been released as feature films, and to this day, the classic western maintains its ability to excite and intrigue.  

Historic Western Figures

Many westerns are based on actual, historic outlaws and lawmen. Here are a few notable figures: * Wild Bill Hickok (1837--1876) became a famous lawman of the frontier.  He balanced gambling and law-enforcement until he ultimately met his end. He was shot while playing poker.   * Buffalo Bill (1845-1917) was a Union soldier, bison hunter, and showman. * Jesse James (1847-1882) was a ruthless Confederate guerrilla, gang leader, and bank robber who was killed by Robert Ford. * Billy the Kid (1859-1881) is considered a folk hero who lived recklessly and died young.  He was a a notorious outlaw who met his end to Sheriff Pat Gerrett, who later co-authored Billy's biography, The Authentic Life of Billy the Kid. * Wyatt Earp (1848-1929) was a saloon-keeper and officer of the law, among many other occupations.  He is most famous for his participation in the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral alongside Doc Holliday, Virgil Earp, and Morgan Earp.

Notable Westerns

Prominent Western Directors

* John Ford * Clint Eastwood * Sam Peckinpah * Anthony Mann * Howard Hawks

Related Guides