Maybe the most iconic film genre of all time, The Western was a staple of the film industry for many many decades.
The most prominent era for Westerns was around the 1930s-1960s, where we saw some absolute classics, with a brief resurgence in the 90s, and another one now.
“But what is a Western?” I here you say.
Well, the Western genre is usually set in… The Wild Wild West, more specifically the American Frontier from 1865-1900. Classic conventions include a lone cowboy entering a foreign town, a grumpy sheriff, battles with Indigenous Americans and expansive rugged terrains.
When it comes to Westerns, everyone is familiar with the image of a shoot-out at high-noon, a rustling tumbleweed bouncing by, and two cowboys poised with their hands by their pistols. This image is iconic, and a common occurrence in the genre. But recently Westerns have become much, much more.
In the past few years we’ve seen Westerns like True Grit (2010), Django Unchained (2012) and The Revenant (2015).
But these movies aren’t like their forbearers: they’re way, way cooler.
Since Westerns have become “in” again, directors and actors have spiced them up and taken them from a token genre, to a whole new landscape. Tarantino’s last two movies have been Westerns, and he has promised to make a third to round out the trio. His Westerns, unlike those of the past, are filled with gore and witty banter, making them so enjoyable to watch I just might cry thinking about them.
The aforementioned The Revenant revises the genre differently yet again.
Instead of romanticising the West, Alejandro Inarritu takes it for what it is: a bleak, dangerous hellhole.
I think the further we move away from the period of time Westerns are set, the more intriguing they become. They’re set in such an odd place, with people so distant at times that it almost gives off the same feeling as sci-fi. It’s like this whole other world that once existed and seems to have no implications on my life, but in an odd way is still relatable.
What I love about Westerns is their freedom.
They’re all about liberation, being at one with nature, or fighting against it, while still exploring real-world issues of territory, and throwing in some great shoot-outs too. So it’s no surprise I’m over the moon about them becoming popular again.
The future for Westerns is looking great. The genre is fun, crazy and nostalgic, and not something I want to give up any time soon.