A List of American Westerns

A List of American Westerns (From the Silent to the Revisionist Era)

from Richard Slotkin, Gunfighter Nation (New York: Atheneum, 1992)

1. The Silent Era (1903-1926)

  • The birth and evolution of the film Western drawing upon the conventions of the Western already established by pulp writers in literature.
The Great Train Robbery (Edwin S. Porter, 1903) (The first Western as well as the first story film → a series of imitations: The Great Bank RobberyThe Bold Bank RobberyThe Little Train RobberyThe Hold-Up of the Rocky Mountain Express, etc.)
Last Fight (Thomas Ince, 1912)
The Battle of Gettysburg (Thomas Ince, 1912)
The Squaw Man (Cecil B. deMille, 1914) (Hart as an assisting actor)
The Virginian (Cecile B. deMille, 1914)
The Birth of Nation (D. W. Griffith, 1915)
On the Night Stage (Reginald Barker, 1915)
Hell’s Hinges (Charles Swickard, 1916) (Starring Hart)
The Aryan (Reginald Barker, 1916) (Starring Hart)
The Patriot (William S. Hart, 1916) (Starring Hart)
Breed of Men (Lambert Hillyer, 1919) (Starring Hart)
The Toll Gate (Lambert Hillyer, 1920) (Starring Hart)
The Testing Block (Lambert Hillyer, 1920) (Starring Hart)
Wild Billy Hickok (William Hart, 1923)
The Covered Wagon (James Cruze, 1923) (Cruze’s most successful film that brought international fame to him and played a key role in the development of the American Western)
North of 36 (James Cruze, 1924)
The Iron Horse (John Ford and Thomas Ince, 1924) (Ford’s first feature film)
The Pony Express (James Cruze, 1925)
Tumbleweeds (William Hart, 1925)
Three Bad Men (John Ford, 1926) (remade as Three Godfathers in 1940 and 1949)
* Note: William S. Hart as the most important silent-Western star.

2. Sound and the Early Studio System (1927-1931)
  • After a brief decline during the transition to sound (1927-1928), the Western regained its status as a staple of American cinema.
The Virginian (Victor Fleming, 1929) (starring Gary Cooper)
In Old Arizona (Irving Cummings, 1929)
Billy the Kid (King Vidor, 1930)
The Big Trail (Raoul Walsh, 1930)
Cimarron (Cecil B. deMille, 1931) (A great hit marking the culmination of the first cycle of the Western’s development)

3. A Decline of the Western (1930s): The Ascendency of Genre Films 
  • The continuation of the Great Depression.
  • A intensifying sense of the lost Frontier in the New Deal era.
  • HW turning into a genre machine in response to the changing social/economic environments of the Depression era.
  • The ascendency of genre films: the gangster film (Public Enemy, Little Caesar, Scarface, Angels with Dirty Faces), the social drama, the musical, the screwball comedy, the crime/detective film, the Bible epic, etc.
  • The decline of adult (‘A’) Westerns and the proliferation of ‘B’ (less sophisticated, less realistic, more formulaic) Westerns: self-referentiality such as repetition of plot formulas and recycling of actual footage from earlier productions (pg. 271-77). See also Edward Buscombe, ed. The BFI Companion to the Western (New York: Da Capo Press, 1988), 42-3; John E. Cawelti, The Six-Gun Mystique Sequel (Bowling Green, OH: Popular Press, 1999), 89-90.
Lives of a Bengal Lancer (Michael Curtiz, 1935)
Lawless Range (Robert N. Bradbury, 1935) (starring John Wayne)
The Charges of the  Light Brigade
 
(Michael Curtiz, 1936)
The Three Mesquiteers
 (Joseph Kane, 1936) (B-Western)
Sutter’s Gold (James Cruze, 1936)
King of the Pecos (Joseph Kane, 1936) (starring John Wayne)
Wee Willie Winkie (John Ford, 1937)
Range Defenders (Mack V. Wright, 1937)
Call the Mesquiteers (John English, 1938)
Santa Fe Stampede (George Sherman, 1938)
Overland Stage Raiders (George Sherman, 1938)
Red River Range (George Sherman, 1938)
Pals of the Saddle (George Sherman, 1938)
Drums (Zoltan Korda, 1938)
The Texans (James Hogan, 1938)

4. A Renaissance of the Western (1939-1941)
Stagecoach (John Ford, 1939) (B-Western)
Union Pacific (Cecil B. deMille, 1939) (progressive epic)
Young Mr. Lincoln (John Ford, 1939) (progressive epic)
The Four Feathers (Zoltan Korda, 1939)
New Frontier (George Sherman, 1939)
Wyoming Outlaw (George Sherman, 1939) (outlaw Western)
The Night Riders (George Sherman, 1939)
Gunga Din (George Stevens, 1939)
Dodge City (Michael Curtiz, 1939) (town-tamer Western) 
Stand Up and Fight (Van Dyke, 1939)
Drums Along the Mohawk (John Ford, 1939)
Jesse James (Henry King, 1939) (outlaw Western)
The Oklahoma Kid (Lloyd Bacon, 1939) (outlaw Western)
The Outlaw (Howard Hughes, 1940) (sexuality)
Virginia City (Flynn and de Havilland, 1940)
Northwest Passage (King Vidor, 1940)
Geronimo (Paul Solane, 1940)
Northwest Mounted Police (Cecil B. deMille, 1940)
The Return of Frank James (Fritz Lang, 1940) (a sequel of Jesse James)
When the Daltons Rode (George Marshall, 1940)
Santa Fe Trail (Flynn and de Havilland, 1940)
Covered Wagon Days (George Sherman, 1940)
Arizona (Wesley Ruggles, 1940)
Twenty Mule Team (Richard Thorpe, 1940)
They Died With Their Boots On (Flynn and de Havilland, 1941)
Bad Men of Missouri (Ray Enright, 1941)
Belle Starr (Irving Cummings, 1941)
Billy the Kid (David Miller, 1941)
Saddlemates (Les Orlebeck, 1941)
King of the Texas Rangers (John English and William Witney, 1941)
Western Union (Fritz Lang, 1941)
American Empire (William McGann, 1941)
The Great Man’s Lady (William A. Wellman, 1941)
Badlands of Dakota (Alfred E. Green, 1941)

5. The Wartime Western (1942-1947): a temporary setback
  • Many Western stars were drafted for service in the combat film: cowboy to gunfighter.
  • Problems arising from the victory (reluctance to engagement).
  • 8 feature-length Westerns produced in 1945, 12 in 1946, and 14 in 1947.
Riders of the Northland (William Berke, 1942)
Valley of Hunted Man (John English, 1942)
Texas to Bataan (Robert Emmett Tansey, 1942)
Black Market Rustlers (S. Roy Luby, 1943)
Cowboy Commandos (S. Roy Luby, 1943)
The Ox-Bow Incident (William A. Wellman, 1943) (starring Henry Fonda and introducing into the Western a bleak view of the frontier)

6. The Postwar Western (the late 1940s-the 1950s): Modification & Resurge
  • The Golden Age: a sharp increase of the Western production from 14 in 1947 to  31 in 1948, 25 in 1949, 38 in 1950, 40 in 1952, 36 in 1954, and 46 in 1956 (pg. 347).
  • Having increased every year until 1956, production remained high until the end of the 1960s (pg. 333).
  • Disillusionments with victory and the proliferation of film noir (pg. 334). 
  • A shift away from social, political issues → the psychological (noir) Western (e.g., the revenger Western of psychologically troubled gunfighters), the gunfighter Western (gunslingers by profession; abstraction, stylization, exaggeration, camp sensibility, fetishization, etc.), the rise of minority Westerns (pro-Indian, woman, and Mexico Westerns), etc.
My Darling Clementine (John Ford, 1946) (town-tamer Western)
Duel in the Sun (King Vidor, 1946) (sexuality; psychological Western)
Pursued (Raoul Walsh, 1947) (psychological Western)
The Fabulous Texan (Edward Ludwig, 1947) (noir style Western)
Red River (Howard Hawk, 1948) (John Wayne as a megalomaniacal tyrant) 
Fort Apache (John Ford, 1948) (the problem of memory)
Silver River (Raoul Walsh, 1948)
The Man from Colorado (Henry Levin, 1948)
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (John Huston, 1949)
I Shot Jesse James (Samuel Fuller, 1949)
Wagonmaster (John Ford, 1950) (cavalry Western)
Rio Grande (John Ford, 1950) (cavalry Western)
She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (John Ford, 1950) (cavalry Western)
The Furies
(Anthony Mann, 1950)
Devil’s Doorway (Anthony Mann, 1950) (pro-Indian Western)
Broken Arrow (Delmer Daves, 1950) (pro-Indian Western)
The Gunfighter (Henry King, 1950)
The Baron of Arizona (Samuel Fuller, 1950)
Colt. 45 (Edwin L. Marin, 1950)
Kansas Raiders (Ray Enright, 1950)
The Eagle and the Hawk (Lewis R. Foster, 1950)
The Great Missouri Raid (Gordon Douglas, 1951)
Fort Worth (Edwin L. Marin, 1951)
High Noon (Fred Zinneman, 1952)
Springfield Rifle (André de Toth, 1952)
Viva Zapata! (Elia Kazan, 1952)
Shane (George Stevens, 1953)
Winchester ’73 (Anthony Mann, 1953) (revenge Western)
Law and Order (Nathan Juran, 1953)
Wings of the Hawk (Budd Boetticher, 1953)
Hondo (John Farrow, 1953) (produced by Wayne-Fellows)
Vera Cruz (Robert Aldrich, 1954) (Mexico Western)
Johnny Guitar (Nicholas Ray, 1954)
Naked Spur (Anthony Mann, 1954)
The Bounty Hunter
(André de Toth, 1954)
The Gun That Won the West (Willam Castle, 1955)
Man Without a Star (King Vidor, 1955) 
At Gunpoint (Alfred L. Werker, 1955)
A Man Alone (Ray Milland, 1955)
Top Gun (Ray Nazarro, 1955)
Wichita (Jaques Tourneur, 1955)
Treasure of Pancho Villa (George Sherman, 1955) (Mexico Western)
The Searchers (John Ford, 1956)
Johnny Concho (Don McGuire, 1956)
Man from Del Rio (Harry Horner, 1956)
Fatest Gun Alive (Russell Rouse, 1956)
Bandido! (Richard Fleischer, 1956) (Mexico Western)
Santiago (Gordon Douglas, 1956) (Mexico Western)
The Tall T (Budd Boetticher, 1957)
The True Story of Jesse James (Nicholas Ray, 1957)
Fury at Showdown (Gerd Oswald, 1957)
Gun for a Coward (Abner Biberman, 1957)
Forty Guns (Samuel Fuller, 1957)
Gun Glory (Roy Rowland, 1957)
Gunfight at the OK Corral (John Sturges, 1957)
Parson and the Outlaw (Oliver Drake, 1957)
The Tin Star (Anthony Mann, 1958)
The Last of the Fast Guns (George Sherman, 1958) (Mexico Western)
Villa! (James B. Clark, 1958) (a Mexico Western)
The Proud Rebel (Michael Curtiz, 1958)
Cole Younger, Gunfighter (R. G. Springsteen, 1958)
The Left Handed Gun (Arthur Penn, 1958)
Saddle the Wind (Robert Parrish, 1958)
Gunman’s Walk (Phil Karlson, 1958)
Rio Bravo (Howard Hawks, 1959) (town-tamer Western)
Warlock (Edward Dmytryk, 1959)
The Hanging Tree (Delmer Daves, 1959)
No Man on the Bullet (Jack Arnold, 1959)

7. Disillusionment and Revisionist Westerns 
  • The ideology of liberal progressivism damaged beyond repair by the traumatic events and social transformations in the 1960s and the 1970s.
  • Formalist innovation (the spaghetti Western), neorealist cynicism (grittier, darker, meaner sides of cowboy life), and counterculture sensibility (the prominence of Indian, Black, Mexican, and woman Westerns).
The Wonderful Country (Robert Parrish, 1959) (Mexico Western)
The Magnificent Seven (John Sturges, 1960) (Mexico Western)
The Alamo (John Wayne, 1960)
Walk Like a Dragon (James Clavell, 1960)
Sergeant Rutledge (John Ford, 1960) (Black Western)
The Unforgiven (John Huston, 1960) (captivity Western)
Comanche Station (Budd Boetticher, 1960) (Indian savagery)
Two Rode Together (John Ford, 1961) (captivity Western)
A Thunder of Drums (Joseph A. Newman, 1961) (cavalry/Indian conflicts)
The Comancheros (Michael Curtiz, 1961) (a Mexico Western)
Deadly Companions (Sam Peckinpah, 1961) (Indian savagery)
Ride the High Country (Sam Peckinpah, 1962)
Geronimo (Arnold Laven, 1962)
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (John Ford, 1962)
55 Days at Peking
(Nicholas Ray, 1963)
Cheyenne Autumn (John Ford, 1964) (pro-Indian Western)
A Distant Trumpet (Raoul Walsh, 1964) (cavalry/Indian conflicts)
Major Dundee (Sam Peckinpah, 1965) (cavalry/Indian/Mexico Western)
The Great Sioux Massacre (Sidney Salkow, 1965)
The Professionals (Richard Brooks, 1966)
Return of the Seven (Burt Kennedy, 1966)
Duel at Diablo (Ralph Nelson, 1966) (Black Western)
The Stalking Moon (Robert Mulligan, 1968)
Villa Rides (Buzz Kulik, 1968)
Bandolero! (Andrew V. Mclaglen, 1968)
Blue (Silvio Narizzano, 1968)
Guns of the Magnificent Seven (Paul Wendkos, 1969)
100 Rifles (Tom Gries, 1969)
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (George Roy Hill, 1969)
The Wild Bunch (Sam Peckinpah, 1969)
The Undefeated (Andrew V. McLaglen, 1969)
Little Big Man (Arthur Penn, 1970) (pro-Indian Western)
Soldier Blue (Ralph Nelson, 1970) (pro-Indian Western)
A Man Called Horse (Elliot Silverstein, 1970)
The Red, White and Black (John ‘Bud’ Cardos, 1970) (Black Western)
Two Mules for Sister Sara (Don Seigel, 1970) (reactionary Western)
Buck and the Preacher (1971) (Black Western)
Ulzana’s Raid (Robert Aldrich, 1972) (reactionary Western)
Joe Kidd (John Sturges, 1972)
High Plains Drifter (Clint Eastwood, 1973)
The Missouri Breaks (Arthur Penn, 1976) (formalist innovation)
Posse (Kirk Douglas, 1975) (neorealist cynicism)
The Shootist (Don Siegel, 1976) (neorealist cynicism)
Buffalo Bill and the Indians (Robert Altman, 1976) (counterculture sensibility)
The Return of a Man Called Horse (Irvin Kershner, 1976) (counterculture sensibility)
The Outlaw Josey Wales (Clint Eastwood, 1976) (an allegory of post-Vietnam reconciliation)
The Electric Horseman (Sydney Pollack 1979) (counterculture sensibility)
Heaven’s Gate (Michael Cimino, 1980) (counterculture sensibility)
Pale Rider (Clint Eastwood, 1985) (formalist innovation)
Silverado (Lawrence Kasdan, 1985) (formalist innovation-B-Western)
Rustler’s Rhapsody (Hugh Wilson, 1985) (formalist innovation-cowboy musical)
Young Guns (Christopher Cain, 1988)
Young Guns II (Geoff Murphy, 1990)
Dances with Wolves (Kevin Costner, 1990)
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