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Modern Westerns: Five Movies Since the 1950s That Shaped the Genre

By    |   Thursday, 16 Apr 2015 09:25 AM

More than a century removed from the Wild West, life on the frontier still fascinates movie audiences. Modern Western movies explore life in those times, though how characters are portrayed has changed over time. The genre has seen a shift from larger-than-life heroes and singing cowboys to mysterious drifters and flawed gunfighters.

These five modern Western movies since the 1950s have had the greatest influence in shaping what the genre has become in the 21st Century:

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1. "A Fistful of Dollars" (1964)

Clint Eastwood built his career and made the spaghetti Western popular in his first turn as the man with no name. Eastwood followed up with two other films expanding on the character: “For a Few Dollars More” and “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.” Eastwood popularized the archetype of the anti-hero stranger who frees a town oppressed by ruthless villains only to disappear again.

2. “The Cowboys” (1972)

No actor is more synonymous with Westerns than John Wayne. He made a living out of portraying a rugged, larger-than-life hero who saves the day. “The Cowboys” shattered this image in a profound way by making Wayne seem mortal for the first time. Wayne plays a rancher who recruits local school boys to assist him on a 400-mile cattle drive after his ranch hands desert him to mine for gold. These boys come of age when they must avenge Wayne's murder by a rustler and complete the cattle drive on their own.

3. “Blazing Saddles” (1974)

All of the conventions of traditional Westerns are turned on their head with this Mel Brooks farce. “Blazing Saddles” centers on a black man who becomes a sheriff in an all-white town. He must protect people from a state attorney general and his henchman who want to drive out the townspeople and take over their land. “Blazing Saddles” spoofs the Western in a fun way while taking jabs at real-life racism that existed in the Old West.

4. “True Grit” (2010)

It isn't often that a child is the central character in a Western. That's what makes “True Grit” an instant classic. A 14-year-old girl hires a United States marshal to pursue her father's killer and takes an active role in the manhunt that leads to the killer's death. “True Grit” shows audiences the West through the eyes of a child, offering a unique perspective on the events that unfold.

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5. “Unforgiven” (1992)

Clint Eastwood's final Western is one of his best at reshaping the genre that made him a star. He plays an aging outlaw-turned-farmer who is drawn back into his old life to avenge a disfigured prostitute and, later, the torture and murder of his friend. “Unforgiven” explored the real moral ambiguities and myths that surrounded the events of the Old West, showing that even the “good guy” could be a flawed and bad character in many ways.

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More than a century removed from the Wild West, life on the frontier still fascinates movie audiences. Modern Western movies explore life in those times, though how characters are portrayed has changed over time.
modern, westerns, movies, shaped, genre
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2015-25-16
Thursday, 16 Apr 2015 09:25 AM
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