The western, the most produced genre in the American film industry until 1970, explores the myths surrounding American identity. Westerns are always set on the “frontier,” a land untamed by an eastern, city-dwelling mindset. The genre rewrites American history so that the genocide of indigenous peoples already settled in a land falsely conceived as “unstable” appears as a positive. Westerns are notoriously racist and sexist, portraying racial “others” as mere enemies and women as easy foils for manly heroes.
These films explore the cowboy figure, embodied by actors such as John Wayne and Clint Eastwood, who are reinforced by their moral flaws as they roam sets rendered in stunning panoramic cinematography. Western themes are obsessed with codes of honor, justice and gender; what it means to be a man. The cowboy figure in westerns seems authentic, not carefully crafted through symbols, myths and fantasies.
Stacker polled all westerns ranked as feature films and TV movies with over 5,000 user votes on IMDb. Movies are ranked by IMDb user scores and ties were broken by number of votes. Read on to discover the best of classic westerns directed by John Ford, Sergio Leone and others, as well as recent revisions to the genre and its themes. Keep reading to see if your favorite made the top 100.