The Western Genre

The Western
What is the Western Genre?
•Genre that started since the discovery of
the New World by Christopher Columbus
One of the oldest film genres (1903), which
predates film itself
The Western genre is focused on the good
guys keeping law and order within the
Nostalgic genre of the 1900s – Dates back to
the American west, creating our historical
History of Western Genre
•The era of the American West began from
1850 to the 1900s
Are usually set between the American Civil
war and the early 1900s
Popular in the 1930s-60s, but resurged in the
1990s. Popular for how it explained the
history of America/myths and how the West
had culture
Influenced by individualism – the importance
of an individual
Western Settings/Costumes
• Settings in Western films generally include
breathtaking settings and open landscapes (
The Tetons and The Monument Valley)
Usually takes place in the afternoon when the
sun is still bright
Can see lots of ranches, frontiers, cactus, and
lots of wildlife
Costumes usually include hats, leather boots,
masks, denim jeans, guns, vests, and rope for
lassoing animals and people
Western Heroes & Antiheroes
• Heroes usually include local lawmen or
enforcement officers, ranchers, army officers,
cowboys, territorial marshals, or skilled
Hero Characteristics: Masculine people of
integrity and principle – courageous, moral,
tough, solid and self-sufficient, independent
and honorable attitude
Hero could usually stand alone and face danger
against protagonists (may have sidekicks)
Western Heroes & Antiheroes (cont)
Codes of the Hero: Protecting good vs. evil,
uphold the law, saving the innocent/those held
captive, keep oaths made, helping the
The antiheroes (antagonists) would usually
wear black hats – black being a symbol of evil
Men would mainly play the roles of the hero;
trying to stop the antagonists
Women are usually the housekeepers and serve
as those that tend to the wounded
Western Dialogue
Usually seen as quirky, witty, having emphasis
being placed on the words, and is usually
laconic (concise/brief), making it enjoyable
to the audience
Western Film Plot
•Maintain law and order in the frontier
•Settlers vs the Indians
•Humanity vs. Nature
•Civilization vs. Wilderness
•Villains vs. Heroes
•Law and order vs. Anarchy
•Plot may be gloomy in the middle due to the
antihero; usually resolved by the hero
Western Iconography
•Guns- usually includes gun fights, violence,
and human massacres
Bank robberies by the villains
Runaway stagecoaches (for rescuing,
escaping the villain)
Cattle drives and rustling
Bar room brawls
Shootouts and showdowns
Hats, Horses, Cigars, Alcohol, Rodeos
Mood & Tone
Test Questions
• Western films had a great influence on
American culture and were able to shape
Americans’ views of the old frontier by replacing
actual history with myth.
• Westerns films got their start because Dime
Novels about the Wild West were extremely
• Culture: opposite of nature in the western
• Class: opposite of equality in the Western
Test Questions
• Clint Eastwood & John Wayne were the
actors most associated with Westerns
Young males (tenderfoots) characters get
educated in westerns with shooting lessons
The roles of women in westerns are
conventional and secondary to men
Cowboys vs. Indians was a sub-genre that
dominated box-office reign
Types of Westerns
• Epic Western
• ‘Singing cowboy’ Western
• Spaghetti Western
• Noir Western
• Contemporary Western
• Revisionist Western
• Comedy Western
• Post-Apocalyptic Western
• Space Western
Spaghetti Western
•Developed in the 1960s and 1970s
•Named for how most of the films were
produced and directed by the Italians
These films tended to be low budget and
were often shot in the desert
Introduced more violence over the other
Contemporary Western
•Reflects the themes and motifs of Classic
westerns, yet it is set in Contemporary
Are usually taking place in the West
Often explore the “ classic cowboy”
struggling in the “civilized world”
Revisionist Western
•Came out around the 1960s in response to
contemporary westerns
Took a different look at the West; saw
Native Americans as more than savages
Call the audience to examine whether the
use of violence is moral – even if the
protagonist is justified
Space Western
•Is a genre that integrates Sci-Fi into its films
•Future technology is often used transport
the characters into the Wild West
Tend to have a lighter tone and less violence
than traditional Western films
Film Techniques
• Western films tend to have distinct
cinematography and editing
Early films included title cards and ellipses
Lighting was crucial to dramatic
films/humorous films
Serious western films that had conflict and
violence used plenty of low-key lighting to
emphasize the characters and the surrounding
Used camera techniques like zoom shots and
panning for fight/gun scenes
Crosscutting for chase scenes