A Century of Film

The Genre:

Westerns are a uniquely American art form.  It has been said that the three things America has contributed to world culture are baseball, Jazz and Westerns.  The very start of Westerns goes back to the start of narrative story-telling in American film with The Great Train Robbery perhaps the first great narrative American film.

I had written a paragraph about what I see as the basic Western (as opposed to the sub-genres listed below) but then I found this bit on page 195 of The Rough Guide to Westerns that summed it up much better than I had:

Pulp writer Frank Gruber says there are seven essential Western plots:

  1. The Union Pacific story (the railroad/stagecoach comes to town or wagon train adventures)
  2. The ranch story (conflict between ranchers or ranchers vs. others)
  3. The empire story (an epic version of the ranch story)
  4. The revenge story
  5. The cavalry and indians story
  6. The outlaw story
  7. The marshal story.

Those pretty much sums it up.  The fifth one is a specific sub-genre below and the third one really kind of fits into the “Epic” sub-genre.  But otherwise, those are pretty much the films that don’t have a sub-genre.  Ironically, most of the films starring the biggest Western stars (also listed below) aren’t in any of the sub-genres but fit those basic story types.  You can also get much more detailed by going here, though most of what is down below you will only find here which is why I wrote all this.



  • Best Film:  Wyatt Earp  (1994)

These films are usually about the main men of the west.  But these are different from the “Historical” films that are listed below.  These are films that actually try to tell the entire story of someone’s life as opposed to just one major incident (most films about Wyatt Earp, for example, deal just with the events around Tombstone and those would be considered “Historical”).  I only list five films in this category (in chronological order: Buffalo Bill, Davy Crockett: King of the Wild Frontier, Custer of the West, The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez, Wyatt Earp).


  • Best Film:  The Professionals  (1966)

Comedy Westerns have a long history, back to such films as Destry Rides Again and 3 Godfathers and all the way into the 90’s with such films as Maverick and Wild Wild West.  I feel I should point out that I classify Blazing Saddles as a Comedy because of its Parody aspects though many would classify it as a Western (and it would be the top film here if I did consider it).  The Professionals is the only film in this sub-genre to earn **** (or even ***.5).  As will be noted below, only two films have ever earned nominations in the Comedy category at the Golden Globes (Cat Ballou, The Duchess and the Dirtwater Fox).  I list 25 films in this sub-genre and 40% of them are lower than *** (they average a 62.88).

Cowboy / Indian

  • Best Film:  The Searchers  (1956)

I only use the phrase “Indian” because that’s kind of how these kind of films have always been known.  In most examples, the Cowboy is the ostensible hero facing off against the villainous (and often murderous) Indians, certainly all the ones before Broken Arrow in 1950, which really opened up the genre.  These films started dying out in the 60’s even before the Western did, perhaps because John Ford was so good at making them (I classify nine different John Ford films in this sub-genre).  I list 38 films in this sub-genre and half the Top 8 are Ford films (The Searchers, Fort Apache, Rio Grande, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon).  The films in this sub-genre I think of as not being that great but in fact they average a sold 66.84, though I should point out that the Ford films average a 74.13 and the other 30 films average a 64.9.  The best non-Ford films in this sub-genre are The Unforgiven and Major Dundee.


  • Best Film:  Duel in the Sun  (1946)

These are those longer films with an epic scope that try to tell a bigger story, the “empire story” as classified above.  I only list four films in this sub-genre: Duel in the Sun, Giant, The Big Country and How the West Was Won.


  • Best Film:  Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid  (1969)

It’s hard to know what films really belong here because so much of Western historical story-telling is mythologized or flat-out fictionalized.  But these are the films that revolve around historical personas or events.  Probably the ones that get the most attention are Wyatt Earp and the shoot-out at the O.K. Corral (My Darling Clementine, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, Hour of the Gun, Tombstone), the Alamo (The Man from the Alamo, The Last Command, The Alamo (1960), The Alamo (2004)) and films about either Jesse James (Jesse James, The Return of Frank James, I Shot Jesse James, The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid, The Long Riders, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford) or Billy the Kid (Billy the Kid, The Left-Handed Gun, Chisum, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, Young Guns, Young Guns II).  Butch Cassidy is the best film in this sub-genre by a long way but there is one other **** film (Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid).  Both of them could also easily qualify under the “Post-Modern” sub-genre as well.  I list 26 films in this sub-genre and they average a 64.71.  That’s because strong films like My Darling Clementine or The Baron of Arizona are evened out by crappy films like Annie Oakley, The Left-Handed Gun or Wild Bill.

Lit Adaptation

  • Best Film:  Treasure of the Sierra Madre  (1948)

This is a rare sub-genre for Westerns.  Is it because I’m prejudiced against Westerns as a literary genre and don’t read much of them?  Or it is because not much in the way of “literature” has been made and also classifies as a Western?  Either way, I list five films in this sub-genre: Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The Ox-Bow Incident, All the Pretty Horses, Welcome to Hard Times and The Fugitive (the Graham Greene adaptation – easily literature, questionable as a Western).  There will be more about this category down at the bottom of the post under the “Not Westerns” heading.  There’s a good argument to be made for including True Grit here.  The last three of the five listed films where just about the only cases out of all 375 films where I read the book before seeing the film.  If I counted television, Lonesome Dove would probably be listed here.


  • Best Film:  The Beautiful Blonde from Bashful Bend  (1949)

There’s not much here.  What is here I mostly had classified originally as Musicals and decided that things like Roy Rogers and Gene Autry films were Western Musicals.  What I have seen here is a paltry lot (8 films averaging a 57.13) and I have no desire to see any more.


  • Best Film:  The Wild Bunch  (1969)

The strongest Western sub-genre.  Also known as Revisionist Westerns.  There are 17 films here that average 72.82 but that goes up to 76.31 if I don’t count Heaven’s Gate.  These are the films that begin with The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (looking anew at the Western mythos) and then follow The Wild Bunch in its new use of violence.  Both later Best Picture winners, Dances with Wolves and Unforgiven get classified here.  The other **** films in this sub-genre (aside from the ones already mentioned) are McCabe & Mrs Miller and The Outlaw Josey Wales.  Many of the films that Clint Eastwood directed end up here.


  • Best Film:  Once Upon a Time in the West  (1969)

The problem with the Sergio Leone films is that they make you think that perhaps all Spaghetti Westerns are worth seeing.  In fact, relatively few of them are any good.  I have seen 31 Spaghetti Westerns and the overall average is only 59.77 and that’s when you include the four Leone films that average an 85.

The Directors:

There are a lot of directors who have directed several (5 or more) Westerns, though you’d be probably be surprised if I told you that Clint Eastwood only directed four (though two of those four are in my Top 20).  The list includes directors like Robert Aldrich, Budd Boetticher, Michael Curtiz, Howard Hawks, Sergio Leone, Sam Peckinpah, Raoul Walsh and William Wellman, with Leone and Peckinpah topping the list (in terms of making the best films).  Sam Peckinpah is the only director aside from John Ford to direct three **** Westerns and has five films in the Top 50.  Leone has two Top 10 films, three in the Top 50 and #51.  But there are four directors who stand out, having directed at least 10 Westerns that I have seen.

Henry Hathaway

  • Films:  14
  • Years:  1932 – 1971
  • Average Film:  62.29
  • Best Film:  The Sons of Katie Elder
  • Worst Film:  True Grit

Henry Hathaway is the weakest of the major directors.  He began in the early 30’s directing several mediocre films for Paramount that all starred Randolph Scott.  He would step away from Westerns for a while (often making Adventure films) but would always return.  He is the primary director on the bloated epic How the West Was Won which was Best Picture nominated at the Oscars and would direct a few late John Wayne performances, including his (undeserved) Oscar winning turn in True Grit.

John Sturges

  • Films:  12
  • Years:  1949 – 1976
  • Average Film:  67.58
  • Best Film:  The Magnificent Seven
  • Worst Film:  Chino

Sturges began in 1949 but really hit his stride in the late 50’s, directing six Westerns from 1956 to 1962 including solid work like The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, Last Train from Gun Hill and The Magnificent Seven.  Sturges’ one Oscar nomination was for Bad Day at Black Rock which many consider a Western (though I don’t).  Sturges’ career seems to cover the range of the genre, directing Randolph Scott in his first Western directorial effort and Clint Eastwood in one of his last.

Anthony Mann

  • Films:  11
  • Years:  1950  –  1960
  • Average Film:  73.55
  • Best Film:  Winchester 73
  • Worst Film:  The Last Frontier

Mann was remarkably consistent.  In just one decade, he directed 11 films in the genre, five of which starred Jimmy Stewart (he also directed Stewart in three non-Westerns) and all of which are good (the weakest is still a 65) and none of which are great.  His work is consistently watchable and technically sound and just interesting but he never really approaches the pantheon of great directors (and is one of the rare really solid directors of the era to never earn an Oscar nomination).  He doesn’t have any films in the Top 20 but he has three in the Top 50 and another that just misses.

John Ford

  • Films:  16
  • Years:  1924 – 1964
  • Average Film:  76.25
  • Best Film:  The Searchers
  • Worst Film:  Wagon Master

The undisputed master of the genre.  Not only does he top the list with great films (three of them: The Searchers, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Stagecoach) and very good films (My Darling Clementine, Fort Apache) but the rest of his films are all really solid.  While Sturges doesn’t average a 70 and Hathaway isn’t even close, only two of Ford’s Westerns are less than a 70 (Sergeant Rutledge, Wagon Master) and they’re both still ***.  His biggest star, of course, is John Wayne, who stars in eight of his films including all three **** films.  There is also Henry Fonda (one with Wayne, two more without) and Jimmy Stewart (also one with Wayne and two without).  The Oscars loved Ford, but only once did they nominate him for a Western (Stagecoach) and none of his four Oscars were in this genre.  He was, however, the only director in the first 15 years of the NYFC to win Best Director for a Western (Stagecoach).  Seven of Ford’s Westerns appear on the TSPDT Top 25 list and five on the Rough Guide Top 50.  He has three films in my Top 20, six in my Top 50 and three more between 51 and 60.

  • Best Western Director  (weighted points system)
  1. Sam Peckinpah  (228)
  2. John Ford  (224)
  3. Sergio Leone  (158)
  4. Clint Eastwood  (129)
  5. Anthony Mann  (105)

Analysis:  This adds up points on a weighted scale (90-1) for placing in the Top 20 at the Nighthawk Awards for Best Director in any given year.  So, Peckinpah earned 90 for winning for The Wild Bunch, 60 for his 4th place finish for Ride the High Country, 34 for his 8th place finish for The Ballad of Cable Hogue, 32 for his 9th place finish for Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid and 12 for his 14th place finish for Major Dundee for a total of 228 points.  It’s not perfect because it depends on the competition but it’s the best I’ve got.  But it appropriately places Anthony Mann, who never earned a Nighthawk nomination but had three finishes between 6 and 10 ahead of John Huston, who won a Nighthawk but only earned points for one other film.

The Stars:

John Wayne

Without question, the master of the Western.  I don’t even like John Wayne and I’ve seen at least 28 Westerns that starred the Duke.  That includes 8 films with John Ford (including all three of his **** films), four with Henry Hathaway (including his best Western) and four with Howard Hawks (including the masterful Red River).  Wayne would win an Oscar for True Grit but I think (and I would venture to say the general consensus agrees with me) that his best performances are in The Searchers and Red River.  Wayne had toiled for years in Westerns (only one of which do I appear to have seen) before becoming an instant star in 1939 with Stagecoach.  He wasn’t much of an actor most of the time, but he definitely had presence.  The Westerns I’ve seen him in range from 1930 (The Big Trail) to his final performance (and one of his best) in The Shootist (1976).
Essential Viewing:  The Searchers, Red River, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Stagecoach, The Shootist

Clint Eastwood

Eastwood began as a Western star on television on Rawhide (which I’ve never seen because old television is not my thing).  His film career took off with his fantastic turn as The Man With No Name for Sergio Leone in the trilogy of films.  After that, Eastwood would direct himself four times and would win multiple Oscars for Unforgiven (and earn his first acting nomination).  Unlike with Wayne who was in many subpar films, every Western I have seen Eastwood in earns at least a 68.  I also personally prefer Eastwood’s persona in Westerns much more than I do Wayne’s even if the politics of both men leaves me cold.  It’s telling that he’s the star of two of the five Westerns I’ve actually seen in the theater.
Essential Viewing:  Unforgiven, The Good the Bad and the Ugly, A Fistful of Dollars, High Plains Drifter

Randolph Scott

Bart: Just give me twenty-four hours to come up with a brilliant idea to save our town. Just twenty-four hours, that’s all I ask.
Townspeople: [in unison] No!
Bart: You’d do it for Randolph Scott.
Townspeople: [reverently] Randolph Scott…

That scene in Blazing Saddles pretty much says it all.  Scott began in the 1930’s doing work with Henry Hathaway in mediocre films but later graduated to much more interesting work with Budd Boetticher.  He ended his career with one of the great ones, teaming up with Joel McCrea to make Ride the High Country.
Essential Viewing:  Ride the High Country, Decision at Sundown, Comanche Station, Ride Lonesome, 7 Men from Now

James Stewart

Aside from his comedic turn in Destry Rides Again, Stewart wasn’t really known for Westerns until he started teaming with Anthony Mann.  They made several films together in the 50’s and all of them are worth watching.  Aside from that, Stewart also made three films for John Ford (including the masterpiece The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance) and the Oscar winning Broken Arrow for Delmer Daves.
Essential Viewing:  The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Winchester 73, The Naked Spur, Destry Rides Again, Broken Arrow

Henry Fonda

Not only did Fonda make at least 14 Westerns that I’ve seen but he has the distinction of being the only actor to earn multiple Nighthawk nominations for Westerns, earning a Best Actor nomination for The Ox-Bow Incident and winning Supporting Actor for his cold, brutal villain in Once Upon a Time in the West.  In the over two decades in between, he made such solid films as My Darling Clementine, Fort Apache and The Tin Star.  His five Top 20 finishes in the Nighthawk Awards for Westerns is also the best.  Overall, Fonda’s Western performances are the best acting of any star.
Essential Viewing:  Once Upon a Time in the West, The Ox-Bow Incident, My Darling Clementine, Fort Apache, The Tin Star

Barbara Stanwyck

While she didn’t make as many Westerns as Gary Cooper (who won an Oscar for High Noon), Kirk Douglas, Burt Lancaster or Gregory Peck, Stanwyck has the distinction of being a female star in a very male dominated genre.  Stanwyck’s work in Westerns would become cult favorites and when I was creating the “stars” page in the spreadsheet, she was the only female appearing enough to merit inclusion.  She also covers great a wide range of years, from at least 1935 to 1957.  The best film to see by far is The Furies, a rare Anthony Mann Western without Jimmy Stewart.
Essential Viewing:  The Furies, Union Pacific, Forty Guns

The Studios:

This is one of those genres that isn’t dominated by any particular studio.  Of the original five majors, all of them made plenty of Westerns (20th Century-Fox: 43, MGM: 27, Paramount: 42, RKO: 17, Warner Bros: 40) and Columbia (25 films) and Universal (31 films) were the same and all of them except RKO, while making mostly decent work (mid *** averages) made at least one great film (Fox: The Ox-Bow Incident, The Gunfighter, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid; Columbia: The Professionals; MGM: Ride the High Country, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid; Paramount: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance; Universal: Winchester 73 (almost a great film), Warners: Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The Searchers, The Wild Bunch, McCabe & Mrs Miller, Unforgiven).  But then there’s United Artists.  I’ve seen 48 Westerns that were distributed by United Artists and they include such masterpieces as Stagecoach, Red River, High Noon and The Good the Bad and the Ugly.  United Artists lead the way with three Best Picture nominations while Universal and Columbia never earned one.  Ironically, while RKO’s best Western is only a 76 (Fort Apache), until 1990, they were the only studio to win Best Picture at the Oscars with a Western (Cimarron).  Even more ironically, Dances with Wolves, the second Oscar winner, was made by Orion and was apparently the only Western they ever made (and certainly the only one I’ve seen).

note:  For the next few lists, any links are to reviews I have written.  Some of them go to the Adapted Screenplay posts that discuss the film and the literary source but don’t actually review the film (but link to places where I had already reviewed the film).  There are a few that are not linked now but will be in the coming months as I get to more of the Adapted Screenplay posts.  The middle list deliberately includes any Westerns I have already reviewed.  For my original Top 10 list go here.

The Top 50 Westerns

  1. The Wild Bunch
  2. Treasure of the Sierra Madre
  3. Unforgiven
  4. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
  5. The Searchers
  6. Once Upon a Time in the West
  7. Dances with Wolves
  8. High Noon
  9. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
  10. The Ox-Bow Incident
  11. True Grit  (2010)
  12. McCabe & Mrs. Miller
  13. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
  14. Ride the High Country
  15. Red River
  16. Stagecoach
  17. 3:10 to Yuma  (2007)
  18. The Professionals
  19. The Gunfighter
  20. The Outlaw Josey Wales
  21. Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid
  22. Winchester 73
  23. The Magnificent Seven  (1960)
  24. The Tin Star
  25. The Bravados
  26. My Darling Clementine
  27. A Fistful of Dollars
  28. The Proposition
  29. Silverado
  30. The Baron of Arizona
  31. Open Range
  32. The Naked Spur
  33. Major Dundee
  34. The Unforgiven
  35. Appaloosa  (2008)
  36. The Shootist
  37. Fort Apache
  38. The Fugitive
  39. The Ballad of Cable Hogue
  40. Yellow Sky
  41. Wyatt Earp
  42. Hondo
  43. The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada
  44. 3:10 to Yuma  (1957)
  45. The Sheepman
  46. The Scalphunters
  47. Johnny Guitar
  48. Jeremiah Johnson
  49. Rio Bravo
  50. Rancho Notorious

Notable Westerns Not in the Top 50

  • For a Few Dollars More  (#51)
  • The Furies  (#52)
  • High Plains Drifter  (#53)
  • Decision at Sundown  (#54)
  • Rio Grande  (#55)
  • Broken Lance  (#61)
  • Duel in the Sun  (#62)
  • She Wore a Yellow Ribbon  (#69)
  • Destry Rides Again  (#70)
  • The Big Sky  (#75)
  • Young Guns II  (#77)
  • Broken Arrow  (#80)
  • Ride Lonesome  (#84)
  • Little Big Man  (#91)
  • Gunfight at the O.K. Corral  (#92)
  • They Died With Their Boots On  (#93)
  • The Tall T  (#94)
  • Union Pacific  (#101)
  • Young Guns  (#115)
  • One-Eyed Jacks  (#128)
  • Warlock  (#131)
  • Giant  (#132)
  • Tombstone  (#135)
  • Buchanan Rides Alone  (#141)
  • Pursued  (#143)
  • The Westerner  (#155)
  • Four Faces West  (#170)
  • Station West  (#190)
  • Streets of Laredo  (#195)
  • The Squaw Man (1914)  (#198)
  • Wagon Master  (#201)
  • Dead Man  (#246)
  • The Big Country  (#248)
  • Shane  (#260)
  • The Long Riders  (#286)
  • The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean  (#289)
  • How the West Was Won  (#290)
  • Heller in Pink Tights  (#296)
  • In Old Arizona  (#303)
  • The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford  (#317)
  • The Alamo (1960)  (#324)
  • Cat Ballou  (#344)
  • Dirty Dingus Magee  (#349)
  • Cimarron (1931)  (#350)
  • True Grit (1969)  (#351)
  • Wild Bill  (#352)
  • The Shooting  (#358)
  • The Plainsman  (#360)
  • The Left-Handed Gun  (#363)
  • El Topo  (#365)

The Bottom 10 Westerns, #366-375 (worst being #10, which is #375 overall)

  1. The Terror of Tiny Town
  2. Between God, the Devil and a Winchester
  3. Posse
  4. The Outlaw
  5. Salome Where She Dances
  6. God Forgives I Don’t
  7. Wild Wild West
  8. Heaven’s Gate
  9. Jonah Hex
  10. The Legend of the Lone Ranger

The 10 Most Underrated Westerns

These are all films that I rate at **** or ***.5 that have never appeared in TSPDT’s Top 1000 (now 2000) or their Top 250 21st Century Films (now 1000):

  1. The Professionals
  2. The Gunfighter
  3. The Tin Star
  4. The Bravados
  5. Silverado
  6. The Baron of Arizona
  7. Major Dundee
  8. The Unforgiven
  9. Appaloosa
  10. The Shootist

note:  AFI also under-rated most of these – only The Gunfighter, Silverado, Major Dundee and The Shootist appeared on the 50 film ballot for their AFI Top 10.

The 5 Most Overrated Westerns

  1. Shane
    acclaimed as one of the greatest but **.5 from me – reviewed here
  2. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
    bland Brad Pitt performance and poor writing overcomes great cinematography and Casey Affleck performance
  3. El Topo
    a complete and utter surrealistic mess
  4. Cimarron
    somehow won Best Picture at the Oscars – reviewed here
  5. True Grit (1969) / Cat Ballou
    Two undeserved Oscars – the remake of the former is almost 50 points better, the latter is reviewed here.

The Statistics

Total Films 1912-2011: 375  (9th)

Total Percentage of All Films 1912-2011:  2.73%

  • 1912-1929:  10  (5th)  – 2.86%
  • 1930-1939:  23  (9th)  –  2.22%
  • 1940-1949:  58  (5th)  –  5.36%
  • 1950-1959:  96  (4th)  –  7.60%
  • 1960-1969:  78  (6th)  –  5.32%
  • 1970-1979:  65  (7th)  –  4.44%
  • 1980-1989:  14  (14th)  –  0.83%
  • 1990-1999:  16  (13th-tie)  –  0.83%
  • 2000-2011:  15  (14th)  –  0.50%

note:  An interesting note about these percentages in regards to the Oscars.  My numbers are not so different from the Oscars.  Westerns account for 2.42% of all films nominated for an Oscar.  The 50’s (4.80%) are the highest for the genre followed by the 60s and the 40s (very close to each other).  In the 80’s and 00’s, they accounted for less than 1% of all Oscar nominated films.  But that doesn’t mean I just watch Oscar nominated films – the 90’s are the only decade where at least a third of the Westerns I have seen were Oscar nominated (6 out of 16) and the 40’s are the only other decade where it is close (18 out of 58).

Biggest Years:

  • 15:  1970
  • 14:  1968, 1972
  • 13:  1948, 1955, 1967
  • 12:  1950, 1956, 1958, 1969

Biggest Years by Percentage of All Films:

  • 1948:  11.82%
  • 1954:  10.58%
  • 1955:  10.16%
  • 1967:  9.15%
  • 1950:  9.02%

Best Years:

  • 1969:  3 films in the Top 10
  • 1948, 1950:  3 films in the Top 20


  • Best in a Year with at least 3 Films:  1962 – 80.50  (4 films)
  • Best in a Year with at least 5 Films:  1950 – 72.50  (12 films)
  • Worst in a Year with at least 5 Films:  1936  –  53.33  (6 films)
  • Worst in a Year with at least 3 Films:  1931  –  51.75  (4 films)
  • Average Rating of all 375 Films:  67.12


  • Top 5 Most Films 12 out of 14 years from 1948 to 1961, third in several years
  • Top 5 Most Films every year from 1966 to 1972
  • Only in the Top 5 Most Films six times prior to 1948 with several years of one or no films
  • Never in the Top 5 Most Films after 1976
  • Starting in 1984, many years of one or no films
  • 1993 is the only year since 1976 with more than three films
  • 2003 is the only year since 1993 with more than two films
  • From 1940 to 1976 in most years, accounts for over 5% of total films
  • Since 1976, never accounts for more than 3% of total films and only twice more than 2%

Westerns started tied for 5th with several other genres but had dropped to 7th place by 1930 and by 1932 was down to 8th.  They moved back into 7th place in 1940.  By 1945, they had dropped to 8th place but moved back to 8th in 1946 and quickly moved up to a tie for 5th place by 1949 with 91 total films.  The next year, boosted by a big year (12 films), they moved up to 4th place.  They pretty much stayed in 4th place all the way until 1977, when they dropped to 5th.  They then began to plummet as Westerns basically die off after that.  In 1976, it’s last year in 4th place, Westerns have 325 films.  They stay in 5th all the way through 1989 but the additional 13 years only add 21 films.  After 40 years in the Top 5, they are pushed out by Crime films.  In spite of a decade with only 16 films, Westerns stay in 6th place all the way through the 90’s, not dropping until Suspense films finally catch up in 2001.  In 2004, they are passed by Kids films (boosted by more Animated films) and drop to 8th.  They drop to 9th in 2008, passed by Action films.

The Top Films:

  • Nighthawk Winner:  1948, 1969, 1992
  • 3 Films in the Top 10:  1969
  • 2 Films in the Top 10:  1948, 1962
  • Top 10 Films:  24
  • First Year in the Top 10:  1939
  • Latest Year in the Top 10:  2010
  • Longest Streak with at least one Top 10 Film:  1966-69
  • Longest Streak without a Top 10 Film:  1993-2009
  • Best Decade for Top 10 Films:  1960’s  (8)
  • Worst Decade for Top 10 Films:  1920’s  (0)
  • 3 Films in the Top 20:  1948, 1950, 1969
  • Top 20 Films:  41
  • Longest Streak with at least one Top 20 Film:  1965-73
  • Longest Streak without a Top 20 Film:  1993-2006
  • Best Decade for Top 20 Films:  1950’s  (12)
  • Worst Decade for Top 20 Films:  1920’s  (0)

Nighthawk Awards with Discussion of Other Awards

note:  These are my all-time Top 5 in each category.  But in the Analysis section, I discuss how Westerns have done in the Nighthawks but also in-depth discussions of how they have done in all the awards groups.  Films in red won the Oscar.  Films in blue were Oscar nominated.  There are a few lists here that aren’t in my usual Nighthawk Awards.

  • Best Picture
  1. The Wild Bunch
  2. Treasure of the Sierra Madre
  3. Unforgiven
  4. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
  5. The Searchers

Analysis:  Obviously you can look at my Top 50 for the full ranking.  The top three films here all win the Nighthawk.  Butch actually finishes 3rd in 1969.  The Searchers finishes in 2nd as does The Ox-Bow Incident and Dances with Wolves.  There are 4 more films that finish in 3rd (Red River, High Noon, The Professionals, True Grit), three in 4th (Stagecoach, The Good the Bad and the Ugly, McCabe & Mrs Miller) and one in 5th (Once Upon a Time in the West).  Another nine films finish in the Top 10.  Nine more finish in the Top 20.  The Proposition is the best film (by far) not to finish in the Top 20 in its year (finishing in 26th).
In Old Arizona was Best Picture nominated at the second Oscars while Cimarron won at the 4th.  After that, there would be nine other nominees through the years with a big gap from 1969 to 1990 and the only consecutive years with nominated Westerns being 1952 and 1953.  Then there would, of course, be two more winners in 1990 and 1992 and then another big gap until True Grit was nominated in 2010.
The Globes would give the Drama award to Treasure of the Sierra Madre and then would nominate High Noon and Giant.  Then there would be gaps.  In the 60’s, Cat Ballou would earn a Comedy nomination with The Professionals a Drama nom the next year and Butch a Drama nom in 1969.  After that, Dances would win Drama in 1990 and Unforgiven would lose, astoundingly, to Scent of a Woman.
In the early years of the BAFTAs when their Picture fields had lots of nominations, several Westerns earned nominations (Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Shane, 3:10 to Yuma, Tin Star, Sheepman, Big Country).  Then, after a gap of a decade, Butch would win Best Picture, the only Western to win the BAFTA.  Dances, Unforgiven and True Grit would all also earn nominations.  The PGA started late and gave the award to Dances while nominating Unforgiven and True Grit.  The BFCA which started even later has only nominated True Grit.
Through 1990, only four Best Picture critics awards had gone to Westerns.  The Ox-Bow Incident and Dances won the NBR while Treasure of the Sierra Madre and High Noon won the NYFC.  But then in 1992, Unforgiven won the LAFC, NSFC and BSFC, the last Western to win any Picture awards.

  • Best Director
  1. Sam Peckinpah  (The Wild Bunch)
  2. Clint Eastwood  (Unforgiven)
  3. John Huston  (Treasure of the Sierra Madre)
  4. John Ford  (The Searchers)
  5. Sergio Leone  (Once Upon a Time in the West)

Analysis:  Peckinpah, Eastwood and Huston all win the Nighthawk.  Ford and Leone come in second as do Kevin Costner (Dances with Wolves) and Fred Zinnemann (High Noon).  Nine other directors earn Nighthawk noms.
Four directors have won Oscars.  The first Picture winner didn’t win for Director while the first two Directors to win, John Huston and George Stevens (Giant) didn’t win Picture.  Costner and Eastwood, of course, won both.  Eight other directors have earned Oscar noms with Richard Brooks (The Professionals) the only one to do it without a Picture nom while three films didn’t earn director noms to go along with the Picture noms (Ox-Bow Incident, Alamo, How the West Was Won).  George Stevens is the only director be nominated twice for Westerns (Shane was the other).
Stevens, Costner and Eastwood all won the DGA as well.  Seven other directors have earned DGA noms, including John Ford for The Searchers (the film’s only awards mention), though none since 1969 (the Coens were snubbed in 2010).
Huston, Costner and Eastwood all won Globes.  The only other Globe nominated director is Stevens for Giant.  George Roy Hill won the BAFTA and Costner and Eastwood were both nominated.  The Coens earned a BFCA nom.
John Ford (Stagecoach), Huston and Fred Zinnemann (High Noon) won the NYFC.  Stevens won the NBR for Shane as did Costner.  Eastwood is the only director to win multiple awards for one film, taking both the LAFC and NSFC.
At the Consensus Awards, in chronological order, Ford (Stagecoach) finished in 2nd, Huston won with ease (second highest point total to-date), Zinnemann finished in 2nd, Stevens in 2nd for Shane and then 1st for Giant, Brooks snags a 5th place finish, Hill comes in third, Costner comes in a distant 2nd but with the second highest point total for a 2nd to-date and Eastwood wins.

  • Best Adapted Screenplay
  1. Treasure of the Sierra Madre
  2. Dances with Wolves
  3. True Grit
  4. The Ox-Bow Incident
  5. McCabe & Mrs. Miller

Analysis:  Treasure wins the Nighthawk.  Eight other films earn Nighthawk nominations, seven more finish in the Top 10 and five more aside from that land in the Top 20.  Anything in the Top 10 will, of course, have already been covered (or will be covered eventually) in the Adapted Screenplay posts.  I tend not to think as Westerns being adapted this much because, even though I worked in bookstores for 15 years, I don’t read Westerns and none of those stores had much of a Westerns section.  Because of where I am at in the Adapted Screenplay posts, the only source (I originally wrote “novels” but a lot of them are based on short stories and the occasional one is based on a non-fiction book) I still need to read for a Western is Dances with Wolves and the story “3:10 to Yuma”.
Three films have won the Oscar (Cimarron, Treasure, Dances) while seven more have earned Oscar nominations.  Since 1966, only two films have been nominated: Dances and True Grit.
At the Globes, Dances is the only film to qualify as Adapted to have been nominated in their Best Screenplay category (and it won).  Dances and True Grit both earned BAFTA noms and True Grit was BFCA nominated.  Treasure won the NYFC Award for Best Screenplay and All the Pretty Horses won the NBR Award for Best Adapted Screenplay.
The WGA is an interesting case.  In the first three years that they gave awards, there was an actual Best Written Western category.  Of the 21 films nominated in those three years, 13 of them were adapted.  The winners, Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Yellow Sky and Broken Arrow, were all adapted.  More on those three years, including reviews of the nominees that were adapted can be found here, here and here.  Treasure (Drama) and Broken Arrow (American Problems) were also nominated in other categories and The Paleface lost at both Comedy and Western (though it was Original).  Of the remaining six Westerns to earn WGA nominations during the stretch before 1969 when they started dividing into Original and Adapted all but two (Little Big Horn, High Noon – which won) were Adapted.  Since 1969, True Grit (the original), Little Big Man, McCabe & Mrs. Miller and The Shootist were nominated in Adapted Drama and since they dropped the genre classification in 1984, Dances with Wolves (which won) and True Grit are the only Adapted scripts to earn nominations.  Overall, between the two categories, 39 different Westerns have been nominated by the WGA and six of them have won awards.
At the Consensus Awards, Treasure won the first award (in 1948, once the WGA began giving awards), Dances with Wolves won the award in a tie in 1990, Broken Arrow came in 2nd in 1950 and Shane, Giant, Cat Ballou, The Professionals and True Grit have earned Consensus noms.

  • Best Novel Adapted into a Film Western
  1. True Grit  (filmed twice)
  2. The Power and the Glory  (filmed as The Fugitive)
  3. All the Pretty Horses
  4. The Ox-Bow Incident
  5. Treasure of the Sierra Madre

Analysis:  Thanks to my Adapted Screenplay project the possibilities for this list were a lot longer than they would have been a few years ago but the list itself is basically the same.  I hadn’t read The Ox-Bow Incident before the project so the fifth slot probably would have gone to Welcome to Hard Times, but then again, I hadn’t seen the film a few years ago.  The top two books both landed on the my second 100 of my all-time novels list (the Top 200).  If I included television, then Lonesome Dove would slide in at #4 probably although it is a bit too long.

  • Best Original Screenplay:
  1. Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid
  2. The Wild Bunch
  3. Unforgiven
  4. High Noon
  5. Ride the High Country

Analysis:  Red River and Butch Cassidy both win the Nighthawk although Red River didn’t have much in the way of competition while Butch won over Nighthawk Best Picture winner The Wild Bunch.  Four films come in second at the Nighthawks (The Tin Star, Ride the High Country, The Wild Bunch, Unforgiven) while four others earn nominations.  Another five films make the Top 10 and three more the Top 20.
Three films win the Oscar: Broken Lance, How the West Was Won and Butch.  Ten more films earns nominations including The Wild Bunch (the only case of two Westerns nominated in the same year in a major category unless you count the two Actor nominations for Giant), although Unforgiven is the only nominee in the category since 1969.  High Noon was considered Adapted by the Academy but I explain here why I don’t consider it as such.  In 1953, Westerns were nominated in all three writing categories with Shane in Story and Screenplay, Hondo in Story and The Naked Spur in Screenplay.
High Noon, Unforgiven and Butch were all nominated at the Globes in their Best Screenplay category.  Butch won the BAFTA (in their single category at the time) while Unforgiven was nominated as an Original.  Unforgiven won the LAFC and NSFC awards for Best Screenplay.
See above for the larger discussion of the WGA.  Since the split in 1969, six films have been nominated by the WGA.  Two of them were for Original Comedy (Support Your Local Sheriff, Cheyenne Social Club), Butch won Original Drama and Unforgiven was nominated for Original (after the genre drop in 1984).  The interesting year was 1972, which was quite frankly a terrible year for original screenplays.  Westerns managed to score three of the Original Drama nominations in that year (though all lost to The Candidate): Bad Company, The Culpepper Cattle Co, The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid.
At the Consensus Awards, High Noon won in 1952, Butch came in 2nd in 1969 in spite of being the first film to win the Oscar, WGA and BAFTA and Unforgiven won in 1992 in spite of losing the Oscar and WGA to The Crying Game while Red River earned a Consensus nom.

  • Best Actor:
  1. Humphrey Bogart  (Treasure of the Sierra Madre)
  2. Clint Eastwood  (Unforgiven)
  3. William Holden  (The Wild Bunch)
  4. Gary Cooper  (High Noon)
  5. Jeff Bridges  (True Grit)

Analysis:  Bogie, Eastwood and Cooper all win the Nighthawk (Holden has the bad luck to go against Orson Welles in Chimes at Midnight).  Holden, Bridges, Henry Fonda (The Ox-Bow Incident), John Wayne (Red River) and Warren Beatty (McCabe & Mrs. Miller) all earn nominations.  There are 19 other performances that make the Top 10 and overall there are 44 performances that land in the Top 20.  Two actors land in the Top 20 four times: Fonda and Jimmy Stewart while both Eastwood and Wayne make it three times.  Red River and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid both land two performances in the Top 10 and Ride the High Country and 3:10 to Yuma both have two in the Top 20.
Four actors have won the Oscars out of the 10 nominated: Warner Baxter (In Old Arizona), Gary Cooper (High Noon), Lee Marvin (Cat Ballou) and John Wayne (True Grit) and three of those I find kind of appalling.  Giant has the distinction of earning multiple Best Actor noms (including one for Rock Hudson, also appalling).  Ironically, of the six losing performances, three of them (Richard Dix in Cimarron, Costner, Eastwood) were in Best Picture winners (the last is Bridges).  So, the only Westerns to earn Actor nominations without a Picture nom also won Actor (Marvin, Wayne).
The Globes have nominated Westerns for Actor six times, three of them winning (Cooper and Wayne in Drama, Marvin in Comedy), Costner losing for Drama and surprise nominees Anthony Franciosa in Rio Conchos and Richard Farnsworth in The Grey Fox also losing in Drama.  Bridges was shockingly passed over (as the film was blanked).
Actor has been the second biggest category at the BAFTAs for Westerns.  Lee Marvin won as did Robert Redford for Butch (also for Tell Them Willie Boy is Here) as part of its sweep and there have been six other nominees, though only Costner and Bridges have earned nominations since 1971.  At the BFCA and SAG, only Bridges has earned nominations.  Three critics awards have gone to Westerns: Bogie won the NBR, Marvin won the NBR and Eastwood won the LAFC (as part of Unforgiven‘s massive sweep).
Bogie was the first Consensus nominee without an Oscar nomination thanks his NBR win.  Cooper wouldn’t actually win the Consensus, falling to Ralph Richardson.  Marvin would easily win the Consensus with the highest point total in eight years, the only actor in a Western to do so.  Wayne would only finish in 4th.  Costner would earn a Consensus nom but Eastwood would finish in 6th.  Bridges would earn a Consensus nom.

  • Best Actress
  1. Julie Christie  (McCabe & Mrs. Miller)
  2. Jane Fonda  (Comes a Horseman)
  3. Audrey Hepburn  (The Unforgiven)
  4. Angela Punch McGregor  (We of the Never Never)
  5. Jennifer Jones  (Duel in the Sun)

Analysis:  These are the only five performances that even make my Top 20 in any year.  Only Christie earns a Nighthawk nomination.  Fonda, McGregor and Jones all make the Top 10 in their respective years.  This is just emblematic of the reality that Westerns often don’t even have a lead female performance and that even when they do, they are rarely worth remembering.  It’s a very, very, male dominated genre.  I will note (and will say again below) that Hailee Steinfeld in True Grit was really a lead performance and if she counted here, she would be #1.  As it is, Christie is #1 by a mile.
Three performances have been Oscar nominated: Christie, Jones and Irene Dunne (Cimarron).  Christie is not only the only actress to be the sole Oscar nominee for her film but McCabe is one of only three films to earn a single Oscar nomination and have it be for acting (Little Big Man and Comes a Horseman are the other two).
The only two Globe nominees were both in Comedy and neither were good enough to earn even mention at the Nighthawks: Jane Fonda in Cat Ballou and Goldie Hawn in The Duchess and the Dirtwater Fox (ironically, one of my favorite actresses and one of my least favorite).  The BAFTAs gave Best Actress to Katharine Ross for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (also for Tell Them Willie Boy Was Here) which I consider supporting and nominated Lauren Bacall for The Shootist and Steinfeld.  Neither the BFCA nor SAG have ever nominated anyone.  The only critics winner was Jane Fonda for Comes a Horseman (LAFC) but that was a co-win with her Oscar winning performance in Coming Home.

  • Best Supporting Actor:
  1. Gene Hackman  (Unforgiven)
  2. Walter Huston  (Treasure of the Sierra Madre)
  3. Henry Fonda  (Once Upon a Time in the West)
  4. Robert Ryan  (The Wild Bunch)
  5. Casey Affleck  (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford)

Analysis:  Westerns haven’t earned a lot of Nighthawk nominations here (three wins, three other nominations).  Affleck doesn’t earn a nomination but Thomas Mitchell in Stagecoach and Timothy Holt in Treasure of the Sierra Madre do.  But there are a lot just below the 5th spot.  Affleck comes in 6th as does Burl Ives in The Big Country.  There are 12 more performances that finish between 7th and 10th.  Overall, there are 33 performances that land somewhere in the Top 20 in their respective years.  Three actors appear more than once.  Walter Brennan finishes 9th for Red River and 12th for The Westerner, Chief Dan George finishes 8th for Little Big Man and 11th for The Outlaw Josey Wales while Walter Huston, aside from his Nighthawk, finishes in 10th for Duel in the Sun and 13th for The Furies.  Aside from Fonda, the only actor to make a list here who appeared more than once in Best Actor is Lee Marvin who finished 8th for 7 Men from Now.
Five actors have won the Oscar: Hackman, Huston, Ives (The Big Country), Thomas Mitchell (Stagecoach) and Walter Brennan (The Westerner).  Another nine have earned nominations including two from Shane (the one for Brandon de Wilde being one of the worst choices in Oscar history).  Unforgiven has the best supporting cast with performances landing at #1, 8 (Richard Harris) and 16 (Morgan Freeman).
This has been, by a considerable margin, the most successful category for Westerns at the Golden Globes.  Huston, Ives and Hackman all won the Globe and eight other performances have earned nominations.  It’s been a bit strange.  There has been very little consensus with the Oscars.  Aside from the three men who won both awards, the only actors to earn nominations from both are Chief Dan George (Little Big Man) and Affleck.  In the other six cases, not only were they all the only nominations for those actors that year, not only were they the only Globe nominations for those films, but in four cases (David Ladd in The Proud Rebel, Ray Stricklyn in The Plunderers, John Saxon in The Appaloosa, Ossie Davis in The Scalphunters) it was the only nomination it received from any awards group.
This category has basically been ignored at the BAFTAs, only earning a win for Hackman.  At SAG (which didn’t start until 1994) and the BFCA (1995), there’s just a nomination for Affleck from each.  But the critics have rewarded Westerns.  Albert Salmi won the NBR for The Bravados, Chief Dan George won the NYFC and NSFC, Richard Farnsworth (Comes a Horseman) won the NSFC and NBR and Affleck won the same two.  But Hackman looms the largest (deservedly), winning the NYFC, LAFC, NSFC and BSFC.
Hackman is the all-time leader in Consensus percentage (59.46%), partially because he won in an era where there were two fewer awards groups and thus fewer nominations to go around.  His wins (7) and nominations (7) both tied records and his points (396) set a record and is still 9th all-time.  Because he won both the Oscar and Globe in an era where there were only those two awards, Huston is tied for 4th in percentage (47.37%), again deservedly.

  • Best Supporting Actress:
  1. Hailee Steinfeld  (True Grit)
  2. Katy Jurado  (High Noon)
  3. Frances Fisher  (Unforgiven)
  4. Mary McDonnell  (Dances with Wolves)
  5. Geraldine Page  (Hondo)

Analysis:  Hailee Steinfeld is the one Nighthawk winner (she’s absolutely a lead but I go with my rule of “if Oscar nominated keep in the category they were nominated in”).  Six other performances have earned Nighthawk nominations (Jurado, Fisher, McDonnell, Jurado again in Broken Lance, Mercedes McCambridge in Giant and Katharine Ross in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid), Page finished in 6th and Linda Hunt (Silverado) in 12th.
Steinfeld, McDonnell, Page, Jurado (Broken Lance), McCambridge and Lilian Gish (Duel in the Sun) all earned Oscar nominations.  Duel in the Sun has the unique distinction of earning nominations in both female acting categories (though I didn’t think Gish was good enough to make my list).
Katy Jurado (High Noon) won the Globe and McDonnell was nominated.  Jurado was the first Globe winner in this category (in any genre) to fail to earn an Oscar nom and until 1958 was the only one (she’s still one of only four).  Steinfeld was nominated at the BAFTAs but they had the good sense to nominate her as a lead; she is also the only SAG nominee, the only BFCA nominee and she won the CFC.  She’s the fourth highest actress at the Consensus to fail to earn a Globe nom (the film got blanked there).

  • Best Ensemble
  1. Unforgiven
  2. Treasure of the Sierra Madre
  3. True Grit
  4. The Wild Bunch
  5. High Noon

Analysis:  This is based on the total points for acting for all members of the cast.  Unforgiven wins this with ease with five performances that make my list.
I should mention here that 3:10 to Yuma is the only Western to earn a SAG Ensemble nomination.

  • Best Editing:
  1. The Wild Bunch
  2. Unforgiven
  3. Treasure of the Sierra Madre
  4. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
  5. High Noon

Analysis:  Three Westerns have won the Nighthawk, the same three that also won Best Picture.  Oddly though, the two films that earn 2nd place finishes didn’t come in 2nd place in Picture (Red River, High Noon, which both came in 3rd) while the three films that came in 2nd all come in 3rd here.  Overall, 13 Westerns earn Nighthawks, another 9 finish in the Top 10 and, including those 22, 33 films land somewhere in the Top 20.  The only years with multiple Westerns earning nominations are 1948 and 1969 and both also land a third film in the Top 10.
While only 11 Westerns have earned Oscar nominations, four of them (High Noon, How the West Was Won, Dances with Wolves, Unforgiven) have won the Oscar.  Sadly, there are a couple of terrible nominations (the win for How the West Was Won, a nomination for The Alamo).  The two Picture winners are the only Westerns to earn nominations since 1965; in spite of Best Picture nominations, neither Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid nor True Grit earned Editing nominations.  Cowboy, a 1958 Western, is one of just 22 films to earn Best Editing as its sole Oscar nomination.
Outside of the Oscars, Westerns have been mostly ignored in this category.  Butch Cassidy won the BAFTA and Dances with Wolves was nominated.  Three films have won at ACE (How the West Was Won, Dances, Unforgiven) and The Professionals and Butch Cassidy were both nominated.  In fact, Butch would be the first film nominated for both the BAFTA and the ACE but not the Oscar and until 1995 was one of only two films to have this distinction (Fiddler on the Roof was the other).

  • Best Cinematography:
  1. Unforgiven
  2. The Wild Bunch
  3. Dances with Wolves
  4. McCabe & Mrs. Miller
  5. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Analysis:  Only two Westerns have won the Nighthawk (Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The Wild Bunch) but a considerable number of them have come in second place: High Noon, The Searchers, The Professionals, The Good the Bad and the Ugly, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Dances with Wolves, Unforgiven, True Grit.  There are another 8 films that also earn nominations.  There are also 15 more that finish in the Top 10 and 35 more that finish in the Top 20 (which means 68 Westerns finish somewhere land in the Top 20 in their respective years).  1969 is the only year with three nominees but 1950 has five films in the Top 20.
This is the category at the Oscars where Westerns perform best.  Four Westerns have won the Oscar, two of them in the Color category during the years of two categories (She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, Shane) and two others later (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Dances with Wolves).  Another 18 have been nominated including one I haven’t seen (Sand).  Sand was nominated against She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, the rare case when multiple Westerns competed against each other at the Oscars.
Two films have won the BAFTA (Butch – the first film to win both the Oscar and the BAFTA and True Grit) while McCabe, Dances and Unforgiven all earned nominations.  True Grit is the only film to earn a BFCA nom so far.  With the ASC establishing their award in 1986, long after the decline of the genre, only Dances with Wolves has won the award and only three other Westerns have even earned nominations (Wyatt Earp, The Assassination of Jesse James, True Grit).
Westerns have done okay with the critics awards, especially considering that most of the groups didn’t have a Cinematography award until the 70’s or later.  True Grit won two awards (NSFC, BSFC) while five other films have won awards but they have been spread out, with awards from the NYFC (Dead Man), NSFC (The Wild Bunch), BSFC (Unforgiven) and CFC (Dances with Wolves, Assassination of Jesse James).
ButchDances and True Grit would all win the Consensus Award (the last just barely) and Wyatt Earp and Assassination would earn Consensus nominations.
Conrad L. Hall is probably the best of the bunch, winning an Oscar for Butch and earning a nomination for The Professionals (and coming in 2nd place at the Nighthawks for both).

  • Best Original Score:
  1. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
  2. Once Upon a Time in the West
  3. A Fistful of Dollars
  4. Silverado
  5. Dances with Wolves

Analysis:  The second best category for Westerns at the Nighthawks, although that’s in a big way thanks to Ennio Morricone.  His scores for Sergio Leone win three consecutive Nighthawks from 1967-69.  Three other films have won the Nighthawk (Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The Professionals, Dances with Wolves) while an additional 17 films have earned nominations.  Morricone wins more Nighthawks (three, while also earning two other nominations) than any other composer earns Nighthawk nominations working in this genre (2 each for Jerry Fielding, Maurice Jarre and Dmitri Tiomkin).  The six Nighthawk wins are by far the most in any category for Westerns.  In fact, a lot about Westerns are about how they sound to me as 85 of the 208 Nighthawk nominations that Westerns earn and 16 of the 38 wins have to do with Sound (Score, Sound, Sound Editing, Song).
Westerns have done well here at the Oscars, winning four Oscars (Stagecoach, High Noon, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Dances with Wolves) and earning 18 other nominations (though two were in the Adapted Score category).  This has been the most consistent Oscar category because while Cinematography skipped the 70’s and 80’s, at least one Western has been nominated for Best Score in every decade since the 30’s.  Dmitri Tiomkin does the best, winning an Oscar (High Noon) and earning two other nominations (The Alamo, Giant).
Three Westerns have won the Globe, including High Noon (the third film to win the Oscar and the Globe), The Alamo and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (the first film, until 1975 the only film and until 1996 to only non-John Williams score to win the Oscar, Globe and BAFTA).  Two others have been nominated (Dances with Wolves, All the Pretty Horses).  Butch won the BAFTA and Little Big Man, Pat Garett and Billy the Kid and Dances with Wolves earned BAFTA noms.  So far, 3:10 to Yuma and True Grit are the only films to earn BFCA nominations.  The Long Riders is the only film to win Best Score from a critics group, winning the LAFC in 1980.

  • Best Sound:
  1. Unforgiven
  2. The Wild Bunch
  3. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
  4. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
  5. Dances with Wolves

Analysis:  This is the category where, by far, Westerns do the best at the Nighthawks.  Treasure of the Sierra Madre and The Wild Bunch both win the Nighthawk.  A whopping 29 Westerns in all earn Nighthawk nominations.  There are also 8 films that finish in 6th place, an additional 23 that finish in the Top 10 and overall, there are 83 Westerns that finish somewhere in the Top 20.  The only years with 4 films in the Top 20 are 1948 and 1950 but 1969 is easily the best year as the top three films in the category are all Westerns (Wild Bunch, Butch, Once Upon a Time in the West).
This is also a strong category at the Oscars.  Three Westerns have won the Oscar (The Alamo, How the West Was Won, Dances with Wolves) and 15 films in all have earned nominations.  In 1960, The Alamo beat Cimarron, only the second time a Western beat another Western in any category at the Oscars.  In fact, in 1960 alone, Westerns earned as many nominations in this category (2) as they had in the previous 20 years combined.
As part of its BAFTA sweep, Butch Cassidy won Best Sound in its third year being award but it would be another 21 years before another Western was even nominated and the only three since are Dances with Wolves, Unforgiven and True GritTrue Grit is the only film to earn a CAS nomination as they came about after the decline of the Western.

  • Best Art Direction:
  1. Dances with Wolves
  2. McCabe & Mrs. Miller
  3. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
  4. True Grit
  5. Unforgiven

Analysis:  Westerns haven’t done well here at the Nighthawks, with only four films earning Nighthawk nominations, all of which were films that also earned Picture noms and at least 10 noms (Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Butch, McCabe, Dances).  Only four other films have even finished in the Top 10 (with True Grit finishing in 7th) though an additional 14 films make the Top 20 in their respective years.
Westerns have done decently with Best Art Direction at the Oscars with 15 nominations though only one win (Cimarron, way back in 1931).  Oddly enough, the only two Westerns to earn Art Direction nominations but no other nominations came in a period where that was rare (The Shootist in 1976, Heaven’s Gate in 1981).
Aside from the Oscars, the only awards attention for any film is for True Grit which swept nominations in 2010 though it didn’t win any (BAFTA, BFCA, ADG).

  • Best Visual Effects
  1. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Analysis:  Visual Effects don’t usually go hand in hand with Westerns.  There are Sci-Fi Westerns such as Westworld, Back to the Future Part III, Serenity or Cowboys & Aliens but I don’t consider any of those to be Westerns.  There is also Wild Wild West but its effects sucked, so it’s not here.  The Good, the Bad and the Ugly really wins this by default for the effects on the explosions (it’s the only Western to even earn points from me for its effects).
The only film to earn an Oscar nomination was Union Pacific back in 1939 when Special Effects (as it was called then) was considered a lot differently.
There is more on this category down in the post-script at the end of the post.

  • Best Sound Editing
  1. The Wild Bunch
  2. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
  3. 3:10 to Yuma
  4. Unforgiven
  5. True Grit

Analysis:  The third best category for Westerns at the Nighthawks with two wins (The Wild Bunch, The Outlaw Josey Wales) and 22 total nominations.  The peak of that is from 1966-1970 with 8 nominations and one win, including three of the five nominees in 1969.  There are another six Westerns that earn Top 10 finishes and four more that finish in the Top 20.  Like with Sound, 1969 is the best year, with the Top three films in the category all being Westerns.
The Oscars had a mixed history in this category for years before finally establishing it permanently at a time when Westerns were out of vogue.  The only Oscar nominee through 2011 is True Grit.  Even in the years where there announced semi-finalists (1996-2005) none of them were Westerns.
The Oscar history is in marked contrast to the history of the Motion Picture Sound Editors, the, surprisingly, third oldest of all the guild awards, dating back to 1953.  The only guild where Westerns have done better is in Screenplay and that’s at least in part because there used to be a dedicated award to it.  There have been 13 films nominated over the years at the MPSE.  Five of those films won an award and The Wild Bunch was the only film in the first decade that the MPSE gave out two different awards to win both.  Two of the films, The Grey Fox and Quigley Down Under, had the benefit of being considered “Foreign” and winning a separate Foreign award.  Six different Westerns have the distinction of their nomination (or even win) at the MPSE being the only awards attention they received at all: Quigley Down Under, Return to Snowy River, Dust, Open Range, The Proposition and Sukiyaki: Western Django.  I almost certainly would never seen Quigley, Snowy, Dust or Sukiyaki if not for those nominations.

  • Best Costume Design:
  1. Dances with Wolves
  2. McCabe & Mrs. Miller
  3. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
  4. Wyatt Earp
  5. True Grit

Analysis:  Like at the Oscars, Dances doesn’t win the Nighthawk for its magnificent costumes because of Dick TracyMcCabe does win the Nighthawk.  Wyatt Earp doesn’t earn a Nighthawk nom in its crowded year (ironically, since it wasn’t nominated at the Oscars but Maverick was).  In all, nine Westerns earn Nighthawk noms in this category, four of them in the stretch from 1968 to 1970.  But a lot of other Westerns earn Nighthawk consideration; 13 other films earn Top 10 finishes and another 24 on top of that land on the Top 20 in their respective years.
Westerns have never been given much credence at the Oscars in Costume Design.  In the first 20 years of the category (1948-1967), when there were a lot of Westerns being made and there were two Costume Design categories (thus 10 nominees in most years), only three Westerns managed to earn nominations (Giant, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, How the West Was Won); it was sadly, the only Oscar nom for The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.  Since then, five more have earned nominations including two films for which it was the film’s only nomination (Butch and Sundance: The Early Days, Maverick).  These, at first glance, look out of whack with the Art Direction nominations since the two go hand-in-hand roughly half the time.  But, looking closely, you can see that a number of the Westerns nominated for Art Direction pre-date the Costume Design award and since 1948, they have gone hand-in-hand half the time (four films have earned both, four have earned just Art Direction and three have earned just Costume Design).
True Grit is the only Western to ever be nominated at the BAFTAs.  It was also the only Western to earn a BFCA nomination.  The Costume Designers Guild didn’t start their awards until 1998 and only two Westerns have managed nominations since: 3:10 to Yuma and, of course, True Grit.

  • Best Makeup
  1. Unforgiven
  2. Little Big Man
  3. Dances with Wolves
  4. True Grit
  5. The Wild Bunch

Analysis:  Both Little Big Man and The Wild Bunch win the Nighthawk (in, albeit, weak years).  Because of stronger years, neither Dances nor True Grit even earn Nighthawk noms (they both come in 6th place).  Six Westerns in all earn Nighthawk noms but all of them except Unforgiven were in the stretch of 1967-1970 when Makeup became a bigger deal for Westerns and when the category as a whole wasn’t yet that strong.  Four other Westerns make the Top 20.
Little Big Man and The Wild Bunch predate the Makeup category at the Oscars but the other three were simply passed over.  No Western has received an Oscar nomination through 2011.  True Grit and Jonah Hex are the only other Westerns since the Oscar started publishing the Makeup semi-finalists in 1999 to make that initial list.  Dances with Wolves earned a BAFTA nomination while True Grit earned a BFCA nom.
There is more on this category in the post-script at the end of the post.

  • Best Technical Aspects
  1. The Wild Bunch
  2. Dances with Wolves
  3. Unforgiven
  4. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
  5. True Grit / The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Analysis:  This is based on looking at the totals for all the technical categories, based on the individual film.  No Westerns are anywhere near the top (The Wild Bunch has a 53 out of a possible 81).  When I weight the score (based on the Oscar points scale), the order is The Wild Bunch, Butch, Dances, Unforgiven, The Good the Bad and the Ugly with True Grit just two points back in sixth.  On either scale, there is a considerable drop after these six films.

  • Best Original Song:
  1. “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door”  (Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid)
  2. “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head”  (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid)
  3. “Blaze of Glory”  (Young Guns II)
  4. “High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darling)”  (High Noon)
  5. “Love Me Tender”  (Love Me Tender)

Analysis:  Four songs have won the Nighthawk (#1, 2, 5 and “The Ballad of Davy Crockett” from Davy Crockett: King of the Wild Frontier).  Of those four, three are of questionable eligibility.  “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” doesn’t actually appear in the Director’s Cut of Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid.  “Love Me Tender” really just puts new words to an Civil War song.  Davy Crockett: King of the Wild Frontier was re-edited from episodes that aired on Disneyland which is when the song was written.  In all, 13 songs from Westerns have earned Nighthawk nominations and eight others have made the Top 20 in various years.
Three songs from Westerns have won the Oscar – the two in red above and “Buttons and Bows” from The Paleface.  Fourteen other Westerns have earned Best Song nominations at the Oscars, though only “Blaze of Glory” was in my lifetime.  There are seven Westerns for whom that Oscar nomination is its only awards nomination from any group (The Trail of the Lonesome Pine, Under Western Stars, Ridin’ on a Rainbow, Canyon Passage, Son of Paleface, The Hanging Tree, The Young Land).  This is the only category where three times the category has had multiple Westerns competing (1945, 1959, 1969).
“Blaze of Glory” is the only song to win at the Globes.  Seven other Westerns have earned Best Song nominations at the Globes, all between 1969 and 1976, two of which, it was their only awards nomination (Molly and Lawless John, From Noon till Three).

  • Best Animated Film:
  1. n/a

Analysis:  I have never seen an Animated Film that I classify primarily as a Western.  Rango could certainly be classified as such but I classify it primarily as a Kids film.  It won the Oscar.  Spirit, a 2002 Oscar nominee, could also be classified as a Western.

  • Best Foreign Film:
  1. none

note:  Should I count the Sergio Leone films?  They were all released with English soundtracks, so I don’t.  If not, they would dominate here.  Instead, there is nothing.  If I counted Viva Maria (I count it as a Crime film) it would be the one film on this list.  But of the 36 films actually eligible here that I have seen (the vast majority of them being Italian Spaghetti Westerns) none earns higher than a 66.
No Western has ever been nominated at the Oscars for Best Foreign Film.  I don’t how many have even been submitted but I have only seen six films that were even submitted, ironically, none of which were from Italy (two each from Mexico and Brazil, one each from Czechoslovakia and Argentina).  Two Westerns have been nominated at the Globes but they were both nominated during the stretch when English language films from outside the United States were considered for the category (The Man from Snowy River from Australia and The Grey Fox from Canada).

  • Best Film (by my points system):
  1. Unforgiven
  2. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
  3. The Wild Bunch
  4. Dances with Wolves
  5. True Grit  /  High Noon

Analysis:  This just totals up all the points I award in the various award categories.  Unforgiven comes in 1st with ease because of all the actors.  Treasure of the Sierra Madre is one point behind in 7th.  After that, there’s a huge drop.

  • Best Film  (weighted points system)
  1. Unforgiven
  2. The Wild Bunch
  3. Treasure of the Sierra Madre
  4. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
  5. High Noon

Analysis:  This weighs the system based on my Oscar points system which is why a film like Treasure, with the bulk of its points in the major categories, moves way ahead of a film like Dances with more points in categories like Sound, Art Direction, Costume Design and Makeup.  Dances finishes in 6th, one point back and True Grit is in 7th, five points behind Dances.  There’s a gap of well over 100 points after that.

Best Films With No Top 5 Finishers:

  • The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
  • Red River

note:  This is incredibly ironic, as The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, released in the magnificent year of 1962, also received no Top 5 finishes in its own year.

Worst Film with a Top 5 Finish:

  • Love Me Tender

Nighthawk Notables

  • Best Film to Watch Over and Over:  Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
  • Best Line  (comedic):  “I can’t swim.”  (Robert Redford in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid)
  • Best Line  (dramatic):  “I don’t deserve this, to die like this.  I was building a house.”  “Deserve’s got nothin’ to do with it.”  (Gene Hackman and Clint Eastwood in Unforgiven)
  • Best Opening:  Once Upon a Time in the West
  • Best Ending:  Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
  • Best Scene:  the graveyard scene in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
  • Most Gut-Wrenching Scene:  The final showdown in The Wild Bunch
  • Most Heart-Wrenching Scene:  the death of the sheriff in Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid
  • Best Use of a Song:  “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head”  (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid)
  • Best Soundtrack:  Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid
  • Best Original Song from a Bad Film:  “The Ballad of Cat Ballou” (Cat Ballou)
  • Best Ensemble:  Unforgiven
  • Funniest Film:  Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid  *
  • Most Guilty Pleasure:  Cat Ballou
  • Most Over-Rated Film:  Shane
  • Worst Film:  The Legend of the Lone Ranger
  • Worst Sequel:  Rooster Cogburn
  • Best Remake:  True Grit
  • Best Sequel:  For a Few Dollars More
  • Performance to Fall in Love With:  Hailee Steinfeld in True Grit
  • Sexiest Performance:  Jennifer Jones in Duel in the Sun
  • Highest Attractiveness / Acting Ability Ratio:  Jane Fonda in Cat Ballou
  • Most Surprisingly Good Performance in an Otherwise Terrible Film:  Lee Marvin in Cat Ballou
  • Best Villain:  Henry Fonda in Once Upon a Time in the West
  • Coolest Performance:  Paul Newman in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
  • Best Tagline:  “An army of one”  (The Outlaw Josey Wales)
  • Best Cameo:  James Coburn in Young Guns II
  • Funniest Cameo:  Danny Glover in Maverick

*:  Clearly this would be Blazing Saddles if I didn’t classify it as a Comedy.

At the Theater:  By the end of 2011, I had probably seen over 1000 films in the theater at some point or another.  I had certainly been to the movies well over 1000 times.  I had seen five Westerns.  Part of it was timing, of course, as Westerns were not in vogue when I was growing up, so I saw Young Guns II with my sister and Patrick McManus on vacation at Lake Tahoe in the summer of 1990, saw Dances with Wolves that Thanksgiving with my brother, saw Unforgiven by myself in Hillsboro during the few weeks I was in Oregon before starting at Brandeis, saw Maverick by myself when I was staying in San Jose and then would take Veronica to Cinema 21 to sit through all three hours of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.  That’s it.  More on this below in the final two sections but really, I just don’t go to Westerns.


Academy Awards

  • Number of Films That Have Earned Nominations:  77
  • Number of Films That Have Won Oscars:  19
  • Number of Films With Multiple Nominations:  36
  • Number of Films With Multiple Wins:  8
  • Best Picture Nominations:  14
  • Total Number of Nominations:  192
  • Total Number of Wins:  41
  • Category With the Most Nominations:  Cinematography  (22)
  • Number of Films with Nominations I Haven’t Seen:  2
  • Directors with Most Oscar Nominated Films:  John Ford  /  Anthony Mann  (4)
  • Best Film with No Oscar Nominations:  The Searchers

Oscar Oddities:

  • She Wore a Yellow Ribbon won its only nomination (Best Color Cinematography) as did The Paleface (Best Song).  They are the only Westerns to win all of their nominations.  Three films earned two nominations and won one (Broken Lance, The Big Country, True Grit (1969)) but Treasure of the Sierra Madre is the only Western with more than two nominations to have only one loss (it won three of four).  Every other nominee with three or more nominations had at least two losses and all the nominees with more than three nominations had at least three losses.  Yet, True Grit (2010) is the only nominee with more than three nominations to fail to win any Oscars, losing all 10 of its nominations.
  • Of the 77 nominated films, 41 of them earned one nomination.  That’s 53.24% which is pretty much in line with the regular Oscar statistics (52.49%).
  • George Stevens is the only director with two Best Picture nominations (Shane, Giant).  He is also the only one with two Best Director nominations (one of which he won).  The 16 nominations for his two films are the most for any director.  He’s actually followed next by Kevin Costner with the 12 nominations for Dances with Wolves.  John Ford’s four films only earned 10 nominations and Anthony Mann’s four films only earned five.
  • The 7 Oscars won by Dances with Wolves make Costner the top Oscar winning Director.  Of the four directors who have directed multiple Oscar winning films, none of them combine for more than 4 Oscars.
  • Richard Brooks is the only director to earn a Best Director nomination without a Best Picture nomination (The Professionals).
  • No director has ever had multiple Westerns win multiple Oscars.  In other words, the 8 Westerns to win multiple Oscars were directed by 8 different directors.
  • The quality of the average Oscar nominated Western (70.63) is on a par with the average Oscar nominated film (71.9).  But the average Oscar winning Western (71.0) is quite a bit below the average Oscar winning film (77.0) which is because while Westerns only account for 2.26% of all Oscar winning films, they account for almost 5% of all the ones below *** (six of them: The Big Country, Shane, In Old Arizona, The Alamo, Cat Ballou, True Grit).  The have been four Westerns to win Best Actor at the Oscars and one of them is one of the better films (and choices) and the other three are among the ten worst choices and films to win.

Oscar Nominees I Haven’t Seen:

  • Silver Queen  (1942 – Score, Art Direction)
  • Sand  (1949 – Cinematography)

Most Oscar Nominations

  1. Dances with Wolves  –  12
  2. Giant  –  10
  3. True Grit  –  10
  4. Unforgiven  –  9
  5. How the West Was Won  –  8

Most Oscar Wins:

  1. Dances with Wolves  –  7
  2. High Noon  –  4
  3. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid  –  4
  4. Unforgiven  –  4
  5. Cimarron  –  3
  6. Treasure of the Sierra Madre  –  3
  7. How the West Was Won  –  3
  8. Stagecoach  –  2
  9. Django Unchained  –  2
  10. 12 films with 1

Most Oscar Points:

  1. Dances with Wolves  –  590
  2. Unforgiven  –  440
  3. Giant  –  365
  4. Cimarron  –  360
  5. High Noon  –  325
  6. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid  –  315
  7. How the West Was Won  –  305
  8. True Grit (2010)  –  300
  9. Treasure of the Sierra Madre  –  280
  10. Stagecoach  –  275

Critics Awards

  • Number of Films That Have Won Critics Awards:  17
  • Number of Films With Multiple Awards:  8
  • Best Picture Wins:  7
  • Total Number of Awards:  42
  • Category With the Most Awards:  Supporting Actor  (11)

Most Awards:

  1. Unforgiven  –  13
  2. Treasure of the Sierra Madre  –  4
  3. Dances with Wolves  –  3
  4. Comes a Horseman  –  3
  5. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford  –  3
  6. True Grit (2010)  –  3

Most Points:

  1. Unforgiven  –  946
  2. Treasure of the Sierra Madre  –  310
  3. Dances with Wolves  –  197
  4. High Noon  –  190
  5. Comes a Horseman  –  172

Most Points by Critics Group:

  • NYFC:  Treasure of the Sierra Madre  /  High Noon  –  190
  • LAFC:  Unforgiven  –  400
  • NSFC:  Unforgiven  –  330
  • BSFC:  Unforgiven  –  210
  • CFC:  True Grit  –  60
  • NBR:  Dances with Wolves  –  190

Golden Globes

  • Number of Films That Have Earned Nominations:  31
  • Number of Films That Have Won Globes:  12
  • Number of Films With Multiple Nominations:  11
  • Number of Films With Multiple Wins:  5
  • Best Picture Nominations:  9
  • Total Number of Nominations:  60
  • Total Number of Wins:  20
  • Category With the Most Nominations:  Supporting Actor  (13)
  • Best Film with No Globe Nominations:  The Wild Bunch

Globe Oddities:

  • While I view Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Professionals as Comedies, the Globes nominated both as Dramas.  In fact, the only Western ever nominated for Best Picture – Comedy is Cat Ballou.  On the other hand, the only performances to earn Best Actress nominations at the Globes were both in comedies: Cat Ballou and The Duchess and the Dirtwater Fox.

Most Globe Nominations:

  1. Dances with Wolves  –  6
  2. High Noon  –  5
  3. Cat Ballou  –  4
  4. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid  –  4
  5. Unforgiven  –  4

Most Globes:

  1. Treasure of the Sierra Madre  –  3
  2. High Noon  –  3
  3. Dances with Wolves  –  3

Most Globe Points:

  1. Dances with Wolves  –  360
  2. High Noon  –  270
  3. Treasure of the Sierra Madre  –  250
  4. Unforgiven  –  240
  5. Cat Ballou  –  165

Guild Awards

  • Number of Films That Have Earned Nominations:  53
  • Number of Films That Have Won Guild Awards:  14
  • Number of Films With Multiple Nominations:  17
  • Number of Films With Multiple Wins:  4
  • Best Picture (PGA) Nominations:  4
  • Total Number of Nominations:  87
  • Total Number of Wins:  21
  • Category With the Most Nominations:  Screenplay  (39)
  • Best Film with No Guild Nominations:  Once Upon a Time in the West

Nominees for Best Written American Western I Don’t Classify as Westerns:

  • Green Grass of Wyoming  (1948 – Drama)


  • Number of Films That Have Earned Nominations:  16
  • Number of Films That Have Won BAFTAs:  4
  • Number of Films With Multiple Nominations:  7
  • Number of Films With Multiple Wins:  1
  • Best Picture Nominations:  10
  • Total Number of Nominations:  47
  • Total Number of Wins:  12
  • Category With the Most Nominations:  Film  (10)
  • Best Film with No BAFTA Nominations:  The Wild Bunch

Notes:  The BAFTAs have been odd when it comes to Westerns.  For the first 20 years of the BAFTAs, during the era when they had a few major awards and their own British awards, several Westerns earned Best Film nominations (Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Shane, 3:10 to Yuma, Tin Star, Sheepman, The Big Country).  Other than those, Westerns as a whole only earned four other nominations in those years (all for Actor) and only won one award (Best Actor for Cat Ballou).  Then in 1970 (yes, a year after the Oscars), Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid completely dominated the BAFTA awards, winning a record 9 awards and setting a points record that would stand until 1993 and an awards record that still stands (no other film at the BAFTAs has won more than seven).  After that, a few Westerns would earn a handful of nominations (total, not each) in the 70’s and since then the only BAFTA nominations have been the big haul of nominations (with almost no wins) for Dances with Wolves, Unforgiven and True Grit.  Even if you were to include the 2011-2017 films, Butch has well more than half of all BAFTA wins for Westerns.

Most BAFTA Noms:

  1. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid  –  9
  2. Dances with Wolves  –  9
  3. True Grit  –  8
  4. Unforgiven  –  6

Note:  I am not listing Most Wins since Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, with 9 wins, is the only Western to win more than one.

Most BAFTA Points:

  1. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid  –  600
  2. Dances with Wolves  –  275
  3. True Grit  –  265
  4. Unforgiven  –  240
  5. Shane  /  Sheepman  –  85

Broadcast Film Critics Awards  (Critic’s Choice Awards)

BFCA Points:

  1. True Grit  –  295
  2. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford  –  30
  3. 3:10 to Yuma  –  25

Notes:  The BFCA started in 1995 at a time when Westerns were a fairly dead genre.  The Oscars didn’t nominate a Western for anything between 1994 and 2007.  The BFCA followed suit, with the first Western to even earn a BFCA nom coming in 2007 with both The Assassination of Jesse James (Supporting Actor) and 3:10 to Yuma (Score).  In fact, True Grit, with its 10 nominations in 2010 would earn more than all other Westerns through even 2017 (the two Tarantino films would earn 7 combined).  In fact, the only difference between True Grit at the Oscars and at the BFCA is that at the former it earned Sound and Sound Editing nominations (neither of which the BFCA has) and at the BFCA it earned Score and Makeup, for only a 5 point difference.  It is also, obviously, the only Western through 2011 to earn a Best Picture nomination (Django Unchained would do it the next year).

All Awards

Most Nominations:

  1. True Grit  (2010)  –  41
  2. Unforgiven  –  36
  3. Dances with Wolves  –  35
  4. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid  –  23
  5. High Noon  –  16
  6. Treasure of the Sierra Madre  –  14
  7. Giant  –  14
  8. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford  –  14
  9. Cat Ballou  –  13
  10. Shane  –  11

note:  Unforgiven, Butch Cassidy and In Old Arizona (5) lead their respective years in total nominations.  All of the Top 10 except Assassination were in the Top 10 in their respective years as were six other films.

Most Awards:

  1. Unforgiven  –  22
  2. Dances with Wolves  –  18
  3. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid  –  15
  4. Treasure of the Sierra Madre  –  11
  5. High Noon  –  10
  6. How the West Was Won  –  5
  7. True Grit (2010)  –  5
  8. Cat Ballou  –  4
  9. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford  –  4
  10. Cimarron  (1931) / Stagecoach / The Wild Bunch / Comes a Horseman  –  3

note:  Unforgiven, Butch Cassidy, Treasure, Hgih Noon, Cimarron and In Old Arizona (1) lead or tied for the lead for most wins in their respective years.  The rest of the Top 10 except Assassination and The Wild Bunch were in their respective years’ Top 10 as were five films that had 2 wins each.

Total Awards Points

  1. Unforgiven  –  2025
  2. Dances with Wolves  –  1683
  3. True Grit (2010)  –  1193
  4. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid  –  1170
  5. Treasure of the Sierra Madre  –  948
  6. High Noon  –  844
  7. Giant  –  558
  8. Cat Ballou  –  490
  9. Shane  –  479
  10. How the West Was Won  –  386

note:  Unforgiven, Treasure and High Noon lead their respective years in most points as did Cimarron (360) and In Old Arizona (230).  The rest were all in the Top 10 of their respective years as were Stagecoach (365), Little Big Man (264), Broken Arrow (203) and Red River (142).

Highest Awards Percentage:

  1. Cimarron  –  20.69%
  2. Unforgiven  –  16.64%
  3. Treasure of the Sierra Madre  –  14.28%
  4. Dances with Wolves  –  13.26%
  5. In Old Arizona  –  12.85%
  6. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid  –  10.60%
  7. High Noon  –  9.95%
  8. Stagecoach  –  7.82%
  9. Shane  –  6.65%
  10. Giant  –  5.75%

note:  This is why do the percentage, in that True Grit had the third highest total but doesn’t appear in the Top 10 of percentage because there are so many more awards now.

Nighthawk Awards

Most Nighthawk Nominations:

  1. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid  –  13
  2. The Wild Bunch  –  12
  3. Treasure of the Sierra Madre  –  11
  4. High Noon  –  11
  5. Unforgiven  –  11
  6. True Grit  –  11
  7. McCabe & Mrs. Miller  –  10
  8. Dances with Wolves  –  10
  9. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly  –  9
  10. Red River  /  The Professionals  /  Once Upon a Time in the West  –  8

Most Nighthawk Awards:

  1. Treasure of the Sierra Madre  –  9
  2. The Wild Bunch  –  7
  3. Unforgiven  –  5
  4. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid  –  2
  5. Once Upon a Time in the West  –  2

Most Nighthawk Points:

  1. Treasure of the Sierra Madre  –  640
  2. The Wild Bunch  –  535
  3. Unforgiven  –  515
  4. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid  –  385
  5. High Noon  –  360
  6. True Grit  –  360
  7. McCabe & Mrs. Miller  –  325
  8. Dances with Wolves  –  320
  9. Once Upon a Time in the West  –  310
  10. Red River  –  305

Most Nighthawk Globe Nominations (Drama):

  1. Treasure of the Sierra Madre  –  6
  2. Unforgiven  –  6
  3. High Noon  –  5
  4. The Wild Bunch  –  5
  5. McCabe & Mrs. Miller  /  True Grit  –  5

Most Nighthawk Globe Nominations (Comedy):

  1. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid  –  6
  2. The Professionals  –  5
  3. Destry Rides Again  –  1
  4. Cat Ballou  –  1

Most Nighthawk Globe Wins:

  1. Treasure of the Sierra Madre  –  5
  2. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid  –  4
  3. Unforgiven  –  4
  4. The Wild Bunch  –  3

Most Nighthawk Globe Points:

  1. Treasure of the Sierra Madre  –  430
  2. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid  –  405
  3. Unforgiven  –  390
  4. The Wild Bunch  –  335
  5. The Professionals  –  300
  6. High Noon  –  275
  7. True Grit  –  230
  8. Red River  –  210
  9. McCabe & Mrs. Miller  –  205
  10. Once Upon a Time in the West  –  195

Most Nighthawk Award Top 20 Weighted Points:

  1. Treasure of the Sierra Madre  –  669
  2. Unforgiven  –  657
  3. The Wild Bunch  –  623
  4. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid  –  550
  5. True Grit  –  534
  6. High Noon  –  532
  7. Dances with Wolves  –  510
  8. Red River  –  454
  9. The Professionals  –  439
  10. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly  –  439
  • Most 2nd Place Finishes:  Unforgiven  –  5
  • Most 3rd Place Finishes:  Red River  /  High Noon  /  True Grit  –  5
  • Films That Earn 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th Place Finishes:  Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid  /  McCabe & Mrs. Miller
  • Most Nominations without a Win:  The Ox-Bow Incident  /  Stagecoach  –  7
  • Most 6th Place Finishes:  The Tin Star  /  The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance  –  3
  • Most Top 10 Finishes:  Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid  –  15
  • Most Top 10 Finishes without a Nomination:  Duel in the Sun  /  My Darling Clementine  /  The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance  –  6
  • Most Top 20 Finishes:  Unforgiven  –  16
  • Most Top 20 Finishes without a Nomination:  Duel in the Sun  –  9
  • Most Top 20 Finishes without a Top 10 Finish:  The Shootist  –  6


I won’t do a lot of lists, because that’s the whole point of TSPDT – they put a ridiculous amount of lists in the blender and come out with the “definitive” one.  Their lists includes lists by genre, so you can always go there and look at their source lists.

The TSPDT Top 25 Westerns:

  1. The Searchers  (#9)
  2. Rio Bravo  (#54)
  3. The Wild Bunch  (#62)
  4. Once Upon a Time in the West  (#64)
  5. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance  (#90)
  6. My Darling Clementine  (#121)
  7. Stagecoach  (#143)
  8. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly  (#153)
  9. Red River  (#193)
  10. McCabe & Mrs. Miller  (#207)
  11. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre  (#226)
  12. Unforgiven  (#233)
  13. Johnny Guitar  (#242)
  14. High Noon  (#356)
  15. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid  (#369)
  16. Heaven’s Gate  (#395)
  17. Shane  (#468)
  18. Dead Man  (#501)
  19. Wagon Master  (#505)
  20. Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid  (#515)
  21. Antonio das Mortes  (#635)
  22. She Wore a Yellow Ribbon  (#786)
  23. Fort Apache  (#836)
  24. The Outlaw Josey Wales  (#872)
  25. Ride the High Country  (#901)

note:  These are the current (2018) rankings from TSPDT.  If I had used their initial 2007 list, four of these films wouldn’t be on the list (Fort Apache, The Outlaw Josey Wales, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, Wagon Master) while The Man from Laramie, The Magnificent Seven, Pursued and Man of the West would appear.  Other films that would have appeared in the Top 25 depending on which list I had used are Duel in the Sun, El Topo and El Dorado while The Naked Spur and Dances with Wolves have consistently been just outside their Top 25.  Also, many films have moved considerably on the list, with Treasure of the Sierra Madre going down several spots and The Good the Bad and the Ugly going up several.  If you’re interested enough, you can go to their site and download their spreadsheet.
note:  See note on Not Westerns at the end of the post.

AFI’s Top 10 Westerns:

  1. The Searchers
  2. High Noon
  3. Shane
  4. Unforgiven
  5. Red River
  6. The Wild Bunch
  7. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
  8. McCabe & Mrs. Miller
  9. Stagecoach
  10. Cat Ballou

The IMDb Voters Top 10 Westerns:

  1. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
  2. Once Upon a Time in the West
  3. For a Few Dollars More
  4. Treasure of the Sierra Madre
  5. Unforgiven
  6. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
  7. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
  8. Dances with Wolves
  9. A Fistful of Dollars
  10. The Searchers

note:  The Leone fans have won that battle, that’s for certain.  In 2006, when the Rough Guide published the same list, it was slightly different – High Noon (currently #11), The Ox-Bow Incident (not enough votes to make the list but would be in #6 if it was) and The Wild Bunch (#13) were on the list and Dances, Fistful and The Searchers were not.  I will note that of the eligible films (through 2011, classified by me as a Western), The Good the Bad and the Ugly has almost twice as many votes (nearly 550,000) than any other film.

The Rough Guide‘s Top 10 Westerns:

  1. Shane
  2. Once Upon a Time in the West
  3. The Searchers
  4. Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid
  5. Johnny Guitar
  6. Warlock
  7. The Outlaw Josey Wales
  8. Red River
  9. Bad Day at Black Rock (not a Western on my list)
  10. The Tall T

note:  The book contains a Canon list as well of 50 Westerns.  They also list Rio Bravo as the most over-rated Western, which, given its position above on the TSPDT list, I won’t argue with.

The Rough Guide‘s 5 Worst Westerns:

  1. The Terror of Tiny Town
  2. Cowboy Commandos
  3. Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter
  4. Shalako
  5. Dirty Dingus Magee

note:  The first is a terrible film (low **) that was my second worst of 1938.  The second film is very difficult to find and I have never seen it (it only has 19 votes on the IMDb).  The third film I classify as Horror (but would have been in last if I classified it as a Western).  I actually find Shalako to be a reasonable low *** film.  Dirty Dingus Magee is mid **.

Top 10 U.S. Domestic Box Office  (1979-2011)

  1. Dances with Wolves  –  $184.63 mil
  2. True Grit (2010)  –  $171.24 mil
  3. Wild Wild West  –  $113.80 mil
  4. Maverick  –  $101.63 mil
  5. Unforgiven  –  $101.15 mil
  6. Open Range  –  $58.33 mil
  7. Tombstone  –  $56.50 mil
  8. 3:10 to Yuma (2007)  –  $53.60 mil
  9. Young Guns  –  $45.66 mil
  10. Young Guns II  –  $44.14 mil

note:  Box Office Mojo only lists from 1979 to the present, but they also list Butch Cassidy with $102.38 million in their adjusted all-time list, so it should be in 4th, though I don’t know if any other films from 1969 to 1979 would also make the list.  To do an international list, I would have to look at each film individually (Box Office Mojo doesn’t have a list) and there doesn’t seem to be a point.  Dances with Wolves is the only film to make more than $85 million internationally and was the rare Western to make more internationally than it did domestically.  Westerns, traditionally, have done much better in the States.

Top 10 U.S. Domestic Box Office (all-time, adjusted to March 2018)

  1. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid  –  $647.72 mil
  2. Duel in the Sun  –  $468.38 mil
  3. Dances with Wolves  –  $401.15 mil
  4. Unforgiven  –  $223.90 mil
  5. Maverick  –  $223.19 mil
  6. Wild Wild West  –  $205.65 mil
  7. True Grit  –  $198.60 mil
  8. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly  –  $192.01 mil
  9. Tombstone  –  $124.40 mil
  10. Pale Rider  –  $107.08 mil

note:  This only includes what Box Office Mojo has information on (and I had to put some of it together myself).  The Numbers, which has less reliable information but has more info on pre-1980 films would seem to indicate that Shane, at the very least, belongs high on this list as does How the West Was Won.


The Rough Guide to Westerns

A fantastic book that is a really great guide to the genre.  It also contains a long list of books for anyone who is really interested.  The Rough Guide contains a Canon list: 50 Classic Westerns.  Seven of the films on their list I don’t classify as Westerns (Bad Day at Black Rock, The Beguiled, Blazing Saddles, Hud, Lone Star, Tell Them Willie Boy is Here) though four of those do receive **** from me.  Of the films I do list as **** Westerns, the only ones not to appear on Rough Guide‘s list are Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The Ox-Bow Incident and The Professionals.

Great Hollywood Westerns

This is more just an example that I was able to get out of the library than a specific book that lovers of Westerns should get.  For decades, this kind of book has been published about the movies and a lot of them are about specific genres.  This is a coffee-table book, a large book designed more as a pictorial than as a serious study of the genre.  Books like this tend to be quite large (this particular one runs 10.5’x14′ as opposed to standard hard-covers which are about 6.5’x9.5′) with nice looking pictorial dust jackets.  You can still find new books like this on film usually at the holidays but there are fewer of them that are genre specific these days (and even fewer about Westerns).

The Encyclopedia of Westerns

This is a thick book wrought with errors (just in the Dances with Wolves entry it gave inaccurate information about how many Oscars it won, how many nominations it received and how long it had been since a Western had won Best Picture).  But, it is fairly comprehensive when it comes a list of Westerns and it does give a pocket summary for hundreds of films.  The author is definitely a fan of classic Westerns and is far too kind to films like Cimarron and The Alamo.  But, Facts on File, the publisher, has done a number of encyclopedias like this and they are valuable resources.


The Best Western I Haven’t Yet Reviewed

3:10 to Yuma  (2007, dir. Mangold)

Remakes are always a tricky thing.  Presumably someone liked the original enough to give it another go.  But then you have the comparison.  If the original was based on a previous source, then you can deal with the differences in the adaptation.  Sometimes the originals are considered classics to some but not to others.  Just look at two of the best recent Westerns, 3:10 to Yuma and True Grit.  The original 3:10 to Yuma was a good film but I didn’t remember much of it when the remake was released.  The original True Grit I have long viewed as a terrible film with a ridiculously overrated performance from John Wayne.  Then came the remakes and they weren’t just great films but the two best Westerns in well over a decade and landing high on the all-time list.

In the original film, Glenn Ford gives a solid performance as the villainous Ben Wade and Van Heflin is suitably weak as Dan Evans, the down-on-his-luck rancher who is willing to take some much needed money to put Wade on a train to prison.  Ford was always a good actor but no one else in the film really can match up to him (Heflin’s weak performance is one of the reasons I have never taken to the highly overrated Shane).  Fifty years later when James Mangold decided to take a crack at the story, there would be no such problems.

Casting Russell Crowe as Ben Wade might have made someone take pause before the film was released.  Crowe had earned three successive Oscar nominations from 1999 to 2001 but in the six years since he had only made three films and was widely known for being a pain.  Not to mention that he wasn’t known for playing villains.  And playing the role of the weak Dan was Christian Bale, now known mostly for being Batman but also known for being Patrick Bateman in American Psycho.  In a genre that hadn’t had a film even make over $50 million in four years.

Then everything clicked.  First there was the script.  Instead of just using the original story or film, it added and deepened.  This time, Dan isn’t just a weak rancher with a string of bad luck.  He’s a man who was wounded in the war in circumstances he would like to forget, losing his leg.  He’s considered pathetic by his own teenage son who clearly is as amazed by Wade when they first run into him as he is disgusted by his father.  Dan doesn’t take the money to bring Wade in but, after delaying Wade so he is caught, negotiates the money for going along.  He’s not only facing Wade and Wade’s gang, but also his past and his son.

The son is played by Logan Lerman and he’s a reminder that Lerman wasn’t chosen to play Percy Jackson on a whim but because he has some real talent.  You can feel the anguish he has when he has to put his gun on Wade because he’d rather have a strong man like Wade for a father but he must do the right thing.  He’s not the only supporting player who brings strength to the film as we have a nice, performance from an old, wizened Peter Fonda, a solid one from Gretchen Moll as Dan’s wife and a fantastic energetic performance from Ben Foster as the vile little snake Charlie Pierce that is Wade’s right hand man.

But it comes back to Crowe and to Bale and their interplay.  Wade rather likes Dan in spite of what Dan is doing and it provides for some interesting conversations between the two.  In the end, it is Dan’s determination to see the job done, to get Wade on that train so that he can look himself in the eye, even when Wade tells him to go home and save his life that wins over Wade’s respect.  That brings us to an ending that is very different than we had seen in the original film and far superior to boot.  The very best Westerns all have an essence of tragedy that runs straight through to their cores.  It is what makes them more than just a good time watching people shoot their guns.  Things look like they’ll be the same but from the minute that Wades yells “No!” things are so very different, yet exactly the way they should be.  The original film was good.  This film is great.

The Worst Western I Haven’t Yet Reviewed

The Legend of the Lone Ranger  (1981, dir. Fraker)

You kids today have it so good.  You complain about the 2013 Lone Ranger film just because it’s not good.  You have no idea how bad a Lone Ranger film could be until you’ve watched this film and you probably haven’t because it’s never been released on DVD and is hard to find even on video.  You can find it on YouTube though.  I don’t recommend it.

When the only good thing about your film is the music and that music was written over 150 years before the film was even made, that’s not a good sign.  There are relatively few good signs of any sort involved with this film.  It should have been taken as proof by Disney a generation later that the Lone Ranger really doesn’t fit well on film but they had to learn that lesson the hard (and expensive) way.  Or maybe he could do well if people would stop fucking it up.  Even the music isn’t actually done that well.  Watch the film and you’ll hear that even the William Tell Overture can sound a bit lackluster, especially when compared to how it sounded on the original television show, in the movie Brassed Off or on the version I have on cd that was performed by the Berlin Symphony Orchestra.

Yet, the weak recording of one of classical music’s most stirring pieces isn’t the main problem with this film.  It is emblematic of the main problem in that we first hear it an hour into the film.  There have often been complaints over the years about superhero origin films that take a long time to get the hero in costume.  But when you’re dealing with how Kal-El got to Earth or how Bruce Wayne became the man that he is, that’s fine, especially when the film gives you plenty of time with them in costume.  But this film wastes the first 60 of its 97 minutes in set-up and then barely gives you anything as a pay-off.

It doesn’t have the ability to give you any sort of pay-off.  William Fraker proves the notion that cinematographers don’t make good directors because they know how to set up a shot, but unlike editors, not necessarily how to tell a story.  Fraker is an Oscar winning cinematographer but he’s wasted as a director.  But with this script, with a terrible, hammy performance from Christopher Lloyd as the villain, with the complete waste of space that is Klinton Spilsbury as the Lone Ranger (his only acting performance), the whole film is just a waste of time.  It completely derailed any notion of reviving the character for a whole generation and it helped to kill a genre that had been dying out anyway.  Bizarrely, it did end up with action figures and I ended up with the Lone Ranger itself because I found it on a street one day.

Bonus Review

Young Guns II  (1990, dir. Murphy)

I decided to review this film for a few reasons.  First, it is one of the very few Westerns I have seen in the theater (the only other one I haven’t reviewed is Maverick which doesn’t interest me very much).  Second, even though I have seen the first film more times (because I used to have it on video, having taped it off HBO), this film is better.  True, this one doesn’t have Terrence Stamp or Jack Palance, but it has a much more interesting performance from Emilio Estevez, some nice supporting work from William Peterson and Christian Slater and a nice cameo from James Coburn.  Plus, this one has music by Jon Bon Jovi and that’s a plus.

This film picks up a year after the first one left off.  The first film was a complete film in that it told the story of the Lincoln County War but it was incomplete as a story of Billy the Kid because you can’t tell a story about the Kid and not bring in Pat Garrett and the final encounter that ended with the Kid dead and the myth arising from his body before it was even cold.  Garrett had appeared in the first film (played by John Wayne’s son Patrick), either helping to warn the Kid or send him into a trap depending on your point of view.  But here, from the start they decided to bring the relationship between the two of them much closer and had enlisted William Peterson who most CSI viewers won’t recognize and who I didn’t even recognize even though it hadn’t been that long since I had seen Manhunter.  Actually, the story doesn’t even start there, but with a framing device that brings us Brushy Bill Roberts and the possibility that he might really have been Billy the Kid, living his life out long after all the others in the tale had died.

What that does is brings us around to the mythology of the story.  When Young Guns was first released it was touted as telling the true story of Billy the Kid, and to be fair, it gave a lot more (and a lot more accurate) of the story than had ever really been told on film before.  That doesn’t mean it was fully accurate and that’s where the myth plays into it.  Look at the death scenes in this film.  Of Billy’s five pals in the film, three of them die onscreen.  The first, Tommy, has a death scene that is incredibly accurate but it’s interesting that Tommy was Billy’s best friend in real life and should have been around for all the events of the first film (and was much closer in age to Billy).  The second, Doc, is really the death scene for Charlie Bowdre, but since they had killed him off in the first film (he was played by Casey Siemaszko) and since Sutherland wanted a death scene (in real life Doc lived until 1929) they gave it to him.  But again, accurate as portrayed, just not the right person.  The third is Chavez, who survived all the events and died in 1924.  For that matter, Billy might die in the film and might not and that’s the whole point of the film.  We live with the myths that we create.

The film is far from perfect.  It kind of runs in circles, continually circling back to where it began.  Alan Ruck is pretty terrible as the sixth member of the gang and Balthazar Getty isn’t a whole lot better.  The script doesn’t give us a whole lot to work with.  But it’s still enjoyable after all this time.  I have never been a particularly big fan of either Emilio Estevez or Kiefer Sutherland but both of them actually shine through here and given more to do than in the original film.  Sutherland gives us a steely performance as Doc, his determination to return home contrasted against a fatalism that seems to override him like in the moment at Chisum’s ranch when he does what he has to do protect a man who really has been his friend.  Estevez plays Billy as a cross between a giggling teenager and a deranged psychopath willing to kill anyone and everyone.

But the best thing about the film might be Jon Bon Jovi’s music.  He didn’t just write the Oscar nominated song “Blaze of Glory” (which, in a bit of ironic timing, I just wrote about earlier today working on my list of the Top 250 90’s Songs) but the entire score and it’s stirring precisely when it needs to be (whenever Billy is escaping especially).  Outside of Estevez and Sutherland, it’s clear that the music is the best thing about the film.  In the end, a bunch of young actors, none of whom have actually ended up becoming the kind of stars they looked like they would be in 1990, ended up reviving the Western as a genre.  But it could have been a lot worse.  Hell, just look at the same kind of film made in another genre, again with Christian Slater, and you get the piece of shit Mobsters, one of the worst Crime films ever made.

Not Westerns


  • Northern Western

Films like North West Mounted Police, North to Alaska or Northwest Passage.  I generally consider these to be Adventure films.

  • Pioneer Western

For the most part, this is versions of The Last of the Mohicans (of which I have seen three) although Drums Along the Mohawk also fits here.  Again, these are classified by me as Adventure films.

  • “Mexican” Western

In other words, Zorro films.  Again, Adventure films.

  • Contemporary Western

This is a wide range of films, including but not limited to The Milagro Beanfield War (Drama), No Country for Old Men (Crime), The Electric Horseman (Drama), Brokeback Mountain (Drama), Hud (Drama), Lone Star (Mystery), Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (Crime), Hearts of the West (Comedy) or Robert Rodriguez’s Mariachi trilogy (Crime).  This can also catch “rodeo” type films like The Lusty Men (Drama) or Bronco Billy (Drama).

  • Sci-Fi Westerns

From films actually set in outer space like Outland or Serenity to Westerns with a strong Sci-Fi bent like Westworld, Back to the Future III or Cowboy & Aliens.  Not one of my favorite sub-genres.  Here’s a bit of irony, though.  Of the 40 shows listed here with over 100 episodes, I have only seen a full episode of one show: Little House on the Prairie, which I probably saw the vast majority of episodes.  But, I have seen the complete run of two Sci-Fi Westerns, the only two Westerns I have really watched (I mostly saw Little House because of my sisters): The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. and Westworld.

  • Post-Apocalyptic Westerns

The Postman falls into Drama but the Mad Max films all get listed as Action.

10 Great Films I Don’t Classify as Westerns

  1. Lone Star  (Mystery)
  2. No Country for Old Men  (Crime)
  3. Brokeback Mountain  (Drama)
  4. There Will Be Blood  (Drama)
  5. The Revenant  (Drama)
  6. The Last of the Mohicans  (Adventure)
  7. Bad Day at Black Rock  (Suspense)
  8. Blazing Saddles  (Comedy)
  9. Hud  (Drama)
  10. The Wind  (Drama)


I have only seen 8 Westerns out of the more than 1000 films I have seen from 2012 to the present, yet, even without counting The Revenant (which thankfully I don’t – I have it as Drama), they add all sorts of implications to much of what is written above, mostly with just two films.  I’ll go in the order that things appear in the post.  First of all, Django Unchained and The Hateful Eight would slot in at #18 and 19 on the all-time list.  Django would land in the Top 5 for Original Screenplay, which won the Oscar.  The Homesman would land at #2 in Actress (Hilary Swank) mostly be default.  Christoph Waltz would be #4 in Supporting Actor for Django.  Jennifer Jason Leigh would be #2 in Supporting Actress for Hateful Eight.  Both Django and Hateful would land in the Top 5 for Ensemble.  Hateful would be #3 in Score and #4 in Sound.  Django and Hateful would be #2 and 3 in Art Direction.  The Lone Ranger, as terrible as it is, would be #1 in Visual Effects, followed by HatefulHateful would be #5 in Sound Editing.  Django would be #4 in Costume Design.  Hateful Eight and Django would be #2 and 3 in Makeup.  Hateful would actually be #1 in Technical Aspects.  Hateful would be #4 in total points with Django in #5 and in weighted total Hateful would be #5.  Quentin wins Best Cameo for DjangoDjango won two Oscars and Hateful won one, finally winning Ennio Morricone an Oscar.  It also was the eighth film to earn a Supporting Actress nomination.  The Lone Ranger became the first Western nominated for Visual Effects or Makeup.  Django was just the second Western nominated for Sound Editing.  Django was just the second Western to win Best Screenplay at the Globes (and the first original script).  Jennifer Jason Leigh was just the third Globe nominee for Supporting Actress and Hateful was the first Globe winning Score since 1969.  Django tied for the second most Globe noms (5) and was third in points (265).  Leigh was the first BAFTA nominee for Supporting Actress.  Django was only the second BAFTA winner for Screenplay.  Hateful was just the second BAFTA winner for Score.  Django earned 5 BAFTA noms and 230 points, both 5th place.  After only 12 BFCA noms ever (10 for True Grit) and no wins, Django and Hateful teamed for 7 noms and 2 wins, ironically adding no new categories as every category either film was nominated in, True Grit had been nominated in.  Like at the Oscars, Lone Ranger was the first Western nominated at the VES or MUAHS.  Hateful was just the second critics winner for Supporting Actress (NBR) and Score (CFC).  Django has 858 Awards Points (5th) and Hateful has 620 (7th)  Django has 22 noms (5th) and Hateful has 18 (6th) while Hateful has 7 wins (6th) and Django has 6 (7th).  The two films earn a combined 13 Nighthawk noms but neither is nominated for Picture because of being in strong years (they finish 7th (Django) and 9th (Hateful)).  Hateful has the 10th most Nighthawk nominations (8), the most without a win and ties for the most Top 20 finishes (16) while Django also earns 16 Top 20 finishes and sets a new mark for most 6th place finishes (4).  Django is also the only Western to have finishes in 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th (4 more in 7th)  They are both on TSPDT’s 21st Century List but not their regular list (often the case).  Django is third on the IMDb’s list.  Django is third in box office at $162.80 mil which puts it at 9th for adjusted box office ($187.66 mil).  The Magnificent Seven ($93.43 mil) and The Lone Ranger ($89.30 mil) also make the Top 10 Box Office which keeps Hateful Eight out, though at $54.11, it had more than some of the original Top 10.