Each genre of movie has it’s classic that change the face of it and become templates for more to follow. It is likely that no other genre has more “classics” than the Western. In both the silent era and from the late 1930s until the 50s the western was immensely popular and the number of films released in this genre outnumbered all other genres combined. They were both cheap and easy to make and audiences lapped them up to the point where John Wayne is still a household name. Their popularity however did drop with the arrival of the space age, but that doesn’t mean they disappeared altogether, The industry still creates some great Western movies that show there’s still plenty to do with the genre yet.
One of the best examples of the modern western is actually one that questions the basis of the genre and the way it had been viewed up to that point. Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven was released in 1992 and won the Academy Award for Best Picture along with Best Director, (Clint Eastwood) Best Supporting Actor (Gene Hackman) and Best Editing (Joel Cox). The film revolves around Eastwood’s character, a retired outlaw who has settled down as a farmer but decides to return to the trade. It has a clear anti violence message throughout which is displayed through a display of heroics through force which leave you questioning how heroic it really is. Eastwood stated that this would be his last entry in the genre as neither wanted to repeat himself or repeat another’s work, thankfully it’s one of his best.
The Tarantino Two
When it comes to straddling the line between classic and modern movie making nobody does it quite like Quentin Tarantino. Widely renowned as one of the most influential directors of his time Tarantino has a meticulous understanding of classic films and genres and manages to recreate them using the same methods and styles whilst portraying them through an extremely modern take on storytelling. He’s taken on crime movies, kung fu movies and even war films however his latest efforts have concentrated on the western. Both Django Unchained and The Hateful Eight are absolutely must watch entries.
Django Unchained is loosely based on the Django franchise of the spaghetti western era though here the character is a slave (Jamie Foxx) who is purchased by a German bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz) and promised his freedom if he helps him with a contract. The film is filled with action, gore, social justice and even laughs with some excellent performances including Leonardo Dicaprio as the pieces villain.
The next of his films The Hateful Eight is quite different from the aforementioned, the film centres on an inn during a snowstorm, characters from all walks of life turn up to take refuge though things quickly turn sour. This film relies far less on action and is more something of a character study of the types of people featured in western movies throughout history. Both films will give you something different but together form a great analysis of the genre.