The western genre helped propel many great actors to superstardom when they wore those hats and boots, then rode their horses toward the sunset, up until their director yelled "Cut!" Do you remember these celebs?
Since the western film genre is as old as Hollywood filmmaking itself, many Silent Film Era actors appeared in westerns of that time. Film historians identify William S. Hart as the first western film hero who epitomized what we now know of typical western film protagonists: a man of integrity who fights when needed, and is honorable in his intentions and action. His 1925 silent film called "Tumbleweeds" started it all, and paved the way for future western film heroes to develop and evolve from this character archetype.
As the western film genre flourished, so did the variety of western film heroes. The concept of the anti-hero came to be, with outlaws becoming the main protagonists of western films. They may not have the honor and integrity of the typical western hero, but these figures gave the western character a more nuanced context. They now appeared more human, and less of "a perfect hero." In the process, they also became relatable to audiences.
Up to now, the western as a genre is still being revised and reformed. But the big-named stars still want to star in them, as they see it as a good opportunity to contribute to the western genre.
So, can you name the films where these actors played cowboys, outlaws or western in-betweens? Ride on and take the quiz, pardner!
Veteran actor Robert Mitchum provided his talent as the narrator of the 1993 film "Tombstone" in the beginning and toward the end. Val Kilmer co-starred as Doc Holliday suffering from tuberculosis. Other notable stars in the cast include Charlton Heston, Dana Delaney and Billy Bob Thornton.
Clint Eastwood appeared in westerns both in television and the movies. He later produced and directed westerns as a progression of his career. Two of his films won the Oscar Best Picture and Best Director awards: the 1992 western "Unforgiven" and the 2005 drama "Million Dollar Baby."
When it comes to the western film genre, several filmmakers are noted for directing many early greats. One such name is John Ford, the director of the 1962 classic "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance." Iconic western film hero John Wayne also appeared in this one.
In the wild west, outlaws can also be treated or seen as heroes. This is the case in "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kd," the 1969 film about outlaws on the run. These titular characters are included in the heroes category of American Film Institutes' 100 Years... 100 Heroes and Villains listing.
"The Magnificent Seven" is a classic example of how Hollywood adapts and remakes foreign movies to suit an American storyline. This 1960 film is a western version of a Japanese film called "Seven Samurai" directed by acclaimed filmmaker Akira Kurosawa.
Notorious criminal Jesse James was gunned down by his fellow outlaw Robert Ford, his own gang member. Ford and his brother conspired with the authorities to kill James so they could collect the bounty on his head. It is said that the brothers later performed re-enactments of this crime as paid shows.
Billy the Kid is another notorious wild west character who got immortalized in cinema several times. Earlier works include "Billy the Kid," "Chisum," and "Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid," to name a few. The 1988 film "Young Guns" is another addition to this still growing list.
Like the 1969 film version, the 2010 remake of "True Grit" directly sourced the 1968 Charles Portis novel for its material. The remake received 10 nominations at the 83rd Academy Awards but didn't take home any awards. The 1969 film, however, earned one win for John Wayne in the Best Actor category.
Before directing the "Spider-Man" films of the early 2000s, Sam Raimi made a western film in 1995 entitled "The Quick and The Dead." The film marks the first time Russell Crowe appeared in a Hollywood movie.
John Wayne, nicknamed "The Duke," is a personality forever attached to the western film genre. One of his most lauded films is the 1959 western called "Rio Bravo." Classic Hollywood era director Howard Hawks helmed this one.
If you can imagine a Union Army soldier immersing with Lakota Indians and understanding their culture deeper, then this film is for you. "Dances with Wolves" is an epic drama that humanizes the American frontier life, departing from the usual "Cowboys vs. Indians" trope of early westerns.
If you can imagine a Chinese imperial guard with martial arts skills teaming up with a wild west outlaw with gunslinging skills, then you'll have fun watching "Shanghai Noon." This successful 2000 comedy produced a sequel in 2003 called "Shanghai Knights" starring the same comedy duo.
In an interview with Paris Review, writer Annie Proulx explained that her short story "Brokeback Mountain" wasn't written as a "gay" story; rather, it's a story about homophobia and its consequences. Nonetheless, the 2005 film adaptation of her story was lauded for its portrayal of gay love.
If you're familiar with the HBO hit series "Westworld," then you should know that it came from a 1973 film with the same title. "Jurassic Park" author Michael Crichton wrote the screenplay of that movie, which he also directed.
The 2006 western film called "Bandidas" follows in the footsteps of westerns that thrust women to the forefront instead of the usual macho male hero. Other notable films with this qualification include 1954's "Johnny Guitar," 1965's "Cat Ballou," and 1950's "Annie Get Your Gun," to name a few.
"Calamity Jane" is a musical retelling of an American frontier character often associated with Wild Bill Hickok. It also romanticized the tale of this wild west woman, who was noticeable for always dressing like a man during her time.
"Maverick" TV series star James Garner made an appearance in the 1994 film based on this show. In the series, Garner played the lead con artist Bret Maverick, the role Mel Gibson played in the film.
A spaghetti western contains all the usual elements of the western film genre, only it was shot and produced in Italy. Sergio Leone is one of the renowned Italian directors who made many of these film types. His most famous work is the 1966 film "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly" with Clint Eastwood.
Italian composer Ennio Morricone made the musical score of many unforgettable films. Critics cite that one of his notable spaghetti western scores is the one for "Once Upon A Time in The West" directed by Sergio Leone. He also scored the "Man with No Name" trilogy featuring Clint Eastwood.
American author John Steinbeck, known for writing "The Grapes of Wrath," also wrote film screenplays in his lifetime. He was the one who wrote the script for "Viva Zapata!" This 1952 film teamed up director Elia Kazan and actor Marlon Brando again after working in 1951's "A Streetcar Named Desire."
The 1998 film "The Horse Whisperer" is the film adaptation of the 1995 novel penned by Nicholas Evans. Scarlett Johansson was only a teenager when she made this film alongside veteran actor Robert Redford, who also directed the film.
The black-and-white treatment of "High Noon" added to the atmosphere of quiet drama and tentative tension in the narrative. Gary Cooper's acting also fared well under the direction of Fred Zinnemann. The film received Oscar nominations for its screenplay and directing, and got one for Best Actor.
The western film "3:10 to Yuma" had two versions that existed 50 years apart from each other. The original film was released in 1957, while its remake was shown in 2007. Both films credit the short story "Three-Ten to Yuma," penned by Elmore Leonard, as their main source.
Since the story of "The Missing" is set in the New Mexico Territory of 1885, speaking the Apache language was crucial in the narrative. The film is based on the western novel called "The Last Ride" penned by Thomas Eidson and published back in 1995.
American author Cormac McCarthy wrote western novels that got adapted into film. One of them was "No Country for Old Men," the 2005 novel adapted by the Coen brothers. The film won an Oscar for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actor for Javier Bardem.
"Django Unchained" makes an obvious reference-slash-tribute to the campy spaghetti western films of the '60s. In particular, it's a nod to the 1966 film called "Django" which made Franco Nero a spaghetti western star. He also makes a cameo in Tarantino's film.
Robert Rodriguez started the journey of "Once Upon A Time in Mexico" with the low-budget indie film "El Mariachi." When he hit it big in Hollywood, he made a sequel entitled "Desperado" with Antonio Banderas playing the role of the gunslinging musician. This 2003 film is the third in the series.
The popularity of "City Slickers" was overshadowed by one of its stars, Jack Palance, during the 1992 Academy Awards. Upon receiving his Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in this film, he did one-arm push-ups to show how aging actors like him can still make it in Hollywood.
American journalist Edmund Naughton's 1959 debut novel "McCabe" was adapted into film by Robert Altman. That became the 1971 film called "McCabe & Mrs. Miller." Fans of musician Leonard Cohen will be pleased to discover that his songs were featured in the film's soundtrack.
All-female westerns are produced few and far between in Hollywood, and the '90s had "Bad Girls" that featured an all-woman western narrative. The film features former prostitutes who escaped from a brothel and ended up pursuing outlaw lives.
Westerns can also be comedies, especially if Mel Brooks directs them. One example is the 1974 film called "Blazing Saddles" which is featured in the American Film Institute's list of 100 Years... 100 Laughs. This satire identifies comedian Richard Pryor as one of its writers.
The 1955 film "Oklahoma!" is the adaptation of the stage musical by Rodgers and Hammerstein, marking the first team-up of the famous duo. They based the material of this musical from a stage play called "Green Grow the Lilacs" by playwright Lynn Riggs. That play was also performed on Broadway.
Sem Peckinpah is more of the revisionist western filmmaker type, and his films reflected this approach to the genre. Film critics consider "The Wild Bunch" as one of his best films, released back in 1969. The American Film Institute included this film in its Top 10 best Western films list.
Texas native John Lee Hancock directed the 2004 western "The Alamo" highlighting the political affairs that led to the Battle of the Alamo event. John Wayne starred in his own Alamo film which he also directed back in 1960. D.W. Griffith also directed his version entitled "Martyrs of the Alamo."
"How The West Was Won" included a host of celebrities of the '60s because its story spanned four generations. The 1962 film was about a family saga that starts in 1839 and reaches to the Civil War era until 1889. Three directors shared the load here: Henry Hathaway, George Marshall and John Ford.