The western movie genre is as old as American cinema itself. Do you know why?
The Silent Film Era of Hollywood began as soon as cinema came out of the labs of its inventors. In Europe, the Lumière brothers were responsible for the very first commercial screening of a motion picture in the history of the world. That was in 1895 in France. They showed short silent films that were more of documentaries than fiction works.
In the U.S., light bulb inventor Thomas Alva Edison also dabbled in celluloid filmmaking around that time, contributing the kinetoscope peepshow device. With this contraption, he showed snippets of daily life like the Lumière brothers did. But there were also a few fictionalizations of life here and there.
However, another filmmaker took advantage of the growing power of cinema to tell the tale of American life. That was Edwin S. Porter, who painstakingly shot and edited a 12-minute film called "The Great Train Robbery" in 1903. It was one of the first fictional films produced in the U.S. -- and it was a western.
From that moment on, the western genre became a fixture in classical Hollywood narrative cinema. And even if the Old West and the American frontier life have already evolved, filmmakers continue to tell tales from this era.
Do you know a lot of these western movie classics? We'll pitch you their log lines, and you tell us their title. Giddyup, pardner!
John Wayne starred in the 1969 film adaptation of "True Grit," a novel penned by Charles Portis. Another film adaptation was made in 2010 featuring Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon. The earlier film had teen actress Kim Darby play the role of Mattie Ross, the role played by Hailee Steinfeld.
Kevin Costner's big pet project during the '90s was "Dances with Wolves," a film that he produced, directed, and of course starred in. It was a big winner at the Oscars, bagging the awards for Best Picture, Director, Cinematography, Editing, Adapted Screenplay, Sound Mixing and Musical Score.
The controversial 2005 film "Brokeback Mountain" featured Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal as cowboys who became lovers during the 1960s. Directed by Ang Lee, he won an Oscar Best Director award for his work. It was adapted from a short story written by Annie Proulx and won Best Adapted Screenplay.
The 1995 western "The Quick and the Dead" featured Sharon Stone as a determined woman seeking revenge for the death of her father. Russell Crowe co-starred as a gunslinger turned preacher while Leonardo DiCaprio played a young and arrogant gunslinger. Gene Hackman played the bad guy here.
Clint Eastwood made a name for himself at the movies by starring in spaghetti westerns, that western sub-genre of films directed by Italian filmmakers. Director Sergio Leone worked with him in many of these films, including 1964's "A Fistful of Dollars."
"When the legend becomes fact, print the legend." This famous movie quote came from the 1962 western entitled "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance." The film combined the western star charisma of John Wayne and the everyman charisma of James Stewart.
The 85-minute film "High Noon" ran the entire course of those minutes telling a dramatic western story in real time. The 1952 classic starred Gary Cooper as a newly married marshal who's about to retire to a new town. But word has it that an ex-con will be returning to his town to avenge himself.
Henry Fonda appeared in many westerns during his career, and "My Darling Clementine" is one of the most highly regarded ones. This 1964 film was directed by renowned western film director John Ford. Fonda played the role of Wyatt Earp here while Victor Mature played the role of Doc Holliday.
The American Film Institute ranked "Shane" in the third spot of their 10 best westerns list. The 1953 film starred Alan Ladd in the titular role. A young Jack Palance also appeared in this classic film.
John Wayne had appeared in several movies as a stuntman and actor prior to starring in "Stagecoach." But this 1939 western was his big break and it was marked as his breakthrough film.
Movie buffs should know that the famed Sundance Film Festival was renamed as such based on the western film character in "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid." The 1969 film featured Robert Redford as Sundance while Paul Newman starred as Butch Cassidy.
Western film star John Wayne was directed by Old Hollywood filmmaker Howard Hawks in the 1959 film called "Rio Bravo." The 1950s Hollywood heartthrob, singer-actor Ricky Nelson, co-starred with The Duke here.
Aside from portraying a frustrated longshoreman, an abusive husband, moody biker, ancient Roman politician and a singing gambler, Marlon Brando also starred as a western film hero. He appeared in the 1961 western called "One-Eyed Jacks," which he also ended up directing.
Clint Eastwood's 1992 western entitled "Unforgiven" won for him the Oscar Best Picture and Best Director awards. Co-star Gene Hackman won the Best Supporting Actor award, too. Its screenplay, cinematography, art direction, and sound were also nominated that year.
Cattle rustling refers to the act of stealing cattle, an illegal act often done during the wild west. This issue was tackled in the 1943 western called "The Ox-Bow Incident" which starred Henry Fonda in the lead.
World cinema buffs would immediately know that "The Magnificent Seven" is the Hollywood western remake of famed Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa's film "Seven Samurai." The plots are very parallel to each other, except that Kurosawa's story takes place in medieval Japan featuring samurais.
Many films usually featured Henry Fonda as the leading man, but it was a different tale here in "Once Upon A Time in the West." The 1968 spaghetti western cast Charles Bronson in the lead role, playing a gunfighter who also plays the harmonica. Fonda was the villain here.
Italian musical scorer Ennio Morricone created the score for the legendary western called "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly." Sergio Leone's 1966 spaghetti western featured Clint Eastwood in the good role, of course. The bad one was portrayed by Lee Van Cleef while the ugly one went to Eli Wallach.
The missing young relative in the 1956 western "The Searchers" is none other than Natalie Wood. She played the 8-year-old niece of John Wayne's Civil War vet character. Screenwriter and longtime John Ford collaborator Frank Nugent wrote the script for this one.
The 1969 western called "The Wild Bunch" is an example of the revisionist type of western film wherein the clear-cut clash of "good" cowboys and "bad" indigenous people got questioned. Sam Peckinpah was one of the directors who presented morally ambiguous characters in this kind of western.
Dustin Hoffman starred in the 1970 western called "Little Big Man." He had to act out one character who ages throughout the film. He is first seen as a very old man, aged 121 years old to be exact. The film later flashes back to his younger days, starting from his 16th year until his adulthood.
Hollywood heartthrob Montgomery Clift also made a slew of western films in his career, aside from dramatic films. He co-starred with veteran western film hero John Wayne in the 1948 film called "Red River."
The western film genre won't be complete without any mention of the wild west gunfight that took place near the O.K. Corral. The 1957 film "Gunfight at the O.K. Corral" is one of the films that fictionalized that event. It starred Burt Lancaster as Wyatt Earp and Kirk Douglas as Doc Holliday.
"The Outlaw Josey Wales" is basically a revenge film that's also a western. It was based on a 1972 novel written by an author who used the pen name of Forrest Carter. It was later revealed that the author is Asa Earl Carter, a known leader of the Ku Klux Klan during the '50s.
Mel Brooks is a renowned celluloid king of satire, and his comedy prowess is evident in the 1974 film called "Blazing Saddles." Comedians Gene Wilder, Madeline Kahn, and Dom DeLuise appeared in this western with cowboy actor Slim Pickens and theater actor Cleavon Little.
The 1957 western called "3:10 to Yuma" pertains to the schedule of a train that departs for Yuma, a county in Arizona. This film was remade in 2007 which starred Russell Crowe and Christian Bale. The films were based on the same 1953 short story entitled "Three-Ten to Yuma" penned by Elmore Leonard.
American actor Clint Eastwood is not the only star to come out of the Italian-originated spaghetti western sub-genre. Italian actor Franco Nero also became a western hero in the 1966 film "Django." The film came after the wake of Eastwood and Sergio Leone's successful western collaborations.
Even famed playwright Arthur Miller wrote screenplays, and one of them is the 1961 western called "The Misfits." His current wife at that time, Marilyn Monroe, appeared in this film. Directed by John Huston, Monroe's co-stars were Hollywood heartthrobs Clark Gable and Montgomery Clift.
The 1993 western called "Tombstone" is yet another film that told the tale of the Gunfight at O.K. Corral in Arizona. This one had Kurt Russell playing the role of Wyatt Earp while Val Kilmer played the gambling gunslinger Doc Holliday. Sam Elliott and Bill Paxton played the other Earp brothers.
The 1988 film "Young Guns" featured the life of Billy the Kid, the young gunfighter outlaw who gained notoriety during the 1870s. Its star-studded cast included Emilio Estevez as Billy the Kid, Kiefer Sutherland, Charlie Sheen, Lou Diamond Phillips, Dermot Mulroney and Casey Siemaszko.
"How The West Was Won" was directed by John Ford for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The 1962 film featured western film star John Wayne and an impressive list of Hollywood's big stars of that era. Some of the celebrities in this film include Henry Fonda, Debbie Reynolds, James Stewart and Gregory Peck.
"The Ballad of Buster Scruggs" is a collection of eight short narratives about life in the American frontier. Each narrative features interesting slice of life stories acted out by Hollywood stars such as Liam Neeson, Tyne Daly and James Franco, to name a few.
The glamorous Joan Crawford also appeared as saloon owner and gunslinger Vienna in a western film, 1954's "Johnny Guitar." "Rebel Without A Cause" director Nicholas Ray helmed this one. Mercedes McCambridge appeared as the villain Emma Small, Vienna's nemesis.
The Duke and The King of Cool headlined the 1965 family drama western called "The Sons of Katie Elder." That's John Wayne and Dean Martin, respectively, who played wayward brothers who came home to bury their good-natured mom.
Actor-singer Walter Huston co-starred with Hollywood heavyweight Humphrey Bogart in the 1948 western "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre." He was John Huston's father, who won the Oscar Best Supporting Actor award for his appearance here. Director Huston, meanwhile, also won the Best Director award.