What classifies a movie as a Western?


Quick Answer

A movie is classified as a Western when its story is set around the American Old West during the late 19th Century. A movie in the Western genre is often characterized by cowboys, bounty hunters and gunslingers fighting outlaws or Native Americans, with strong emphasis on honor, sacrifice and justice. Subgenres of Western movies include Contemporary Western, Science Fiction Western, Spaghetti Western and Revisionist Western.

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Full Answer

In a Contemporary Western film, Old West themes and ideas are applied in a contemporary American setting and seek to show how the West has progressed since the 19th Century. Examples of Contemporary Western movies include “Brokeback Mountain” and “Comes a Horseman.”

Science Fiction Westerns combine Western themes and motifs with science fiction stories. These stories range from exploration of new frontiers to cowboys in outer space and often contain less violence than other subgenres. Examples of Science Fiction Westerns include “Wild, Wild West” and “Serenity.”

Spaghetti Westerns, also known as Italo-Western, are Italian versions of Western movies made in the 1960s and 1970s. These films contain more violence and their heroes are driven by selfish motives as compared to the Hollywood Westerns. An example of a Spaghetti Western is “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.”

In Revisionist Western movies, the morality of using violence is called into question. Native Americans, previously depicted as savages in other Western films, are given a positive representation. An example of a Revisionist Western is “Dances with Wolves.”

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