It’s been said on more than one occasion that the western movie genre, which was for decades a regular staple and major box office draw, is dead. But if that’s true then nobody told the actual westerns, because although we may not get as many of them as we used to, they’re still being produced every single year.
What is a western? It’s not just deserts and horses and cowboy hats. The western movie genre takes place on the far edge of society, along the frontier, where law and order is often tenuous and tales are often told in broad, archetypal strokes. Violence – though not necessarily a necessity – could break out at any moment. Manifest destiny, moral compromise, vengeance, racism, and sexism are frequently explored in the western genre.
But beyond that, the western is a highly fluid subgenre. Just these last two decades alone we’ve had classic westerns that also work as action movies, thrillers, romances, comedies, horror films, the list goes on an on.
So as we explore our picks for the best western movies of the 21st century, we took variety into consideration. There may be filmmakers and actors who appear multiple times but the films themselves represent a cavalcade of western subgenres, ideologies, and styles. There’s something for everyone in the Old West nowadays.
So what are we waiting for? Let’s ride!