Image Journal's 30 Great Westerns
Welcome to our survey of "30 Great Westerns." These are the Westerns that any fan of the genre should know. These are some of the most influential and important Westerns ever made. We don’t necessarily claim these are the 30 "best" Westerns. The Covered Wagon (1923), for example, hasn’t aged very well, but it helped change attitudes toward Westerns and allowed for serious, feature-length Westerns to follow in its wake.
30 is an arbitrary number. Why not 20? Why not 40? Or 50? We simply decided that a group of 30 felt right. To go with less than 30 would mean that too many essential Westerns were being left out, and to go with more than 30 would undoubtedly dilute the meaning of the world "great." When we started putting together the list, we noticed a considerable drop-off in "greatness" somewhere between number 30 and number 40, so we stuck to the lower number. Once again, 30 simply feels right.
Several Westerns that we love didn’t end up making the final cut. We included Howard Hawks’ Rio Bravo (1959), but not his own superb remake, El Dorado. We didn’t find room for either of Monte Hellman’s excellent ‘60s Westerns, Ride in the Whirlwind or The Shooting. We included five John Ford movies in our "30 Great" list (more than any other director), but we couldn’t find room for one of our favorites, Wagonmaster. We didn’t include any Errol Flynn Westerns, such as Michael Curtiz’s Dodge City. Director Raoul Walsh seems painfully under-represented with just one movie on the list. And we didn’t include any Westerns by Delmer Daves (such as Jubal or The Hanging Tree). But when we considered which movies would get bumped off the list to make room for these others, we found it hard to bump any of them.
We also feel somewhat apologetic about not including any true B Westerns. Where’s Roy Rogers or William Boyd or Gene Autry? But the word "Great" seems a bit inappropriate for a B Western. We’d like to tackle B Westerns sometime in the future, maybe with an article entitled "The Best of the B Westerns," but until then you might want to check out our overview of "the B Western." Likewise, Spaghetti Westerns might be under-represented on our list with just two Sergio Leone titles. Where’s A Bullet for the General or A Professional Gun? But like B Westerns, Spaghetti Westerns probably deserve their own list. You might want to check out John Nudge’s article called "Spaghetti Westerns." In addition, if you want to know more about the silent era, try Peter Flynn’s "The Silent Western as Mythmaker." And for a broad overview of the entire Western genre, try "The Western: An Overview."
We hope you have fun reading about these "30 Great Westerns." If you think we left off one of your favorites, please let us know by sending an e-mail message to email@example.com.