The Western is a genre of various arts which tell stories set primarily in the later half of the 19th century in the American Old West, often centering on the life of a nomadic cowboy or gunfighter armed with a revolver and a rifle who rides a horse. Cowboys and gunslingers typically wear Stetson hats, bandannas, spurs, cowboy boots and buckskins. Other characters include Native Americans, bandits, lawmen, bounty hunters, outlaws, mounted cavalry, settlers and townsfolk.
Westerns often stress the harshness of the wilderness and frequently set the action in an arid, desolate landscape of deserts and mountains. Often, the vast landscape plays an important role, presenting a "...mythic vision of the plains and deserts of the American West". Specific settings include ranches, small frontier towns, saloons, railways and isolated military forts of the Wild West. Most are set in the American colonial era. Common plots include the construction of a railroad or a telegraph line on the wild frontier; ranchers protecting their family ranch from rustlers or large landowners or who build a ranch empire; revenge stories, which hinge on the chase and pursuit by a wronged individual; stories about cavalry fighting Indians; outlaw gang plots; and stories about a lawman or bounty hunter tracking down his quarry. Many Westerns use a stock plot of depicting a crime, then showing the pursuit of the wrongdoer, ending in revenge and retribution, which is often dispensed through a shootout or quick draw duel.
The Western was the most popular Hollywood genre, from the early 20th century to the 1960s. Western films first became well-attended in the 1930s. John Ford's landmark Western adventure Stagecoach became one of the biggest hits in 1939 and it made John Wayne a mainstream screen star. Westerns were very popular throughout the 1950s and 1960s. Many of the most acclaimed Westerns were released during this time – including High Noon (1952), Shane (1953), The Searchers (1956), and The Wild Bunch (1969). Classic Westerns such as these have been the inspiration for various films about Western-type characters in contemporary settings, such as Junior Bonner (1972), set in the 1970s and The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (2005), which is set in the 21st century....LESS