It can be argued that Clint Eastwood, in his long association with and contributions to the Western, helped to carry the genre through the commercial “desert” for Westerns in the 1970s and 1980s. While there were important and interesting Westerns made during those two decades (including Eastwood’s own The Outlaw Josey Wales in 1976 and Pale Rider in 1985), the mainstream public was looking more to the screen for depictions of space and science fiction.

 The success of Kevin Costner’s Dances with Wolves (1990) and Eastwood’s Unforgiven (1992) – both of which won Oscars for Best Picture – reminded audiences of the power of the Western art form to help understand both North American history and the ongoing human condition. The ascendancy of the Western in recent years – be it film’s True Grit (2010), the video game Red Dead Redemption (2010), the TV series Hell on Wheels (2011 to present) – is again introducing a new generation to an artistic heritage that is now theirs to interpret and explore.

It is as a final post in this linear year of 2012, that westernsreboot turns to Eastwood for a final word on the Western before the paper calendars flip. In this American Film Institute-produced clip, Eastwood shares what he believes makes a good Western…there is wisdom here for both viewer and filmmaker alike:

Thank you to all who have visited this site in 2012. All the best to you and yours in the coming year.


 (Copyright – Chad Beharriell)


  1. Interesting comments there from Eastwood. In a sense, it’s a little pessimistic; I understand the need for a solid story to base your film around, and I agree that the best examples within the genre all have strong foundations, but I’m not sure they don’t exist.
    I don’t believe the western’s literary sources have been exhausted yet – for example, there are a number of good, layered Elmore Leonard stories that haven’t been adapted.
    Aside from that, and I’ve tried to make this point myself in the past, the western is a very flexible and accommodating genre in that it has the capacity to use material not directly related to it and mold it in such a way that it fits genre conventions – Lear and The Tempest have gone west before and met with success.

    Happy New Year Chad, and keep up the good work my friend.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Colin. What I find interesting in Eastwood’s comments would be the artistic avoidance of repeating oneself or referencing/copying another filmmaker’s style….there is a range between creatively drawing upon influences and simply copying them as a reminder of something else that was great first.

    I would also add that an atmospheric or non-linear Western – Dead Man (1995) with Johnny Depp comes to mind – can take an audience into an interesting space where the straightforward A-to-B story doesn’t fit or is rendered a minor component.

    Eastwood, as an actor and director, is certainly one the keystones for the Western genre. For me, his attention to story within his own films is his own particular strength. I do wish (as others do!) that he explored the Western genre again.

    Take care,

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