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Contemporary Western

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Contemporary Western is a sub-genre of the Western genre that includes contemporary settings and uses Old West themes, archetypes, and motifs, such as a rebellious antihero, open plains and desert landscapes, or gunfights. This sub-genre includes the post-Western, neo-Western, and urban Western genres that include "the cowboy cult" in a modern setting that involves the audience's feelings and understanding of Western movies.[1] A neo-Western can be said to use Western themes set in the present day.[2]: 62  According to Stephen Teo in Eastern Westerns: Film and Genre Outside and Inside Hollywood, there is little difference between the neo-Western and post-Western, and the terms may often be used interchangeably.[3]: 96 

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As early as 1929, there was talk about the need for change in Western films in order to stay relevant in then-modern America ("Tom Mix, Hoot Gibson and Ken Maynard must swap horses for aeroplanes or go to the old actors' home."). However, the rise of the contemporary Western is credited to two specific reasons: 1) contemporary setting enabled the use of a higher number of potential plot-ideas, which "included everything from modern crooks and evil Nazis to high-tech cars and machine guns"; 2) Gene Autry, a famous Western film star, was also a famous singer and performer. In order to use his reputation as much as possible, Republic Pictures decided that it was best for Autry to play himself, thus moving the films from the Old West into a contemporary setting. Some earlier actors, such as Ken Maynard and Hoot Gibson, sometimes starred in the films featuring modern setting, but Autry was the first actor starring in such films on a regular basis.[4]: 109  Autry's films were also described as "crime dramas in contemporary Western setting".[5]: 100 

Other early examples of the genre were films starring Roy Rogers which included contemporary settings with heavy reliance on traditional western characters and imagery, such as Silver Spurs (1943). His films made after 1947 are described as "almost without exception, modern-day adventure films set in the American west".[6]: 90, 153  Republic Pictures, which distributed a significant number of Autry's and Rogers's films, soon specialized in the contemporary Western subgenre, an example of which is also Paramount's Texas Rangers Ride Again (1940).[6]: 153 

Beginning in the postwar era, radio dramas such as Tales of the Texas Rangers (1950–1952), with Joel McCrea, a contemporary detective drama set in Texas, featured many of the characteristics of traditional Westerns.[7] In this period, post-Western precursors to the modern neo-Western films began to appear. This includes films such as Nicholas Ray's The Lusty Men (1952) and John Sturges's Bad Day at Black Rock (1955).[8]: 56  Examples of the modern "first phase" of neo-Westerns include films such as Lonely Are the Brave (1962) and Hud (1963).[8]: 324  The popularity of the subgenre has been resurgent since the release of Joel and Ethan Coen's No Country for Old Men (2007).[9]

The subgenre can also be seen in television in shows such as Breaking Bad. According to Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan, "After the first Breaking Bad episode, it started to dawn on me that we could be making a contemporary Western. So you see scenes that are like gunfighters squaring off, like Clint Eastwood and Lee van Cleef—we have Walt and others like that."[10]

Many space Westerns and science fiction Westerns can be classed within the neo-Western genre, particularly if the science fiction elements are of secondary importance to the Western characteristics of the plotlines. Some well-known examples include the original TV series Star Trek (1966–1969) and the Joss Whedon film Serenity (2005).[11] Other kinds of science fiction Westerns, such as the film Mad Max (1979), have also become popular.

Neo-Westerns - setting, motif and themes

Some neo-Westerns still take place in the American West and reveal the progression of the Old West mentality into the late 20th and early 21st centuries. This subgenre often features Old West-type characters struggling with displacement in a "civilized" world that rejects their "outdated" brand of justice. However, the contemporary Western need not be limited to the traditional American West setting. Coogan's Bluff and Midnight Cowboy are examples of urban Westerns set in New York City.[1]: 148–149  The neo-Western television series Justified is set in Eastern Kentucky.[12]

The neo-Western has three identifying themes. First is the lack of rules, with morals guided by the character's or audience's instincts of right and wrong rather than by governance. The second is characters searching for justice. The third theme, characters feeling remorse, connects the neo-Western to the broader Western genre, reinforcing a universal theme that consequences come with actions.[9] Other conventions of the genre include "virility and thus patriarchal rights... secured through public performances of competence; and competence, in turn, is measured and proven in (successful) acts of violence."[13] Taylor Sheridan's filmography includes many examples of what being a neo-Western means.[9]

List of contemporary Westerns

This list is not exhaustive. It includes major films and television labelled contemporary Western, neo-Western, post-Western, or urban Western. The list highlights the media released to illustrate the development of the concept over time.



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  1. ^ a b French, Philip (2005). Westerns : aspects of a movie genre ; and, Westerns revisited. Manchester: Carcanet. p. 84. ISBN 1-85754-747-0. OCLC 57484960.
  2. ^ Broughton, Lee (2016-09-19). Critical Perspectives on the Western: From A Fistful of Dollars to Django Unchained. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 978-1-4422-7243-9.
  3. ^ Teo, Stephen (2017). Eastern westerns : film and genre outside and inside Hollywood. Abingdon, Oxon. ISBN 978-1-317-59226-6. OCLC 968926905.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  4. ^ a b Aquila, Richard (2015). The Sagebrush Trail: Western Movies and Twentieth-Century America. University of Arizona Press. ISBN 9780816531547.
  5. ^ Lusted, David (2003). The Western. Pearson/Longman. ISBN 9780582437364.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h Wilt, David A. (1991). Hardboiled in Hollywood. Bowling Green State University Popular Press. ISBN 9780879725259.
  7. ^ Dunning, John (1998). On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio. Oxford University Press. pp. 652–653. ISBN 0-19-507678-8.
  8. ^ a b Campbell, Neil (2013). Post-westerns : cinema, region, West. Lincoln. ISBN 978-1-4619-3720-3. OCLC 856584709.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  9. ^ a b c Teti, Julia (January 2, 2018). "How Taylor Sheridan's Films Define The Neo-Western". The Playlist. Archived from the original on 2020-04-12. Retrieved 2020-04-12.
  10. ^ "Contemporary Western: An interview with Vince Gilligan". News. United States: Local iQ. 2013-03-27. Archived from the original on 2013-04-03. Retrieved 2013-05-31.
  11. ^ Lynley (May 11, 2017). "Westerns, Anti-Westerns, and Neo-Westerns". Slap Happy Larry. Retrieved 2022-11-10.
  12. ^ Hale, Mike (January 19, 2015). "A Wry Comedy of Manners in Kentucky Coal Country". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved January 13, 2023. another gun-happy neo-western, 'Justified' has been true to its Elmore Leonard roots
  13. ^ a b Redding, Aurthur (2016-02-16). "Built Ford Tough: The Sincerity of John Ford and the Persistence of the American Western". In Stoddart, Scott F. (ed.). The New Western: Critical Essays on the Genre Since 9/11. McFarland & Company. p. 17. ISBN 978-0-7864-7928-3.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: date and year (link)
  14. ^ Grieve, Laura (August 16, 2023). "Western Round Up: "B" Movie Sampler – Vol.2". Classic Movie Hub.
  15. ^ Tucker, David C. (2018). Gale Storm: A Biography and Career Record. McFarland, Incorporated, Publishers. ISBN 9781476671772.
  16. ^ The New Movies. National Board of Review of Motion Pictures. 1947.
  17. ^ "Springtime in the Sierras (1947)". 10 March 2018.
  18. ^ McVeigh, Stephen (2007). The American Western. Edinburgh University Press. ISBN 978-0-7486-2140-8.
  19. ^ Umland, Rebecca (2016). Outlaw Heroes as Liminal Figures of Film. McFarland & Company. ISBN 978-1-4766-2351-1.
  20. ^ a b c Hughes, Howard (2007-10-24). Stagecoach to Tombstone: The Filmgoers' Guide to the Great Westerns. Bloomsbury Publishing. ISBN 978-0-85773-046-6.
  21. ^ a b c d e f Sherlock, Ben (November 10, 2019). "10 Smartest Neo-Westerns To Watch If You Like No Country For Old Men". Screen Rant. Retrieved January 31, 2023.
  22. ^ Pierce-Bohen, Kayleena (January 12, 2023). "The Old Way Is Nicolas Cage's First Western". Screen Rant.
  23. ^ Murray, Noel (December 17, 2021). "With '1883,' Taylor Sheridan Expands His Western Empire". New York Times. Retrieved January 31, 2023. Before Taylor Sheridan became the Academy Award-nominated screenwriter of the 2016 neo-western "Hell or High Water"...
  24. ^ Matheson, Sue (2020-07-31). Women in the Western. Edinburgh University Press. ISBN 978-1-4744-4416-3.
  25. ^ Johnson, Jon (2019-04-19). "'To Hell and Gone': A modern Spaghetti Western that's a pleasure to devour". The Gila Herald. Retrieved 2023-06-21.
  26. ^ Cotter, Padraig (January 7, 2023). "Clint Eastwood's Movie Wish Could Break An Incredible Director Record". Screen Rant.
  27. ^ Young, Kai (January 29, 2023). "Nope's Oscar Snub Makes The Movie's Plot Mirror A Real-Life Issue". Screen Rant.
This page was last edited on 20 May 2024, at 09:53
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