Western movies and TV shows are currently experiencing a resurgence, but why is the genre so popular? Let’s take a look at the reasons for the boom in westerns.
The ability to innovate
One factor behind the renewed popularity of the western genre is the ability to evolve and innovate. The Power of the Dog, the 2021 western movie for which director Jane Campion won an Oscar, includes themes more associated with psychological dramas, such as complex familial relationships.
News of the World, the 2020 western starring Tom Hanks, highlighted themes including loss and a reckoning with race. The Harder They Fall, the 2021 movie starring Jonathan Majors, Idris Elba, and Zazie Beetz, went further, becoming one of the few western movies with an all-Black cast. The evolution of westerns and the ability to innovate has given moviemakers the opportunity to tell new stories from different perspectives, which have proven to be extremely popular.
The western genre has also inspired innovations in another area of the entertainment industry, namely the online casino sector. The best US casinos offer a wide range of western-themed slots including Wild Wild West: The Great Train Heist, King of the West, and Money Train 2. Online casinos have been able to capitalize on the renewed popularity of the genre in the movie industry to develop these successful western titles.
The peaks and troughs in the popularity of Westerns
The streaming service Netflix has contributed to the newfound popularity of westerns through The Power of the Dog and The Harder They Fall, raising the possibility of a third golden age for the genre. In the past, the genre has experienced periods of great popularity, followed by a scarcity of westerns. The golden age of the genre was between the 1930s and 1960s, with innumerable classics such as the 1939 movie Stagecoach, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, which was released in 1957, and The Magnificent Seven in 1960.
The 1990s witnessed a resurgence of westerns on the back of Dances With Wolves, a 1990 movie that saw Kevin Costner feature as both director and lead actor. The epic movie was the first western film to win an Oscar for Best Picture since 1931. Westerns in the 1990s also demonstrated an ability to innovate with females playing a prominent role in a previously male-dominated genre. Sharon Stone starred alongside Russell Crowe and Leonardo DiCaprio in the 1995 western The Quick and the Dead and in 1994 the western Bad Girls featured Madeleine Stowe, Mary Stuart Masterson, Andie MacDowell, and Drew Barrymore in starring roles.
The 90s also saw other genres combined with western themes, such as the comedy movies Wild Wild West and City Slickers. Back to the Future Part III even got in on the act with a science fiction western.
The boom in western movies mirrors the previous two golden ages in the history of the genre. Indeed, westerns have gone further with innovative plots that examine previously neglected themes and this is certainly one of the reasons behind the resurgence of western movies. As in the 1990s, the Oscar success of The Power of the Dog could lead to a range of westerns and perhaps signify a third golden age of western movies.