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Best Western film from the year you were born

  • Best Western film from the year you were born

    The Western is one of the oldest genres of cinema, with many of the earliest big-screen adventures recounting tales of rough-and-tumble life in the Old West. The first Western film ever produced wasn’t made in the Wild West itself, but in the countryside of England. That short 1899 film, “Kidnapping by Indians,” was just a minute long (and filled with stereotypes about Native Americans, which had been conveyed through tales brought back to the U.K. by cotton workers).

    That was followed up by 1903’s “The Great Train Robbery,” which was inspired by Butch Cassidy and is considered to be the movie that brought the genre into public view. Since then, these yarns have progressed from simply amusing stories about cowboys and Native Americans to deeply-compelling motion pictures in which the lines between lawman and outlaw are blurred. Westerns launched the careers of some of film history’s most iconic actors, including John Wayne, Roy Rogers, and Clint Eastwood. And this genre inspired movies made all over the world—perhaps most famously seen in Italy’s Spaghetti Westerns, but also in films made in Korea, Russia, Germany, and beyond.

    From silent films to recent Hollywood blockbusters, Stacker has put together a list of the best Western films—one representing each year since 1920. Data was pulled from IMDb (as of May 27, 2020), with the rankings based on user votes. Years without enough Westerns made were excluded. To make this list, movies had to be both the highest-rated Westerns in their given years and have more than 2,000 IMDb user votes.

    Now it's time to giddy up and begin a journey through the years. Along the way, you will find not only the best Western film from the year you were born, but also a few ace-high Westerns with which you may have yet to be acquainted. Head 'em up and move 'em out, because this is one chronological hoedown that will turn even a tenderfoot into a true buckaroo.

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  • 1920: The Mark of Zorro

    - Director: Rouben Mamoulian
    - IMDb user rating: 7.5
    - Metascore: data not available
    - Runtime: 94 min

    Tyrone Power plays a swordsman who masquerades as a bandit in an effort to save California’s common folk from an oppressor (J. Edward Bromberg) in “The Mark of Zorro.” During his quest to restore justice, he falls in love with the oppressor’s daughter (Linda Darnell). The movie is a remake of a 1920 silent film by the same title, and has since led to the creation of various other movies and properties based on the character.

  • 1921: Jesse James as the Outlaw

    - Director: Franklin B. Coates
    - IMDb user rating: 6.7
    - Metascore: data not available
    - Runtime: data not available

    “Jesse James as the Outlaw” depicts the title character (portrayed by his own son, Jesse James Jr.) as he returns to his Missouri home after the Civil War. His hopes for a quiet and peaceful life are dashed when he is falsely accused of robbing a bank and is branded an outlaw. The story was retold in 2007’s “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford,” in which Brad Pitt played the protagonist.

  • 1922: Sky High

    - Director: Lynn Reynolds
    - IMDb user rating: 5.8
    - Metascore: data not available
    - Runtime: 58 min

    In "Sky High," Tom Mix plays a government agent, whose investigation into the smuggling of undocumented Chinese workers across the border from Mexico takes him to the Grand Canyon. It is there that he crosses paths with a beautiful and mysterious young woman who happens to have ties to the illegal operation.

  • 1923: The Covered Wagon

    - Director: James Cruze
    - IMDb user rating: 6.5
    - Metascore: data not available
    - Runtime: 98 min

    J. Warren Kerrigan, Alan Hale, and Lois Wilson star in “The Covered Wagon,” a silent film in which a pair of wagon caravans converge in Kansas and embark on a trek toward Oregon. Along the way, they experience several challenging situations including sweltering heat, frigid snow, hunger, and an attack by Native Americans. However, the most challenging situation of all is the love triangle that develops. The movie was a passion project for producer Jesse L. Lasky, who, according to his son, saw it as an "opportunity to lift the Western, which had always been a rather low-budget kind of potboiler film, into an epic."

  • 1924: Greed

    - Director: Erich von Stroheim
    - IMDb user rating: 8.1
    - Metascore: data not available
    - Runtime: 140 min

    In “Greed,” Gibson Gowland plays a dentist whose fiancee (ZaSu Pitts) wins a $5,000 lottery. The situation spurs jealousy in the woman’s ex-boyfriend (Jean Hersholt), who reports the dentist for operating without a license. This sends the newlyweds into poverty and kickstarts a series of events that eventually leads to a murder and a final confrontation in Death Valley. Turner Entertainment reconstructed the silent film in 1999 to create an extended 250-minute version.

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  • 1925: The Gold Rush

    - Director: Charles Chaplin
    - IMDb user rating: 8.2
    - Metascore: data not available
    - Runtime: 95 min

    In this silent comedy, Charlie Chaplin plays a prospector named Little Tramp who joins the Klondike Gold Rush, gets trapped in a blizzard with another prospector (Mack Swain) and a fugitive (Tom Murray), and falls for a barmaid (Georgia Hale). Some of the movie’s famous scenes include Chaplin making dinner rolls dance on the end of his forks, and another where he tries to eat a boiled shoe.

  • 1926: The General

    - Directors: Clyde Bruckman, Buster Keaton
    - IMDb user rating: 8.1
    - Metascore: data not available
    - Runtime: 67 min

    Buster Keaton stars as a locomotive engineer in “The General,” a silent film inspired by the true story of the Civil War’s Great Locomotive Chase. Although initial critical reviews and box office returns were weak, Keaton maintained the motion picture was one of his favorite projects. The movie has since received acclaim from modern critics, who call it the “greatest comic epic of all time.”

  • 1927: The Desert of the Lost

    - Director: Richard Thorpe
    - IMDb user rating: 6.4
    - Metascore: data not available
    - Runtime: 58 min

    In “The Desert of the Lost,” Hal Taliaferro plays a man who, having shot someone in self-defense but being unable to prove it, flees to Mexico with a detective (Edward Cecil) in tow. Once there, he befriends the daughter (Peggy Montgomery) of a renegade American innkeeper (William Dyer) and defends her honor against her father and the bandit (Richard Neill) she is being forced to marry.

  • 1928: The Wind

    - Director: Victor Sjöström
    - IMDb user rating: 8.1
    - Metascore: data not available
    - Runtime: 95 min

    In “The Wind,” Lillian Gish plays an impoverished young woman from Virginia who moves in with her cousin (Edward Earle) in Texas and has trouble adapting to life in the Wild West. The silent film was originally set to end with Gish’s character being driven to insanity and wandering off into the desert. However, MGM ordered a happy ending before the movie’s release.

  • 1929: Hell's Heroes

    - Director: William Wyler
    - IMDb user rating: 7.2
    - Metascore: data not available
    - Runtime: 68 min

    Directed by William Wyler (who also directed “Ben-Hur,” “The Best Years of Our Lives,” and “Funny Girl”), “Hell’s Heroes” chronicles a crew of bank robbers (Charles Bickford, Fred Kohler, and Raymond Hatton) who promise a dying woman they’ll take her son to his father—who just happens to be the bank cashier they killed. This film was originally released in two alternate formats: silent and “talkie.”

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