The era of western films is far behind us. But, despite the drop-off in popularity, no one can erase history. Back in the day when this type of movie was the primary focus of Hollywood, some of the best films ever were made. As such, they managed to shape the movie industry as we know it today. The younger audience probably isn’t aware of this, but those who value old cinematography know better. Nothing beats the feeling of watching an ancient quality western with all of the traits that made such films amazing. The stories about the Wild West and cowboys can’t ever get old. The cinema was never the same after the first western hit the theaters. For one, they were revolutionary. Before westerns, there weren’t any stuntmen used in movies. The unique combination of drama, action, thriller and even comedy mixed in the surroundings of Wild West was a sight to behold back in the day. The traces of once-great cultural achievement lives still today, and in this article, we are going to talk about those films that will stand to the test of time.
One of the initial western hits was created based on a novel of the same name. Back in 1956 when it was made, it quickly set standards. It was made on a budget slightly below $4 million. It quickly proved to be popular, and the whole budget was recouped, and it even made a $1 million profit. By today’s standards, this isn’t much, but we are talking about the time from more than half a century ago. This big win signaled a new start for the whole industry and Warner Bros was one of the first to take advantage of the latest trend.
The Wild Bunch
Western movies were set in the Wild West, and this one was even named The Wild Bunch, but this genre was just entering its calm zone, with a steady income. The 60s were the golden years of western, and the profits started to grow exponentially to the popularity of these films. The director of this masterpiece was Sam Peckinpah. He was given a $6 million budget, which he managed to double at the box office in a matter of short months. This was the second stepping stone that signaled that westerns are worth your investment and the film studios took notice.
Stagecoach came a bit earlier than the two films we have listed above, but it is an essential part of the western theme in Hollywood. It was the first film that featured a future legend of the genre, John Wayne. It is also tied to one other great name and we are talking about John Ford. Considering that the movie was made before WWII, we can tell you that the amount invested in it was a staggering $531,000 which was quite a fortune in pre-war America. Thanks to all of this, it is not rare to hear that Stagecoach is the founding stone of the entire genre.
High Noon has it all. It was one of the ground-breaking films that brought into the story a beautiful woman. It is also one of those movies that depict a story that happens in a town no one cares about which is located outside of civilization, but with a massive conflict occurring to our heroes. The tale of this one has two sides, as it happens that it was a money-maker for MGM that made millions, while at the same time it brought downfall to United Artists studio.
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
You do not have to be a fan of western movies to know a thing or two about this title. For one it launched the name of Paramount Pictures into the stratosphere and helped make a foundation for the Paramount we know today. It was good back in the day, the same way it is today. To produce a movie of this magnitude it took a little over $3 million. But, it all came back to Paramount at the box office where it managed to make a bit over $8 million.
We’re back in the 50s. It is enough to tell you that this one featured such names as John Wayne and Dean Martin and you could tell it translated well to success. These two were the cream of the corp in the film industry back in the day and you should know that this translated well to the box office. Here we are talking about an epic film which was made on a budget of $1.25 million. It managed to make a much greater return and establish westerns and these actors as monuments of an epoch.
How the West Was Won
Here we have another hit that came through the ranks of Metro Goldwyn Mayer. We are talking about the age when making the westerns was the norm. While many of them reap benefits at the box office the competition was great among the studios, and How the West Was Won was the golden goose for MGM. Making a movie of this greatness wasn’t cheap even by today’s standards. MGM started the production with $15 million. They did a great job, and the movie managed to make huge returns. We are talking about a bit above the $50 million marks. In the 50s this was a number never seen before and it created a record that needed to be taken down by other studios. Unfortunately, it was hard for MGM to replicate this success, and How the West Was Won remained their most profitable western to date.
True Grit represented everything that westerns wanted to be. A movie of a good story that didn’t need a massive budget to succeed. Its budget was below $1 million, but it managed to make much much more. In the end, it grossed over $30 million. This shows that to make a good western you didn’t need a huge budget. It was yet another movie that went high at the box office thanks to the ensemble cast featuring inevitable John Wayne, Glen Campbell, Kim Darby, Denis Hooper, and one Robert Duvall among others.