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The Searchers (1956, John Ford)

Not only the greatest Western but one of the greatest films ever made. A brutally
frank treatment of the role of race and racial hatred in the American social bond.

Red River (1948, Howard Hawks)

Charismatic authority (John Wayne) and the difficult transition to fraternal,
shared rule (Montgomery Cliff).Visually stunning.

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962, John Ford)

The role of myth and mythic memory in the formation of the political identity of a
community, and the dangers of relying on such myth.

Stagecoach (1939, John Ford)

The first brilliant Western, and still one of Ford’s best. A great nervous, edgy
performance by Claire Trevor

Ride the High Country (1962, Sam Peckinpah)

Many great Westerns are about the end of the West and the obsolescence of the
heroic, martial virtues. This may be the best such treatment. (AKA “Guns in the

The Naked Spur (1953, Anthony Mann)

Mann made a number of “noirish” Westerns and this is my favorite. One of the
many examples of the very different sort of actor Jimmy Stewart became after the war.

High Noon (1952, Fred Zimmerman)

A dark treatment about the limits (the severe limits) of political allegiance and a
classic performance by Gary Cooper.

Seven Men From Now (1956, Budd Boetticher)

What count as the “masculine virtues” in a transition from lawlessness to order
and a settled, domestic life? All of Boetticher’s film concern this theme, but this is my

Shane (1953, George Stevens)

The obsolescent (or not quite yet obsolescent) gunfighter theme again, but this
time entwined with a romantic triangle and an interrogation of the bourgeois virtues.

3:10 to to Yuma (1957, Delmer Daves)

Much better than the recent re-make, yet another sort of interrogation of the
heroic and martial virtues and their place in a legal order. One of Glenn Ford’s best
performances: sly, subtle, understated yet quite powerful.