(S. Craig Zahler, USA, 2015): In a more reasonable world, the novelist, musician and screenwriter S. Craig Zahler's first feature Bone Tomahawk might have had something like the visibility and profile of The Hateful Eight and The Revenant, Christmas season 2015's most conspicuous contemporary Westerns, and we might have had the...

(Robert Benton, U.S.A., 1972): From the moment when the coming-of-age-in-the-west movie was an especially sturdy vessel for the revisionist enterprise of stripping the mythology to its scabby shins, Robert Benton's directorial debut (co-written by David Newman) is arguably the best of the bunch: far more...

(John Sturges, U.S.A., 1956): The presence of Borden Chase here as screenwriter may call to attention the absence of Anthony Mann as director and James Stewart as star, but the presence of John Sturges and Richard Widmark respectively is enough to ensure that Backlash, a...

(D.W. Griffith, U.S.A., 1915): There is much to learn from the fact that the most important American movie of the sound era is also so profoundly problematic, for that's also part of its uncannily prophetic nature: it understood that bullshit and history were the main...

(Anthony Mann, U.S.A., 1952): As true as it is that landscape is character in Anthony Mann's westerns, and especially the free-range odyssey movies featuring James Stewart, it's just as true that character is landscape: rugged, changeable, hard and sometimes impossible to get around. And no...

(Edward Dmytryk, USA, 1954): Most of the key reasons for the western's epic expansion during the 1950s is here, in Edward Dmytryk's frontier reworking of Joseph L Mankiewicz's House of Strangers: there's the backward-flashing intergenerational saga of a self-destructively proud rancher patriach (Spencer Tracy) and...

(Delmer Daves, USA, 1950): America had changed irrevocably after WWII, and it wasn't all pride and prosperity: there was anxiousness and fear in the air, and a sense that nothing could be seen with quite the same clarity as before. Shit was suddenly very, very...

(William S. Hart, USA, 1916): The same year he appeared in the smoldering Hell's Hinges, William S. Hart very ably directed himself in this story of a bad man made good by exposure to a helpless widow and her papaless child. (Yes, we're entering Shane...

(Raoul Walsh, USA, 1930): Even in its most modest Saturday morning serial mode the western is epic by default: it presumes a past and projects a future, and what we're watching is the passage between the two. This might explain why, even in its earliest attempts...

(Demilfilo Fidani, Italy, 1971):  This majorly minor 1971 euro-western stars the always giving Klaus Kinski as a temper-prone gang leader who avenges his brother's death by wiping out every member of a family except the one (played by the singularly unmodulated Jeff Cameron) who calls himself...

(Damiano Damiani, Italy, 1967): The grizzled proletarian dynamo Gian Maria Volonte might have been most influentially deployed by Sergio Leone in the two Dollars movies, but it was most brilliantly exploited (so t0 speak) by Damiano Damiani in the politically hard-partying Mexican Revolution saga A...

(Budd Boetticher, USA, 1958): When he rides back across the Mexican border into the town of Agry, Randolph Scott's Tom Buchanan wears a grin that establishes a couple of things pronto. First, that he's probably not the revenge-driven cowboy he customarily is when he rides in...