(Charles Swickard, USA, 1916): Some claim this as the movie that secured William S. Hart's western hero stardom, and it's not hard to see why. Hell's Hinges is a full-throttle corker of a western, and it blends a certain dark psychology with an apocalyptic old...

(John Ford, USA, 1949):  Considering the cliche about cavalry movies galloping to the rescue, the curious thing about Ford's legendary 'Cavalry Trilogy' -- of which She Wore a Yellow Ribbon is the second act -- is how little rescuing the cavalry actually does. Indeed, this...

(Lawrence Kasdan, USA, 1994): What took me eighteen years to watch this one? The subject was a slamdunk, the genre a no-brainer, My Darling Clementine an especially loved precursor and yet I balked. Largely negative reviews might have had something to do with it, but I...

(John Huston, USA, 1960): Every bit as good and arguably bleaker than the Clint Eastwood movie of the same title -- despite being  dismissed by its director as one of his worst -- John Huston's complex, huge-horizoned account of a frontier family's fatal reckoning with a...

(John Ford, USA, 1926): History, when securely hitched the mythic machinery of the western -- and driven by  an engineer as proficient as John Ford -- can draw an entire nation's experience in its wake, and what are 'nations' but individual differences processed into pure, engine-stoking...

(Richard Fleischer, USA, 1959): In many westerns, the wrangling of an especially wild horse is a ritual of potency: it proves the man's dominion over nature, provides a dramatic metaphor for sexual conquest and shows everyone who belongs on top. Nevertheless when Don Murray's 'Lat' Evans...

(John Ford, USA, 1939): Monumental as the Valley and movie star it introduced -- and for introducing its director's extraordinary period of sound westerns and restoring so-called adulthood to the western -- John Ford's adaptation of a Collier's short story is nevertheless striking most for its...

(Richard Brooks, USA, 1966): Back in the day it was made, The Professionals was thought to be mindless grade-A action personified. It was not to be taken seriously as anything other than nifty, big-balled diversion, and a good thing for men to see if football wasn't...

(Henry Hathaway, USA, 1965): Hugely popular when released and almost never mentioned anymore, Henry Hathaway's prequel to Harold Robbins' The Carpetbaggers takes the backstory of the character Max Sand (inspired, apparently, by silent cowboy star Ken Maynard) and boils it into a vengeance-hardened nugget. But it's...

(William Fraker, USA, 1970): Back in 1970, my father took me to see this because that's what he did whenever anything rode in on a horse. (If there's a single guy to be held accountable for my cowboy fixation, it's Glenn Pevere. God bless him.) But...

(Kelly Reichardt, USA, 2010): This is the west as open, empty metaphor: a space that invites meaning and interpretation as broad as the horizon itself. The setting is Oregon, 1845, and three families are crossing toward the Cascade Mountains (or so they hope) under the dubious...