As part of a wide-ranging new interview for New York magazine, über-cinephile and genre master Quentin Tarantino reflects thoughtfully on the western’s mutable qualities and how it has always revealed something about its times: “The westerns of the ’50s reflected Eisenhower America better than any other films of the day. The westerns of the ’30s reflected the ’30s ideal. And actually, the westerns of the ’40s did, too, because there was a whole strain of almost noirish westerns that, all of a sudden, had dark themes. The ’70s westerns were pretty much anti-myth westerns—Watergate westerns . . . Consequently, the big western that came out in the ’80s was Silverado, which was trying to be rah-rah again—that was very much a Reagan western.” And what about the filmmaker’s own latest foray into the genre, The Hateful 8, due out on Christmas? Like its predecessor, Django Unchained, it takes on race issues, this time in Wyoming in the years following the Civil War. And though it wasn’t intentional, Tarantino says, the questions about white supremacy that it brings to the fore are, sadly, especially resonant today: “I feel like it’s another ’60s moment, where the people themselves had to expose how ugly they were before things could change. I’m hopeful that that’s happening now.”
His comments about the capaciousness of this most archetypal of American forms inspired us to think about the westerns in our collection, which range from early mythmaking classics to revisionist late-period countercultural visions. Check them all out here.