The Western was a once popular film genre in the United States and Italy (obviously because of their rich, pioneering history). In recent years the Western genre has gone into decline except for a brief resurgence with the brilliance of Shanghai Noon.
One of the oldest film genres, Westerns date back to the early days of silent films. At this time many parts of America were still not far removed from frontier life so the films focused on some of the classic American staples of the cowboy lifestyle such as killing Indians and tripping horses with wire. All in all though, silent films are pretty brutal to watch (they're in fucking black and white for God's sake) and are not recommended to be watched by anyone ever.
The Adolescent Years
While killing savages and harming animals for entertainment remained justifiably popular, the technology of film advanced offering new opportunities for western film makers. This saw the rise of famed directors such as John Ford and Hollywood legend John Wayne, who dominated the Western genre for many years.
Ford and Wayne used the genre to emphasize classic American ideals, such as killing redskins, which were probably in bed with those godless, red, commie bastards at the time to. At a time when anyone could be working the Ruskies, Ford defended this nations honor and personally lynched twelve actors on set for Joseph McCarthy.
A Bunch of Westerns Made by Italians
In the sixties, many guido douchebags from Italy thought they could make some Westerns despite the fact Italy has no West (in fact, if you look at a map it's more East). Being all European and artsy-fartsy, it lacked the first-hand knowledge of the American west. As a result, these films had a severe shortage of mass Native American genocide and senseless animal cruelty, replacing it with spaghetti and other non-American shit like that. The dialogue was all dubbed over really shitty too, like you can see it all ridiculously out of sync. It sucks, really.
The one good thing about is that it introduced Clint Eastwood while he was still a bad ass. In most of his early Westerns Eastwood just generally goes around shooting people while looking either really angry or really constipated (or both, perhaps angry due to constipation). Later he got old and suddenly thought he was smart or something, but more on that later.
The Angsty Teen Years
In the late sixties general Godlessness was everywhere, as seen by drug crazed hippies and sodomites running around all willy-nilly, breaking down good old values like spying on your neighbors and loving Jesus. Westerns at this time to were movig out of their early adolescent age and going into their pissy teen years, yelling at their parents and secretly getting tattoos.
In this era infamous director Sam Peckinpah rose to prominence through his harsh depiction of graphic violence. Peckinpah's career can be summed up as an angry sulky man who made some violent movies because he was angry at his mom, making him think he's so smart because he's into stuff like existentialism. That said, Peckinpah did bring some interesting innovations to the genre, such as hating women, binge drinking and widespread massacre of Mexicans (a variation of widespread massacre of Injuns). Note to guys: although it's not one of his Westerns, Peckinpah's Straw Dogs is a great movie to show on a first date.
At this time Eastwood also began movie into the directors chair with varying results. While High Plains Drifter was an awesome crazy, trip of a movie (with a midget!) where Clint just basically fucks up a whole town, The Outlaw Josey Wales took the controversial stance of suggesting Indians are actually human beings with emotions, as absurd as that sounds. Eastwood would take his biggest leap though years later with Unforgiven, a romper comedy where Clint's son Billy won't forgive him for missing his big soccer game, forcing Clint to go on a series of kooky adventures to win back his affection.
The Western Today
There isn't much these days in terms of Westerns, you might even say, "They've hit the dusty trail," but then you'd sound like an asshole. There have been a few notable successes in recent years though, specifically Will Smith's magnum opus, Wild Wild West. The last couple decades also saw the rise and spread of the Best Western, which despite its popularity as a motor inn is ironically one of the worst westerns. Of course, the decline of the Western may be comparable to the decline of traditional American life and values. There's no more frontier to conquer and technology rules our land, causing the hardened pioneer spirit to dissipate into nothingness over decades of complacency. Oh yeah, and there was some movie about gay cowboys or some shit which was a big deal.
In less than five years the area will be completely inhabited by homosexuals. Not only that but they will also be complete Jackasses