The genre of the western film is perhaps the most beloved of all American movie categories. From Clint Eastwood to John Wayne, westerns have made huge stars, and engrained themselves in the history of American popular culture.

Westerns were among the most popular films of the 1930s through the 1960s, and even the past few decade have seen the release of many popular westerns. These early Westerns were very base in their motivation, usually highlighting the human struggle of good versus evil, as it played out o­n the early American plains.

One of the greatest Western films starred Humphrey Bogart in 1948: The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, has Bogart braving the Mexican wilds, in search of gold. Two years later came the famous film, The Gunfighter. This more cerebral western starred Gregory Peck and Karl Malden. From the brazen, thick skinned characters made famous by Bogart, Peck, and Malden, to the tough-guy images of Steve McQueen and Henry Fonda, and even the singing cowboys of Gene Autry and Roy Rogers, western film created dozens of stars. Among the most beloved of western stars are John Wayne and Clint Eastwood.

John Wayne was the personification of American virulence and masculinity. Of Wayne’s over 200 films, among the most famous are 1959’s Rio Bravo, a story that is part redemption, part comedy. In 1962 Wayne paired with James Stewart in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, where Wayne coined o­ne of his most famous terms, “pilgrim.”

Clint Eastwood has proven himself an enduring Western icon. In 1966, o­ne of Eastwood’s biggest films was released: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. This film saw Eastwood playing a tough loner, who was not necessarily the good guy, but was smarter and faster, thus the hero. Nearly 40 years later, Eastwood produced, directed, and starred in 1992’s instant western classic, Unforgiven.