Clint Eastwood in Unforgiven.
The Western Survives
The Western limped through the '80s with few hopes for recovery. Silverado (1985) attempted to pump up the old clichés and stock situations with rapid-fire editing, larger-than-life images, and a tongue-in-cheek attitude, but for all its verve, the movie wasn't genuine. Its well-rehearsed crescendos carried the aura of movie brats gussying up an old form. Audiences largely stayed away. Even Clint Eastwood's Pale Rider disappointed with its cloning of Shane. Young Guns strived to create a teenage audience for the Western by giving us Brat Pack alumni in Western garb. While modestly successful at the box office, Young Guns pointed down a dead end path.
As it struggled into the '90s, the Western finally discovered salvation in the form of Kevin Costner's Dances With Wolves. It packed in audiences and carted away the Academy Award for Best Picture. And soon afterwards, the TV mini-series Lonesome Dove (based on Larry McMurtry's Pulitzer-prize-winning novel) attracted a huge following. Eastwood's Unforgiven followed in 1992. It's a magnificent meditation on the Old West, filled with bitter ironies and brutal violence meted out by lawmen and outlaws alike. Unforgiven took home the Best Picture Academy Award in 1992.