From the early John Wayne classics to Sergio Leone’s so-called spaghetti westerns, wild west movies have brought to life the heroes, villains, and anti-heroes of the American frontier. But just how accurate are your favorite flicks? Which movie makers have faithfully represented the Wild, Wild West in all its glory, and which could have paid a little more attention in history class? Here are 20 famous Westerns, ranked in order of least to most accurate.
20. My Darling Clementine (1946)
Much like Tombstone, the acclaimed My Darling Clementine tells the story of Wyatt Earp and his band of brothers. They stop off in that town for one night, before discovering that one of the siblings has been killed. Earp believes the Clanton family to be guilty of his brother’s murder and becomes sheriff of the town to exact his revenge legally. The Clementine in the title refers to the lady that Earp falls for.
Although John Ford’s western earned acclaim, there are a number of historical inaccuracies in it. Firstly, Earp and his siblings never worked as cattle drivers. Secondly, James Earp wasn’t murdered in his teens in Tombstone, AZ — he actually lived to the ripe old age of 84. Doc Holliday was a dentist not a surgeon, and Old Man Clanton was not even alive at the time of the O.K Corral shootout. When beloved movies such as this one exist, it’s hardly surprising that so many myths about the Wild West are still believed. Here’s what we’re getting wrong about the era.
19. Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)
This movie is one of the crown jewels in the western genre. Sergio Leone’s epic tells the story of a rail baron named Morton looking to take control over a piece of land outside Flagstone that boasts a water source. But instead of threatening the land’s owner into giving it up, Morton’s men kill him and blame a known bandit. Eventually, Charles Bronson’s gunslinger comes into town with the murdered landowner’s wife.
Sadly, there are a number of goofs and factual errors in the flick. Firstly, in one scene Martha is heard crooning the popular song “Danny Boy.” But this ditty was only released in 1913, long after the film’s depicted era of the 1870s. Plus, Frank and his crew shouldn’t have gun belts and cartridges, which were not invented yet.