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Are there any historically accurate westerns?


The main criticism of Hostiles appears to be that it is not historically accurate and that modern values have been transposed on top of the actual values of the time (which I think are both fair criticisms, though I still enjoyed the film and wasn't as bothered by this as other people seem to be).

So if that is the standard, what westerns are historically accurate? I can't think of any, so help me out.

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Wyatt Earp

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Here are several worthy Westerns that are relatively historically accurate (some being historically-rooted and some fictional):

September Dawn
I Will Fight No More Forever
The Long Riders
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
The Alamo
Young Guns
Hombre
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee
The Big Country
The Ride Back
Shane
Ride with the Devil
The Cowboys
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Blackthorn
Jeremiah Johnson
Jubal
Dances With Wolves (yes, it's romanticized a bit, but it's generally the way it was)
Will Penny
One-Eyed Jacks
Valdez is Coming
Appaloosa (2008)
The Sundowners (1950) (not the one set in the Australian Outback)
Bad Company
Chino
Ulzana's Raid
Molly and Lawless John
Meek's Cutoff
Wyatt Earp (another poster already noted this one)

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Geez! The overwhelming majority of those are nowhere near historically accurate.

The Long riders is, I'll grant you, but Young Guns? That was an 80's Western version of the Brat Pack. The Alamo? Neither version were very accurate. Butch Cassidy was overly romanticized, Valdez is Coming is a Liberal vehicle, and Wyatt Earp (again either version) were way off the mark. Dances with Wolves was a joke.

Jeremiah Johnson was very good. A bunch of them I haven't seen, and a bunch I have seen I can't remember because they were forgettable movies.

..Joe

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Geez! The overwhelming majority of those are nowhere near historically accurate.


Which is why I prefaced my list with the statement: "Here are several worthy Westerns that are relatively historically accurate (some being historically-rooted and some fictional):"

It doesn't matter that "Young Guns" featured the '80's Brat Pack, it was based on real-life events and relatively accurate. By all means, compare the events of the movie with actual history. The gist of the story is true.

Same thing with "The Alamo," "Butch Cassidy" and "Wyatt Earp." They're all based on historical events and the gist of the stories are true. Filmmakers always change details for dramatic purposes.

"Dances With Wolves" wasn't a joke; it was relatively realistic (although not based on a true story).

I've heard the grumblings about the film's PC-influenced negative portrayal of whites in general and also its supposed romanticized portrayal of Natives as super-virtuous, yet most of these criticisms are hogwash. No kidding. The film rings of authenticity and the characters are anything but one-dimensional. Want proof?

The Pawnee are the first Indians the viewer encounters in the film and they are portrayed as completely hostile to whites and other NA tribes, so hostile that they'll kill a white person on sight without mercy. I'd say this is a negative, stereotypical portrayal of Indians, wouldn't you agree?

Also, Wind In His Hair (Rodney A. Grant) clearly states that the Sioux should kill Dunbar at the council meeting; I'm sure there were others who agreed with him but it was ultimately decided that killing Dunbar would likely cause more problems than solve.

Not all white people are shown in a negative light; in fact, Dunbar himself -- the film's protagonist -- is white.

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"Based on historical events" means nothing. Michael Bay's "Pearl Harbor" was based on an historical event and it sucked dog's balls in terms of accuracy. And taking two fighter pilots and putting them on the Doolittle raid - another historical event - was bull. The event happened; the accuracy was terrible. The flight crews were members of the 17th Bomber Group, and all the training was at Eglin Field, Florida. Wasn't a single fighter pilot around.

Can't use "based on historical events" as a barometer for accuracy.

..Joe

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"Pearl Harbor" did precisely what "Titanic" (1997), "Braveheart," "September Dawn" and most other historically-rooted films do -- added a dramatic story in order to hook the viewer to the real-life events and provide them characters with whom they can relate.

You're confusing these kinds of films with documentaries.

And, by the way, "Valdez is Coming" is much more than a lame ass "Liberal vehicle."

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What about the "foul" guy, Timmons, who escorts Dunbar to the abandoned fort? I've met people just like him. He's not portrayed as evil, but merely uncouth in dress and manners. When Timmons is savagely murdered by a band of Pawnee he begs over and over that the Indians not hurt his mules; his dying words are words of love (for his animals!). Also, when he says goodbye to Dunbar at the fort he says, "Good luck, Lieutenant" and you know he means it; the words show love and respect. Obviously this was a physically disgusting guy with a heart of gold. Again I know people just like him; it rings of authenticity.

The story takes place during the Indian Wars where there's very little love & compassion of whites towards Natives and vice versa. The U.S. Army is there to do a job and, as usual, go by the book. Is this a negative portrayal or simply the way it was? The answer is obvious. Hence, most of the officers are not shown in a negative light but merely as military leaders carrying out their duty. While some of the main enlisted soldiers come off as clueless sheetheads, the characters ring of true life. I met people just like 'em in the military.

Besides, I repeat, not all Natives are depicted as virtuous. The Pawnee are obviously ruthless villains and quite a few Indians are shown helping the U.S. Army and are, therefore, traitors to their people.

Is the small tribe of Lakota Sioux really super-virtuous? Is their lifestyle really a paradise? No, they're merely portrayed as real people living, pursuing happiness, uncertain about the amassing whites, fighting and persevering through hardships (like the winter camp).

Is the massive annihilation of Bison (leaving their skinless carcasses to rot in the sun) a negative depiction of whites or just the way it was? Such people would likely shoot a wolf for the "fun" of it. Again, it smacks of reality.

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As to the accuracy of the story itself, the fact is that many whites have "gone injun" and many Natives have assimilated with whites. The story explores the possibility of what would happen IF a white man dropped his prejudices and tried to get along with some Sioux neighbors; and what if this small band of Natives was open and curious enough to accept him? Is it unlikely that this band would have an available white woman amongst them that Dunbar could fall in love with? Is there a bit of romanticization? Yes, but it IS a Hollywood movie, after all. Regardless, it's presented in a believable, compelling and captivating way.

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A bunch of them I haven't seen, and a bunch I have seen I can't remember because they were forgettable movies.


Actually, each and every one of them with the exception of "Meek's Cutoff" is a highlight of the genre (to ME anyway, which is why I selected 'em).

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The fact that whites have "gone injun" or not does NOT an "accurate" movie make. Accuracy means proper saddles, holsters, clothing, hats, sets, language, mores, attitudes, and most importantly, facts.

I'm not confusing anything with anything. "Bands of Brothers was about as accurate a series made, and there was nothing documentary about it. With one exception, so was John Adams.

That list is NOT "accurate" westerns, and as much as you try to proselytize, you still won't make them so.

..Joe

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What is it about my statement "relatively historically accurate" don't you get?

Now lighten up or you're gonna have a heart attack.

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Westerns have often been used, as a genre, to explore more contemporary themes and anxieties....

The confusion from some people is probably because the Western is both a reflection of American history as well as a movie genre like horror or sci-fi...

They're very much not meant to be documentaries... or biography...

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