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Worst Western film from the year you were born

  • Worst Western film from the year you were born

    Western films have long been a Hollywood staple. In fact, the first full-length feature film ever made, “The Great Train Robbery'' (1903), was a Western. For almost the entirety of Hollywood's first 60 years, Westerns, or movies set in the “Old West” during the second half of the 19th century, were its most popular genre of film. Fans flocked to them for their unrelenting action, thrilling plots, and their cut-and-dried nature. Nearly all Westerns have a recognizable hero and villain, and crimes are always avenged by the end of the run time, a formula which makes them perfect for the big screen.

    That being said, not all Westerns are good—in fact, many aren't. After all, the genre has a tendency to be too predictable, poorly acted, occasionally racist, and incredibly low-budget. To that end, Stacker rounded up the worst Westerns of each year from 1930 through 2019 using data from IMDb. For films released between 1930 and 1949, only those with 250 or more ratings were considered, and for those released between 1950–2019, only those with 500 or more ratings were considered (except in years that required a lowering of the threshold due to so few Western releases). Ties were broken by the number of overall ratings. To qualify for this list, films had to be in the English language with a U.S. release.

    From genre crossovers (like horror Westerns and sci-fi Westerns) to B-movies and those starring ‘90s boy band members, read on to find out which Westerns viewers consider the worst of the worst. You might be surprised to see which genre big wigs have had a flop or two along the way.

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  • 1930: Montana Moon

    - Director: Malcolm St. Clair
    - IMDb user rating: 4.1
    - Votes: 327
    - Runtime: 89 minutes
    - Total movies analyzed from 1930: 5

    Starring Joan Crawford, Johnny Mack Brown, and Ricardo Cortez, “Montana Moon” is a musical Western film responsible for introducing the singing cowboy to the screen. In the film, a wealthy flapper marries a cowboy. After a bout of marital indiscretion leads the new groom to become violent, his bride leaves him and heads across the country on a train from Montana to New York. Partway through her journey, she's kidnapped by a band of thieves, whose leader turns out to be none other than her estranged husband in disguise, ready to drag her back to Montana to begin their life again. The film has clear overtones of sexism (not surprising by today's standards for something released in 1930), which may be one reason viewers today don't respond kindly to it.

  • 1931: The Painted Desert

    - Directors: Howard Higgin, Tom Buckingham
    - IMDb user rating: 5.3
    - Votes: 504
    - Runtime: 79 minutes
    - Total movies analyzed from 1931: 5

    “The Painted Desert” marks Clark Gable's first substantial role, and a pre-"Hopalong Cassidy” role for William Boyd. According to most fans, those are the only positive aspects of the film, which tells the story of two men who find an abandoned infant and clash over who's to be the father. Not a very well-known movie, poor script-writing is generally to blame for the commercial and critical failure of “The Painted Desert.”

  • 1932: Haunted Gold

    - Director: Mack V. Wright
    - IMDb user rating: 5.5
    - Votes: 492
    - Runtime: 58 minutes
    - Total movies analyzed from 1932: 5

    “Haunted Gold” feels like an extended, live-action version of a “Scooby Doo” episode. After receiving a mysterious letter prompting them to come to a ghost town in order to search for gold in an abandoned mine, John Wayne and Sheila Terry's characters are assisted by a phantom as they race a gang of outlaws to find the treasure. The film has become a campy favorite with modern audiences in recent years, but critics still refuse to give it their seal of approval.

  • 1933: The Man from Monterey

    - Director: Mack V. Wright
    - IMDb user rating: 5.3
    - Votes: 418
    - Runtime: 57 minutes
    - Total movies analyzed from 1933: 7

    The last of John Wayne's Westerns for Warner Bros, “The Man from Monterey” is based on the real-life requirement for Spanish landowners in California to register their land with the state before a set deadline, lest the land becomes public property. Villainous individuals, both fictitious and real, would often try to trick or deter these landowners from registering their properties, claiming the land for themselves. Low production values, a poor-quality script, and a dull storyline are viewers' most common complaints against this 1933 Western.

  • 1934: The Lawless Frontier

    - Director: Robert N. Bradbury
    - IMDb user rating: 5.1
    - Votes: 741
    - Runtime: 59 minutes
    - Total movies analyzed from 1934: 11

    While John Wayne eventually became a Western movie superstar, many of his earlier offerings, including “The Lawless Frontier,” were relatively awful. This flick tells the story of a cowboy who seeks revenge on an outlaw who killed his parents. There are plenty of chase scenes and fight sequences, but the flick's sub-par editing largely prevents it from being an enjoyable watch.

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  • 1935: Lawless Range

    - Director: Robert N. Bradbury
    - IMDb user rating: 5.1
    - Votes: 356
    - Runtime: 53 minutes
    - Total movies analyzed from 1935: 11

    Another John Wayne vehicle, “Lawless Range” has the legendary actor investigating cattle rustling in an attempt to locate a family friend who disappeared in the midst of a series of burglaries. Eventually, he takes down the band of villains, who as always, are lead by a duplicitous citizen. Fans cite the predictable and formulaic storyline of this film as one of the main reasons it underperforms.

  • 1936: King of the Pecos

    - Director: Joseph Kane
    - IMDb user rating: 6.0
    - Votes: 312
    - Runtime: 54 minutes
    - Total movies analyzed from 1936: 9

    One IMDb reviewer called “King of the Pecos” “bland,” and another, “uninspired.” In this flick, John Wayne is not only a gun-toting, horse-riding cowboy setting out to avenge the death of his parents by taking down an evil cattle baron, he's also a lawyer. Slightly slower-paced than a traditional John Wayne film, this one lacked the action necessary to make it a decent Western.

  • 1937: Born to the West

    - Director: Charles Barton
    - IMDb user rating: 5.7
    - Votes: 709
    - Runtime: 59 minutes
    - Total movies analyzed from 1937: 5

    There's a love story at the heart of “Born to the West,” which stands in stark contrast to the revenge stories that typically lie at the core of Westerns. Based on a novel by prolific Western writer Zane Grey, the plot is generally applauded, but the film's low budget still lands it among the worst movies released in 1937.

  • 1938: The Terror of Tiny Town

    - Director: Sam Newfield
    - IMDb user rating: 3.5
    - Votes: 1,400
    - Runtime: 62 minutes
    - Total movies analyzed from 1938: 8

    Included in the 1978 book, “The Fifty Worst Film of All Time (And How They Got That Way),” “The Terror of Tiny Town” is truly atrocious. The cast is composed of the munchkins from “The Wizard of Oz” (filmed the same year), and the film was Columbia's attempt to capitalize on the press they were getting for their use of little people. “The Terror of Tiny Town” is poorly acted, with a ludicrous storyline—an all-around C-flick at best.

  • 1939: New Frontier

    - Director: George Sherman
    - IMDb user rating: 5.8
    - Votes: 350
    - Runtime: 57 minutes
    - Total movies analyzed from 1939: 15

    John Wayne's big break came with the release of “Stagecoach” in 1939, after which his films tended to be more commercially and critically successful. He was still contractually obligated, however, to finish this final “Three Mesquiteers” film, released just months after “Stagecoach.” “New Frontier” tells the story of how the Mesquiteers save the citizens of New Hope Valley from falling prey to a bad real estate deal. The result was a film just as dull and poorly written as it sounds.

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