Tumbleweed rolls through a desert, vultures circle overhead. The sadistic villain points his gun at the hero. The tension is unbearable. The battle between good and evil is on, cowboy style. The western is one of the most beloved genres in film history. Good and evil are at war, the moral code is unwavering and the arena for human conflict is as big as the outdoors.

The western ideals of freedom, the open range, open skies and the chance to loom large were irresistible to early movie audiences. At one time, horse operas made up 25 per cent of Hollywood's output. But the recent success of big budget westerns like 'There Will Be Blood' and the upcoming Coens' remake of 'True Grit' may indicate a return to the wild west. Moviefone spoke with Variety film critic and Cowboys & Indians writer Joe Leydon about the western as an enduring American art form.
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