The Western

High Noon & Unforgiven: 2 versions of the Western

Compare and contrast the “classic” Western High Noon with the “revisionist” Western Unforgiven, in terms of:

  • the gunfighter heroes (Will Kane vs. William Munny)
  • the women
  • the depiction of communities in the Wild West

The purpose of the paper is not to say why you liked or didn’t like each film, but rather to show similarities and differences between them.


Your paper should also draw on background sources (listed below) to inform your thinking. You need to show that you’ve read and made use of these sources by including at least 4 direct quotations in your paper. Quote them, identify the source of the quote, and then use each quote as a jumping point for you to explore in High Noon and Unforgiven the issues the quotations raise.


I consider High Noon to be a classic, or what Bernard Dick calls a mythic Western. That is, it follows and accepts many of the characters and themes that are typical of the Western genre (as discussed, for example, in the documentary we saw about Westerns and in Dick.) Bernard Dick calls Unforgiven an antimythic Western. That is, it challenges those classic themes, and asks the audience to question them. Bernard’s discussion of Unforgiven will be particularly useful.

Your paper should be typed, double-spaced, and 3-5  pages long.

Readings and Resources:

The Western (documentary film from 100 Years of American Cinema)

Anatomy of Film: pages 124-132 (section on the Western genre)
A video by A.O. Scott, New York Times film critic, American Character and the Western

Quotes from various sources that I cobbled together into a pdf, including readings from Warshow,, Berardinelli, Ebert, Rolling Stone, and Saunders)

A piece especially about the relationship between Will and Helen Ramirez, from a Mexican point of view, the one that translates the Spanish dialogue.

Deborah Allison, “Do Not Forsake Me: The Ballad of High Noon” and the Rise of the Movie Theme Song”, a genuine piece of Film Studies Scholarship from Senses of Cinema journal about the theme song of High Noon.

An article by Manfred Weinhorn “High Noon: Liberal Classic? Conservative Screed” that puts the film in the context of politics of the 1950’s and since.

An extensive article from about the western genre.

Reviews of High Noon: James Bernardinelli and Bosley Crowther‘s original New York Times review in 1952.

Reviews of Unforgiven: Roger Ebert, James Bernardinelli,  and Rolling Stone.

A.O. Scott’s New York Times Article on the western genre, “How the Western Was Won

Script of Unforgiven is here.