Why are many movies of the 70's called revisionist? If I look up many of Eastwood's westerns, they would be found in a search of 'revisionist westerns'. Why are they called that?

Edit: By asking this, I mean take cowboys vs indians. Many of us my age (50) played this when we were young. Cowboys were the good guys and the Indians bad. Usually. There were many movies in the 40's and 50's where this was also true. We also played good cowboys vs the bad guys (I owned a black cowboy hat, which usually made me the bad guy) Many of Gene Autrey's movies were like this.

If we call Outlaw Josey Wales a revisionist western, I sort of understand, because Wales' second partner was Chief Dan George, and in the end he makes peace with the famous 'crying Indian'. But the main bad guys were bad guys. (The Red Legs) Why was this a revisionist movie?

  • While this is an interesting question, I feel that I can't really add anything to Wikipedia's pretty obvious explanations (they also mention Eastwood in particular). Is there anything in that article you don't agree with or which you don't understand to substantiate this question a bit?
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Oct 3, 2014 at 19:43

2 Answers 2


The concept of "revisionist" means just that; they aim to revise history. Many of Eastwood's movies use themes and characters that wouldn't really exist in the era the Western is meant to portray. For instance, you wouldn't have Native American or female Marshals, and movies that use those characters are revisionist because they create a false sense of what that time was like.

Outlaw Jose Wales is referred to as "revisionist" mainly because of the strong female characters in the movie. Women of that time were more subversive than what's portrayed in the movie.

  • 2
    subversive? or submissive?
    – CGCampbell
    Oct 3, 2014 at 21:37
  • While most western movies are fantasy, it is a bit misleading to specifically say that revisionist westerns "create a false sense of what the time was like". In general they potrayed the west much more realistic than the white boy adventure fantasies of the decades before - those had next to nothing to do with reality.
    – his
    Oct 21, 2014 at 20:38

Just about every post-1960s Western gets called revisionist, because the genre no longer promotes the idea of manifest destiny that Westerns promoted before the 1960s. Manifest destiny was the belief that the white man had come to civilize this land and civilize the Native American. This is considered offensive to the post-60s establishment, so Westerns after the 1960s are more likely to depict the Western hero as an anti-hero of sorts, and not as someone engaged in some great moral mission.

  • 2
    They can also be revisionist in they don't follow cowboy folklore. Look at Unforgiven, in that we see just how tough it was: to be a farmer; to ride a horse; to shoot a gun with any accuracy; to kill someone. And also how many of the tales were press inventions, and heroes were really quite unpleasant (English Bob, Little Bill). Oct 3, 2014 at 19:27
  • 1
    But is unforgiven revisionist? or more true? or both at the same time?
    – CGCampbell
    Oct 3, 2014 at 21:38

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .