Oscar: Westerns–Directors Nominated and Winning for Genre

Directors Nominated for Westerns

The lack of respect for the genre is also reflected by the paucity of directorial Oscars for Westerns. John Ford, undoubtedly the master of Westerns, was nominated five times, but only once for a Western (Stagecoach). Ford failed to receive a nomination for what’s considered to be his masterpiece, The Searchers (1956).

Significantly, Ford’s four Oscars were for other genres: The Informer, The Grapes of Wrath, How Green Was My Valley, and The Quiet Man. Astonished by the Academy’s biases, Ford bitterly noted: “I don’t think a lot about honors, but I think it’s demeaning to the Westerns that I have received honors for other films and none for my Westerns.”

Other directors excelling in Westerns have similarly skirted the Academy recognition. Howard Hawks failed to get nominations for his two excellent Westerns, Red River (1948) and Rio Bravo (1959), but was nominated for the patriotic flag-waver, Sergeant York, though he did not win.

In 89 years, only four directors (and three films) have won the Oscar for making a Western: Kevin Costner for Dances With Wolves in 1990, Clint Eastwood for Unforgiven in 2004, and Joel and Ethan Coen for No Country for Old Men in 2007.

Fred Zinnemann (High Noon), George Stevens (Shane), and William Wyler (Friendly Persuasion) were nominated for and won directing Oscars, but not for Westerns.

John Wayne’s The Alamo (1960) received a Best Picture nomination, but Wayne was not nominated as director or actor.