What is the Most Accurate Western Show of All Time?

What is the Most Accurate Western Show of All Time?
Image credit: Netflix

Don't say 'Howdy' until you've watched this show!


  • The creator of this series experimented with clichés, but he got one of the most historically accurate Westerns ever made.
  • The story is about a town, populated mostly by women, that fights back against bandits.
  • The creators of the series tried to recreate the life and environment of the time.

Cinema and television have given us no shortage of great films and series that subvert traditional notions of the Western genre. However, it is common to criticize its myths by resorting to genre blending and deliberately pushing back against realism. Much more difficult is the task of balancing criticism with realism, a compelling plot that doesn't divide aspects into white and black, and historical accuracy.

Today we are going to talk about just such a show, a critically acclaimed period drama that is arguably the most historically accurate Western series in the history of the genre.

What Is the Show About?

The series in question is Godless. It begins with an outlaw, Roy Goode (Jack O'Connell), being hunted by his ex-gang. He is driven to seek refuge in the small town of La Belle, New Mexico, which is run mostly by women because many of their husbands were killed in a mining accident. After providing shelter for Goode, the townsfolk are terrorized by the outlaws and must stand up to protect La Belle.

Created by Scott Frank and co-executive produced by Steven Soderbergh, this miniseries has been praised for its ability to handle classic Western clichés. In one of the interviews, Frank said that his goal was to incorporate as many genre conventions as possible into his own project and put an original spin on them:

'Why not embrace every single cliche I can think of from, you know, the breaking of horses to the train robberies to the two guys facing each other in the street — all of that stuff? The mysterious loner — why not find a way to put them all in here and see if I can't do it in some sort of different way?'

How did he reinterpret typical Western clichés and tropes, you ask? By doing an incredible amount of research and literally reconstructing the everyday life of the late 19th century.

The Most Historically Accurate Western Show Ever Made

Scott Frank personally visited many historical sites in New Mexico and studied the details of the realities and life of the small towns of the time. For example, La Belle, now a ghost town, actually existed at the intersection of the 19th and 20th centuries under the influence of the gold rush, but unlike the TV series, there were no tragedies. However, mining accidents were not uncommon in those days.

Incidentally, while the real La Belle, New Mexico, was never run by women, Frank was inspired by the story of Jackson, Wyoming, which had an all-female town council — an example that while suffragettes were just beginning to gain rights in the big cities, the harsh conditions of remote communities made it no rarity.

The Series Deftly Balances Accuracy and Revisionism

While the term 'revisionist Western' is vague enough to include any film that plays on the clichés and tropes of the genre, revisionism is primarily concerned with overturning the romanticized myths and images of the Wild West and instead presenting the gritty reality of the 1800s.

As a result, Godless is not only a great show whose creators have done excellent historical research, but it also functions as an excellent critique of established beliefs.

Of course, the characters are fictional and the events around them are highly dramatized, but they still do a good job of undermining the traditionally masculine images in the Western genre. After all, there were some predominantly female communities on the American frontier, and the 19th and 20th centuries saw the rise of suffragettes and women in positions of power.

You can stream Godless on Netflix.

Source: NPR.