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Wild West Tropes

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This index lists tropes associated with The Western genre as a whole.

Also see Native Americans Tropes.


Genres and general settings

Specific settings

  • Bleak Border Base: A fortress at the farthest corner of the country.
  • Boom Town: A newly established settlement (town or city) with high population growth, usually due to rare riches being found there (gold, silver, water in an arid region, etc.).
  • Bronson Canyon and Caves: A rocky canyon, including several cave entrances. Despite being located in Griffith Park, Los Angeles, the area looks fairly remote and desolate, making it a popular shooting location for Westerns.
  • Close-Knit Community: A small Western town where its residents look out for each other.
  • Friendly Local Chinatown: A massive number of Chinese immigrants worked on the railroads and in mines, and were forced into their own camps and towns elsewhere. This is the time period when a lot of Chinatowns were founded.
  • Ghost Town: A town or village where no one (or next to no one) lives.
  • Injun Country: An area where Native Americans, First Nations, or other Indigenous peoples can be found; in the heyday of the Wild West, settlers often clash with these peoples during American expansion.
  • Kirk's Rock: A distinctive set of striated sandstone slabs, dozens to hundreds of feet tall, sharply-angled and pointed at their tops, that often appear in Westerns.
  • Outlaw Town: A settlement run by and exclusively inhabited by criminals and outlaws.
  • The Savage South: The Wild West is often stereotyped to barbaric and threatening, or at least more-so than the East.
  • South of the Border: Stereotypical portrayals of Mexico.


  • Bank Robbery: Outlaws steal money from a bank, typically by holding the tellers at gunpoint.
  • Cattle Drive: A working cowboy brings his cattle from the ranch to the market.
  • Clean Up the Town: A new person (or an old inhabitant returning after years away) takes position of responsibility, in this case usually a Sheriff, and makes things better.
  • A Fistful of Rehashes: A character walks into a town with two rival factions, plays them both for suckers, and eliminates them when the fighting weakens them.
  • The Magnificent Seven Samurai: A helpless community under attack hires heroes (usually seven) to protect them.
  • Protect This House: A horror/thriller plot about intruders breaking into a home and the occupants having to fight them off.
  • Quest to the West: A character has to head west for symbolic or significant purposes, e.g. a new life, a quest, or an adventure of some sort.
  • Railroad Plot: Something gets in the way of a big construction project (often a railroad in Westerns); this something must be destroyed to complete the project.
  • Run for the Border: A criminal tries to escape prosecution or persecution by fleeing the country; whether into Mexico or Canada (or vice-versa) or across Union/Confederate lines, needing to cross the border to safety (or arrest someone before they do) comes up fairly often in Westerns.
  • Settling the Frontier: Moving to new lands, in this case the Western United States, provides new opportunities and dangers.
  • The Seven Western Plots
  • Train Job: Outlaws board a train to steal its cargo or rob passengers at gunpoint.

Costumes and appearance

Guns and gunplay

(* = not necessarily gun-specific, but very commonly involve guns in westerns)

Other tropes