Americans’ fascination with the frontier has its origins in Dime Novels. The frontier was the setting of this literary form of pop fiction. The tales that hooked readers to these books have also lured Americans to see films about the America West and the US-Mexico border. Frontier movies that dramatized violence, drugs, smuggling, and lawlessness, just to name a few, kept moviegoers returning to theaters in the 20th century.
You can see traces of frontier tales in silent films, talkies, film noirs, westerns, comedies, Sci-Fi’s, and, lately, War on Drugs and War on terrors flicks. While film genres have evolved, to convey the stories making headlines during a specific time, storylines share similarities. Even in the 1935 New Deal classic, “Bordertown,” featuring a young Bette Davis, the frontier is a place where a person can make lots of money in gambling and booze. Likewise, the only way you can regain order and re-establish civilization at the US-Mexico border is by exterminating “bad hombres” with extreme prejudice as in both Sicario films.
Motion pictures about the frontier have not only created movie fans, they have also criminalized the people and culture of the US-Mexico border region.