The Wild West refers to the period and location of expansion into America’s as-yet-unknown Western territories in the late nineteenth century. Up until 1800 the settled areas of America reached the Mississippi River, but expansion began in the 1800s as waves of new immigrants, scientists, explorers and settlers pushed west into new areas. One of the most famous aspects of this was the California Gold Rush, in which thousands of new settlers headed for the mines and the dream of making their fortune.
The Wild West is seen in popular culture as a lawless, hostile environment in which only the toughest and most determined characters could survive. It has also become synonymous with the myth of cowboys, the typical American settler, and the Native American Indian populations of the West. Western movies featuring the adventures of some of these romantic figures are amongst the great classics of American (and world) cinema.