Not John Wayne, Taylor Sheridan Credits Clint Eastwood’s $159M Oscar-Winning Movie That Inspired ‘Yellowstone’ Franchise


Taylor Sheridan’s neo-western series Yellowstone revitalized a genre deeply rooted in old Western ideals. When the show started, it treaded on a rocky patch, but as it progressed, fans started to notice its charm.

Sheridan wrote the majority of the Yellowstone narrative, though he directed a couple of episodes throughout the show’s five-season run. His passion for this project stemmed from his profound love for one of Clint Eastwood’s best works.

Taylor Sheridan Reveals Movie Inspiration For Yellowstone

Speaking with Variety, Yellowstone’s Taylor Sheridan gave some insights about how the project came to life, mentioning names that inspired and influenced him and his work:

“I was very influenced by writers like Cormac McCarthy, Larry McMurtry, Toni Morrison, who wrote about the time around the Civil War, which is obviously very similar themes. There’s a lot of Westerns about it.”

He mentioned a particular film by Clint Eastwood that would become the main inspiration for Yellowstone:

“And in terms of the movies that influenced me, it was watching ‘Unforgiven’ when I was in my late teens or very early 20s. The same with ‘Dances With Wolves,’ where you’re looking at the Western genre through a whole new lens that had never been explored before.”

Eastwood’s Unforgiven (1992) was a raging success, grossing $159 million against a budget of $14 million. On top of that, it was nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. Yellowstone has received a cult following, and as it established itself as its own prestige, Sheridan noted that the show aims to make the viewers reflect on the most important part of life:

“Our job as artists is to hold a mirror up to the world and let people see the reflection, to teach them about a part of life and human experience that they may not be aware of. Whenever we’re ignorant of something, then typically we fear it, or we judge it, or we dislike it.”


Sheridan also stated how Eastwood’s Unforgiven “shattered the myth of the American Western” that ultimately influenced his creative vision in filmmaking (via The Atlantic):

“So when I stepped into that world, I wanted there to be real consequences. I wanted to never, ever shy away from, ‘This was the price.’”

Simply put, Eastwood’s film paved the way for a Western genre where the good guy and the evil guy trade places.

Taylor Sheridan Believes In The Beauty Of His Own Creation

Taylor Sheridan has become quite the master of his chosen craft. After failing to become an actor, he decided to write stories. Yellowstone was even rejected by an HBO executive because “it just feels so Middle America.” But the filmmaker never gave up, instead he had a realization and it has so far brought him great opportunities (via THR):

“I spent the first 37 years of my life compromising. When I quit acting, I decided that I am going to tell my stories my way, period. If you don’t want me to tell them, fine. Give them back, and I’ll find someone who does — or I won’t, and then I’ll read them in some freaking dinner theater. But I won’t compromise.”

Not only did Yellowstone become a surprise hit show, but it also ranked as the most-watched TV series from Paramount for a straight summer.