I think it’s an impressive film. Not visually, of course (though it’s well photographed), but narratively, in its thematic range: law versus justice, the individual versus the collective, Crowds and Power, father versus son, moral inflexibility and its (horrible) consequences, the nature of democracy … The supposed hero, Gil Carter (Fonda), remains ineffective and powerless throughout the entire movie. Not only has he lost his girl to some wimp from San Francisco, but he also is confronted with his impotence to prevent the lynching of three innocent men.
Reportedly one of Clint Eastwood’s favorite films when he was growing up and an inspiration for his Unforgiven (cf. Mary Lea Bandy and Kevin Stoehr’s Ride, Boldly Ride, p. 258). Wellman’s Yellow Sky (1948) and Westward the Women (1951) are good, unusual Westerns too.