The movie was written by John Gay (uncredited) and James R. Webb and directed by John Ford (segment "The Civil War"), Henry Hathaway (segments "The Rivers", "The Plains" and "The Outlaws"), George Marshall (segment "The Railroad") and Richard Thorpe (uncredited) (transitional historical sequences).
The movie won Academy Awards for Best Film Editing, Best Sound and Best Writing, Story and Screenplay - Written Directly for the Screen (James R. Webb) and was nominated for Academy Award for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Color, Best Cinematography, Color, Best Costume Design, Color, Best Music, Score - Substantially Original (Alfred Newman and Ken Darby) and Best Picture.
How the West was Won is one of only two feature films (the other being The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm) made using the three-strip Cinerama process, and suffers from that process's technical shortcomings. When shown on television in a Cinemascope print made from the original three-strip version, the joins between the three frames are clearly and sometimes glaringly visible; when seen in letterbox format the actors' faces are invisible in long shots.
The film has also been selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.