I think it likely that more rubbish has been written about Jesse James than any other minor figure in American history. Films, books, comic books, plays, all have celebrated this cold blooded murderer and bandit. Portrayed as a robin hood, stealing from the rich for the poor, or an upholder of chivalry and Southern honor in post Civil War Missouri, James was none of these things,but rather a professional thief who found it convenient to try to gain public sympathy through sensationalist press coverage in Missouri and around the nation.
Perhaps the most accurate film depiction of Jesse James is The Great Northfield, Minnesota Raid (1972). Robert Duvall gives an on target portrayal of James as a thief who could be charming one moment and then kill without compunction in the next second. The film also shows what happened when bandits actually attempted a broad daylight bank job in a Western era town, the same sort of event depicted countless times in Westerns. Unlike most of the film depictions, the citizens of Northfield on September 7, 1876 reacted the way any townfolk of the time would have: they got their guns and began blazing a way at the desperadoes. All of the bandits were killed or captured except for Jesse and Frank James who escaped into the Dakota Territory.
The citizens of Northfield still have a big celebration each year depicting the defeat of the raid.