35 Best western movies of all time

Check out our elaborate list of 35 of the best Western movies of all time in Hollywood.

Updated on Sep 23, 2022 04:29 PM IST  |  210.3K
Here we have an elaborate list of the 35 best Western movies of all time in Hollywood.
Here we have an elaborate list of the 35 best Western movies of all time in Hollywood.

While the current movie industry is dominated by sci-fi and other modern genres, it was once dominated by the artful, Western cinemas that showed the culture and the lives of Native Americans. What started with The Great Train Robbery in 1903, the genre was revived by modern movies like The Revenant or Django Unchained and TV shows like Westworld in the recent past. So, as you can imagine, there are a ton of Western movies that defined the film industry and paved the way for modern films.

The Western was one of the most loved genres of movies, with actors like Clint Eastwood, John Wayne, and James Stewart depicting the lives of cowboys in the wild, wild west. All throughout the 1950s and 60s, Western movies were all the rage in the film industry, which included some iconic movies like The Good, The Bad And The Ugly, and Once Upon a Time in the West.

So, in this article, we have made an elaborate list of the best Western movies that you should watch at least once in your lifetime. Check them out right below.

Check out The Best Western Movies of All Time

1. Unforgiven

Directed by the legendary Clint Eastwood, Unforgiven is a tale of a widower and a retired gunfighter named William Munny. Set in 1881, this cowboy-focused Western masterpiece is led by Eastwood himself who plays the role of an aging outlaw and killer who takes one last bounty-hunting job with his friend Ned Logan (Morgan Freeman). So, if you are fond of rolling-pistol, revenge stories, Unforgiven is one such Western film for you.

2. Bad Day at Black Rock

Bad Day at Black Rock

Bad Day at Black Rock is one of those Western movies that will keep you at the edge of your seat at all times as you witness John J. Macreedy (Spencer Tracy) fight for his life in a small town named Black Rock. Directed by John Sturges, this Western crime drama explores the dark secrets of a small town, with deaths and murders filling up the screenplay.

3. Red River

Red River

This 1948 American Western movie is about a growing vendetta between a father, played by John Wayne, and his adopted adult son, played by Montgomery Clift. The film revolves around the first cattle drive from Texas to Kansas via the Chrisholm Trail and follows Thomas Dunson (John Wayne), Matt Garth (Montgomery Clift), and Nadine Groot (Walter Brennan) in the wild, wild west. Directed and produced by Howard Hawks, Red River is one of the greatest Western movies of all time.

4. Once Upon a Time in the West

After directing The Good, The Bad And The Ugly, director Sergio Leone came up with Once Upon a Time in the West with actors Henry Fonda and Charles Bronson leading the film as the villain and protagonist, respectively. It is set in the Old West town of Flagstone and follows two plot lines, led by the above actors. The film is also the first edition of Leone's Once Upon a Time trilogy, followed by films like Duck, You Sucker! and Once Upon a Time in America.

5. The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

One of the greatest Spaghetti Western movies of all time, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly is a stylish and violent film that follows three western gunslingers, who compete against each other to get a buried treasure. This iconic Western movie, directed by Sergio Leone, is known for its long-drawn shots, close-up screenplay, and of course, its main background score, which was composed by Ennio Morricone.

6. Vera Cruz

 Vera Cruz

Director Robert Aldrich came up with Vera Cruz in 1954, which paved the way for future American Western movies. Starring Gary Cooper and Burt Lancaster, this Western movie is known for its amoral characters and violently cynical characters that somewhat shocked the audience at the time when it was released. So, if you are a fan of violent Western films, Vera Cruz is a must-watch.

7. One-Eyed Jacks

Led by the legendary Marlon Brando, who is known for his iconic role in The Godfather, One-Eyed Jacks is one unique Western gem that was directed by Brando himself. In fact, it is the only film that Brando ever directed and it follows the story of Kid Rio, portrayed by Brando, taking revenge on his former robbery partner.

8. My Darling Clementine

Starring Hendry Fonda and directed by Jon Ford, My Darling Clementine is a 1946 American Western movie that follows the story of Wyatt, Morgan, Virgil, and James Earp taking on Old Man Clanton and his sons. The film is based on a 1931 novel named Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshal by Stuart N. Lake and is considered one of the greatest Westerns of all time.

9. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Directed by George Roy Hills, this 1969 American Western movie follows the Wild West outlaws Rober LeRoy Parker (Paul Newman), who is infamously known as Butch Cassidy, and his partner Harry Longabaugh (Robert Redford), known as the Sundance Kid. It is an adventurous Western story, involving train robberies, US posses, and escapes. So, if you are someone who loves a good adventure watch, this Western film might quench your thirst.

10. The Magnificent Seven

The Magnificent Seven

Another one of John Sturges creations, The Magnificent Seven is an American Western film with an ensemble cast, including Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, Robert Vaughn, Brad Dexter, James Coburn, and Horst Buchholz. The story is about these seven characters who are hired to protect a small town in Mexico. Although the film did not do well at the time of its official release, it went on to become one of the greatest Westerns of all time, inspiring many future films.

11. The Searchers

The Searchers is a 1956 epic Western drama, starring John Wayne, Natalie Wood, Jeffrey Hunter, and Vera Miles. Directed by John Ford, the film revolves around Ethan Edwards (John Wayne), an American Civil War veteran, looking for his lost niece Debbie Edwards (Natalie Wood) and her sister. Although there are some nuances that pose as sinister in this film, it is still considered one of the best movies ever made for the big screen.

12. The Wild Bunch

The Wild Bunch

This 1969 epic Revisionist Western was pretty controversial when it was released due to its portrayal of sinister men making lives for themselves. However, director Sam Peckinpah did not back down to show gory violence and a gang of aging outlaws trying to adapt to a changing world in 1913. Starring William Holden, Ernest Borgnine, Robert Ryan, Edmond O'Brien, Ben Johnson, and Warren Oates, the Wild Bunch is an Academy Award-nominated Western movie that is a must-watch for any Western fan.

13. The Gunfighter

Directed by Henry King, the Gunfighter is a Western classic, which was released in 1950, starring Gregory Peck, Karl Malden, Helen Wescott, and Millard Mitchell. The film follows Jimmy Ringo (Gregory Peck), who is considered the fastest draw in the West, showing his life and death. It is a story about love, revenge, and violence: the three pillars of Western classics.

14. High Noon

High Noon

Starring Gary Cooper, Grace Kelly, and Katy Jurado, this 1952 Western classic follows the story of Will Kane (Gary Cooper), who is a former marshal of New Mexico's small town of Hadleyville. Right before leaving the town with his newly-wed wife Amy (Grace Kelly), Kane learns that a local criminal whom he turned in back in the day has escaped and is coming for revenge. Directed by Fred Zinneman, this film's story inspired many future films and not just in the Western genre.

15. Tombstone

Tombstone is a modern story that is based on the culture of the lawless Old West. Directed by George P. Cosmatos, this 1993 Western movie depicts real events that occurred in the town of Tombstone, Arizona in the 1880s. Starring Kurt Russell and Val Kilmer in the lead roles, this film is one of the stars of the Western genre and was a huge financial success for its time.

16. She Wore a Yellow Ribbon

Another John Wayne-starred Western classic from the early 20th century, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon released in 1949. Set in 1876, the film follows the story of an aging cavalry veteran Captain Nathan Cutting Brittles (John Wayne), trying to prevent an Indian war before retiring from his post for good. This Western classic was a heavy-budgeted one at the time and was a major hit.

17. Winchester '73

Winchester '73

This 1950 Western Classic, directed by Anthony Mann and starred by James Stewart, depicts the story of a Winchester 1873 rifle and the ill fates of those who possess it. Steward plays the role of Lin McAdam, a vengeful cowboy who is searching for Dutch Henry Brown to settle a personal feud. The film was the first collaboration between Mann and Stewart, following which the duo made seven films together.

18. Johnny Guitar

Based on the novel of the same name by Roy Chanslor, Johnny Guitar is a 1954 Western movie directed by Nicholas Ray. Starring Joan Crawford, Sterling Hayden, Mercedes McCambridge, Ernest Borgnine, and Scott Brady, and follows the story of Johnny Guitar (Sterling Hayden) and an aggressive saloonkeeper named Vienna (Joan Crawford) in a small cattle town in Arizona. The film was selected for preservation in the US National Film Registry in 2008 and is one of the best Western classics of all time.

19. Rio Bravo

Another of Howard Hawks' Western classics, this 1959 film starring the legendary John Wayne is based on a short story of the same name by B. H McCampbell. Here, Wayne plays the role of a sheriff in Texas who is tasked to keep a murderous local rancher in jail until a US Marshal arrives. So, if you love an exciting premise and violence, Rio Bravo is one such Western movie that you would want to watch.

20. Stagecoach

One of the iconic Western classics of all time, Stagecoach, directed by John Ford, is the breakthrough film for the legendary actor John Wayne. Set in 1880, the film revolves around a group of 9 strangers who board the stagecoach (a transporting vehicle) from Tonto to Lordsburg. Although the film was controversial for its time, much like other Western classics, for depicting the lives of Native Americans as savages, it is still a significant film that was added to the National Film Registry by the US Library of Congress in 1995.

21. Ride the High Country

Ride the High Country

Before directing The Wild Bunch (above), Sam Peckinpah came up with Ride the High Country, starring Randolph Scott, Joel McCrea, and Mariette Hartley in 1962. This Western movie depicts betrayal and how greed for gold could destroy friendships. It was added to National Film Registry in 1992 and is considered one of the iconic Western films of all time.

22. Shane

This 1953 Western Film, starring Alan Ladd, Jean Arthur and Van Heflin, was directed by George Stevens and was based on the novel of the same name by Jack Schaefer. Set in 1889 in the Wyoming Territory, the film follows the story of Shane (Alan Ladd), who is a skilled gunfighter with a mysterious past. The story is then followed by love, friendship, and violence.

23. 7 Men From Now

Directed by the Western filmmaker Budd Boetticher, 7 Men From Now is an American Western classic that was released in 1956. Starring Randolph Scott, Gail Russell, and Lee Marvin, it follows the story of Ben Stride (Randolph Scott), who is a former sheriff haunted by the loss of his wife in an unfortunate robbery. The film portrays how the lawlessness of the West can affect the daily lives of the people living there.

24. Ride Lonesome

Another Budd Boetticher Western movie, Ride Lonesome is about a Ben Brigade, played by Randolph Scott, who is set to avenge the murder of his wife. The film was shot in Sierra Nevada locations and was one of depicts a feud between Indian attackers and Brigade's gang on the way to Santa Cruz.

25. The Revenant

The Revenant

One of Leonardo Di Caprio's best movies to date, The Revenant is a 2015 Western film that is about survival in harsh conditions and revenge for a heartbreaking betrayal. Directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and starring Di Caprio and Tom Hardy, the film is considered a Western genre film and is based on the 2002 novel by Michael Punke - The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge. The film won three Golden Globe Awards and paved the way for Di Caprio's first Oscar win.

26. Django Unchained

Django Unchained

One of the most violent and edgy Western movies of all time, Django Unchained is a masterpiece, written and directed by the legendary Quentin Tarantino. The film revolves around a bounty hunter named Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) and a former slave Django (Jamie Foxx). The screenplay depicts the violence and the iconic long-drawn shots that define the Western genre and is a must-watch for any movie buff.

27. For a Few Dollars More

For a Few Dollars More is a 1965 Spaghetti Western film that was directed by Sergio Leone and starred the legendary Clint Eastwood. In this film, Eastwood returned to the silver screen to play a bounty hunter who collaborates with a former Army colonel, seeking revenge. The film has a fair amount of violence and is the second part of, what is called the Dollars Trilogy.

28. True Grit (2010)

Directed, written, and produced by the Coen brothers (Joel Coen and Ethan Coen), True Grit is an adaptation of the 1968 novel of the same name. Starring big names like Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, and Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit is a story about a fourteen-year-old girl, seeking revenge for her father's murder.

29. The Ox-Bow Incident

The Ox-Bow Incident is an American Western movie that was released in 1943. Directed by William A. Wellman and starring Henry Fonda, Dana Andrews, and Mary Beth Hughes, the film revolves around two cowboys in a small Western town where a local rancher has been murdered and his cattle stolen. It is set in 1885 and is one of the earliest movies in the psychological Western genre.

30. The Hateful Eight

The Hateful Eight

The Hateful Eight is a revisionist American Western movie, directed by Quentin Tarantino and led by big stars like Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Demián Bichir, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, and Bruce Dern. Tarantino came up with the film as a novel and a sequel to his 2012 film Django Unchained (listed above). The story is set sometime after the American Civil War and follows eight strangers taking shelter in a stagecoach stopover during a blizzard.

31. Ulzana's Raid

Ulzana's Raid is a popular American Revisionist Western film, directed by Robert Aldrich and starring Burt Lancaster, Bruce Davison, Jorge Luke, and Joaquin Martinez. It is about the story of an inhuman raid done by the Chiricahua Apaches against the European settlers. The film was based in the 1880s and was shot in Arizona.

32. They Call Me Trinity

They Call Me Trinity is a Spaghetti Western film that focuses on the comedy genre instead of being all serious and rugged. The film was directed by Enzo Barboni and stars Terence Hill and Bud Spencers, playing the role of two brothers who help a Mormon settlement defend against Mexican bandits and other hurdles. After this movie, Barboni also directed its sequel, titled "Trinity is Still My Name", which became more successful than the original. In 1995, a film named Sons of Trinity was released as a continuation of the film series.

33. The Culpepper Cattle Co

This 1972 Revisionist Western film, The Culpepper Cattle Co or Dust, Sweat, and Gunpowder (Australian version of the film) was directed by Dick Richards and starred by Gary Grimes and Billy Green Rush as Frank Culpepper. The film follows a similar aesthetic much like some of the popular Western films from the 1970s and was known for its use of sepia tones and grainy screenplay. 

34. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance was a 1962 Western film directed by John Ford and starring the famous John Wayne and James Stewart. The film was adapted from a short story by Dorothy M. Johnson that was released back in 1953. The film is a critically acclaimed piece for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" and is preserved by the US National Film Registry.

35. Young Guns

Young Guns is a biographical Western film, released in 1988, directed by Christopher Cain and written by John Fusco. The film had an ensemble cast, including some big names in the industry such as Kiefer Sutherland, Lou Diamond Philips, Charley Sheen, Emilio Estevez, Terence Stamp, Terry O'Queen, Brian Keith, and Casey Siemaszko. There are also brief cameos of popular stars like Tom Cruise and Jack Palance in the 1988 movie. 

So, these are some of the best and most iconic Western-genre movies of all time. If you haven't watched them all already, be sure to give them a try to get a glimpse of the lawless Western culture that was prevalent in the US during the late 19th century and the early 20th century. Also, let us know your favorite Western film in the comments below.

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Top Comments
There are no comments in this article yet. Be first to post one!
Anonymous
Aug 01, 2022 06:03 PM
Good list but you forgot a few great ones such as Ulzana's Raid, The Big Country, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, Young Guns and The Shootist,
REPLY
Anonymous
Aug 03, 2022 01:49 PM
I would mention The Culpepper Cattle Co.
REPLY
Anonymous
Aug 06, 2022 11:29 PM
''They Call Me Trinity' 'Son of Thunder' 'DeGuello' etc
REPLY
Anonymous
Aug 07, 2022 01:35 AM
The searchers
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Anonymous
Aug 08, 2022 05:11 PM
List starts off well but, seriously, how do you ignore Liberty Valance and Altman’s incredible McCabe?
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