The 17 Best Western Movies

by Brett & Kate McKay on June 4, 2013 · 549 comments

in Movies, Travel & Leisure


Few figures in history have had as powerful an impact on American masculinity as the cowboy. For over a century, the cowboy has — for better or for worse — been a standard of rugged individualism and stoic bravery for the American male. While the mythologization of the American cowboy began all the way back in the 1880s with dime novels and Wild West shows, it wasn’t until the advent of twentieth century cinema that the cowboy cemented his place as an icon of manliness.

The Western has been a popular genre of cinema since the very beginning of film, and successive generations of filmmakers have used the “Wild West” as a backdrop on which to explore the social issues of their respective eras. Many of the early silent films at the beginning of the 20th century were Westerns, the most famous being 1903′s The Great Train RobberyDuring the 1920s, the Western film genre produced some of Hollywood’s first megastars such as Tom Mix and William S. Hart. These early Westerns were heavy on action, but light on plot. Their primary goal was to simply entertain.

It isn’t until the 1930s that the Western became an avenue for telling stories with searching and hard-hitting messages. Directors and screenwriters used the genre to overtly and symbolically explore the pressing subjects of their day like racism, nationalism, capitalism, family, and honor — issues deeply meshed with manhood. During the Great Depression, for example, when men felt punished by the economy even though they had worked hard and done the right thing, Western plots often revolved around a man who is mistaken for an outlaw and falsely accused of a crime he didn’t commit and must find the real criminal and seek justice himself. In the 50s, it was society’s anxiety about conformity that began to be reflected through the prism of the Old West. Instead of taking on bad guys with a posse, the protagonists in these mid-century Westerns (Shane and High Noon being the best examples) were loners who were compelled by their own values to fight against wrong while those around them cowered in fear like sheep. The tenor of Westerns changed once again during the cultural, social, and political upheaval of the 1960s. Like many films during that time, the antihero now took center-stage, and the heroes in these films were typically outlaws who were fighting against a corrupt system of justice and inequality (see Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid). During the 70s and 80s, the classic Western went into hibernation. It wasn’t until the late 80s and early 90s that the genre returned to prominence in film and TV. Reflecting the post-modern era in which they were made, these more recent Westerns are much more morally ambiguous (Unforgiven) or satirical and/or comedic (City Slickers) than their earlier counterparts.

Because the Western has played such a huge role in the shaping of American masculinity (not to mention simply being enjoyable entertainment), I thought it only proper to highlight some of the best from the genre. Below you’ll find my picks. I tried to get a good mixture from different time periods. It goes without saying that John Wayne makes an appearance in several of these films. Enjoy.

High Noon


High Noon is film about being torn between duty and love and standing up for what you believe in, even when everyone else abandons you. Gary Cooper plays Will Kane, a town marshal from New Mexico, who settles down with his pacifist Quaker wife (played by Grace Kelly, one of your grandpa’s babes). Kane’s plans to retire to a peaceful life are interrupted after he gets word that a former gunslinger is coming in on the noon train to settle an old score with him. His wife pleads with him to leave town, but Kane knows he can’t. He has a duty to defend the town and his honor. Will finds himself alone in the battle as everyone in town, including his deputy sheriff, have turned away from him. The tension builds, leading up to the final gun battle — the quintessential mano-a-mano showdown that historians say rarely actually happened in the Old West, but has become an indelible part of popular culture.

Best line: “Don’t shove me Harv. I’m tired of being shoved.”



This is the movie that made John Wayne a star and set the standard for all subsequent Westerns (some would say it set the standard for all 20th century cinema). Directed by the legendary John Ford and shot on scene in Monument Park, Stagecoach follows a group of nine strangers as they cross dangerous Apache territory in — you guessed it — a stagecoach. All of the characters have their own personal demons that they’re running from and the journey through the treacherous Apache territory in many ways serves as a symbolic road to redemption for each of them. The acting and screenplay is top notch. Despite being filmed in 1939, the movie is still fresh and engaging. Be on the lookout for the epic chase scene featuring one of the most famous movie stunts of all time performed by Yakima Canutt.

Best line: “Well, there are some things a man just can’t run away from.”

The Searchers


In this film, also directed by John Ford, John Wayne gives the most intense acting performance of his career as the dark and vengeful Ethan Edwards, a man who vows to kill the Comanche raiders who murdered his beloved sister-in-law, brother, and took captive two of their daughters. Wayne does a fantastic job in embodying a conflicted, complex man whose racism and desire for revenge sets up a situation far more morally ambiguous than Cowboys vs. Indians.

Best line: “That’ll be the day.”

Lonesome Dove


Technically this isn’t a movie, but rather a TV mini-series, but I don’t care. Lonesome Dove is a Western every man should see. Even if you don’t like Westerns, you’ll love Lonesome Dove. Its themes of friendship, regret, and love will resonate with any man. The action scenes are just icing on the cake. Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Larry McMurty, Lonesome Dove follows two retired Texas Rangers — Augustus McCrae (Robert Duvall) and Woodrow Call (Tommy Lee Jones) — as they lead a cattle drive from South Texas all the way to Montana. The production on Lonesome Dove isbar none, the best in Western cinema. The costumes, the locations, even the way the characters speak make you feel like you’ve been plopped on a horse in 1876 America. But what really separates Lonesome Dove from the rest of the Westerns on this list (and I’d go as far as saying most movies ever made) are the characters. Thanks to top-notch writing and acting, Lonesome Dove is one of those rare movies that makes you feel like its fictional characters are real life people. Not only that, you feel like old friends with them by the end. You’ll cheer their triumphs and bawl your eyes out when tragedy strikes. Do yourself a favor and rent the complete series and watch it. You’ll be a better man for it.

Trivia: Our son’s name — Augustus McKay — was inspired by August McCrae. That’s how much I love this book and movie.

Best line: “It ain’t dying I’m talking about, it’s living.”



Cinema often glorifies the Old West as a mythic time when good guys wore white and the bad ones wore black. In Unforgiven, director/actor/producer Clint Eastwood shines a light on the dark, violent, and morally ambiguous aspects of life in frontier America. Clint Eastwood plays William Munny, a once notorious and violent killer. Now, he’s just a quiet and tired farmer who is a devoted father still mourning his dead wife. But Will’s old life comes back to haunt him when he’s asked to do a hit on a cowboy who slashed the face of a prostitute. Will is transplanted from his farm in Kansas to a town in Wyoming where he meets Sheriff Little Bill Daggett (Gene Hackman), a mean son-of-a-bitch who is determined to not let the hit go down, no matter what it takes. Hold onto your hats, partners, this isn’t your grandpa’s Western.

Best line: “Hell of a thing, killing a man. You take away all he’s got and all he’s ever gonna have.”



This is a great sheepdog movie. A quiet gunslinger who is trying to escape his past befriends a pioneer family that has settled out west. He attempts to settle down and become a hired hand to the family, but the ranchers who want to drive cattle through the homesteaders’ property are attempting to push them out. Shane tries to stay out of the disputes, but keeps being drawn in and is finally compelled to put his six shooter back on to protect his adoptive family. Perhaps the most touching part of the movie is the relationship Shane develops with the farmer’s son.

Best line: “A gun is a tool, Marian; no better or no worse than any other tool: an axe, a shovel or anything. A gun is as good or as bad as the man using it. Remember that.”

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid


Based loosely on the real lives of Western outlaws Robert LeRoy Parker (aka Butch Cassidy) and Harry Longabaugh (aka the Sundance Kid), Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is a classic movie about two buddies trying to make it in a changing world. What’s funny about this flick is that you forget that these guys were hardened criminals who robbed banks and trains for a living. The easygoing charm Robert Redford and Paul Newman bring to their roles makes you like the characters despite their choice of profession. Their clever hijinks and humor make the movie an enjoyable ride.

The Magnificent Seven


Inspired by the classic Japanese film Seven Samurai, The Magnificent Seven follows a group of seven American gunfighters who band together to defend an oppressed Mexican village. This film has it all: great story, great cast, and one of the most iconic movie scores of all time.

Best line: “It’s only a matter of knowing how to shoot a gun. Nothing big about that.”

Red River


What happens to a man when he’s consumed by obsession? That’s the question that we see answered in 1948′s Red River. John Wayne plays Thomas Dunson, a determined and sometimes ruthless man who has the goal of forming the largest cattle ranch in America. With nothing but his trusty trail-hand (Walter Brennan) and a young boy who survived an Indian attack on his wagon train (Montgomery Clift), Dunson does just that. To make money, though, he’s got to get the cattle to market, so Dunson sets out to drive thousands of cattle from Texas to Missouri. Along the way, Dunson’s brutal and dictatorial leadership causes his young protege and adopted son to mutiny and take the cattle from Dunson. Dunson vows to find and kill his boy. Does he do it in the end? You’ll have to watch the movie to find out.

Best line: “Get a shovel and my Bible. I’ll read over him.”

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly


The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is the last in Sergio Leone’s trilogy of “spaghetti westerns.” Despite being the last, it has come to stand on its own. Even if you haven’t seen the film, you probably know something about it. Most likely you’ve heard the iconic theme song with its spooky “wha wha wha” shouts. And you’ve probably seen images and scenes of Clint Eastwood wearing a poncho and smoking a cigar. The film follows three cowboys during the Civil War who try to double cross each other in search of Confederate gold. There’s not much of a deep message in this film. It’s just a lot of fun to watch.

Best line: “When you have to shoot, shoot. Don’t talk.”


True Grit (2010)


Hired by a young girl to track down the man that killed her father, Jeff Bridges takes on the role of Rooster Cogburn, the marshal with “grit” enough to bring the man to justice. The 2010 version is definitely better than the 1969 John Wayne version. Bridges simply did a superior job portraying Rooster Cogburn, and thanks to the Coen brothers, the movie just seemed more real and alive.

Best line: “Fill  your hand you son-of-a-bitch!”

The Wild Bunch


The Wild Bunch is a tale about a group of outlaws who see the world they know quickly disappearing. Set in 1913, the West by then was no longer “wild.” The old rule of “might makes right” had been replaced by government-dispensed justice. Moreover, technology had made many of the skills and know-how needed to survive and thrive in the Wild West obsolete. Sensing that their time is up, a group of outlaws decide to go out in a blaze of glory and gore. The Wild Bunch was and is a controversial film. Its violence and nihilism paints a bleak picture of life at the end of the American West. In many ways, The Wild Bunch symbolized the end of the classic American Western. Just as the outlaws in the film were out of step with a changing society, so too were Westerns out of step with 1969 America. It’s interesting to note that very few new major Westerns were produced after The Wild Bunch was released in 1969.

Best line: “Let’s go.”

Rio Bravo


A small-town sheriff (John Wayne) in the American West enlists the help of a cripple (Walter Brennan), a drunk (Dean Martin, of course), and a young gunfighter (Ricky Nelson — how dreamy…) in his efforts to keep the brother of the local bad guy in jail. Director Howard Hawks made this film in reaction to High Noon. Both he and John Wayne despised what they saw as the wimpy and unmanly lack of resolve in Gary Cooper’s character. I’m not sure I agree with Wayne and Hawks about that, but that’s a debate for another day. Overall, Rio Bravo has everything you should expect in a good 1950s Western: action, adventure, and heroics. We even get to hear old Dean-O sing a tune. 

Best line: “Hey, Dude! How do ya like them apples?”



After years of chasing outlaws, legendary lawman Wyatt Earp retires and takes up residence  in the town of Tombstone, Arizona. His plans to live out his days as a respectable businessman are interrupted when a gang of hell-raisers called “the Cowboys” starts causing trouble in the area. Not able to stand the lawlessness, Earp joins his brothers in getting rid of the Cowboys. Tensions between the Earps and the Cowboys heats up and eventually leads to the infamous showdown at the O.K. Corral. Action-packed and fast-moving, Tombstone is definitely a Western that suits modern moviegoers’ tastes. Not to mention, it has some of the best mustachery in the history of cinema.

Best line: “I’m your Huckleberry.”

The Outlaw Josey Wales


Directing and starring Clint Eastwood. It’s about a man named Josey Wales who lost home and family during the Civil War to a band of pro-Union Jayhawkers. Driven by revenge, he joins a posse of pro-Confederate soldiers so he can find the men who destroyed the things he loved. The Civil War ends and the band of Confederate fighters surrender. But not Josey. Revenge, sorrow, forgiveness, betrayal  love, family, and honor  take center stage in this Eastwood classic.

Best line: “Dyin’ ain’t much of a living, boy.”

Editor’s Note: I added this one after initial publication. I can’t believe I forgot to put it in! Lots of other great suggestions in the comments too, by the way.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford


This 2007 film directed by Andrew Dominik is the film version of the 1983 novel of the same name. Brad Pitt stars as Jesse James with Casey Affleck taking on the role of his killer, Robert Ford. When James’ gang plans a train robbery in Missouri, Ford makes multiple attempts to join the gang. Ultimately, Ford gets rejected by James, and so sets out to get revenge. The film is star-studded, but surprisingly had lackluster results at the box office despite excellent reviews, with one critic even saying that it is “one of the most wrongly neglected masterpieces of its era.”

Best line: “It seems to me if you have something to confess, you outta be right and you spit it out now.”

The Shootist


Nobody wants to die alone. Especially gunslingers. In a haunting portrayal that foreshadowed his own fate, John Wayne plays J.B. Books, an aging gunfighter dying of cancer who resigns himself to live out his days in private. But skeletons from his past prevent him from fading away, so he decides to go down the only way he knows how – with his six-shooter blazing.

Best line: “I won’t be wronged. I won’t be insulted. I won’t be laid a-hand on. I don’t do these things to other people, and I require the same from them.”

What do you think are the best Western films of all time? Share your picks with us in the comments!

{ 549 comments… read them below or add one }

101 Brandon June 4, 2013 at 10:46 pm

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, 2 Mules for Sister Sara, High Plains Drifter, Jeremiah Johnson, HONDO!

102 Hal June 4, 2013 at 10:48 pm

The Big Country, also had the best theme and score
All James Stewart westerns
McCabe and Mrs. Miller
Jeremiah Johnson
Little Big Man
Man in the Wilderness
OxBow Incident
Duel in the Sun
The Grey Fox
Lonely Are the Brave

103 JSydCarton June 4, 2013 at 11:00 pm

I have to add:
“Once Upon a Time in the West” (my all-time favorite western); “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance”; and “3:10 to Yuma” (the original, the remake took all the moral out and made it a simple action flick.). “Silverado” was pretty funny too.

104 EH June 4, 2013 at 11:18 pm

I mainly agree with the list, but should have had “Once upon in the West”, and maybe “My name is nobody”.
And “Josey Wales” is definitly my favourite.

105 Andrew June 4, 2013 at 11:21 pm

“Hombre” with Paul Newman.

106 Tristan June 4, 2013 at 11:22 pm

Man… I don’t know. “Once Upon a Time in the West” is one of the top 16 movies of all time period. Should have made this list without a doubt.

107 Andrew Ingersoll June 4, 2013 at 11:28 pm

Fistful of Dollars
For a Few Dollars More
The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly
Pale Rider
Once Upon a Time in the West
The Magnificent Seven
My Darling Clementine
The Cowboys
Blazing Saddles…

108 Jack C June 4, 2013 at 11:33 pm

Not sure I buy any list of best Westerns without The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance…

109 Kevin June 4, 2013 at 11:33 pm

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

“When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

110 MarylandBill June 4, 2013 at 11:43 pm

Good list, but I think this list is missing a lot of John Ford and Howard Hawks westerns that are as good as or better than some others on this list. I will defend the 2010 version of True Grit. It takes the original Charles Portis novel (which should be on a list of books that every one should read) a lot more seriously and does a better job in my opinion of capturing its spirit. Actually the big problem with the original movie is that it is impossible not to see John Wayne in Rooster.

The only movie I would really question on this list is Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Its not a bad movie, and I enjoy it.. but it just somehow feels more like a buddy movie than a Western… and I can never really forgive it for “Raindrops are falling on my head” which probably is what wrecks the mood of that film for me.

111 George McUrso June 4, 2013 at 11:44 pm

I have a great fondness for Duel at Diablo featuring Jame Garner in an atypical roll as an army scout seeking to avenge the rape and murder of his Indian wife while dealing with an band of renegade apaches

112 Oklahoma Sun June 4, 2013 at 11:47 pm

Probably the best missing, ‘She Wore a Yellow Ribbon.’ Should be one of the top two or three.

113 efm June 4, 2013 at 11:52 pm


114 Murlene Watkins June 4, 2013 at 11:55 pm

The Big Country!!

115 C.S. June 4, 2013 at 11:58 pm

Refused to watch 2010′s True Grit for two years simply because I was sure there was no way Jeff Bridges could hold a candle to John Wayne. After reluctantly watching Coen’s version however, I was surprised that I liked it more than the original. A LOT MORE. Quite frankly, I don’t like the emphasis that Wayne or Bridges gives on the “Fill your hands…” line. They both are awkward–in my opinion. Love the style of dialog, costuming, and acting. Nearly every character portrayed superbly.
Probably not worthy of this list, but a fun and very family friendly western is: Support Your Local Sheriff. Ridiculous and fun.

Thanks for the tips!

116 Mark Miller June 5, 2013 at 12:11 am

Um, not one Jimmy Stewart western makes the list? The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance or one of his others should definitely be on this list.

117 Nils June 5, 2013 at 12:28 am

I would put “Once Upon a Time in the West” on there: Fonda, Robards, and Bronson are great, and the film has one of the best opening title sequences; as well as “Open Range,” which is another good “sheepdog” film–Robert Duvall and Kevin Costner just want to graze their cattle, but cruel land baron Michael Gambon makes life hell for them and kills one of their trail hands, and the townsfolk won’t stand up against this injustice, so Duvall and Costner must take matters into their own hands. Has one of the best gunfights on film.

118 CyberRanger June 5, 2013 at 12:37 am

“Monte Walsh” (2003) & “Quigley Down Under” should really be on the list, although I absolutely agree with the “Lonesome Dove” assessment. We probably quote Augustus McCrae & Monte Walsh at our house more than just about any real person.

“You can’t have no idea how little I care.”

119 Walker June 5, 2013 at 12:49 am

You forgot the best of them all: Once Upon a Time in the West.

120 Zed June 5, 2013 at 12:55 am

High Plains Drifter (1973)

121 Tony June 5, 2013 at 1:05 am

Silverado!! I love a good western; there is nothing more American than a western. I believe that between this list and the movies Brandon name, everything has been covered.

I do take issue with one thing; the statement that the Jeff Bridges version of True Grit was better than the original. Jeff Bridges did as good a job as he could, but he had some huge shoes to fill, and there is just no way that the modern version of True Grit measures up to the original “Duke” Wayne version.

122 Clasqm June 5, 2013 at 1:12 am

Pale Rider

123 Stefanie June 5, 2013 at 1:14 am

In the newer version of “True Grit”, Jeff Bridges was so busy channeling “The Dude as John Wayne” that it was distracting. As a 13-year old girl when the 1969 version of “True Grit” hit the screen, I fell madly in love with the Duke and stayed in love until I met my future husband ten years later. The Duke was my #1 intro to westerns and to the west in general (books and films). Another big fave I can’t believe is not on the list: “Once Upon a Time in the West” which I appreciate more and more with every viewing. A personal favorite due to its very gritty portrayal of women that was a clear forerunner to “Lonesome Dove”‘s ladies, is the Robert Taylor film “Westward, the Women” — it’s on TCM Wednesday night — don’t miss it!

124 LPB June 5, 2013 at 1:22 am

Hondo +1 and Once Upon a Time in the West.

125 ivnho June 5, 2013 at 1:29 am

How could you leave out the Jimmy Stewart classics like ‘Winchester 73′ or ‘Bend In The River’. And my all-time favorite ‘Fort Apache’ with John Wayne and Henry Fonda. ‘She Wore A Yellow Ribbon’ deserves honorable mention but the best line goes to Danny Glover in Silverado…”I don’t wanna kill you and you don’t wanna be dead…”

126 Jason June 5, 2013 at 1:46 am

I can’t believe Tombstone is up there but not Silverado.

127 chris June 5, 2013 at 2:05 am

check out Yellow Sky with Gregory Peck

128 Jon B. H. Jr. June 5, 2013 at 3:00 am

3:10 To Yuma (2007 version) is one of my favorites about moral integrity, fatherhood and leadership.
The Proposition- great movie about on morality and judgment.

129 spazeroid June 5, 2013 at 3:18 am

this may be a bit biased simply because i am such a big fan, but i feel you should also have a list of the best samurai movies. i recommend seven samurai, kill!, the sword of doom, yojimbo, and the sword of the beast. they are all manly. also i think unforgiven is a good movie to have on the list; a true man has to consider the consequences of what does

130 Michael June 5, 2013 at 3:23 am

Blueberry (2004)
Once Upon a Time In The West (1968)

131 Milos June 5, 2013 at 3:24 am

If I was to chose the best line in The Wild Bunch, it would probably be: “Well, how’d you like to kiss my sister’s black cat’s ass?” :-)

132 Christian June 5, 2013 at 3:30 am

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (top five of all time) and Pale Rider are both needed on this list.

133 James Anonymous June 5, 2013 at 3:40 am

The only “true” Westerns are the Sergio Leone Westerns (Dollars Trilogy, Once Upon A Time In The West) and the Italian Spaghetti Westerns which were a lot more fun to watch than the boring John Wayne “Good means white and black means bad” Westerns. Ambiguous characters like Django, Ringo, Sartana or Sabata or Harmonica or The Man With No Name make for more fun watching. And yes, I know John Wayne himself hated these kinds of Westerns!

I would go so far as to say that even Zapata Westerns are better than John Wayne’s.

I’m sorry but you have to update your list from John Wayne movies.

134 Lachlan June 5, 2013 at 3:43 am

Can’t forget The Proposition

135 Claude Parish June 5, 2013 at 3:56 am

True Grit (2010) ? Better than the John Wayne original? Somebody’s been chewing the loco weed. It was practically line for line with different actors. The only difference was the new version had the more downbeat ending from the book instead of Rooster visiting Maddie at her home in Arkansas.

136 cpeliska June 5, 2013 at 4:00 am

Great list Bret and Kay! I would have perhaps added Appaloosa. It has a distinctly gritty theme and I think that Viggo Mortensen and Ed Harris played wonderful roles. It has all the elements of a good western. My favorite line(s):”…that happened quick. Everybody could shoot.”

137 Patrick June 5, 2013 at 4:04 am

The life and times of Judge Roy Bean and 3:10 to Yuma.

138 Jeff June 5, 2013 at 4:16 am

Assassination of Jesse James is in my top five of all time favorite films. Just finished reading The Lonesome Dove, and was hesitant to check out the series, as I’m sure they had to do some serious editing given the source material. I’ve just watched my first Spaghetti Western, which is Once Upon a Time in the West. Can’t wait to see more.

139 Heath June 5, 2013 at 4:33 am

Open Range

140 StoryMover June 5, 2013 at 4:42 am

Where is Once Upon A Time in the West! Best line – A man like that has something to do with death.

141 Michael Foster June 5, 2013 at 4:46 am

That’s a darn good list and there’s no way around leavin’ some really solid movies off of it. I’m psyched to see ‘Jesse James’ on there because I’m convinced it’s one of the most underrated American Movies [albeit directed by a Kiwi] in a very long time. I’m inclined to think ‘Once Upon a Time in the West’ is conspicuouslyabsent; I think ‘The Treasure of the Sierra Madre’ coulda snuck in as well.

142 Elijah Landen June 5, 2013 at 4:50 am

You forgot the greatest western of all time “Once Upon A Time in the West”

143 Jedd Johnson June 5, 2013 at 5:00 am

RE: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Can anyone figure out how the heck Tuco gets his gun back after he jumps off the train? He gets captured, they take his gun, they transport him on a train, he jumps off, and somehow later in the movie he has his same gun that got taken from him earlier???

144 Steve June 5, 2013 at 5:27 am

I agree with Brandon:
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and
Jeremiah Johnson should be on the list

145 Jack June 5, 2013 at 5:31 am

You have many of my favorite westerns but I would like to add “Open Range” with Robert Duval and Kevin Costner.

146 Luke June 5, 2013 at 5:37 am

I am really surprised that the new true grit movie made the list over the old one. There is just something special about a giant of a man riding a horse much to small for him. Also, I felt as though several movies were forgotten. Here are I few I feel deserve mention: how the west was won, once upon a time in the west, a fistful of dollars.

147 Melvin June 5, 2013 at 5:59 am

Open Range
The Wild Bunch

148 Brock June 5, 2013 at 6:01 am

Whoa, All good movies, but what about Open Range, Once Upon a Time in the West, High Plains Drifter. The man who shot liberty Vance. This list is lacking.

149 Linwood June 5, 2013 at 6:11 am

Clint Eastwood and Fistful of Dollars. Love the line about “my mule don’t like being laughed at…” and then after the shootout, “my mistake…4 coffins” Stoic, rugged, classic.

150 Matthew June 5, 2013 at 6:15 am

All of the Westerns here are great movies! A few additions I would make are Open Range, Big Jake, and The Last Ride of the Dalton Gang.

151 Steve June 5, 2013 at 6:31 am

Other than subbing El Dorado for Rio Bravo, there’s not any movies I’d remove here, but there are certainly others that deserve to be on a “best of” list, so perhaps it should be expanded to two dozen by adding these movies:

Open Range
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
Winchester ’73
3:10 to Yuma (2007 version)
Fort Apache
She Wore a Yellow Ribbon

152 Mike June 5, 2013 at 6:43 am

The Sacketts – (Tom Selleck and Sam Elliot)
The Shadow Riders
Monte Walsh
El Dorado – (John Wayne, James Caan, and Robert Mitchum)

153 Dustin June 5, 2013 at 6:45 am

My all-time favorite western is “The Long Riders” about the Jesse James/Cole Younger Gang. All brothers in the movie were brothers in real life… the Carradines were the Youngers, the Keaches were the James Boys… great flick. Very gritty.

154 John June 5, 2013 at 7:04 am

No “Blazing Saddles??!!?!?!” This list is wrong.

155 Westicles June 5, 2013 at 7:09 am

This is a great list! The only thing i think missing is THE ORIGINAL (1957) “3:10 to Yuma”

156 Randy June 5, 2013 at 7:23 am

Any John Wayne western or any Tom Selleck western, especially Monte Walsh.

157 Mike Mangis June 5, 2013 at 7:24 am

American western films are seldom historically accurate but always iconic. They tell the legend we like to believe about ourselves.
My favorite course in graduate school was “American History through Western Movies.” We studied a period of American history and watched a western made in that period to see how it was more about the day it was made than about the day it portrayed.
My favorite example is “High Noon,” the original “24.” The producer was called before the House Un-American activities Committee for making a film about how America wouldn’t be brave enough to stand up to Communism.

158 Caleb H. June 5, 2013 at 7:37 am

How about Sons of Katie Elder?

159 Matt Angelucci June 5, 2013 at 7:38 am

“Ulzana’s Raid,” with Burt Lancaster was the best Indian Wars movie.

160 Don Bugg June 5, 2013 at 7:42 am

Gotta agree that The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance deserves a good place here. Not sure how completely The Treasure of the Sierra Madre fits the “Western” model, but it sure is a great film.

161 OkieRover June 5, 2013 at 7:45 am

I’d have to add Open Range and Winchester ’73 for sure. High Plains Drifter and The Outlaw Josey Wales round out the list for a nice clean 20 best Western movies.
Honorable Mention:
Silverado, The Grey Fox.

162 Dixie June 5, 2013 at 7:58 am

Howdy Brett and Kate and thanks for all you do.
This is a great list of some great movies. Many, many more great flix have been mentioned in the comments. I was pleased to see Lonesome Dove (the mini-series) included. The ones I’d add would be “Conagher” with Sam Elliott, “Ride With The Devil” technically a war (between the States) movie, the TV series “Hell On Wheels” and for pure western comedy, “The Hallelujah Trail”.

163 JBR June 5, 2013 at 8:02 am

Gotta echo Once Upon a Time in the West. Can’t have a best western list without this one. Classic western themes with an artistic flair. I think one of Sergio Leone’s best.

164 Patrick June 5, 2013 at 8:05 am

The entire “Dollars” trilogy, Pale Rider, Once Upon a Time in the West, High Plains Drifter, Silverado, and…of course, Blazing Saddles!!!

165 Steve June 5, 2013 at 8:09 am

Hey, hey, hey wait a minute….what about Johnny Guitar. huh, huh!

166 Helen June 5, 2013 at 8:11 am

The first True Grit was much better than the second one!

167 David June 5, 2013 at 8:13 am

You can argue if its a western or not (I think it is): Legends of the Fall.

I also second Jeremiah Johnson.

168 Strick June 5, 2013 at 8:15 am

My quick count may be off, but it 5 John Waynes to 3 Clint Eastwoods seems about right. The western hero archetype versus the western anti-hero.

Totally agree with the inclusion of “Lonesome Dove” and the addition of Josey Wales.

169 James June 5, 2013 at 8:19 am

I can’t help myself: “Back to the Future 3″? ;)

170 Native Son June 5, 2013 at 8:31 am

While it’s all a matter of taste (viz the debate between the fans of the two versions of True Grit), I’ll agree that a few great films didn’t make the “top 17″. I agree “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” should be there, and with the comment that “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” is more a buddy movie than a western. Otherwise, good choices. IMHO, there needs to be a subset just for the John Ford “Cavalry Trilogy.”

171 EJ June 5, 2013 at 8:31 am

Once upon a time. Frank: “How can you trust a man who wears both a belt and suspenders? The man can’t even trust his own pants.” Whenever I see a man with belt and suspenders…

172 Murf June 5, 2013 at 8:32 am

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
The Cowboys
Fort Apache

173 david james keaton June 5, 2013 at 8:33 am

I never understand the inclusion of smug Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, however a better list than most! Only a couple glaring omissions, some more glaring than others: ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST (come on!), Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, The Proposition, Utu, Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, Ride the High Country, PAT GARRET & BILLY THE KID (come on!), Django, Ballad of Cable Hogue, Giant, Duel in the Sun (yeah, I said it), Heaven’s Gate (yeah, I said it), McCABE & MRS. MILLER, without which Unforgiven never happens, props for the gutsy inclusion of masterpiece Assassination of Jesse James, but here are some lesser substitutes for the list’s lessers, Man Who Shot Liberty Valance instead of High Noon, any Fistful of movie, including Duck, You Sucker, in place of Stagecoach (Eastwood’s coming is way more important that John Wayne’s coming), Open Range instead of the Searchers, Pale Rider for Shane (essentially a remake but way more satisfying), Extreme Prejudice for Magnificent Seven, Red River can stay, Wild Bill instead of True Grit since it’s the same character, silly but fun underrated Quick and the Dead for silly but fun overrated Tombstone, The Long Riders instead of Outlaw Jose Wales, and Brando’s dead-end cowboy in One-Eyed Jacks over Wayne’s dead-end cowboy in The Shootist…

174 Nate June 5, 2013 at 8:35 am

The problem I have with using True Grit (2010) is the fact that the original was far better. I would much rather see the Jeff Bridges version taken down and replaced with the John Wayne version. Wayne made that line absolutely more famous than bridges ever could have simply because Wayne was “The Duke”. Bridges was “The Lebowski” and nothing more.

175 Keith June 5, 2013 at 8:36 am

How about Blazing Saddles? Gotta have some comic relief in there. Also would include “Hang ‘Em High”.

176 Alex June 5, 2013 at 8:44 am

Have to agree with everyone saying ‘Once Upon a Time in the West’. Also, ‘The Proposition.’ 2005 film starring Guy Pearce and Ray Winstone. The Australian outback isn’t the old west, but this movie is amazing and definitely has all of the qualities that define a western.

177 Charles June 5, 2013 at 8:44 am

“Woodrow, I don’t want to think about all the things we should have done for this good man.” – Augustus McRae, upon the death of Josh Deets

178 Charles June 5, 2013 at 8:48 am

Best lines from Tombstone:

“Hell, I got lots of friends.”

“I don’t.”

179 Jonathan June 5, 2013 at 8:49 am

With all due respect, I can’t believe the “Art of Manliness” missed four of the greatest Western portrayals of Manliness:

1. (Original) “3:10 to Yuma”
2. “The Ox-Bow Incident”
3. “My Darling Clementine”
4. “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance”

These are not only great Westerns, but films that have great male characters.

Also, does “Old Yeller” count as a Western?

180 MarylandBill June 5, 2013 at 8:49 am

@James Anonymous

1. The Spaghetti Westerns couldn’t have existed without the American Westerns that preceded them especially those made by John Ford and Howard Hawks.

2. Several of John Wayne’s roles from this list include moral ambiguity. The Searchers is the movie Wayne should have won his Oscar for.

181 Jake June 5, 2013 at 8:52 am

It’s ironic you have the last paragraph praise John Wayne and then the first movie is High Noon. John Wayne thought it was “un-American.” Here’s a great interview with him explaining why:

Great list though! All the comments saying add this one or take that one off are funny. If 100 people had to come up with a top 16 list there would be 100 different lists :)

182 Dave June 5, 2013 at 8:58 am

Maverick, 3:10 To Yuma & Quigley Down Under need to be on there.

183 Korey June 5, 2013 at 9:03 am

I’d definitely have to add Young Guns. Dances with Wolves should would be on my list as well. Blazing Saddles, Pale Rider, and Wild Bill as well.

184 Eric Melton June 5, 2013 at 9:13 am

My top 2 are:
1. The Ballad of Cable Hogue (Jason Robards, Stella Stevens, Strother Martin, Slim Pickens, L.Q. Jones…)
(which is my fave overall movie as well), and
2. There was a Crooked Man (Kirk Douglas, Henry Fonda, Hume Cronyn, Burgess Meredith)…
Both can be called “Westerns”, but are really tragic comedies, as is life.

185 tmatt June 5, 2013 at 9:14 am

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance


The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

186 Eddie June 5, 2013 at 9:17 am

16? Not near enough for a genre that defines America. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, The Sons of Katie Elder, Blazing Saddles, Giant, Once Upon A Time in The West, Cat Ballou, Dances with Wolves, The Long Riders, and Oklahoma! are just a few I can think of off the top of my head that are classics.

187 Porter June 5, 2013 at 9:20 am

Silverado has got to be up there. As fun a western as there has been, after Lonesome Dove.

188 Joel Winston June 5, 2013 at 9:22 am

Vera Cruz
No Country for Old Men
The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada
Major Dundee

189 joe June 5, 2013 at 9:28 am

great list. shootist is definitely #1

190 karl June 5, 2013 at 9:34 am

“Appaloosa” all the way. Upthere with “Lonesome Dove”. A great man soap. I don’t see it mentioned which tells me not a popular western but check it out. It’ll surprise you.

191 Tomcat June 5, 2013 at 9:41 am

3:10 To Yuma is another awesome one.

192 Eric K. June 5, 2013 at 9:41 am

Great Post! Love westerns, especially ones with The Duke. Definitely needs The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean though! Maybe 3:10 to Yuma?

193 Bob June 5, 2013 at 9:44 am

1.The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
2. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
3. Little Big Man
4. The Chyene Social Club
5. McCabe & Mrs. Miller
6. Jeremiah Johnson
7. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
8.The Wild Bunch
9. Once Upon a Time in the West
10. High Noon
11. The Magnificent Seven
12. Bandolero! ( for no other reason than it has Raquel Welch)

194 Mountainman Sam June 5, 2013 at 9:46 am

I agree with most of your choices and agree with a lot of people’s added ideas to the list (such as “The man who shot Liberty Valance”) but I have always hated “The Shootist”. First (and only time I saw the whole thing in one sitting) was when I was 10 years old and I cried my eyes out. I couldn’t believe that John Wayne got shot in the back and died! It crushed me as a kid and now, every time I watch it, or at least try to, that lousy feeling comes up inside and I just can’t do it. It left me scarred for 20 years, HA. I’m still a huge fan of the Duke and I own every one of his westerns on DVD including the Shootist but I still can’t bring my self to watch it.

195 D.D. Driver June 5, 2013 at 9:47 am

Gotta chime in with High Plains Drifter.

Unforgiven is probably my favorite on the list (although I love the entire Dollars “trilogy”).

Favorite line(s):

“I guess he had it comin’, huh?”

“We all have it comin’, kid.”

196 John Woolley June 5, 2013 at 9:48 am

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
How the West Was Won

197 John June 5, 2013 at 9:53 am

#1: Duck You Sucker aka A Fistful of Dynamite

198 Sean June 5, 2013 at 9:58 am

Love the list, but where is Jeremiah Johnson??

199 Tanner W June 5, 2013 at 10:01 am

The Outlaw Josey Wales is definitely my favorite western but how on earth did Leone’s “Once Upon a Time in the West” not make the list? That film is incredible and has a great cast and soundtrack. Also High Plains Drifter is pretty solid.

200 Barbara June 5, 2013 at 10:09 am

I’ve always loved Big Jake.

“And now you understand. Anything goes wrong, anything at all… your fault, my fault, nobody’s fault… it won’t matter – I’m gonna blow your head off. No matter what else happens, no matter who gets killed I’m gonna blow your head off.”

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