The 17 Best Western Movies

by Brett & Kate McKay on June 4, 2013 · 551 comments

in Movies, Travel & Leisure

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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

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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.”

Stagecoach

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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

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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

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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.”

Unforgiven

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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.”

Shane

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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)

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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

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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

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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?”

Tombstone

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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

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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

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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

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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!

{ 551 comments… read them below or add one }

201 Beej June 5, 2013 at 10:20 am

Another classic in my book is Open Range.

202 Nathan June 5, 2013 at 10:21 am

The War Wagon is awesome too!

203 Chris Meece June 5, 2013 at 10:24 am

I was always bothered when talking with friends and they claim that Lonesome Dove is the greatest mini-series/western of all time. I grew up on Centennial and believe the first half is one of the best westerns ever made.

Others:
1) Little Big Man
2) Cat Ballou
3) I agree with most of the other choices on this list.

204 ThomasL June 5, 2013 at 10:25 am

Missing:

3:10 to Yuma (1957)
Big Country (1958)

205 Chris June 5, 2013 at 10:26 am

While I can stomach the omission of “Open Range” with Kevin Costner and Robert Duval, leaving out the original “True Grit” with Katherine Hepburn and John Wayne borders on the criminal.

206 Chris L June 5, 2013 at 10:32 am

All but one of my top five are represented.
1. Stagecoach
2. High Noon
3. The Searchers
4. The Magnificent Seven
5. Winchester ’73

207 RJ June 5, 2013 at 10:37 am

Akira Kurosawa made the Seven Samurai as a tribute to John Ford’s westerns. Then The Magnificent Seven was made as a western version of the Seven Samurai. A Fistfull of Dollars is an unofficial remake of the Akira Kurosawa film Yojimbo. Sanjuro was a sequel to Yojimbo. All great movies!

208 Cuban Pete June 5, 2013 at 10:39 am

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.

Good vs. Bad. Old West vs. New West. Racism. Sexism. Drinkin’, fighthin’, shootin!

PERIOD!

209 Jesse June 5, 2013 at 10:44 am

These are some great picks. John Wayne movies rightfully dominate the list!

210 David June 5, 2013 at 10:47 am

All these are great westerns. Of course, Lonesome Dove is in a class by its self. Woodrow’s last line of the movie answering the reporter’s questions captures it all. If you don’t know, you haven’t seen this movie enough times yet!

For just pure fun, I’ve always liked “Son’s of Katie Elder” and “Quigley Down Under”.

211 Luis June 5, 2013 at 10:49 am

Great list, but i think Once Upon a Time in the West deserves a spot.

212 Conner June 5, 2013 at 10:54 am

Glad to see somebody mentioned Maverick in the comments. And even though it’s not an American Western, I feel like “The Man From Snowy River” deserves a mention.

213 Jonty June 5, 2013 at 10:58 am

Yep, I’m with Beej – you can’t leave out Open Range!

214 John June 5, 2013 at 11:04 am

Nice list, but I feel you made a big mistake claiming “Lonesome Dove” had the best production when the missing from your list “Silverado” clearly blows it away.

How could you miss “Silverado” from this list? Best western cinematography ever!

Shame on you.

215 Roger Young June 5, 2013 at 11:08 am

I’ve watched Lonesome Dove 21 times. I never tired of watching it. I asked myself how I could watch a movie that many times and still enjoy it. I concluded the reason was is because this particular western is more than just a great movie, it is great poetry- the story, the characters, the dialog, the scenery- all are pure poetry.
And, of course, great poetry never gets old, tiresome, or dated.

216 BF June 5, 2013 at 11:13 am

The Last of the Mohicans, 1992 version. Cooper’s novel is the first western. Even though it’s set in New York in 1757, it was the west/frontier of its day. No cowboys, but you do have the rugged individualist Hawkeye, and of course you have Indians, and the siege of a prototype “Fort Apache.”. Instead of the cavalry, you have British infantry, and instead of Mexicans, you have the French.

The 1992 movie has great acting, direction, and score. It investigates not just the clash of cultures but their blending and their emergence. Is Nathaniel a European or a Mohican? Is Magua Mohawk or Huron? Are colonists English or are they Americans? Add to that the stand of the individual against unjust authority, and the shady motivations of some characters, and you have a great early western.

217 PHIL C June 5, 2013 at 11:15 am

You missed Burt Lancaster Westerns, Definitely Manliness Westerns:
- Gunfight at OK Coral w/ Kirk Douglas
- Lawman
- Appache

218 Matt June 5, 2013 at 11:16 am

“Tom Horn” with Steve McQueen. While it took some liberties with the truth, I always considered this movie to depict the end of the Wild West, more so than “The Wild Bunch” because Tom Horn was real and his hanging in Cheyenne (my home) was the last legal hanging in Wyoming.

219 Andrew S. June 5, 2013 at 11:19 am

While its arguable whether its a true “Western,” I think The Outlaw Josey Wales deserves a nod on this list. Its got all the trappings: a sort of antihero, revenge, humor and the guy gets the girl in the end. Plus, it has one of the best quotes from any Western, when Clint says to the bounty hunter: “Dyin’ ain’t much of a livin’, boy.”

220 Dj June 5, 2013 at 11:21 am

The man who shot liberty valance is missing, and in my opinion the best (western) film: ‘once upon a time in the west’

221 John June 5, 2013 at 11:22 am

The Culpepper Cattle Company is a great Western. The film concerns a young boy who thinks “cowboying” is the ultimate vocation. He soon learns different.

222 Adam June 5, 2013 at 11:22 am

How can John Wayne’s “The Cowboys” not be on here? That is not only an excellent cowboy film, but a prime example of manhood. Not to mention the sheepdog/wolf interplay we’ve been reading about lately.

223 PHIL C June 5, 2013 at 11:22 am

As an old timer, RIP, old friend used to say, “I imagine?”

224 Paul June 5, 2013 at 11:23 am

I think ‘One-Eyed Jacks’ with Marlon Brando and Karl Malden is worth seeing.

225 Shawn June 5, 2013 at 11:46 am

I consider myself a patient person, but I had a hard time sitting through the 2+ hours of Red River’s realist cinema. Too much footage of cattle going up and down hills.

Lonesome Dove was fantastic, and Duvall’s character was awe-inspiring.

One 80′s western (maybe it’s the only 80′s western) that I really like is Silverado. Great cast,wonderful mix of action and humor -and John Cleese as the (first) sheriff.

Honorable mention to the Western farce Blazing Saddles. “Not only was it authentic frontier gibberish, it expressed a courage little seen in this day and age!”

226 Ben R June 5, 2013 at 12:03 pm

I think “No Country for Old Men” needs to be slotted in there as a film that crosses into the Western genre without being confined by it.

Also, it looks like the website title says “16 Best Westerns” in my browser tab.

227 Rscarbro June 5, 2013 at 12:10 pm

“Lonely Are The Brave” with Kirk Douglas is fantastic, and the rare western that takes place in the present day. A true classic, and with a great Coplandesque score.

228 Chris June 5, 2013 at 12:12 pm

I agree that it is a bit of a shame that 3:10 to Yuma is not included. Haven’t seen the original, but the 2007 version had a STRONG message of manliness and standing up for what is right in the Dan Evans character.

The evolution of Dan’s character from quiet non-involved pacifict to a true man of character that his son can look up to is a fine example of what this website is all about.

229 Crash June 5, 2013 at 12:21 pm

Open Range is quickly becoming my favorite the more i watch it.

230 MikeH June 5, 2013 at 12:25 pm

I’m with a few others, omitting “Silverado” and “Open Range” seem like missed opportunities, especially in the context of “American Masculinity”.

Open Range deals Head-On with “what a man does”, with respect to how you honor your word and your friends.

Silverado is more subtle, but handles important themes of violence, revenge, and a character desperately trying to break the cycle of vengeance (but ultimately failing). It also tackles the question of what it meant to be a Black Man in the west without being an overtly “Black Cowboy” film. Racism in the film is dealt with in-context, without becoming the centerpiece or cartoonish as with so many other films that try to deal with the subject. (I’m looking at you, Mario Van Peebles)

231 Mike Sisk June 5, 2013 at 12:26 pm

Great list. Here’s a few more that I really liked:

Open Range
Broken Trail
The Jack Bull

232 Kevin June 5, 2013 at 12:41 pm

“When you have to shoot, shoot. Don’t talk.”
.
I’ve been using that for a signiture for years.

233 Seth W. June 5, 2013 at 12:47 pm

This is a really great list that’s hard to disagree with. In fact, Howard Hawks and John Ford are two of our manliest directors, articles about them might be cool to see in the future.

I notice that Open Range is getting some much deserved love on this post, which is great. That movie is so underrated.

I think “Once Upon A Time In The West” is interesting because in many ways, it’s about the end of a certain kind of masculinity. Leone himself said it was about the birth of a “world without balls” (pardon the language.)

234 Alex June 5, 2013 at 12:47 pm

The Good,The Bad And The Ugly was one of my all-time favorites as a kid (I’m now 44) I remember watching it on television with my dad and brother.I always thought it was a movie about the Clint Eastwood’s character but truly Eli Wallach’s is the most drawn out,human and dare I say sympathetic one. It’s funny how time changes the way we see things.

235 Tracy June 5, 2013 at 12:48 pm

Am I alone in thinking “Young Guns” & “Young Guns 2: Electric Boogaloo” (okay leave out the Boogaloo part) from the ’80s were great?

236 H.T. Guillaume June 5, 2013 at 12:51 pm

The best by far: Winchester ’73

Film features Dan Duryea as Waco Johnny Dean, arguably the meanest and most cowardly outlaw ever on the screen, who slugs Shelley Winters. And character names like High Spade and Dutch Henry Brown are right up there. Plus, the slimy gundealer who sells rifles to the Indians. ’73 has it all!

237 Mel June 5, 2013 at 12:52 pm

Three of my favorites are:
The Ox Bow Incident.
Drums along the Mohawk.
Northwest passage with Spencer Tracy

238 Howard June 5, 2013 at 1:03 pm

“My Name Is Nobody” has long been my favorite western, in it’s own right as well as a great parody of others.

239 LAW June 5, 2013 at 1:14 pm

Valdez is Coming

240 Papa Sean June 5, 2013 at 1:18 pm

not a bad list
I’d of added
outlaw josey wales
lone ranger
zorro
before some of them ;)

241 Steve C. June 5, 2013 at 1:23 pm

We all know the best western is McLintock!

Maureen O’Hara had it coming to her.

242 A D Jameson June 5, 2013 at 1:25 pm

You’re missing a lot of great Westerns:

Canyon Passage (1946, dir. Jaques Tourneur)
Fort Apache (1948, dir. John Ford)
I Shot Jesse James (1949, dir. Samuel Fuller)
Winchester 73 (1950, dir. Anthony Mann)
The Naked Spur (1953, dir. Anthony Mann)
Johnny Guitar (1954, dir. Nicholas Ray)
The Man from Laramie (1955, dir. Anthony Mann)
Forty Guns (1957, dir. Samuel Fuller)
One-Eyed Jacks (1961, dir. Marlon Brando)
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962, dir. John Ford)
The Shooting (1966, dir. Monte Hellman)
Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid (1973, dir. Sam Peckinpah)
Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974, dir. Sam Peckinpah)
Goin’ South (1978, dir. Jack Nicholson)
Heaven’s Gate (1980, dir. Michael Cimino)
Dead Man (1995, dir. Jim Jarmusch)

243 Russell June 5, 2013 at 1:29 pm

She Wore a Yellow Ribbon

244 Chris June 5, 2013 at 1:47 pm

Tombstone is definitely on the top of my list. Django is another one, and so is the newer 3.10 to Yuma. Mackenna’s Gold may have some rotten reviews, but has always held a special spot in me, because I had it on VHS as a kid, and watched it often. Best western series….Firefly and Kung Fu (1972 series)!!!

245 Ryan June 5, 2013 at 1:52 pm

I also can’t believe Once Upon A Time in the West was left out, criminal (not to mention Leone’s highly underrated follow up: Duck, You Sucker!). This list needs more Clint Eastwood and less John Wayne, High Plains Drifter, anyone?

246 Chris June 5, 2013 at 1:53 pm

Blazing Saddles! LOL

247 Mike T. June 5, 2013 at 1:54 pm

Once Upon A Time In The West should definitely be on here. That movie is pure beauty.

248 Scott June 5, 2013 at 1:56 pm

McLintok: My favorite western comedy. John Wayne plays GW McLintok an old rancher who has to deal with his estranged wildcat wife, his citified daughter, and a defending Indians from an unfair justice system. Watch it. you won’t regret it

Open Range: I watched this in high school and wow; just wow. Old gunslinger has to go up against a corrupt lawman who steals his cattle and kills his men. watch it if you haven’t

249 levi Cichorz June 5, 2013 at 2:02 pm

I have fond memories of the Young Guns series. maybe I’m all alone on that?

250 Aaron June 5, 2013 at 2:04 pm

This is a good list and I appreciate the honesty and courage in picking the 2010 “True Grit” over the original, but my favorite western is “The Ox-Bow Incident” (1943) with Henry Fonda. It’s kind of a film-noir and existential type of western, but I remember watching it in an American Western Film course in college and thinking it was the best film I saw in that class. Not sure if “Treasure of the Sierra Madre” counts either.

251 Sanders June 5, 2013 at 2:09 pm

Monte Walsh

Quigly Down Under (I said I didn’t care much for ‘em. Didn’t say I didn’t know how to use one.)

Pale Rider

North to Alaska – while not a cowboy movie, it is certainly a Western.

252 Terry June 5, 2013 at 2:24 pm

I’ll give another shout-out for The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.

253 Andrew C. June 5, 2013 at 2:30 pm

Agree with you 100%: Lonesome Dove is one of the most compelling, engrossing “movies” ever produced. Perhaps it’s the extended format that allows us to really engage with so many characters. I don’t know what it is, but every man needs to watch it. Robert Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones are simply amazing in their roles, as are so many others.

254 Zachary Willis June 5, 2013 at 2:33 pm

It’s too bad that this list includes The Magnificent Seven, when it was more or less a scene-by-scene rip off of The Seven Samurai. It would be better to include the original, and not the rip-off.

That’s not to say that Magnificent Seven is not a bad film; it was just done before and better by Kurosawa. Seven Samurai took a lot of cues from Westerns.

Though, I’d say the best of Kurosawa’s library, and the one that was most influenced by Westerns is Yojimbo.

Yojimbo should be included on this list.

255 Chris M. June 5, 2013 at 2:33 pm

SILVERADO! My all time favorite. I know every word from watching it all the time with my Dad growing up. Not many people I know have heard of it, but its great. Kevin Costner, Kevin Kline, Danny Glover, Scott Glenn, John Cleese, Brian Dennehy, Rosanna Arquette…..Star-studded and great all the way through.

256 Tom June 5, 2013 at 2:40 pm

Round up to 20 with Liberty Valance, Silverado, and Ride the High Country. High Country is not only a classic, but it gets Randolph Scott and Joel McCrea on the list.

257 Bill Thomas June 5, 2013 at 2:41 pm

3:10 to Yuma.
Quick and the Dead, w Sam Elliott

258 Matt June 5, 2013 at 2:43 pm

Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada must at least be part of the discussion. Good list though!

259 Sam June 5, 2013 at 2:46 pm

Great list! Several more that I would add are Open Range, Silverado, The Cowboys, Dances with Wolves, Geronimo: An American Legend, and Bend in the River.

260 Helen Schuenemann June 5, 2013 at 2:58 pm

How The West Was Won
Music, story and stars
Never gets old.

261 Monnie June 5, 2013 at 3:11 pm

How about Appaloosa and Silverado? I agree that Quigley Down Under is a strong contender.

262 BruceH June 5, 2013 at 3:27 pm

A darn good list…most of which are hard to argue with….but, of course I will protest just a bit.
Shane was a great BOOK. Allan Ladd as Shane was such a travesty that it overshadowed an otherwise strong production and cast. Shane in Buckskin with fringe??? Never ever.
The best line in Unforgiven was “‘Deserves’ has nothing to do with it.” Second best was “He should have armed himself, if he’s going to decorate his saloon with my friend.”
I always struggle with the great Red River because of the horribly flawed and unbelievable ending.
Rio Bravo wouldn’t be on my list or even close.
Seeing the picture of Warren Oates in the Wild Bunch reminded me of his performance in The Hired Hand with Peter Fonda. The slow, lyrical, hippy-fied production might put some off…but it’s a real study of struggle, friendship and honor in the West. In many ways it’s very much like Unforgiven.
Thanks for the great conversation starter…I’m breaking this out next time I’m with the FatBoys drinking beer.

263 Joe June 5, 2013 at 3:28 pm

Not a classic western, but Django Unchained is a fantastic western with a multitude of manly attributes.

264 Tom June 5, 2013 at 3:43 pm

“The Westerner” is one that should definitely be on this list.

It is an excellent movie starring Gary Cooper and Walter Brennan. Brennan gives perhaps the greatest performance for a supporting actor of all time as the corrupt Judge Roy Beane, who is trying to drive homesteaders off their land. He is the judge, jury and executioner in the town.

Cooper plays a cowboy drifting through who ends up fighting on the side of the homesteaders.

265 Brian June 5, 2013 at 3:48 pm

Great list, but where is “Once upon a time in the west”?

266 Casca June 5, 2013 at 3:49 pm

The Professionals, Lee Marvin & Burt Lancaster. Paint Your Wagon, Lee Marvin & Clint Eastwood.

267 Robert June 5, 2013 at 3:59 pm

Great list,and everone has thier favorite that might not of made this Best 17 list. My favorites to add are Silverado, Quigly Down Under and a corny western Rustlers’ Rhapsody.

268 Phillip June 5, 2013 at 4:22 pm

I’d trade them all for another viewing of Once Upon a Time in The West

269 Steve June 5, 2013 at 4:26 pm

My Darling Clementine

270 Biggyrat June 5, 2013 at 4:27 pm

Great list, I was plesed to see Tombstone on the list. But I have to respectfully disagree about the best line. In my humble opinion the best line was made by Curly Bill,
” Well,,, Bye!”

271 chris June 5, 2013 at 4:31 pm

Ignoring “Open Range” is a travesty.

272 Denny June 5, 2013 at 4:36 pm

Great list! The only one I would remove is “the Assassination of Jesse James.”

273 James June 5, 2013 at 4:43 pm

Dances with wolves, Josey Wales, Silverado and Liberty Valance are glaring omissions. I would also suggest exchanging Rio Bravo with Eldorado. Same movie just replacing Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson with Robert Mitchum and James Caan.

274 R June 5, 2013 at 4:45 pm

Great list. Agree with 1 HUGE exception! The John Wayne “True Grit” was by FAR Better. I do like Jeff Bridges but I grew up with John Wayne and “True Grit”, the remake was imho horrible. Especially the line “My God baby sister that’s a colt dragoon” John Wayne said it much much better!

275 Danny Dailey June 5, 2013 at 5:13 pm

I kept looking for “The Big Country” to be next. It’s an essay on true manliness: humility, intelligence, well-roundedness, toughness, honor, etc. That movie is saturated with Art of Manliness appeal!

276 Don June 5, 2013 at 5:32 pm

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence is a sequel to Stagecoach. Its my fav.

277 James June 5, 2013 at 5:51 pm

Does ‘The Sting’ count as a western? because you know its up there (thumbs nose discretely). BTTF 3 is also western and while it is not the best BTTF it is still a BTTF movie. It’s like the ‘Cabin in the Woods’ of westerns.

278 Bob Above June 5, 2013 at 5:56 pm

Missouri Breaks

Little Big Man

McCabe and Mrs. Miller

Heaven’s Gate

Once Upon a Time In The West

279 Merle Anderson June 5, 2013 at 6:19 pm

Turkey Creek Jack Johnson: Why you doin’ this, Doc?

Doc Holliday: Because Wyatt Earp is my friend.

Turkey Creek Jack Johnson: Friend? Hell, I got lots of friends.

Doc Holliday: …I don’t.

280 David Ward June 5, 2013 at 7:00 pm

Lots of suggestions here. Some good some bad. There really isn’t any best western well unless it is a motel. We all look for what satisfies our taste at the time. I am 60, I’ve seen probably every western mentioned here. I’m a Wayne, Eastwood fan, I note that neither Wayne or Eastwood did any McMurty work. I will mention my favorite westerns, and they were L’Amour classics. They starred Sam Elliot: Conagher, The Shadow Riders & The Sacketts. However, the best western in my humble opinion didn’t happen in the west. It happened in Africa. Hidalgo, it is the true story of a horse with heart and a man brave enough to ride him in unknown territory to win against all odds and that my friends is the definition of manly.

281 Skip June 5, 2013 at 7:04 pm

1. Rooster Cogburn
2. Big Jake
3. Quigley Down Under
4. The Shadow Riders

What a great list. Westerns are my favorites. Thanks,
Skip.

282 akble June 5, 2013 at 7:14 pm

What about “Cowboys and Aliens” ?
;-)

283 akble June 5, 2013 at 7:19 pm

Man Who Shot Liberty Valance was sequel to Stagecoach? First time I ever heard that

284 Alex June 5, 2013 at 7:39 pm

A couple of people have already said this, but I’d have to add “Once Upon A Time in the West” to the list. I just watched it the other day and I must say it’s my favorite western film, and one of my favorites of all films.

285 Greymas June 5, 2013 at 7:42 pm

Rio Lobo! The first John Wayne I ever saw.

286 Stretch June 5, 2013 at 7:47 pm

The Hallelujah Trail (1965)

287 Dick June 5, 2013 at 8:31 pm

One mention for Randolph Scott? Shame! Is nobody familiar with Scott’s Budd Boetticher flicks, a director Eastwood admires? Here they are:
Seven Men from Now (1956)
The Tall T (57)
Decision at Sundown (57)
Buchanan Rides Alone (58)
Ride Lonesome (59)
Comanche Station (60)

288 Jonathan Sheldon June 5, 2013 at 8:51 pm

I really can’t believe Big Country didn’t make your list. I mean it’s got two of the manliest men ever in Gregory Peck and Charlton Heston. Another great one is Winchester ’73.

289 John June 5, 2013 at 8:58 pm

I would add The Man who Shot Liberty Valance & Rio Lobo.

290 Jacob June 5, 2013 at 9:03 pm

- The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
Glad to see several mentions in the comments
- Pale Rider
One of my favorite Clint Eastwood movies…he plays an unnamed preacher
- Eldorado
Better than Rio Bravo

Gald to see Unforgiven and The Outlaw Josey Wales. My Granfather would cry every time he saw The Shootist; he was a die-hard John Wayne fan.

291 ed June 5, 2013 at 9:26 pm

Nevada Smith-Steve McQeen
How the west was won
The Alamo-John Wayne’s and the latest one were both good.
They died with their boots on-Errol Flynn

292 pauln June 5, 2013 at 9:47 pm

Winchester ’73 has to be on the list, not only as a great Western, but as a masterpiece of filmmaking sans genre. The Cinematography and acting should be studied by every aspiring film maker.

293 PapiT June 5, 2013 at 9:52 pm

Blazing Saddles!

294 Brian V June 5, 2013 at 10:00 pm

I have to disagree with you about the best line in the movie ‘Tombstone’. For me it’s got to be: “You tell him I’m coming! You tell him I’m coming, and Hell’s coming with me, you hear?! Hell’s coming with me!”

Okay, that’s technically more than one line but it’s the moment that makes me pump my fist in the air and say “Hell yes.”

295 Scott June 5, 2013 at 10:07 pm

I’m not sure why you added the Jesse James one, one of the most boring movies I’ve seen. I would have added Silverado and Open Range.

296 Kirk June 5, 2013 at 10:33 pm

The Good the Bad and the Ugly is one of my top ten movies ever. I can watch it again and again.

I’ve seen all of them except Red River, and Assassination of Jesse James which I’ve never even heard of. I like all of them except Magnificent Seven. Seven Samurai is so superior that I can’t even enjoy it.

It’s not a movie but The Wild Wild West (and the movie made from it should have all copies burnt)

297 D King June 5, 2013 at 10:44 pm

A good list, but it is incomplete without Silverado.

298 JimyD June 5, 2013 at 10:55 pm

Ryan’s right. More Clint Eastwood starting with High Plains Drifter.

299 Berrima Drifter June 5, 2013 at 11:41 pm

This is a pretty good list.
Though it is hard to believe that The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence could be excluded, as it clearly one of the top five westerns ever made. Delighted to see Lonesome Dove included, for my money Robert Duvall is the best western actor next to Wayne. The other mini series based on McMurtey’s work are also all worth tracking down.
I am also delighted to see so much informed comment and so many great films mention. I would like to add my own favourites that failed to maker the list: Rio Lobo,The Comancheroes, The Three God Fathers and the original True Grit, to my mind the greatest western ever made other than The Searchers.
In closing, I would like to also to suggest two westerns set in more modern times: A Bad Day at Black Rock and Lonely are the Brave ( based on the first novel of Edward Abbey).
Happy Trails,
BD

300 mike June 5, 2013 at 11:48 pm

Clearly you were saving “Rustlers Rhapsody” for your “Most Awesome Movies of all-time” list…”Give me a tall glass of warm gin with a human hair in it.” -Rex

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