The 11 Best Western Movies Ever Made
Love them or hate them, Western movies fuel our need to see good triumph over evil. The genre is chock full of bad guys in black hats who ultimately are shot or hanged by the good guys in white hats. The genre has at the surface tales of the American west, but some films delve into issues of our times – Marxism, capitalism, Communism, sexism, and racism. Some of the grittier films show us that even white hats hide the evil intentions of man, and that every man who was labeled a bad guy didn’t necessarily deserve that title. In fact, sometimes a black hat is just a fashion statement.
1 The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (1966) – Known as a spaghetti western, the movie is the last in a trilogy directed by Sergio Leone. Clint Eastwood (Good) tries to find stolen gold before Lee Van Cleef (Bad) and Eli Wallach (Ugly). Leone makes sure to show us that Eastwood’s character isn’t any better than the others. The film shows us that “The real West was the world of violence, fear, and brutal instincts,” claimed Leone. “In pursuit of profit there is no such thing as good and evil, generosity or deviousness; everything depends on chance, and not the best wins but the luckiest.” Arguably, The Good, The Bad and the Ugly is one of the best western movies of all times.
2 Unforgiven (1992) – Directed by Clint Eastwood, Unforgiven stars Eastwood, Gene Hackman, and Morgan Freeman. This tale of wrong versus right showcases the bloody and violent nature of the “wild west”. After a prostitute is slashed across the face, her co-workers place a bounty on the offender’s head. Although retired, Eastwood’s character is convinced to travel into the town of Big Whiskey to right the wrong done to the woman.
3 Django Unchained (2012) – Written and directed by Quentin Tarantino, the movie explores violently delves into slavery and the slave trade set across a Western backdrop. Critics had mixed reactions regarding the film, seeking to compare it to Taranatino’s Pulp Fiction. The cast includes Jamie Foxx, Kerry Washington, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Samuel L. Jackson.
4 High Noon (1952) – Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly star in a tale about a woman and the man who gives up his law career to marry her. In reality, the plot wasn’t that simple. It has been argued that High Noon is about a man who stands alone, deserted by the town that he once served. Others have said that the film is symbolism for the McCarthy “witch hunts” for Communists in Hollywood.
5 Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) – Paul Newman and Robert Redford were “bros” before having a “bromance” was cool. Newman and Redford play the leaders of the Hole-in-the-Wall outlaw gang of bank robbers.
6 The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
7 The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976) – Yet another Eastwood directed western, The Outlaw Josey Wales is the tale of Confederate soldier Josey Wale. Set after the Civil War has ended, the film follows Wales as he seeks to avenge the slaughter of his family.
8 The Searchers (1956) – John Wayne’s portrayal of the anti-hero is said to be one of his finest. Director John Ford gives Wayne the leeway to play his character’s dark and violent racist side unapologetically.
9 Tombstone (1993) – is the fictional account of the Earp brothers attempt for normalcy. Wyatt Earp (Kurt Russell) has retired from his law career and moved to Tombstone Arizona. As with most movies, trouble is not far behind. With his brothers Virgil (Sam Elliot) and Morgan (Bill Paxton), Earp finds him in a life or death struggle with Tombstone’s outlaw gang, The Cowboys.
10 Pale Rider (1985) – Clint Eastwood starred and directed this classic good versus evil tale. Known as Preacher, Eastwood’s character comes to town to help the good guys (small miners) confront the bad guys (corporate bigwigs).
11 Shane (1953) – Alan Ladd stars in the story of a mysterious drifter who befriends a family under siege during a battle with a local land baron. Critics have called it the best western of all times, while others have criticized director George Stevens for attempting to go for “classic status” immediately.
There it is – a list of the 11 best western movies. Undoubtedly, lists will vary based on viewer preferences but these 11 show up on almost every western list ever made. Regardless, if you love a good Western, these are a great way to go.