From Leone to Ford, the western genre has been a veritable playground for filmmakers displaying their craft in tales of Old West morality and gunslinger justice.
While deciding which particular elements make a western movie truly great is best left up to healthy discourse and late night sports bar discussions, what can\'t be debated are the effects the classic spaghetti westerns and even the modern-day revival westerns have had on movie watchers throughout the years.
Below is our list of the best and greatest western movies of all time. While many of the classic choices can be found on the list, you\'re likely to run across a few that don\'t often appear in typical discussions of best western movies. In compiling our list of best western movies, we considered many factors including longevity, critical acclaim, and popular fan appeal among well-seasoned western movie lovers. in other words, it won\'t be just a long list of John Wayne movies!
If you don\'t find your favorite, be sure to let others know about it in the comments section at the end of the list. Who knows, it may eventually get added.
Unforgiven (1992) - The script floated around Hollywood for nearly 20 years before Clint Eastwood finally made the picture. He was rewarded with 4 Oscars, including a Best Picture win, which can only be claimed by three other westerns.
The Searchers (1956) - Features one of the most successful director/actor duos to ever come out of Hollywood in John Ford and John Wayne. Modern audiences may be turned off by the treatment of the Indians, so be forewarned.
The Good, the Bad and The Ugly (1966) - A Sergio Leone spaghetti western classic. Also known as Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo as most of the Spanish and Italian dialogue was dubbed in English after filming had completed.
The Wild Bunch (1969) - Sam Peckinpah directs William Holden, Ernest Borgnine and Robert Ryan in one of the best western movies of all time. Rumor has it that more blank rounds were fired during production than were fired during all of the Mexican Revolution of 1914. That means it must be good.
Red River (1948) - Many might put this John Wayne classic at the top of any list of best westerns. An argument for that can certainly be made. Howard Hawks directs the script from Borden Chase who adapted his own Saturday Evening Post story.
Shane (1953) - \"There never was a man like SHANE. There never was a picture like SHANE\" reads the film\'s tagline. And many would argue that a movie as good hasn\'t been made since. Certainly belongs at the top of any list. Stars Alan Ladd and was the last film of Jean Arthur.
High Noon (1952) - Gary Cooper is Marshal Will Kane, a lawman who refuses to turn his back on his enemies, despite his own townsfolk who refuse to defend him. The film was criticized in its time as being un-American as it was linked to the rampant McCarthyism of the era.
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) - Robert Redford and Paul Newman collaborate on one of the best western movies of all time. Features B.J. Thomas\' rendition of Burt Bacharach\'s Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head. Steve McQueen and Warren Beatty were both offered the role of the Sundance Kid.
Jeremiah Johnson (1972) - Stars Robert Redford as real-life trapper John Johnston who was nicknamed \"Crow Killer.\" Was originally to star Clint Eastwood in the title role and to be directed by Sam Pekinpah. They\'re both good, but it\'s fine just as it is.
Winchester \'73 (1950) - James Stewart and Shelley Winters star in this movie about a gun. The DVD features an audio commentary given by Stewart himself. The only DVD commentary he ever did.
The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976) - Another of the best Eastwood westerns. In fact, Eastwood says it\'s his personal favorite of all the films he\'s made. Was nominated for Best Original Score but lost to The Omen.
My Darling Celementine (1946) - Tells the story of what actually went down at the OK Corral, which, by the way, is a little less legendary than legend has it. Was selected to the National Film Registry, Library of Congress, in 1991
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) - John Wayne again in another John Ford film. This also stars James Stewart, Vera Miles, and Lee Marvin. Marks the first instance of John Wayne calling someone \"Pilgrim.\"
Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) - Another Sergio Leone spaghetti western, this one starring Henry Fonda. It\'s Italian title is actually C\'era una volta il West.
Little Big Man (1970) - Stars Dustin Hoffman and Faye Dunaway. Begins as Hoffman\'s character, Jack Crabb, is about 100 years old. Evokes a wide range of emotions and is guaranteed to make a grown man cry.
Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) - John Huston directed Humphrey Bogart in this treasured classic. Features one of the most memorable movie quotes to be made more famous by a different movie. \"Badges? We ain\'t got no badges. We don\'t need no badges. I don\'t have to show you any stinking badges\" which of course, is more widely know from 1986\'s Three Amigos!
Rio Bravo (1959) - Howard Hawks directed this star-studded film that features John Wayne, Angie Dickinson, Dean Martin, Ricky Nelson, Walter Brennan, Claude Akins, and more. Who else could so wonderfully play a deputy with a drinking problem than Dean Martin? Features a John Wayne/Angie Dickinson love scene. He, 51- she, 26.
The Gunfighter (1950) - Gregory Peck and Karl Malden star in this \"psychological\" western directed by Henry King. Not a lot of western action but instead, great characters and lots of tension. Features Bob Dylan\'s 1986 song Brownsville Girl.
3:10 to Yuma (2007) - Remakes are rarely better than the original - this being an exception. Directed by James Mangold and features an Aussie and a Welshman - Russell Crowe and Christian Bale - in a drama about settling the American Wild West. Big risk, but it pays off huge. Also, look for the brilliant performance by Ben Foster.
Ride the High Country (1962) - Another of Sam Peckinpah\'s brilliant westerns, this one focusing on the fading out of the Old West. Marks the big screen debut of Mariette Hartley.
The Proposition (2005) - A much overlooked \"Western\" that should be considered even though it takes place in late 1800\'s Australia. Very bloody and very violent, but also very, very good. Features a brilliant John Hurt as a deranged bounty hunter.
The Magnificent Seven (1960) - Another star-studded Western, this one starring Yul Brynner, Eli Wallach, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, Robert Vaughn, and James Coburn as a band of gunfighters hired by a poor Mexican farming community to help drive off the bandits who periodically show up and steal the community\'s food and goods.
Lonesome Dove (1989) - Sure, it\'s a TV mini-series, but it\'s good enough to be included on any \"best western movie\" list. Stars Robert DuVall, Tommy Lee Jones, Danny Glover, Robert Urich, Anjelica Huston, Chris Cooper and more. Based on Larry McMurtry\'s novel of the same name.
Stagecoach (1939) - Marked John Ford and John Wayne\'s first film collaboration and Wayne\'s 80th picture. Filmed on location in Utah\'s Monument Valley. Ranked #9 on the American Film Institute\'s list of the 10 greatest films in the genre \"Western\" in June 2008.
Dances with Wolves (1990) - Won 7 Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography, and was nominated for several others, including Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Actress... enough said.
Tombstone (1993) - Turned out quite nicely despite its myriad production problems and various delays. Val Kilmer\'s best role? Jim Morrison may have something to say about that.
Fort Apache (1948) - John Ford and John Wayne do it again! This one is the first in Ford\'s \"Cavalry Trio\", the other two being She Wore a Yellow Ribbon and Rio Grand. Stars Henry Fonda and an adult Shirley Temple.
True Grit (1969) - The only role for which John Wayne ever won an Oscar. Some say it was a lifetime honorary give though. The 2010 Coen Bros. version is much better however and makes us completely forget about John Wayne as Rooster Cogburn.Let\'s just say that together, they make the best western movie of all time.
The Ox-bow Incident (1943) - Henry Fonda and Harry Morgan star in this brilliant little think-piece that is more of a morality-play set in the times of the Old West, than it is a classic representative of the genre. Carries the odd distinction of being the last movie ever nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture which received no other Academy Award nominations.
Open Range (2003) - Following a string of stinkers, Open Range was a much-needed opportunity for Costner to regain his Hollywood street cred. And with this film he recaptured it in a big way. Annette Bening is at her best here.
For a Few Dollars More (1965) - Another Sergio Leone/Clint Eastwood \"spaghetti western\" makes the list, this one alternately titled Per Qualche Dollaro in Piu. On its 1969 re-release it was double-billed with A Fistful of Dollars.
Bend of the River (1952) - Stars Rock Hudson and James Stewart in the film that marked the last time the two would work together. Seems Stewart was unhappy that Hudson received a bigger applause at the movie\'s premier.
The Naked Spur (1954) - Another Anthony Mann picture makes the list, this one starring Janet Leigh alongside James Stewart. The film was nominated for a Best Screenplay Oscar.
Broken Trail (2006) - An AMC TV mini-series that features some of Robert Duvall\'s best work. Thomas Hayden Church isn\'t bad either. This one\'s not to be missed.
True Grit (2010) - The Coen Brothers go Western. Hailee Steinfeld is something to see as the young Mattie Ross. Jeff Bridges ain\'t half bad either. Certainly one of the best western movies of the last 10 years
Django Unchained (2012) - The D is silent, mother fucker! Features what may very well be one of the best director cameos of all time.
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