Top Ten Western Movies

(My favorites anyway. Click for trailers.)

man from snowy river1o. The Man From Snowy River

Based on the 1890 poem by Banjo Patterson, River features an untamed Australian landscape, Kirk Douglas in twin roles, and some of the very best horsemanship ever shown on film.  A sequel would follow, as would a television series, soundtrack, and musical.

giant james dean poster9. Giant

A sprawling classic, Giant encompasses a plethora of themes – greed, family ties, prejudice, oil, ambition – each one intrinsic with the west. Set in mid 19th century Texas, Giant was also James Dean’s third and final film.

butch cassidy 8. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Probably the most fun of all the movies on this list. This is a buddy cop movie in reverse with Paul Newman and Robert Redford as two famed and doomed outlaws. The scenery is beautiful too with much of the filming having taken place in Durango, Colorado.

brokeback mountain trailer7. Brokeback Mountain

Widely considered a great film, Brokeback is often neglected as a great western. No matter how you feel about the subject matter, the theme of dangerous, inhibited love is universal and brilliantly brought to life by all the players involved, including the two western legends that wrote it – Larry McMurty (screenplay) and Annie Proulx (short story).

Blazing Saddles6. Blazing Saddles

Not only one of the greatest westerns of all time, but also one of the greatest comedies. There’s enough one-liners worth repeating to last  a lifetime. And the setups are so wild and ridiculous that if they ever did happen, you know they happened in the old west.

tombstone movie western5. Tombstone

A bit, how you say, Hollywood-ized, but still a whole helluva lot of fun. The legendary gunfight at the O.K. Corral is gory and intense, and you can’t help but root for Wyatt as he takes off on his famous vendetta ride. But it’s Val Kilmer’s smooth-talking and sickly Doc Holliday that immortalizes the film.

no country for old men4. No Country For Old Men

A dark, violent image of the wild that still exists in today’s west, especially on the border. With their signature wit and surprising, realistic brutality, the Coen Brothers could not have found better source material than a novel by Cormac McCarthy.

Good-bad-and-ugly western3. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

A classic. After two brilliant precursors, Sergio Leone finds utter perfection in the third installment of the Man With No Name trilogy. It remains one of the only Hollywood films to depict the Civil War in the west.

dances-with-wolves western2. Dances With Wolves

In the long history of westerns, Wolves was a landmark for its elegant portrayal of Indians as humans instead of simply as antagonists. It was, and still is, a poignant glimpse from the eyes of those swept over by Manifest Destiny.

assassination of jesse james western1. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

About as true to history and its source material as a movie can be, this adaptation of Ron Hansen’s novel features characters that are heartbreakingly familiar, lyrical storytelling, grimly beautiful cinematography, and about the best damn acting ever caught on camera.

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About adamjamesjones

A historian of the American West, Adam James Jones is the author of "The Vendetta of Felipe Espinosa." He lives in New Mexico with his wife, the actress Catharine Pilafas.
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6 Responses to Top Ten Western Movies

  1. ssowter says:

    I really enjoyed your top ten list, all though I’m a bit dissapointed to see my favorite western didn’t make the list. Young Guns has got to be one of the best westerns I’ve ever seen. 🙂

    • Thanks Sammie! Long time no talk. All good in Denver? Congrats on graduating by the way. Yeah, Young Guns is pretty good, though I can’t imagine anyone ever being intimidated by Emelio Estevez.

      • ssowter says:

        No problem Adam! It’s been a while…I try to keep up with your blog. Gives me something educational to read while at work. All good here in Denver…how’s life out in New Mexico? Thanks…it only took me 7 years to graduate but I finally did it! Yeah…you do have a good point…Emelio is far from intimidating…I look at him and think Mighty Ducks.

      • William says:

        Well he is “the kid” lol

  2. William says:

    You missed quigly down under

  3. I’ve already watched 3 of the movies from the list: No Country For Old Men, Brokeback Mountain and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. 7 more to go…

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