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The 30 Greatest Westerns In Cinema History

11 May 2014 | Features, Film Lists | by James Newton

best westerns

The Western is one of America’s unique contributions to culture. It reflects American history and has helped shape the nation’s view of itself and how it others see it. However, the history of the Western is so pervasive, that some of the most remarkable films of the genre were actually made in Europe – specifically in Italy and Spain with the Spaghettis Westerns which began in the 1960s. There were also Westerns from Russia and Germany. So, the history of the genre is a complex one, with many different strands and facets, and with more icons and interesting films than is possible to mention in one article.

This list attempts a run-down of the greatest films in the genre; ones which are particularly important because they set certain standards, or those which are some of the most artistically impressive examples of the genre. Certainly, if you are a novice to Westerns, the list will provide an excellent starting point from which to begin your journey through this complicated, violent, morally ambiguous, but always fascinating genre.

 

30. The Great Train Robbery (1903)

great-train-robbery-1903

The first Western ever made? While it is unlikely to be enjoyed in the same way as others on the list, this deserves to be mentioned for inventing so many of the conventions and recognisable iconography on which the Western was built. It is a straightforward story of a train heist and the subsequent hunting of the robbers, told with pace and with lots of action. Two scenes stand out – a poor unfortunate being sadistically forced to dance to avoid having his feet shot, and the closing shot of a gunman firing straight at the audience. Both scenes, incidentally, are explicitly referenced in Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas.

 

29. The Ox Bow Incident (1943)

The Ox Bow Incident (1943)

William Wellman’s film starring Henry Fonda is an anti-lynching and anti-mob rule film. Fonda tries to stop the posse from fulfilling its role, but rather than simplistic moralising, the film is made complex through its characterisation. It also has a rough, occasionally brutal tone; especially evident in one early scene where Fonda punches a man out in a bar and then uses the leverage from the bar and a door frame to lift himself up and stamp on the man’s head.

 

28. Django (1966)

django

Sergio Corbucci made numerous Spaghetti Westerns, but none more famous or notorious as this. It replays the basic plot of Yojimbo, used by Sergio Leone for A Fistful of Dollars in 1964, of a lone stranger playing off two villainous gangs against the other, but adds in extra violence and baroque touches. These include a machine gun hidden in a coffin, which the hero drags behind him, plus a scene where a man’s ear is sliced off and fed to him. The figure of Django was so popular that it spawned numerous unofficial sequels, remakes, and spin offs (including Tarantino’s Django Unchained). Corbucci’s film had only one official sequel; Django Strikes Again in 1987).

 

27. McCabe and Mrs Miller (1971)

McCabe and Mrs Miller

Robert Altman’s unusual Western stars Warren Beatty as a gambler who owns a brothel with Madam Julie Christie. The snowy backdrop is beautifully photographed and the film is a critique of big business and capitalism. A sorrowful, quite melancholy film.

 

26. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)

the-assassination-of-jesse-james-by-the-coward-robert-ford-2007

The most recent version of the tale of the outlaw Jesse James, stars Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck as the title characters. Australian director Andrew Dominik is a former music video director, and his film is his follow up to his superb debut, Chopper, which similarly riffs on the links between crime, fame, and legend. The film has a melancholy, almost lyrical tone, which is aided by Roger Deakins’ warm and evocative cinematography.

 

25. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)

John Ford’s film is dark and cynical, and brings together three American Western legends in John Wayne, Lee Marvin, and James Stewart. Unlike many of his films, the Monument Valley setting is absent, with much of the action shot on sound stages. It is a film about reputations and myths; with a politician Stoddard’s (Stewart) reputation owing everything to him shooting down Marvin’s Liberty Valance, even though it is Wayne’s character who actually did the deed – from behind and from the shadows. It was Ford’s penultimate Western (not including a segment for How the West Was Won).

 

24. Hang ‘em High (1968)

Hang ‘em High

This was Clint Eastwood’s first American Western after he had been out in Italy starring as the Man with No Name in Sergio Leone’s Dollars films. He stars as a sheriff out to take down the men who lynched him, the scar from the noose still raw around his throat. The story and visual style is a mixture of the traditional American Western, but influenced in the cinematography and the frequently baroque touches by the Spaghetti Westerns which were becoming so popular at the time.

 

23. The Magnificent Seven (1960)

The Magnificent Seven movie

A macho Hollywood ensemble film, with a famous Elmer Bernstein score. The plot is lifted straight from Kurosawa’s The Seven Samurai, with a team of gunslingers hired to protect a village from bandits let by Eli Wallach. The film had several sequels and Yul Brynner later played homage to the character he plays here in Michael Crichton’s science fiction film Westworld; as a black clad, Terminatoresque robot gone insane.

 

22. Django Kill (1967)

Django Kill (1967)

A surreal Western and unofficial Django film, though in reality it is related to Corbucci’s film only in name. The film is intentionally closer to a gothic horror movie than a Western, born of the fact that director Giulio Questi had no real love of the genre. The film begins with Django crawling out of a mass grave, and has a recurrent fascination with images of gold. In one startling sequence a man is shot with gold bullets and then torn apart by people with their bare hands trying to dig out the nuggets. In another, one of the villains gets molten gold poured over his face after it melts during a fire.

 

21. The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)

The Outlaw Josey Wales

Clint Eastwood directed himself as Josey Wales, a Southerner out for revenge against the soldiers who killed his family and on the run from the bounty hunters hired to kill him. What makes the film different from other films sharing similar narratives is the band of followers Wales accumulates along the way. They represent the marginalised, the down trodden, and those rejected by society; including native Americans who eventually help him regain a sense of humanity. Chief Dan George plays Lone Watie, and provides much of the film’s sly humour.

 

 

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  • Daniel August Cockriel

    Nice list. But stepping back and looking at the order of some selections objectively proves rather puzzling, example; Open Range is not a better film than The Outlaw Josey Wales. It just isn’t lol.

    • Objectively? It is an opinion piece.

      • Cygnifier

        Opinion ought to have a factual basis though.

  • Michael Gross

    Terrible list , go back to rating horror movies.

    • SloppyFrenchKisser

      Smell my farts.

  • Virginian

    What about Shane? You can’t leave that out of any list worth publishing.

    • James McInerney

      You can if you’re an idiot

      • lando

        Shane +1 you dork

    • tony vega

      agree

  • Terry Powell

    Well, I agree with your number one pick, am disappointed that you found room fir Hang Em High, but not The Cowboys and this is the only list I’ve seen that rates El Dorado better than Rio Bravo.

    • Bevin Chu

      Rio Bravo was definitely better than El Dorado.
      Not that El Dorado was bad.
      But it was essentially a remake with a few tweaks.

      • Donnie D.

        F*ck yeah Rio Bravo!

    • Brent

      Good mention — The Cowboys. Also really like Big Jake — “Thought you was dead.” “Not hardly” Cried when Dog got cut up.

  • Elisabeth White

    So wanted Tombstone to get a special mention.. for some reason I loved that movie.. kilmer as doc was great

    • Bob Zane

      you are correct, Elisabeth.

    • Piquerish

      Why, I believe he was everybody’s huckleberry, my dear.

  • Ted Wolf

    I’m really surprised there is not a single Bud Boetticher movie on this list, and Shane definitely belongs in the top 10.

    • Donnie D.

      True. Great BB!

    • HCUA

      Number one.

  • Guest

    Some very good choices here, but too many hed scratchers as well.

  • Jim

    Some very good choices here, but too many head scratchers as well.

  • Mike Bloxham

    I just don’t get why everybody likes The Searchers so much, I hated it. Also, no mention of the True Grit remake? And what about The Missouri Breaks?

    • Christine Golden

      Because, unlike most westerns, it’s a very-well made film with all of the technical elements hitting it out of the ballpark. Plus, there’s John Wayne’s tribute to the great silent western actor (and his mentor), Harry Carey, Sr. when he stands looking in the door.

  • Butch Tozier

    High Noon, Hombre, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, How the West Was Won, Lonesome Dove – just sayin…

    • Adarsh

      Yes, absolutely! This list is a Clint Eastwood Fanboi orgasm.

  • Dan Holmes

    Silverado!

  • Clare Unsworth

    A great overview of a genre of which many people have only skimmed the surface – myself included. I’ll certainly revisit some of the films I’ve seen and check out a few of the ones that I haven’t. It’s beautifully apt how tribal the debate is that has erupted in response. The internet and the wild west are apparently one and the same.

  • Lawrence Vega

    This list should be called I like Clint Eastwood

    • Bill_Fan

      When it comes to Westerns, hard not to put Clint at the top.

      • Donnie D.

        Not at all. He did great, unforgetable movies, sure, but Ford, Hawks and Anthony Mann are his masters. They are unbeatable.

      • maxiemom

        Nope. John Ford’s westerns have his beat by a long shot. Howard Hawks and Anthony Mann, George Stevens, and others all have Clint beat. And as for acting, John Wayne made many more memorable westerns than Clint did.

    • SloppyFrenchKisser

      He talks to chairs now.

      • Kenny B

        ughhh

      • Kenny B

        Your referencing Bowling For Columbine?

        I don’t support his politics at all…………

  • Interesting list but a little too heavy on Clint Eastwood.

    I would have made room for Silverado, which may not be “deep” or anything but is a very well-choreographed blend of the old-fashioned westerns and Kevin Kline’s “bad man turned good but tempted by influences from his past” is a beautiful homage to William S Hart’s silent westerns.

    Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was conspicuous by its absence.

    • I agree with you. Hang’em High & The Beguiled really are not worthy in my opinion. As others have stated, Shane and Lonesome Dove should really be on the list. Certainly Butch Cassidy. I would add The Professionals too (one of the greatest last lines in movie history).

  • jimfromkcj

    From a purely entertainment value, I would rate McClintock at #1.

    • Brent

      🙂

  • James L

    Nothing beats The Searchers for me! Greatest Western of all time.

    • Christine Golden

      The prestigious American Film Institute agrees with us.

    • SloppyFrenchKisser

      The very last scene was perfect!

    • Donnie D.

      AGREED!

    • Mike Burke

      Absolutely right!

    • Vicki Herndon

      Yes, yes, yes!

      “In 1989, The Searchers was deemed ‘culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the United States Library of Congress, and selected for preservation in its National Film Registry; it was in the first cohort of films selected for the registry.'” ~Wikipedia

      In my opinion, the greatest Western ever made. With each viewing, I am transported to those desert places of light and shadow, exquisitely presented.

  • charlesjannuzi

    Mostly this list is about westerns that are not really mainstream westerns. Perhaps spaghetti westerns ought to have their own list. I’d put Open Range right up there at the top because it is made to modern standards but doesn’t pander to modern audiences. And Dances with Wolves doesn’t make the list?

    • Jacob Kilgannon

      Also, Jeremiah Johnson should be on here somewhere.

    • HCUA

      Dances With Wolves? Wasn’t that about Indians doing knitting and such?

      • charlesjannuzi

        Well, no it’s not. It may bog down a little with its love story (there just has to be a captive white woman for Lt. Dunbar to fall in love with). But it is really a western that deals with the beginning of the end of the Plains Indians. It’s also a Civil War story (at the beginning). I have to put it right up there for a western of huge ambition that largely pulls it off. Costner has been in and helped to make three great westerns–DWW, Wyatt Earp, and Open Range.

  • charlesjannuzi

    And both Tombstone and Wyatt Earp belong on the list too.

  • charlesjannuzi

    And Shane and Hondo do too.

  • charlesjannuzi

    And Wayne’s True Grit is number 1 on my list.

  • charlesjannuzi

    And McQueen’s Tom Horn has to be one of the best of the very realistic westerns ever made.

    • Stuttgart5

      McQueen was the best!

  • Dennis McCoy

    Some of these I am in agreement with, However, many were left out, The Big Country, Shane, High Noon, Bad Day at Black Rock, Tom Horn, Gun Fight at The OK Coral, Lonely are The Brave, Son’s of Katy Elder, The Fastest Gun Alive, Winchester 73,
    etc. etc.

    • Bevin Chu

      The Big Country. Almost forgot that one. Definitely. Has one of the most rousing Western movie scores ever. Right up there with The Magnificent Seven score.

    • Tombstone, 3:10 to Yuma, Django Unchained, True Grit, Blazing Saddles… I am not even a fan of this genre and I could name numerous titles not making it.

      Heck an argument could be made for No Country for Old Men.

    • Gary Hart

      Bad Day At Black Rock was set in the 1940’s. It is a great movie, but it doesn’t qualify as a Western.

    • Vicki Herndon

      Yes. The list of excellent Westerns is quite long. For me, The Searchers is the best. I love, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, though my second favorite is, The Big Country.

      Watching the great Westerns with my late father has been one of my fondest memories for awhile now, especially those with John Wayne who was my dad’s favorite.

  • Wesley Edward Antrim

    Unforgiven is the greatest western I’ve ever seen. The last 15 minutes of that movie are as good as it gets.

    • Peter Shelton

      I agree. Unforgiven should have been number one. Easily the best western ever made. It portrays the west as it really was without all the hollywood bulshit. Greatist line ever” Hell of a thing killing a man,you take away all that he ever had and all he will ever be” Awesome!!!!
      Clint Eastwood is the greatest.

    • Clayton Emery

      Agreed. It also filled a huge gap about what came AFTER the hero and the girl rode off into the sunset. Fifteen years on, he’s a failed farmer and widower and needs cash, so goes back to the only trade he knew – killing. When he tells the kids, “If I’m not back in six months, go live with Maria Talltrees,” it’s devastating.

  • Harpua13

    I’d swap the top two. I think you’re just being obscure in the top ten for the sake of being obscure.
    And how Rio Bravo and Tombstone don’t at least get into the top 30 is simply ridiculous.

  • Gerard Watts

    The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, is far better than Once Upon A Time.

    • cinemaomyheart

      disputable

    • Abhishek

      Agreed. Why do they always have to keep OUATIW above GBUgly

      • Mortimer

        Because it’s better movie. Simple as that.

    • Stuttgart5

      Yep, the Italians make the best westerns. Eastwood is the worst, followed closely by Wayne.

    • Mortimer

      No, it’s not.

  • Mravac Kid

    I can withstand the list missing some of the most legendary westerns while including some of rather dubious valour, but c’mon… it’s Gian-Maria Volonte, not Gian Mario Volante.

  • Magnificent 7 at number 23? Come on

  • Floyd_Lloyd

    I think that even though Unforgiven won the Oscar, it wasn’t nearly the movie that The Outlaw Josie Wales was. Once Upon a Time in the West too long and tedious to be declared #1. I will always believe that The Outlaw Josie Wales is the best western ever made.

    • cinemaomyheart

      The timing was pefect!

  • Ed Erdelac

    The Beguiled is not a western.

  • Joe Kalbo

    The Beguiled hardly qualifies as a Western and Shane is missing and surely worthy of top 30 mention

    • HCUA

      Shane is Number One.

  • Russ Patterson

    i always liked Silverado too…it has humor and shooting! and the Cowboys like someone said. and a nod to Tombstone. what about My Name is Nobody? many of those listed are just b list drivel that never see the light of anyone’s dvd player

  • JCPhotoMedia.com

    Searchers has to be top 5. Definitely the best of the John Wayne westerns and honestly a great great movie – one of the few times that you felt Wayne was acting. Tombstone has to be on the list. I for some reason have never had the love for Once Upon a time…maybe i just like the Leone Eastwood movies too much….The newer True Grit deserves some thought…one of the few times I’ve ever liked a remake more… and for my money The Outlaw Joey Wales is just about as good as it gets….better than the Leone movies except GBU

  • Jimmi

    What about Jeremiah Johnson, Robert Redford and Will Geer.

  • Erik D

    No Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid?

  • Doug Tabner

    Little Big Man?

    • Brent

      Another great mention. One of Hoffman’s best.

  • Daniel De Kok

    No Blazing Saddles?

    • HCUA

      That was a comedy. The Marx Brothers.

  • Jason

    I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Ted Wolf. If you don’t include one Bud Boetticher movie in this bunch (especially The Tall T), and you exclude Treasure of the Sierra Madre, you haven’t seen enough westerns to make such a list. However, it’s better than some I’ve read.

  • Christine Golden

    I’ve seen Johnny Ringo and it is hideous. Joan Crawford over-acts so much, she may as well chew on the scenery. “Melodramatic” describes it perfectly.

  • Christine Golden

    Whoever made this list sure loves spaghetti westerns. Too bad he/she didn’t have a better appreciation for the late John Ford. Stagecoach, anyone?

    • David Currey

      As I was growing up in the late 60s, I generally regarded spaghetti westerns as “B movies”. Never really been a fan of them.

    • J D Masio

      I agree. None of the spaghetti westerns should be on any list , especially without Shane, High Noon, The Big Country being omitted.

      • Brent

        Agreed. I cringe when watching The G B U with someone who hasn’t seen it. Just hasn’t held up well.

        • Jacob Kilgannon

          I’m going to have to disagree about it not holding up well. Every time that I’ve shown it to someone who isn’t well versed in westerns at all (which has happened to me a LOT), they absolutely loved it. I would easily put Leone in the same league as Fordl Peckinpah, and the other great Western directors. They’re hard to compare though, because their styles are incredibly different. I do agree that Stagecoach Shane, and High Noon need to be on this list though.

  • Pegah Bahramian

    do you know great western actor Audie Murphy? if you know him why he’s absent, for example “No Name on Bullet” and “Night Passage”. Also the cult western of Zinnemman “High Noon”, Anthony Mann’s “Man from West” with theatrical scenes and its different ending, “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” by George Roy Hill that is one of the most intellectual western ever made, “One-eyed Jacks” with different acting of Marlon Brando who showed the other kind of shooting and fighting as a gunfighter named Rio that absolutely is unique like Clint Eastwood that is unique in other way, the most important western of Budd Boetticher with Randolph Scott “Seven Men From Now” with the shocking opening, and finally a masterpiece surprisingly you missed! “Shane” by George Stevens that Alan Ladd taught the silence and decency as gunfighter to the later actors.

  • yonjuro

    What about “Tombstone?”

  • JIm

    The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly absolutely destroys Once Upon A Time In The West.

  • Villan Gunn

    How has no one said anything about “The Long Riders”, that movie was great and had 3 or 4? groups of brothers team up as the posse.

  • ralph peterson

    were is TOMBSTONE

    • HCUA

      About 80 miles from Tucson.

  • Virgil Myers

    Gian Mario Volante?

  • Terry Shannon

    An interesting list, well made. It is a bit Eastwood heavy. The inclusion of The Beguiled (which is a period piece, not a western) certainly is a counter to the image created of Eastwood in his westerns but does not make The Beguiled a western in any true sense of the genre.
    I appreciate that the author mentions Tombstone and Wyatt Earp in the inclusion of My Darling Clementine as movies based on the gunfight at OK corral, but Gunfight at the OK Corral deserves some mention too.
    Speaking of Burt Lancaster films and good obscure westerns, Ulzana’s Raid will always be in my top westerns list. An allegory of the Vietnam war, it is a brutal, well made film that I would recommend to to anyone interested in the genre.
    As far as Jesse James based movies, I have to go with The Long Riders. The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford is a good film in it’s own right, but I feel that The Long Riders is the better film.
    Lastly, as far as modern “realistic” westerns go, The Missing deserves some love. While I do like Open Range, I would likely place The Missing in it’s place on this particular list.
    We all see cinema through our own lense. This is a good list. Let’s try to keep the comments constructive.

  • One of those bad days, I reckon!

  • vance9281

    It is a list, but with major flaws. Seven of the them are spaghetti westerns and neither El Topo or The Beguiled should be included since they are not westerns. People wear big hats in them and carry guns, but lots of people do that in lots of movies.

    There is a bias here to the Italian films that is misplaced. Many of them are good, but the author is so wrong about movies that he includes one that is a remake of Yojimbo, which is a far better movie than any remake, including A Fistful Of Dollars. Yojimbo could be called a western before El Topo, which was a long winded waste of everyone’s time.

    What is missing the most from this list is good judgment about the genre. This is a list of the author’s favorite westerns which is very different from a list of greatness.

    Other comments have cited Tombstone & Shane as notable omissions and the worst omission of all is not including a Boetticher film. The Rannown series is fantastic and two or three of them could have been included.

    • David Currey

      Yep about Boetticher and Randolph Scott.

    • Guest

      jodorowsky himeself refers to dune as a western and so does every film site as far as classification goes. I see what you are saying, YOU don’t think it would be but the man himself said he set out to make a western type film.

    • thingythingthing

      jodorowsky himeself refers to El Topo as a western and so does every film site as far as classification goes. I see what you are saying, YOU don’t think it would be but the man himself said he set out to make a western type film.

    • Jacob Kilgannon

      Well if we’re gonna compile a list that doesn’t include remakes of Kurosawa films, then we would also have to remove Django (also a Yojimbo remake) and The Magnificent Seven (a remake of The Seven Samurai). And I don’t think that we should, because those are both incredible films.

  • David Currey

    No Shane, no list, as far as I’m concerned. Actually, lists like this are almost designed to generate controversy, but leaving off Shane and it’s marvelous music score by Victor Young is moronic ignorance. The list does have many westerns I would include, but is seriously tainted by the omission of Shane.

    • Barry

      Plus Jack Palance may have been the best bad guy ever.

      • David Currey

        Yes. As a kid, Palance’s acting literally made me hate the actor. Now, of course, being much older and more mature, I appreciate the fine job he did in the movie.

  • I would have liked to see The WILD BUNCH ranked higher, but the fact that THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY & UNFORGIVEN are numbers two and three, respectively, while Leone’s ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST is (in one of the few instances of these lists getting it right) Number One, makes this a beautifully realized and well-thought out ranking. Hurrah!

  • Edwin Osuna

    3:10 to Yuma? Winchester ’73

  • Ted_Fontenot

    A couple of other James Stewart/Anthony Mann films deserve consideration–say, The Far Country and Bend of the River. Ride the High Country. Comanche Station. Stars in my Crown. Yellow Sky. The Gunfighter. Will Penny. Major Dundee. Ford’s Fort Apache. They Died With Their Boots On. Santa Fe. Destry Rides Again (definitely–it created and spawn the comedy-drama western). The 1930s Three Godfathers with Chester Morris and Lewis Stone.

    • David Currey

      I agree about Ride the High Country. I watched it recently for the first time. A great film, with one of the most beautiful (if such can be said) death scenes in cinema.

    • Jacob Kilgannon

      I love that someone mentioned Major Dundee! It’s one of my personal favorites. Excellent cast, and Peckinpah delivers (as usual).

    • HCUA

      Will Penny was Heston’s best movie, then comes The Ten Commandos.

  • ron b

    The Clint Eastwood directed films, other than Unforgiven, don’t deserve to be on the same list as the Leone films.

  • PedalNinja

    Why is Outlaw Josey Wales so buried on this list (#23) ??? it should be easily top 5 maybe even top 3, and Unforgiven (and excellent and very worthy movie) is basically a re-telling of Outlaw Josey Wales… seriously the writer/lister gives a Kevin Costner movie (open range #17) a higher ranking than Josey Wales!! wow, that’s just madness imo, My darling Clementine?? wtf? this “writer” or “Lister” must be joking, this is a terrible list.. this is from someone who obviously isn’t all that familiar with westerns. He’s just making lists for the sake of them. lol

  • I Am

    dead man?

  • roundthings

    True Grit and Pale Rider also belong on the list but everyone has their own opinions

  • Bob Zane

    Ride the High Country http://goo.gl/sdPb where is it.

  • The Great and Powerful Turtle

    A couple of them really dont deserve to be on the list but what irks me the most are the films that do deserve to be on the list that are absent …
    mind boggling ..

  • Larrycheryl Hotte

    Who did this list? High Noon with Gary Cooper not even considered??The American Film Institute did not agree with you as High Noon was the only western to break the top 30 in their list of 100′

    • maxiemom

      No. Don’t forget The Searchers, which last time I looked is now in the Top 10 movies of all time.

  • Ted McDonough

    3:10 to Yuma (Russell Crowe version) has to be on this list and I agree Tombstone should be on it. Where’s Silverado, Little Big Man, and Dances with Wolves? And oh yeah Jerimiah Johnston.

    • Peter Shelton

      I agree with Jerimiah Johnston.I watched it again the other night and its great movie. Also on my best western list would be A Man Called Horse,Palerider,Butch Cassady and the Sundance Kid,and one to stir things up a bit Cowboys and Aliens lol

      • David Currey

        While I probably would not rate Cowboys and Aliens among the top thirty, it was definitely a good movie. I liked the blend of the Western and Sci-fi traditions, and having the alien race be only a couple hundred years advanced over the cowboys instead of tens of thousands (rocket engines instead of anti-gravity drives, etc.) is what gave the humans a reasonable chance of fighting them off.

        • Cygnifier

          The opening scene of Cowboys and Aliens is a direct quote of the opening of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. It was a fun way to start off this fun mash-up of genres.

      • Brent

        Oh great!!! mention and great actor — Man Called Horse…

        Okay, good joke! Love looking at Olivia Wilde and if you need an actor to have high tech gadgets in a western why not James bond, I mean Daniel Craig?

        Now I loved the TV shows — and thought both movies were great. Wild Wild West and Maverick.

  • Hector Miranda

    The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, is #1 hands down. Once upon a time in the west is, a good, even great. But no way is it #1.

    Topo has no business on any list of great westerns.

  • jhpoland

    I may not agree with all of these but I have always believed that ‘Once upon a time in the West ” WAS and IS the Greatest Western ever made !!
    Jack Elam makes the biggest impression in the least time of any actor in Western History ! And Henry Fonda deserved an Oscar for playing someone so completely evil !

  • Carl Peter Yeh

    Stage coach, by John Ford.

    • doc___holliday

      STAGECOACH!!

  • Max Pixel

    Where’s Stagecoach?

    • Mike Burke

      Sadly missing… did you merely overlook it? Ridiculous! Same with Shane… two of the greatest westerns, and incidently, MOVIES of all time…

  • drnode

    Little Big man deserved a mention

  • alderwood

    I would have to throw Ride Lonesome and Winchester ’73 in the mix.

  • Paul O’Connor

    True Grit, The War Wagon, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Young Guns and can’t believe The Magnificent Seven was so far down, maybe because it was a remake of The Seventh Samurai

  • SloppyFrenchKisser

    Yep, Once Upon a Time in the West was spectacular.

  • Good God. A list of 30 movies and even I could name 5-8 more that could easily make a top 10 list.

    How over played is this genre?

  • pippitypup

    Any list that excludes “Shane”, “Tombstone” and “High Noon” is worthless.

  • mchirsky .

    List fails without Jarmusch’s “Dead Man”. Soundtrack by Neil Young and cameos by everyone including Robert Mitchum.

  • Heywood Jablowme

    Sorry. Any list of westerns that doesn’t include “Blazing Saddles” is incomplete.

    • HCUA

      A comedy with some Western features.

  • Clayton Emery

    Guess there’s no room for comedies like James Garner’s SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL GUNFIGHTER and SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL SHERIFF, or the TRINITY movies.

  • moob_rex

    No way you put that stupid @ss Jesse James movie with Brad Pitt in it, you have instantly invalidate your list.

  • Benedict Harris

    SHANE !!
    incomplete list….change it to 31 westerns!!

  • Diogenes in OR

    Interesting choices – however, way, way too many representatives of the “spaghetti western” genre, and not nearly enough classic American westerns.
    Although this is indeed an opinion piece, I remain puzzled by the admiration so many have for “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”. The score is excellent, but the story is more allegorical than I would prefer, with the specifically mentioned battle and prison camp scenes being very ahistorical and, in my opinion, clumsily referencing WWI (the battle) and WWII (the prison camp).

  • William Wright

    El Topo–nah. Shane, yes.

  • Helene Stephens

    What about HIGH NOON or STAGE COACH or 3:10 TO YUMA?

  • Marco Alfano

    As others said: Gian Maria Volonté, not Gian Mario Volante.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gian_Maria_Volont%C3%A9

  • Gregory Chandler

    I am a “High Plains Drifter” kind of guy.
    Gregory Chandler

  • David A

    The lack of Stagecoach disturbs me.

  • Paul

    The Good the Bad and the Ugly should have been top and also the Outlaw Josey Wales. Tombstone and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Not a great top ten really.

  • Sean Sweeney

    Good list, yes OUTW # one, though personally the missing Shane is top ten for me and The Wild Bunch & Outlaw Josey Wales would be higher up. But more importantly The Beguiled is great, but NOT a Western by any definition of the genre.

  • Ted_Fontenot

    This list has some real clunkers and what it ignores amounts to insult. It is much too tainted by the spaghetti western esthetic. Stewart/Mann should have at least two more: Bend of the River and The Far Country. Ride the High Country is a top-tier essential. Randolph Scott has at least one more: Comanche Station. Joel McCrea Stars in my Crown. The Gregory Peck/Henry King The Gunfighter. High Noon. Burt Lancaster/Pollack The Scalphunters. And Lancaster/Sturges has maybe the only comic epic western, The Hallelujah Trail. Fort Apache and Rio Grande, for sure, belong. Rio Bravo. I could go on.

  • Guest

    Once Upon a Time in the West is NOT better than The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

  • CM0

    Once Upon a Time in the West is NOT better than The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

    • Brent

      A lot of films, including many, many westerns are better than The Good, Bad & The Ugly — “Blondie!”

  • Darren Snakeman

    John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Roy Rogers… and even Tom Mix. Westerns are a foundation of Hollywood movies, too.

  • glebsky

    Are you serious? Where are High Noon, 3:10 to Yuma, Dead Man?

  • Kushtrim R. Krasniqi

    It’s not a bad list, still there are few masterpieces missing: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), The Cowboys (1972), Shane (1953), 3:10 to Yuma the remake with Russell Crowe and Christian Bale (2007), Appaloosa (2008), High Noon (1952), The Gunfighter (1950), Maverick (1994), My Name is Nobody (1973), Dead Man (1995), Dances with the Wolves (1990), Legends of the Fall (1994), The Quick and the Dead (1995), Two Mules for Sister Sara (1970) and the list goes on 🙂 i think I’ll stop here.

    • HCUA

      The Gunfighter should be there. In The Appaloosa, John Saxon is a great Mexican. He sent me an autographed picture that he personally signed, not just one of those that sit by the hundreds in a file drawer for fans.

  • Richard C

    Blazing Saddles?

  • Donnie D.

    Ok. John Ford’s “Liberty Valance” and “The Searches” bellow Sergio Leone? REALLY? And where’s Anthony Mann? Above all: where da h*** is Howard Hawks? Rio Bravo?!
    The Searchers — One of the greatest films EVER MADE (not just among western films). Period.
    John Ford — Master of the masters.
    Howard Hawks — Made movies even better than some of Ford’s (wich is almost unbelievable, but true)

  • Donnie D.

    The Ox Bow Incident should be in among the 10+.

  • Jorge Pancolart

    A Fistful of Dynamite and The Hunting Party with Oliver Reed. Dances with Wolves surely, one of my all time favorites.

    • Jacob Kilgannon

      I completely agree.

  • J D Masio

    Some truly great westerns were omitted: High Noon, Shane, Tombstone and Stagecoach to name a few. Also El Dorado ? a knock off of Rio Bravo.

  • twhlcommish

    The Proposition (2005) Dir: John Hillcoat… one of the BEST “western” films ever made (albeit set in Australia, it still makes the cut as a “western”). But “Once Upon A Time…” IS the greatest ever, and makes this list at least somewhat legitimate! In the meantime, if you haven’t seen The Proposition yet… WATCH IT !!! (And thank me later!)

    • Brent

      If we’re going to throw in Australian films (I mean by the looks of it this author is from Italy) then by all means include The Man From Snowy River.

  • bentleypal

    These things are always quite subjective … but what the hell. My list would have given Josey Wales a much higher ranking (top 5). It would have also included The Long Riders, Little Big Man, Jeremiah Johnson and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. And, while I am a huge fan of both Dylan and Kristoferson in general, this movie was ok at best ….

  • Gunnar S. Valdimarsson

    Best EVER Westerns? Really? And no Shane?

  • Incorrect. Not impressed that we have to go through pages of ads to see top ones either, unfollowing.

  • Phoghat

    “Two Mules For Sister Sara” MacLaine/Eastwood 1970.

    • Brent

      Well maybe — if the list was longer than 30.

      • Phoghat

        saw this in a theater as a double feature. Almost walked out

  • maxiemom

    Like Clint Eastwood much? Come on! This is like Clint’s greatest hits with the ACTUAL greatest westerns thrown in for good measure, and some others that no one would put there as well….. McCabe and Mrs. Miller? Are you even serious?.

  • Gary Hart

    Glad to see “The Ox-Bow incident”on the list.

    • Brent

      Yes, that shows some wisdom. Unfortunately much of the list doesn’t.

  • Mike Burke

    Stagecoach? Shane? John Ford’s Cavalry movies with John Wayne? Does the person who compiled the list have Alzheimers?

  • Klaus Dannick

    Dead Man.

  • Wolfgang

    What about Winchester ’73?

  • Ricardo Ito

    I miss ‘Duck You Sucker’ in the list!

  • Peter Wint

    Best opening scene – Once Upon A Time In The West- duh!
    Best line – Winchester 73 – Waco’s answer if he’s here for the gold
    Best scene – For A Few Dollars More – Cleef lighting match on back of Kinski’s neck
    Best gun fight – Open Range

  • Cygnifier

    High Noon? Shane? Treasure of the Sierra Madre? Dances with Wolves? Butch Cassidy/Sundance Kid? The Iron Horse (Ford’s great silent western)? I’m especially astonished to not see John Ford’s 1939 Stagecoach included. It was considered so good by both Orson Welles and Akira Kurosawa that they watched it over and over (25+ times for Welles, 40+ for Kurosawa) as the perfect model on how to make a film (leading to Citizen Kane and Kurosawa’s homage to the westerns, Seven Samurai).

  • Steve Lusk

    The original True Grit, Against a Crooked Sky, North to Alaska, Jeremiah Johnson, just to name a few more that I feel we’re list worthy.

  • Abhishek

    Once upon a time in the west was boring at times. However, Dollars trilogy is epic throughout.

  • paulbip

    Do not forsake me oh my darlin.

  • Patrick Hill

    It’s so ironic that the greatest Westerns weren’t American made. I like the list a lot, I agree with most, if not all

    • HCUA

      No Burt Lancaster films? I am the first to mention him. How about Unforgiven, and Veracruz, and Apache, and Valdez is Coming? All fine Burt Lancaster films. You saw it here first.

  • Jim

    Some good choices here, but some real head scratchers as well.

  • doc___holliday

    Wow. What a shitty list. Do you even watch Westerns, bro? No Little Big Man? …footnoting Dances with Wolves, claiming my Darling Clementine was the “definitive” Earp saga film? Yikes. I don’t want to read your other film lists.. also: why no comedies? Blazing Saddles was legendary!

  • DarthDaver

    Some real curious picks here. All those spaghetti westerns for one but where’s Silverado, and Cat Ballou and you can even make an argument for Quigley Down Under.

  • persie PRINCE

    Tombstone needs to be here val was outstanding in that character

  • Peter Bergeron

    my # 1 it’s The Good The Bad And The Ugly (1966) and i think it’s best but some great ones are missing here like Django Unchained (2012) 3:10 To Yuma (2007) For Few Dollars More (1965) Wyatt Earp (1994) My Name Is Nobody (1973) 5 Card Stud (1968) Pale Rider (1985)

  • jesse100

    Any list of Westerns that doesn’t have The Searchers in the top ten at least is suspect. Not to mention Outlaw Josie Wales being #21.

  • mikeoregon

    You forgot Shane.

  • bentleypal

    * Little Big Man
    * Jeremiah Johnson
    * Shane
    * Dances With Wolves
    * Tombstone
    * She Wore a Yellow Ribbon
    * Silverado
    * Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
    * High Noon
    * The Long Riders
    * True Grit

    Oh, crap. As I was doing this list I realized I should have taken a look at other posts here, and I see I touch on a bunch of the same ones. I’m not even a big fan of Westerns, but the ones I listed (personal choice, I know … ) and many of the ones in the official list here were just good movies. I was impressed that he included The Beguiled; I bet very few have even seen that. Some choices I don’t get – I am a big fan of both Kris and Dylan (their music) but thought Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid was nowhere near deserving above any of the ones I listed, or by others here.

  • Southern observer

    yeah Shane, Stagecoach as well

  • TheOct8pus

    Great list. We all have our special tastes….I’d add “Adios Sabata”, “My Name is Nobody” and “Silverado” to the list….with an honorable mention to the Young Guns Dulogy.

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  • Mathieu Gauvin

    Leone is king, but I’d but The Searchers and The Wild Bunch a lot higher on the list

  • Chandradeep

    who made this list? No Stagecoach? Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid? and Rio Bravo? seriously?

  • lilyboosh

    Pale Rider probably deserves a mention as well.

  • lauramoreaux

    3:10 to Yuma

  • Aleksandar Šurbatović

    Oh, this one is really wrong! So incompetent. Ford and Hawks should be on top of the list, Searchers, Stagecoach (not even on the list), Liberty Valance, Red River, those are trully defining moments in western genre… To much of Leone and spaghettis (4 in top 7???!!!). No Rancho Notorious and High Noon, really!? High position of Open Range is only positive suprise.

  • Relf

    Searchers should be waaaaay higher

  • Alex

    Slow West would not be a bad option.

  • Parth Tyagi

    django unchained ?

  • warrenzoell

    A fistful of dynamite.

  • That Guy

    My favorite Western actor, definitely The Duke. Need to see Big Jake on this list. My favorite Western movie, The Outlaw Josey Wales. All the rest is window dressing. 😉

  • Miltos Ieremiadis

    the man who shot liberty valance in 25th place?..u people must be jokin

  • Archie Cruz

    Blasphemy. No Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

  • Hugh Gaynor-Aldrich

    HEY , don’t forget the fine westerns with Randolf Scott & Joel McCrea

  • nilsmontan

    I agree that Tombstone should be on this list and “The Serachers” at Number 11? Seriously? Clint Eastwood is great and “The Unforgiven” is a masterpiece, but I don’t get all the love for the Spaghetti Westerns. Too corny for me.

  • HCUA

    The best of them all is not here–Shane. That had all of the elements that make a great story: Suspense, action, heroes, villains retribution, love, and more.
    Another that was left out was Pale Rider. What a terrific movie.
    I never heard of some of these Westerns. What is Django, or the other Django film? The Great Silence? A Bullet For the General? Silver Lode? Never heard of them.
    I have seen all of the rest.

  • Eric Kepner

    GOOD BAD AND UGLY IS THE GREATEST WESTERN OF ALL TIME HANDS DOWN…..JUST DROPPED THE MIC….OR THE MOUSE

  • Albert Nadal Garriga

    I expected two brilliant movies in this list like “Death rides a horse”(1966) or the masterpiece “Duck, You Sucker”(1971).

  • Cormoran Shim Shon

    this list shows for me how untastfull the guys/girlz who made the list really are.
    i mean; The life and time of judge Roy Bean; with Paul Newman and Victoria Principale is not there, if you put pat garreth and billy the kid you just aswell should have put young gunz 1&2 they might be underrated a bit but they are greater than the formensioned. hang hem high should not been there…no tombstone on the list either…like wtf?
    anyhow thanks for the comment sextion (yes with an X it gives more style to the word) it made me discover shane and some other classic. maybe the flaws where planned ahead to see wich is the most underrated classic? idk

  • Scott Whitt

    Tombstone needs to be on here. I think Unforgiven and Open Range are boring and slow. Love Clint but I think people confused his legacy with that movie. I’d included Support Your Local Sheriff. Sucks that there is almost none of these on a streaming service. For some reason there is a lack of westerns available. Movie and tv.

  • Steve G

    No “Winchester 73” or “The Great Silence” makes this list incomplete.

  • Unforgiven is way overrated, and the #2 and #1 should swap places. The Good The Bad & The Ugly is mythical, whereas Once Upon A Time is a Western Opera. A bit ruined towards the end when Jason Robards visits Claudia to have a coffee, have a shave, chitchats about Harmonica… then dies. WtF? I agree with the previous commentator that Tombstone should have been on the top 20 (or so) list too. Perhaps Kurt Russell’s best film. The end sequences (easily overlooked) in which Wyatt Earp is reunited with his girlfriend and the short final scene on the boat are sheer brilliance.

  • Hedge685

    Che Guevara wasn’t assassinated…he was rightly tried and executed for war crimes, torture and mass murder of innocents.

  • George Costanza

    Rio Bravo in my opinion is much better than El Dorado.

  • Lightninbolt

    The Outlaw Josey Wells, definite classic, I will never forget the “Chief”. . Tombstone and Purgatory(“cant spare the bullet,” man that was COLD} was 2 of the best I had watched since Lonesome Dove.

  • Jed Leland

    Rancho Deluxe. Written by Thomas McGuane and directed by Frank Perry, this is pretty much the same narrative as Missouri Breaks (also written by McGuane), only set in modern times and more overtly comic. Cast includes Jeff Bridges, Elizabeth Ashley, Sam Waterston, Slim Pickens, Harry Dean Stanton, Patti D’Arbanville, Clifton James, Richard Bright. Smart, wonderful movie … one of my all time faves.

  • Joe Montoto

    STAGECOACH???????

  • Bobba Fett

    El Topo=El Crapo.

  • Eleanor Andrews

    Where are Shane, High Noon and Stagecoach?

  • Aleksandar Šurbatović

    Highly irrelevant list. No Shane, Stagecoach, Forth Apach?! Searchers on 11th place and Red River on 12, really? Let me guess: your favorite actor is Clint Eastwood? And spagetti is your favorite dish… Cmon, get serious.

  • Barry

    The Professionals ( 1966), Shane ( 1953).

  • Rick Hamilton

    The Missourii Breaks.

  • Doutor Estrelinho

    “My name is nobody” is a fucking great tribute to western

  • Rick Minor

    I agree with a lot of everyone’s comments (High Noon!). But I like Clint! Somehow “For a Few Dollars More” made this list, and not the far superior “A Fistful of Dollars.” I’m also disappointed that “Winchester 73” isn’t here.