10 Great Western Movie Classics You Probably Haven’t seen

They keep saying the western is slowly becoming a dead genre but somehow it keeps delivering great films almost every year, often more than once. It’s pretty much alive and going strong even if it’s not the Golden Age of it. That said, it’s true that the genre doesn’t necessarily appeal to everyone and some people just stick to the classics that are well-known by any average filmgoer. However, all you need is just to take a closer look.

If you like the genre and looking out for things that you might not have seen before, maybe this list will help. There are traditional ones and non-traditional ones but hopefully there’s something for anyone who enjoys westerns and even if you don’t like westerns, some of these might still be worth to check out. If you had seen them all, that’s great, it means you’re a certified western fan but it also means you can re-visit them.


10. Blackthorn (2011)

Sam Shepard in Blackthorn

Twenty years after his disappearance, an old man named Butch Cassidy (Sam Shepard), living under the assumed name James Blackthorn in a secluded village in Bolivia as a cattle breeder wants to return to the United States after learning of the death of Etta Place. But then his path crosses that of a persecuted man who allegedly robbed a local mine owner. Then as you can imagine, a dangerous game of cat and mouse begins.

“Blackthorn” is a wonderful film made by people who certainly love deep love and respect for the genre as they handle the material with certain melancholy. It feels like traditional classic western but the use of grandiose landscapes, amazing staging, non-traditional location uses gives a fresh life to it. The movie has something to say about aging as well. But at the center of it, it works mainly because of Sam Shepard’s brilliant performance. He’s almost Paul Newman-esque in the role, delivering strong, captivating work. Their presence in movies are certainly missed. So if you want to check one of his finest late career performances, this would be a great choice.


9. Never Grow Old (2019)

Probably the least well-known on the list because it kind of disappeared when it got released just like many of actor John Cusack’s recent outputs. Other films are understandable because once reliable actor who selected his projects carefully has seem to long lost his interest in his career. However, once in a while he gets a chance that reminds us what a talented actor he used to be. The film’s lead character is Patrick Tate (Emile Hirsch), an Irish immigrant and undertaker, who profits when outlaws, led by Dutch Albert (Cusack), take over an American frontier town on the California Trail in 1849.

The director describes it as an attempt to the show the dark side of the “American Dream”. Indeed, the film is so dark that it feels like you’re watching a horror at times. It’s a visually dark film too but it only enriches the atmosphere. Why it’s less-known than many other fine westerns of the recent times it’s probably because it’s too mean-spirited to entertain every fan but if you’re okay with that, it’s certainly a fine ride. Definitely deserves more recognition than it initially received.


8. They Call Me Trinity (1970)

“They Call Me Trinity”, ss well as its sequel called “They Still Call Me Trinity” which even more successful than its predecessor are two of the best westerns of its time. Two somewhat shady brothers, one of whom got the sheriff’s star in a rather strange way, become the reluctant rescuers of a Mormon settlement from Mexican bandits and the henchmen of the land-grabbing Major Harriman.

The first word comes to mind to describe this movie is “fun”. It’s just so much fun. There’s just a great comic chemistry between Terence Hill and Bud Spencer. It was very successful at some countries but totally obscure in some others but it was a much needed movie at the time; because the westerns were getting too dark and suddenly a film comes out with a great sense of humor and doesn’t shy back to poke fun at the genre’s clichés. It has everything you need with lots of fights and shootouts and humor. Even if you’re not too fond of comedy westerns, “They Call Me Trinity” is worth to give a chance for and the sequel as well!


7. The Good Old Boys (1995)

Tommy Lee Jones has done enough in the genre to call him an icon here; from the masterpiece TV series “Lonesome Dove” to modern day classic “No Country for Old Men”, he appeared in so many worth-watching westerns. The man certainly has a love for the genre as his directorial debut “The Good Old Boys” was also a western and continued to make other films in the genre. It was a television production and such films tend to go overlooked unfortunately but when the film came out, it received certain attention including a SAG nomination for Tommy Lee Jones and Emmy nomination for Sissy Spacek’s performances.

Those who love “Lonesome Dove” will have a lot to appreciate here as there’s something so gentle about this story about a cowboy who refuses to go to new century and faces with dilemmas. The story is compelling, there are nice touches of humour and it has a nice bittersweet ending. The acting performances are all aces and Tommy is doing a great job at directing the material; everything feels authentic. Unfortunately, it’s hard to find it in a good quality. It’s worth to be seen by more people and to get a proper release.


6. Hearts of the West (1975)

Iowa, 1933. Lewis Tater is an ambitious young man with the ambition to become a western writer, the next Zane Grey. While he narrowly escapes the attack of two crooks wanting to rob, he stumbles upon the location of a western filming in the middle of Nevada. Chance and luck will make him become the new star of Hollywood. He’s played by then-the new star of Hollywood, Jeff Bridges who brings so much charm and complexity into his part.

This list has little bit of everything for fans of all sorts of Westerns. This one is more of a Frank Capra-like movie, it has no sophistication or cynicism but it has lots of charm instead. It’s mostly a tribute to B westerns and more comedic than most choices on the list. It’s not a laugh-out-loud funny but it’s constantly lovely that it makes you smile throughout the entire thing. Beside Bridges, film also features notable performances form Andy Griffith, Donald Pleasence, Blythe Danner and the late Alan Arkin whose presence in movies will certainly be missed. Unfortunately a box office flop, the film later gained love from the fans of the genre and developed a cult following.