22 Best Western Movies to Watch

Staff & contributors
Written by actor-turned-screenwriter Taylor Sheridan (Sicario) and directed by David Mackenzie (who is responsible for the prison drama Starred up), this well-acted Western is one of the most captivating movies of 2016. Chris Pine and Ben Foster play two brothers, one cautious and out to better himself, the other, an ex-convict with an itchy trigger finger, whose family ranch is threatened by the local bank. Both set out to make a high-risk living of travelling and robbing that bank's local branches. On the other side of town, grizzled Texas ranger Marcus, played by none other than Academy Award-winner Jeff Bridges, has one foot in retirement but is bent on solving their case. The film's spectacular cinematography is reinforced by the brooding original music, composed by none other than Nick Cave and long-time collaborator Warren Ellis. It takes you on a journey that is as much about the two brothers' violent upbringing as it is about the decaying towns they visit, making this modern-day crime western not only a great thriller but a tribute to the Texan way of life.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller, Western

Actor: Alma Sisneros, Amber Midthunder, Ariel Holmes, Ben Foster, Buck Taylor, Chris Pine, Dale Dickey, Danny Winn, David Mackenzie, Debrianna Mansini, Dick Christie, Dylan Kenin, Gil Birmingham, Gregory Cruz, Heidi Sulzman, Howard Ferguson Jr., Ivan Brutsche, J. Nathan Simmons, Jackamoe Buzzell, Jeff Bridges, Jim Burleson, Joe Berryman, John-Paul Howard, Katy Mixon, Keith Meriweather, Kevin Rankin, Kevin Wiggins, Kristen Berg, Lora Martinez-Cunningham, Margaret Bowman, Marie A. Kohl, Marin Ireland, Martin Palmer, Melanie Papalia, Nathaniel Augustson, Paul Howard Smith, Richard Beal, Taylor Sheridan, Terry Dale Parks, William Sterchi

Director: David Mackenzie

Rating: R

This is quite the movie. It’s based on the true story of Brady Jandereau, an ex-rodeo star who suffered from an injury that took him away from riding horses. This is the best part, in the movie, he actually plays himself. His friends in the movie are his real-life friends. And the horse taming scenes are real wild horses being trained (by him). The line between reality and the filmmaking process is so thin here. An absolutely mesmerizing movie, directed by Chinese filmmaker Chloe Zhao. The Rider. Don’t miss it.

Genre: Drama, Western

Actor: Brady Jandreau, Derrick Janis, Greg Barber, Mooney, Tanner Langdeau, Terri Dawn Pourier, Tim Jandreau

Director: Chloé Zhao

Rating: R

Robert Ford is an aspiring gangster who idolizes Jesse James, leader of the notorious James gang. When that admiration reaches a level where it can transform to challenge and resentment, he starts considering the unthinkable. The cast is excellent- Brad Pitt, Casey Affleck, Sam Rockwell, Jeremy Renner, Sam Shepard, Paul Schneider, and Garret Dillahunt. Brad Pitt delivers an amazing performance which truly captures the presence that Jesse James brought to a room, one that seemed to overcome those around him. In addition the soundtrack is superb, one of the most memorable I have ever heard. This is a very unique, thrilling, and well-shot movie, it is easily one of the most underrated films of the past 10 years.

Genre: Action, Drama, Western

Actor: Alison Elliott, Anthony Harrison, Brad Pitt, Brooklynn Proulx, Casey Affleck, Dustin Bollinger, Garret Dillahunt, Hugh Ross, James Carville, James Defelice, Jeremy Renner, Jesse Frechette, Joel McNichol, Kailin See, Laryssa Yanchak, Mary-Louise Parker, Matthew Walker, Michael Copeman, Michael J Rogers, Michael Parks, Nick Cave, Pat Healy, Paul Schneider, Sam Rockwell, Sam Shepard, Sarah Lind, Ted Levine, Tom Aldredge, Zooey Deschanel

Director: Andrew Dominik

Rating: R

Tom Hardy, Guy Pearce, Gary Oldman, Jessica Chastain, and Shia Laboeuf (the good Shia Laboeuf) all star in this true-story-based gangster tale. As a result, Lawless is cliché-free, fast, and violent - yet it doesn't take itself too seriously. Bootlegging Bondurant brothers live according to different rules, yet run a successful business during the prohibition era. When new authorities try to shut them down violently, each one of them has a way of dealing with it. The story runs very smoothly, and added to the perfect performances and great staging, Lawless becomes very entertaining, and a true pleasure to watch.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Western

Actor: Alex Van, Bill Camp, Bruce McKinnon, Chad Randall, Chris McGarry, Dane DeHaan, Eric Mendenhall, Gary Oldman, Guy Pearce, Jason Clarke, Jessica Chastain, John Hillcoat, Lew Temple, Marcus Hester, Mark Ashworth, Mia Wasikowska, Noah Taylor, Ron Clinton Smith, Shia LaBeouf, Terry Keasler, Tim Tolin, Tom Hardy, Tom Proctor, Tom Turbiville, William J. Harrison

Director: John Hillcoat

Rating: R

This is a star-packed movie about two brother assassins played by John C. Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix, and starring Jake Gyllenhaal. You might have read the book of the same name, and it is always hard to make a great film out of a great book but the brilliant director of A Prophet Jacques Audiard has done it (again). He is aided by a superb darkly comic script and fantastic acting from the entire cast. Audiard is French, but his take on the American Western is filled with epic violence but also witty dialogue, brotherly love, and male camaraderie.

Genre: Adventure, Comedy, Drama, Western

Actor: Aidan O'Hare, Aldo Maland, Allison Tolman, Andrew Litvack, Carol Kane, Creed Bratton, David Gasman, Diego Llano, Duncan Lacroix, Eric Colvin, Frédéric Siuen, Hugo Dillon, Ian Reddington, Jake Gyllenhaal, Jean-Marc Bellu, Joaquin Phoenix, Jochen Hägele, Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson, John C. Reilly, Kelda Holmes, Lenuta Bala, Lexie Benbow-Hart, Nick Cornwall, Patrice Cossonneau, Philip Rosch, Raymond Waring, Rebecca Root, Richard Brake, Riz Ahmed, Rutger Hauer, Sean Duggan, Theo Exarchopoulos, Trevor Allan Davies

Director: Jacques Audiard

Rating: R

Two misfits, an immigrant and a traveling cook, team up to start an unlikely enterprise in this slow but captivating drama. The story, set in 19th century Pacific Northwest, evolves around the arrival of the first cow to that part of the world. This presents a unique opportunity that the two main characters try to benefit from. 

First Cow is a mix between a Western and a modern-day plot-less indie drama.  It has likable characters, stunning scenery, and a fascinating look into how social outcasts lived back then.

Genre: Drama, History, Western

Actor: Alia Shawkat, Don MacEllis, Dylan Smith, Eric Martin Reid, Ewen Bremner, Gary Farmer, Jean-Luc Boucherot, Jeb Berrier, John Keating, John Magaro, Kevin-Michael Moore, Lily Gladstone, Mary Ann Perreira, Mike Wood, Mitchell Saddleback, Orion Lee, Patrick D. Green, Phelan Davis, Rene Auberjonois, Scott Shepherd, T. Dan Hopkins, Ted Rooney, Toby Jones, Todd A. Robinson

Director: Kelly Reichardt

Rating: PG-13

There is a lot to admire about this revenge film from director Mouly Surya—the breathtaking shots of rural Indonesia, the grisly practicality of the titular Marlina, the relevant observations on gender politics, and the simple yet stylistic way all of this is revealed. Fans of Westerns and Spaghetti Westerns are also treated with an Eastern reimagining of tropes as the film exchanges long guns for Kabeala knives and sprawling deserts for tropical hills.

Packed with so many delights, Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts is a near-impossible miss. But if you somehow find none of this gripping, you can always rely on the sure thrill of seeing scorned women bloodily and rightfully avenge themselves. 

Genre: Drama, Thriller, Western

Actor: Anggun Priambodo, Ayez Kassar, Dea Panendra, Egi Fedly, Egy Fedly, Haydar Salishz, Indra Birowo, Marsha Timothy, Norman R. Akyuwen, Ozzol Ramdan, Rita Matu Mona, Ruly Lubis, Safira Ahmad, Sapto Soetardjo, Tumpal Tampubolon, Yayu A.W. Unru, Yayu Unru, Yoga Pratama

Director: Mouly Surya

Rating: Unrated

The work of two people stand out here: the actor Christian Bale and the cinematographer Masanobu Takayanagi (Silver Linings Playbook, Warrior, The Grey, Spotlight, etc.) Bale plays an Army Captain who agrees to escort a dying Cheyenne war chief and his family through treacherous lands. The general and the chief, being old enemies, embark on a journey where their conflict seems the least of their worries. The cinematography is lush and reminiscent of the classics of the Western genre. It is a harshly stunning film you should watch.

Genre: Drama, History, Western

Actor: Adam Beach, Austin Rising, Ava Cooper, Ben Foster, Bill Camp, Boots Southerland, Brian Duffy, Christian Bale, Christopher Hagen, David Midthunder, Dicky Eklund Jr., Gray Wolf Herrera, James Cady, Jesse Plemons, John Benjamin Hickey, Jonathan Majors, Luce Rains, Paul Anderson, Peter Mullan, Q'orianka Kilcher, Richard Bucher, Robyn Malcolm, Rod Rondeaux, Rory Cochrane, Rosamund Pike, Ryan Bingham, Scott Cooper, Scott G. Anderson, Scott Shepherd, Scott Wilson, Stafford Douglas, Stella Cooper, Stephen Lang, Tanaya Beatty, Timothée Chalamet, Wes Studi, Xavier Horsechief

Director: Scott Cooper

Rating: R

This incredibly creative and unique movie is set in a fictional small town in the Brazilian Backcountry. It has a realistic first half but things quickly get crazy.

Even in that realistic half, you can clearly tell that something is off about the town of Bacurau. An accident involving a truck carrying coffins turns into an impromptu coffin shop. A dam was built to divert water from people. The village doctor seems to be the least sane person in the village. It’s all wrong.

Bacurau is funny, it’s politically charged, it’s thrilling, and it’s sweet, all at once. It’s that one in a thousand weird movies that actually works, and will inevitably become a classic.

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller, Western

Actor: Alli Willow, Antonio Saboia, Bárbara Colen, Bárbara Colen, Buda Lira, Carlos Francisco, Chris Doubek, Clébia Sousa, Danny Barbosa, Edilson Silva, Eduarda Samara, Fabíola Líper, Ingrid Trigueiro, James Turpin, Jamila Facury, Jonny Mars, Jr. Black, Julia Marie Peterson, Karine Teles, Lia de Itamaracá, Luciana Souza, Márcio Fecher, Rodger Rogério, Rubens Santos, Silvero Pereira, Sônia Braga, Suzy Lopes, Thardelly Lima, Thomás Aquino, Thomas Aquino, Udo Kier, Val Junior, Valmir do Côco, Wilson Rabelo, Zoraide Coleto

Director: Juliano Dornelles, Kleber Mendonça Filho, Kleber Mendonça Filho

Rating: 0

The Western had its heyday in the 60s, but the decades have proven that there’s still stories from the deserts that we haven’t heard yet, and gems that twist the genre on its head. The Proposition is a unique Western, being from the East, in Australia where the Brits have started to form colonies. As the British Empire builds society, and the police start to enforce the King’s justice, writer Nick Cave and director John Hillcoat crafts a bloody tale, where promises between men are betrayed for the State, where vengeance can only be met through brutality, and where the line between civility and savagery is drawn and moved by the will of an angry majority. The Proposition is quite violent, but it’s performed well, scored by a moody, moving soundtrack, and it surprisingly contemplates Australia’s bloody past.

Genre: Action, Adventure, Crime, Drama, Thriller, Western

Actor: Bogdan Koca, Boris Brkic, Bryan Probets, Danny Huston, David Gulpilil, David Vallon, David Wenham, Emily Watson, Gary Waddell, Guy Pearce, Iain Gardiner, Jeremy Madrona, John Hurt, Leah Purcell, Mick Roughan, Noah Taylor, Oliver Ackland, Ralph Cotterill, Ray Winstone, Richard Wilson, Robert Morgan, Tom Budge, Tom E. Lewis

Director: John Hillcoat

Rating: R

For skeptics of the western, Silverado might be too overstuffed with storylines that feel more appropriate for a series than a single film. But those willing to give it a chance should find a consistent level of entertainment with the movie's wide array of cowboys and sheriffs trying to outmaneuver each other. The action gets surprisingly intense, with impressive stunts and shootouts selling the idea that these characters could go at any time. And with the relatively young and fresh faces of Kevin Kline, Scott Glenn, Danny Glover, Kevin Costner, John Cleese, and Jeff Goldblum popping up, it feels like a greatest hits of the '80s and '90s, with these charismatic actors all getting a turn playing in the sandbox.

Genre: Action, Action & Adventure, Drama, Western

Actor: Amanda Wyss, Autry Ward, Bill Thurman, Brad Leland, Brian Dennehy, Brion James, Danny Glover, Dick Durock, Earl Hindman, Gene Hartline, Jake Kasdan, James Gammon, Jeff Fahey, Jeff Goldblum, Jim Haynie, Joe Seneca, John Cleese, Jonathan Kasdan, Ken Farmer, Kenny Call, Kevin Costner, Kevin Kline, Linda Hunt, Lois Geary, Lynn Whitfield, Marvin J. McIntyre, Meg Kasdan, Patricia Gaul, Ray Baker, Richard Jenkins, Rosanna Arquette, Rusty Meyers, Sam Gauny, Scott Glenn, Sheb Wooley, Thomas Wilson Brown, Todd Allen, Troy Ward, Zeke Davidson

Director: Lawrence Kasdan

Rating: PG-13