9 Best Westerns 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, 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

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

All kinds of lines — those separating good and bad, past and present, and even international borders — are blurred in this neo-Western gem. Though it’s entirely set in a small Texas border town, Lone Star pulls off all the gravity and sweep of an epic thanks to its seemingly-micro-actually-macro focuses and sprawling ensemble. It’s all kickstarted by the discovery of a skull in the scrub near Frontera, Texas; Sheriff Sam Deeds (a quietly captivating Chris Cooper) thinks he knows who it belongs to and who might have buried it there: his deceased father Buddy (Matthew McConaughey), the much-loved former sheriff of the town whose shadow Sam has long been living in.

And so an investigation of this historic crime begins, unearthing along the way many more skeletons — both individual and national — as Sam interviews those who knew his father and the victim. Lone Star’s brilliance is in the way it entwines with Sam’s investigation a broader exploration of America’s sins and their lingering legacies, particularly the many-headed effects of its history of racism. Lone Star weaves its political and personal elements together with seamless flourish, making for a rich tapestry of America’s past and present that never sidesteps the grander questions it provokes.

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Romance

Actor: Beatrice Winde, Chandra Wilson, Chris Cooper, Clifton James, Eleese Lester, Elizabeth Peña, Frances McDormand, Gabriel Casseus, Gordon Tootoosis, Jeff Monahan, Jesse Borrego, Joe Morton, Joe Stevens, John Griesemer, Kris Kristofferson, LaTanya Richardson Jackson, Leo Burmester, Marco Perella, Matthew McConaughey, Miriam Colon, Oni Faida Lampley, Randy Stripling, Richard Coca, Ron Canada, Sam Vlahos, Stephen J. Lang, Stephen Mendillo, Tony Amendola, Tony Frank, Tony Plana, Vanessa Martinez

Director: John Sayles

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

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

Director: Lawrence Kasdan

Rating: PG-13

Slow West is a modern western about a young Scotsman (Kodi Smit-McPhee) trekking across America in search of Rose, the young woman he loves, while accompanied by a wayward outlaw named Silas (Michael Fassbender). Jay soon realizes that he is unwittingly leading a pack of nefarious bounty hunters toward Rose and her father as well, as a sizable reward rests on their heads for the accidental killing of a nobleman. It’s a melancholy yet clever and enjoyable film with a distinct Coen Brothers-esque sense of dark humor and quirky violence. In his debut feature, John Maclean gives the western a fresh spin and a nice creative twist, marking his territory as a promising new name in the film world.

Genre: Action, Drama, Mystery, Romance, Thriller, Western

Actor: Aaron McGregor, Alex MacQueen, Andrew Robertt, Andy McPhee, Aorere Paki, Ben Mendelsohn, Brian Sergent, Brooke Williams, Caren Pistorius, David T. Lim, Eddie Campbell, Edwin Wright, Hayden Frost, Jeffrey Thomas, Kalani Queypo, Karl Willetts, Ken Blackburn, Kieran Charnock, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Madeleine Sami, Michael Fassbender, Michael Whalley, Rory McCann, Stuart Bowman, Stuart Martin, Tawanda Manyimo

Director: John Maclean

Rating: R

A peculiar Western that might not please everyone if it wasn't for its main star, Kurt Russel. It's a mix between classic western material, a horror flick, and a fantasy movie. Yes, it's a lot. And not only that, it can be slow at times. However, in those perks it also finds a lot of originality in a saturated genre, and one more time: Kurt Russel. He's amazing as can be expected, playing the sheriff of a quiet town that gets struck by sudden disappearances. The suspect is a faraway tribe known for its cannibalism practices, the movie follows the sheriff as he leads an expedition to save a disappearing woman.

Genre: Drama, Horror, Western

Actor: Alex Meraz, Brandon Molale, David Arquette, David Midthunder, Eddie Spears, Erick Chavarria, Evan Jonigkeit, Fred Melamed, Geno Segers, James Tolkan, Jamison Newlander, Jay Tavare, Jeremy Tardy, Kathryn Morris, Kurt Russell, Lili Simmons, Maestro Harrell, Mario Perez, Matthew Fox, Michael Emery, Michael Pare, Omar Leyva, Patrick Wilson, Raw Leiba, Richard Jenkins, Robert Allen Mukes, Sean Young, Sid Haig, Zahn McClarnon

Director: S. Craig Zahler

Rating: Not Rated