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100 best Western films of all time, according to critics

100 best Western films of all time, according to critics

When someone heads to the movie theater in 2018 they’ll likely be seeing an adventure action drama or comedy. During the first half of the 20th century however the most popular movie genre was the Western. Stories about the American frontier gun-toting cowboys and horse-riding outlaws dominated cinemas and drew in huge crowds. In fact more Westerns were produced in the 1950s than all other movie genres combined.

Despite their decrease in popularity over the last 60 years Westerns still have plenty of defenders and enduring appeal. If you’re new to the genre and don’t know where to start—or if you’re a long-time fan looking for inspiration—check out Stacker’s list of the 100 best Western films of all time. Stacker compiled this list using data from Metacritic, a site which collects reviews from respected critics and uses them to determine the average rating.

Read through Stacker's list of the 100 best Western films to find something new to watch tonight.

ALSO: Best Western film from the year you were born

#100. The Missing

Metascore: 55
Release date: Nov. 19 2003


Cate Blanchett plays a mother in 1885 New Mexico fighting for her daughter's life against an Apache brujo. She seeks the help of her estranged father played by Tommy Lee Jones. 

#99. Wild Horse, Wild Ride

Metascore: 55

Release date: Aug. 24, 2012


“Wild Horse, Wild Ride” is a documentary that follows nine horse trainers competing in the Extreme Mustang Challenge. Directors Greg Gricus and Alex Dawson showcase the emotional journeys of the trainers as they attempt to tame wild mustangs in just 100 days to win a cash prize and recognition of their skills.


#98. All the Pretty Horses

Metascore: 55

Release date: Dec. 25, 2000


Billy Bob Thornton produced and directed “All the Pretty Horses,” an adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s novel of the same name. The story follows two cowboys looking for work in Mexico when one of them, played by Matt Damon, gets into trouble after he falls for a rancher’s daughter, played by Penelope Cruz. The movie was met with mediocre reviews, which Matt Damon blames on heavy edits to Thornton’s first version of the film—including the removal of the original soundtrack.


#97. Forsaken

Metascore: 55

Release date: Feb. 19, 2016


In “Forsaken,” a retired gunman attempts to reconnect with his estranged father when he comes up against a local gang and must consider going back to his violent ways. Real-life son and father Kiefer Sutherland and Donald Sutherland teamed up to play the lead roles, while Jon Cassar directed.


#96. Sukiyaki Western Django

Metascore: 55

Release date: Aug. 29, 2008


In this Japanese Western, an unnamed gunman arrives in Yuta, a town with two competing gangs. Both gangs welcome the gunman to join them, but he refuses their offers, choosing instead to make his own decisions. The title “Sukiyaki Western Django” includes references to both the Japanese dish sukiyaki and the Western film “Django.”


#95. Back to the Future Part III

Metascore: 55

Release date: May. 25, 1990


The only Western of the “Back to the Future” series, Part III brings Marty McFly, played by Michael J. Fox, back to 1885 where he attempts to save Emmett “Doc” Brown. While not as financially successful as the first film in the trilogy, “Back to the Future Part III” was the sixth-highest grossing film worldwide in 1990.


#94. Ned Kelly

Metascore: 56

Release date: Mar. 26, 2004


The late Heath Ledger starred as the titular character in this Australian historical drama. The film depicts the life of outlaw Ned Kelly from his childhood until he was sentenced to death. This is not the first movie to center on Kelly, and it won’t be the last: Justin Kurzel is directing “True History of the Kelly Gang,” which started production in 2018.  


#93. Saving Private Perez

Metascore: 56

Release date: Sep. 2, 2011


“Saving Private Perez” is the story of Julian Perez, a powerful Mexican drug lord. Following orders from his mother, Perez heads to Iraq to save his brother, who is serving in the U.S. Army. One of the starring actors, Jaime Camil, went on to play Rogelio de la Vega in “Jane the Virgin.”


#92. Once Upon a Time in Mexico

Metascore: 56

Release date: Sep. 12, 2003


“Once Upon a Time in Mexico” is the third film of the “Mexico Trilogy,” all of which were written and directed by Robert Rodriguez. El Mariachi, played by Antonio Banderas, is enlisted by a CIA agent, played by Johnny Depp, to take down a drug lord and thwart his attempted coup against the President of Mexico. Among the cast of famous faces: Enrique Iglesias, making his Hollywood movie acting debut.


#91. Good for Nothing

Metascore: 56

Release date: Mar. 9, 2012


While traveling to the American West from England, Isabella Montgomery is kidnapped by an outlaw. Though at one point she nearly escapes, after some time Isabella finds herself developing feelings for her captor. “Good for Nothing” received a positive review from movie critic Leonard Maltin, and was listed in his book “Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide 2013 Edition.”


#90. The Newton Boys

Metascore: 57

Release date: Mar. 27, 1998


Based on a true story, “The Newton Boys” follows the lucrative criminal careers of the Newton Gang, a Texan family of bank robbers. Matthew McConaughey plays the leading role of Willis, the oldest brother. The film ends with a clip from The Tonight Show in 1980, during which the real Joe Newton was interview by Johnny Carson.


#89. Heaven's Gate

Metascore: 57

Release date: Nov. 19, 1980


“Heaven’s Gate” is about a conflict between a Wisconsin cattlebreeders’ association and European immigrants in the 1890s. This Western is one of the biggest box office bombs in history, with its studio losing approximately $37 million. Despite the financial failure, it was ranked 98th on the BBC’s list of the 100 greatest American films of all time list.


#88. Lawless

Metascore: 58

Release date: Aug. 29, 2012


The Bondurant Brothers were real-life siblings who ran a West Virginian moonshine rig in 1931. “Lawless” captures the conflict between the brothers, with Shia LaBeouf taking the lead as Jack Bondurant. Jack’s grandson Matt Bondurant wrote the book “The Wettest County in the World,” which was the basis for the movie.


#87. Shanghai Knights

Metascore: 58

Release date: Feb. 7, 2003


A sequel to “Shanghai Noon,” this silly martial arts Western follows Chon Wang, played by Jackie Chan, in his attempts to avenge his father who was killed by bandits. Owen Wilson plays Roy O’Bannon, a retired train robber, and Fann Wong plays Chon Lin, Wang’s sister. Both join him in London to help apprehend the bad guys.


#86. Frontera

Metascore: 58

Release date: Sep. 5, 2014


After an American woman is killed near the border of Arizona and Mexico, a Mexican man who had crossed the U.S. border illegally is assumed guilty. The deceased woman’s husband, a former sheriff, and the current sheriff team up to look for the truth. Eva Longoria plays the wife of the accused, who endures a traumatic journey to the U.S. to help her husband.


#85. Pale Rider

Metascore: 61

Release date: June 28, 1985


Clint Eastwood directs and stars in “Pale Rider,” the highest-grossing Western from the 1980s. Eastwood plays an unnamed preacher who steps in when a small village faces threats from an imposing mining company.


#84. Blackthorn

Metascore: 61

Release date: Oct. 7, 2011


“Blackthorn” is a fictional account of Butch Cassidy, the legendary American outlaw, taking place 20 years after his supposed death. Cassidy is living in Bolivia under a different name when he learns that Etta Place, his former companion, has died, then decides to return to the U.S. “Blackthorn” was nominated for eleven Goya Awards, Spain’s national film awards, and won four of them.


#83. Urban Cowboy

Metascore: 61

Release date: June 6, 1980


This Western centers on the tumultuous romance between Bud Davis, played by John Travolta, and Sissy, played by Debra Winger. The two meet in a real-life Texan bar called Gilley’s, which was founded by the country singer Mickey Gilley. “Urban Cowboy” launched an interest in country music and Western aesthetics, and even turned Gilley’s into a cultural phenomenon.


#82. Hang 'Em High

Metascore: 62

Release date: Aug. 3, 1968


Clint Eastwood plays Oklahoma rancher Jed Cooper, who is wrongly accused of theft and then nearly lynched. After being saved by the federal marshall, Cooper takes a job as a marshall and seeks out the men who tried to kill him.


#81. Red Hill

Metascore: 62

Release date: Nov. 5, 2010


In “Red Hill,” police officer Shane Cooper moves to a small Australian country town with his wife. During the first day of his new job, a prison break occurs, forcing Cooper into a life-threatening situation. Cooper is played by Ryan Kwanten, also known for his portrayal of Jason Stackhouse in “True Blood.”


#80. Major Dundee (re-release)

Metascore: 62

Release date: Apr. 8, 2005


With the background of the American Civil War, a band of Apaches raids U.S. bases and murders civilians in the New Mexico territory. Major Amos Dundee, although recently relieved of his command, raises his own ragtag army to travel into Mexico and destroy the Apaches. The crew Dundee gathers includes Confederate prisoners, Indians, and army regulars. Despite initially receiving poor reviews from critics, “Major Dundee” holds a 97 percent positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes.


#79. Maverick

Metascore: 62

Release date: May. 20, 1994


In this comedic Western, Mel Gibson plays the anti-hero Bret Maverick, a gambler trying to con his way into a high-stakes poker tournament. A number of country musicians made appearances in the film, including Michael Ketchum, Carlene Carter, and Reba McEntire.  “Maverick” is based on a television show of the same name that aired in the 1950s.


#78. The Claim

Metascore: 62

Release date: Dec. 29, 2000


Irish immigrant Daniel Dillon had become extremely successful in California, owning most of the businesses in town. Three travelers arrive in town, bringing with them a secret which threatens Dillon’s peaceful existence. Michael Nyman, composer of the Golden Globe-nominated soundtrack for “The Piano,” created the original score for the movie.


#77. Seraphim Falls

Metascore: 62

Release date: Jan. 26, 2007


Set in post-Civil War America, a Confederate colonel, played by Liam Neeson, hunts a Union soldier, played by Pierce Brosnan, for a bounty. “Seraphim Falls” was director David Von Ancken’s first feature film. He was nominated for the “Breakthrough Director” Gotham Award for his work.



#76. La Última Película

Metascore: 62

Release date: Jan. 9, 2015


An American filmmaker heads to Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, where he hopes to find a location to shoot “the last movie.” The Mayan apocalypse ends up making his search more challenging than he expected.


#75. Bomb City

Metascore: 62

Release date: Feb. 9, 2018


“Bomb City” is based on true events surrounding the death of 19-year-old Brian Deneke. In 1997, Deneke was murdered when 17-year-old Dustin Camp intentionally hit him with his car. The film depicts the hit-and-run, the resulting course case, and the perception of the punk rock community in Amarillo, Texas.


#74. Dead Man

Metascore: 62

Release date: May. 10, 1996


Johnny Depp plays an accountant on the run who is befriended by a Native American man named Nobody. Notably, Nobody was played by Gary Farmer, an indigenous American actor. Among its mixed reviews, “Dead Man” was called “one of the very best movies of the 1990s” by film critic A. O. Scott.


#73. The Mask of Zorro

Metascore: 63

Release date: July 17, 1998


Zorro, the masked vigilante who defends Mexican peasants, was created by writer Johnston McCulley in 1919. In this 1998 depiction, Anthony Hopkins plays Zorro, whose real identity is Don Diego de la Vega. Vega grooms Alejandro Murrieta, played by Antonio Banderas, to take over for him. Murrieta soon finds himself falling for Vega’s daughter, played by Catherine Zeta-Jones.


#72. Damsel

Metascore: 63

Release date: Jun. 22, 2018


In this slapstick comedy Western, a pioneer goes on a surprisingly perilous trek across the Wild West so he can reach his fiance. Robert Pattinson plays the lead role, also contributed with the film’s soundtrack.


#71. Little Big Man

Metascore: 63

Release date: Dec. 23, 1970


Dustin Hoffman plays Jack Crabb, a 121-year-old living in hospice. The film flashes back as Crabb recounts his epic life story, starting with being raised as a child by the Cheyenne Nation. “Little Big Man’” has been preserved in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.  


#70. The Salvation

Metascore: 64

Release date: Feb. 27, 2015


After Jon, a Danish immigrant in America, kills the convicts who murdered his wife and child, he discovers that he has created an enemy. One of the convicts’ brothers is Delarue, a violent gang leader. Jon must depend on only himself to survive Delarue’s tactics.


#69. Silverado

Metascore: 64

Release date: July 10, 1985


In “Silverado,” a group of friends team up to take down the town’s evil Sheriff. Kevin Kline, Scott Glenn, Danny Glover, and Kevin Costner play the leads, while Brian Dennehy stars as the antagonist.


#68. In a Valley of Violence

Metascore: 64

Release date: Oct. 21, 2016


Ti West is mostly known for his work with horror films, but he both wrote and directed this Western. When drifter Paul finds himself in the “valley of violence,” he ends up clashing with local troublemaker Gilly. Their conflict quickly escalates, and soon the whole town is dragged into the mess.


#67. The Ballad of Lefty Brown

Metascore: 64

Release date: Dec. 15, 2017


Bill Pullman plays Lefty Brown, a cowboy who witnesses his close friend’s murder. He sets out to avenge his friend’s death but later finds out that he himself is being accused of the crime. He now must catch the killers to save his own life.


#66. Appaloosa

Metascore: 64

Release date: Sep. 19, 2008


When a rancher terrorizes a small town in New Mexico, two lawmen, played by Viggo Mortensen and Ed Harris, are hired to straighten things out. Harris not only stars in “Appaloosa” but also co-wrote, directed, and produced it. The story is based on a novel of the same name written by Robert B. Parker.


#65. The Last Christeros

Metascore: 64

Release date: Aug. 30, 2013


The story picks up in 1929 at the end of the Cristero War, a conflict that erupted when the Mexican government limited the rights of the Catholic church. Though the war is over, a group of Christian guerrillas are not done fighting for religious freedom.


#64. The Long Riders

Metascore: 64

Release date: May. 16, 1980


“The Long Riders” follows a fictionalized depiction of Jesse James’ bank-robbing escapades. Notably, four real-life sets of brothers were cast to play four sets of brothers, including James Keach and Stacy Keach who played Jesse James and Frank James respectively. The Keach brothers also helped write and produce the film.


#63. The Electric Horseman

Metascore: 64

Release date: Dec. 21, 1979


Robert Redford plays a washed-up rodeo star who is hired as a spokesperson for a cereal company. He feels like such a sellout that he steals the company’s horse and runs away, soon followed by reporter Hallie Martin, played by Jane Fonda. Country music star Willie Nelson had a role in the movie and also sang five songs on the film’s soundtrack.


#62. Lone Wolf McQuade

Metascore: 65

Release date: Apr. 15, 1983


In this action Western, a Texas Ranger seeks revenge on the man who hijacked a U.S. army convoy, injuring his daughter and killing her boyfriend. Chuck Norris stars in the film, which served as the basis for his later television series, “Walker, Texas Ranger.


#61. Hostiles

Metascore: 65

Release date: Dec. 22, 2017


Christian Bale plays an Army captain tasked with escorting a Cheyenne chief, played by Wes Studi, back to his home in Montana. The National Congress of American Indians praised “Hostiles” for representing Native Americans well, and using Native American languages appropriately.


#60. A Fistful of Dollars

Metascore: 65

Release date: Jan. 18, 1967


Clint Eastwood had his first leading role playing the Man with No Name, who gets involved in an argument between three brothers and a sheriff. “A Fistful of Dollars” is the first film of the Spaghetti Western “Dollars Trilogy,” all directed by Sergio Leone.


#59. The Horse Whisperer

Metascore: 65

Release date: May. 15, 1998


“The Horse Whisperer” is about Tom Booker, a horse trainer who helps a young girl and her horse recover after a traumatizing accident. Robert Redford played Booker, and directed the film. He was nominated for Best Director at the 56th Golden Globe Awards.


#58. The Beguiled

Metascore: 66

Release date: Mar. 31, 1971


Set in the American Civil War, “The Beguiled” depicts a girls school in Mississippi. When one of the students comes across a wounded Union corporal, played by Clint Eastwood, the teacher must decide what to do with him. This film was based off a novel by Thomas P. Cullinan, which was the inspiration for a 2017 movie also titled “The Beguiled.”


#57. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Metascore: 66

Release date: Oct. 24, 1969


Outlaws Butch Cassidy, played by Paul Newman, and the Sundance Kid, played by Robert Redford, flee to South America after a failed train robbery. “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” won the most awards at the 42nd Academy Awards ceremony, taking home four Oscars.


#56. Bronco Billy

Metascore: 66

Release date: Jun. 11, 1980


Clint Eastwood stars as Bronco Billy, a cowboy barely keeping his traveling circus afloat. He’s able to hire a new assistant, played by Sondra Locke, but his troubles are not over. Although the film received mostly positive reviews, Locke was nominated for a Razzie Award for Worst Actress.


#55. Open Range

Metascore: 67

Release date: Aug. 15, 2003


When threatened by a corrupt land baron, a cattle crew leader must use the skills he gained during his time as a soldier to defend himself. Kevin Costner directed and starred in the film along with Robert Duvall, Annette Bening, Michael Gambon, and Michael Jeter. “Open Range”  was Jeter’s last film, as he passed away in March, 2003.


#54. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Metascore: 68

Release date: Sep. 21, 2007


Robert Ford, played by Casey Affleck, starts out as a young fan hoping to join the group of outlaws led by Jesse James, played by Brad Pitt. After Ford finally earns his place in the gang, his relationship with James turns sour. The film was nominated for a number of awards, and recognized as one of the best films of 2007 by numerous critics.


#53. The Desert Bride

Metascore: 68

Release date: May 4, 2018


An Argentinian maid is travelling to San Juan for a new job. On her trip, her bus breaks down, leading to a chance encounter with a man named El Gringo, and the beginning of her true journey.  


#52. The Hateful Eight

Metascore: 68

Release date: Dec. 25, 2015


In this Quentin Tarantino Western, eight travelers take cover from the winter weather in a lodge, and end up getting into a lot more trouble than they expected. The ensemble cast includes Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, and Jennifer Jason Leigh. The film won a number of awards, including an Academy Award for its soundtrack.


#51. The Homesman

Metascore: 68

Release date: Nov. 14, 2014


Mary Bee Cuddy, played by Hillary Swank, takes on the task of escorting three mentally ill women from Nebraska to a church in Iowa. George Briggs, played by Tommy Lee Jones, is about to be lynched for a crime, but Cuddy saves him on the pretense that he will help her on the journey. Jones also co-wrote the screenplay and directed the film.


#50. The Good, the Bad, the Weird

Metascore: 69

Release date: Apr. 23, 2010


This South Korean Western follows a two bandits and a bounty hunter as they battle to obtain a treasure map. It plays off “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly,” one of the most lauded Western films of all time.  


#49. The Outlaw Josey Wales

Metascore: 69

Release date: June 30, 1976


This Western is a revenge story, with main character Josey Wales hunting down the Union militants who killed his family during the Civil War. Clint Eastwood plays the titular character and also directed the film.


#48. High Plains Drifter

Metascore: 69

Release date: Aug. 22, 1973


“High Plains Drifter” is about a stranger who comes to town and is subsequently hired to unite the townsfolk before three outlaws arrive. Clint Eastwood directed and starred in this Western.


#47. Ride with the Devil

Metascore: 69

Release date: Nov. 24, 1999


Set during the American Civil War, “Ride with the Devil” is about a man who joins the Bushwackers, a guerilla gang fighting against the Union. Tobey Maguire plays the lead character, Jake Roedel. The movie is based off the novel “Woe to Live On,” by Daniel Woodrell.


#46. Slow West

Metascore: 72

Release date: May 15, 2015


Kodi Smit-McPhee plays a young man who leaves Scotland for the American West in search of his lost love. Michael Fassbender plays an outlaw who offers to assist him. “Slow West” is the first and only full-length film directed by John Maclean.


#45. Dances with Wolves

Metascore: 72

Release date: Nov. 9, 1990


A Union Army lieutenant is stationed way out West in the American frontier. Once he reaches his post, he begins to form relationships with the local indigenous people. Kevin Costner starred and directed this film, which went on to win the Academy Award for Best Picture.


#44. Bone Tomahawk

Metascore: 72

Release date: Oct. 23, 2015


When cannibals capture three residents of a small town, the sheriff and his team set off to rescue them. This Western horror film was written and directed by S. Craig Zahler, who also contributed to the soundtrack.


#43. Five Fingers For Marseilles

Metascore: 73

Release date: Sep. 7, 2018


Set in South Africa during apartheid, “Five Fingers For Marseilles” begins when a young man named Tau kills two corrupt policemen. When he is released from prison two decades later, Tau wishes to renounce violence and return home. A new threat, however, prevents him from leading the peaceful life he desires.


#42. Blazing Saddles

Metascore: 73

Release date: Feb. 7, 1974


Mel Brooks directed and co-wrote this raunchy Western, which made American Film Institute’s list of America’s 100 Funniest Movies, coming in at number six. The film satirizes Western films for their unrealistic portrayal of racism. Cleavon Little plays Bart, a black man who is appointed sheriff of an all-white town. Gene Wilder plays Jim, an alcoholic who comes to Bart’s assistance.


#41. The Proposition

Metascore: 73

Release date: May. 5, 2006


“The Proposition” is an Australian Western directed by John Hillcoat. Police captain Stanley offers a proposition to outlaw Charlie Burns: he can walk free if he kills his older brother Arthur. If Charlie cannot follow through within nine days, his younger brother Mikey will be hanged.


#40. Running Wild: The Life of Dayton O. Hyde

Metascore: 74

Release date: Oct. 4, 2013


Suzanne Mitchell’s documentary includes footage shot over the course of a decade. Her subject: Dayton O. Hyde, a conservationist cowboy who has devoted his life to creating and running the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary.


#39. For a Few Dollars More

Metascore: 74

Release date: May 10, 1967


In the second film of Sergio Leone’s “Dollars Trilogy,” Clint Eastwood plays Manco, a bounty killer who teams up with another bounty killer to take down murderous outlaw El Indio. Screenwriter Luciano Vincenzoni claims to have written the screenplay in nine days.

#38. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

Metascore: 75

Release date: Aug. 6, 1954


After a backwoodsman brings his new wife home, his six brothers are inspired to look for wives as well. This Western musical was met with positive reviews and, included on the American Film Institute’s list of Greatest Movie Musicals of All Time.


#37. The Retrieval

Metascore: 75

Release date: Apr. 2, 2014


Set at the start of the American Civil War, “The Retrieval” stars Ashton Sanders as Will, a black boy who is under the influence of slave-hunter Burrell. Burrell is keeping Will’s uncle captive, so Will has no choice but to agree when he’s sent on a mission to catch an escaped slave in Union territory.


#36. Aatsinki: The Story of Arctic Cowboys

Metascore: 75

Release date: Jan. 24, 2014


Jessica Oreck’s documentary follows a family of Finnish reindeer herders for one year. Though the film does not contain much dialogue, it still communicates a great deal about this challenging lifestyle.


#35. Dead Man's Burden

Metascore: 76

Release date: May 3, 2013


Post-Civil War, a husband and wife living in New Mexico are struggling to stay afloat. When a mining company shows interest in buying their property things, start looking up, until the wife’s brother arrives home from the war. Clare Bowen is the lead of this Western; she also stars in the country musical television show “Nashville.”


#34. The Revenant

Metascore: 76

Release date: Dec. 25, 2015


Leonardo DiCaprio plays Hugh Glass, a hunter who is attacked by a bear and left to find his own way to safety through the frozen wilderness. “The Revenant” earned DiCaprio the Academy Award for Best Actor, his first Oscar ever, being nominated five times previously.


#33. 3:10 to Yuma

Metascore: 76

Release date: Sep. 7, 2007


Set in New Mexico, “3:10 to Yuma” is a remake of a 1957 film of the same name. It stars Christian Bale as a rancher who is given the challenging task of bringing an outlaw, played by Russell Crowe, to prison.


#32. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Metascore: 77

Release date: Nov. 16, 2018


The Coen brothers wrote and directed this Western epic, which follows six stories of the American frontier. Each chapter has a different cast, featuring actors like James Franco, Liam Neeson, Tom Waits, and Zoe Kazan. The film will be available on Netflix in fall of 2018, after a run in theaters.


#31. The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada

Metascore: 77

Release date: Dec. 16, 2005


A young man hopes to honor his deceased best friend by bringing him to his Mexico hometown for a proper burial. This Western, directed by Tommy Lee Jones, was inspired by the real murder of Esequiel Hernandez Jr., an American high school student who was shot by a United States marine.


#30. Jauja

Metascore: 77

Release date: Mar. 20, 2015


Viggo Mortensen stars in “Jauja” as Captain Gunnar Dinesen. After Dinesen’s daughter runs away with a soldier, he must travel into unknown worlds to find her.


#29. Westworld

Metascore: 77

Release date: Nov. 21, 1973


In “Westworld,” a Western-themed amusement park is populated with realistic androids who entertain their adult guests. This science-fiction thriller was the basis for the popular HBO television series of the same name.


#28. Shanghai Noon

Metascore: 77

Release date: May 26, 2000


Chon Wang, played by Jackie Chan, attempts to save a princess who has been kidnapped and brought to the U.S. Along the way he teams up with the train robber Roy O’Bannon, played by Owen Wilson. This is the first movie in the “Shanghai” series, the second being “Shanghai Knights,” and a third rumored to be in the works.


#27. Duck, You Sucker

Metascore: 77

Release date: June 1, 1972


A Mexican outlaw and an Irish explosives expert find themselves in the middle of the Mexican Civil War. This Western and its companion-film, “Once Upon a Time in the West,” were both directed by Sergio Leone.


#26. Annie Get Your Gun (re-release)

Metascore: 77

Release date: Apr. 16, 2004


Based on the 1946 stage musical of the same name, “Annie Get Your Gun” showcases the life of sharpshooter Annie Oakley. Judy Garland was initially cast as the lead role, but after alleged issues with her on the set, she was replaced by Betty Hutton.


#25. The Shootist

Metascore: 77

Release date: Aug. 20, 1976


John Bernard Books led a long life as a talented shootist, but now is suffering from cancer and searching for the best way to die. Books was John Wayne’s final film role; he himself died of stomach cancer a few years after the film was released.


#24. Lone Star

Metascore: 78

Release date: June 21, 1996


After the skeleton of a despised sheriff is discovered, current sheriff Sam Deeds begins an investigation into the murder. “Lone Star” was highly rated, and nominated for a number of awards, including the Academy Award for Writing.


#23. Becoming Bulletproof

Metascore: 78

Release date: Sep. 25, 2015


“Becoming Bulletproof” is a documentary the captures the production of another film: a Western being made by a group of adults with disabilities. Director Michael Barnett showcases the individuals participating in the acting camp run by Zeno Mountain Farm, a non-profit that organizes recreational programs.


#22. The Westerner

Metascore: 78

Release date: Sep. 20, 1940


Walter Brennan and Gary Cooper star in “The Westerner,” which depicts the relationship between a self-appointed corrupt lawman and the drifter who stands up to him. Brennan received his third Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Judge Roy Bean, which is the record for most wins in this category.


#21. The Sisters Brothers

Metascore: 79

Release date: Sep. 21, 2018


Set in Oregon during the Gold Rush, a pair of assassins known as the Sisters brothers chase down a man who claims to have developed a formula for finding gold. John C. Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix star as the infamous brothers, while Jacques Audiard directs.


#20. Sweetgrass

Metascore: 80

Release date: Jan. 6, 2010


“Sweetgrass” is a documentary about shepherds working in the mountains of Montana. Anthropologist Lucien Castaing-Taylor directed the film, while his wife Ilisa Barbash produced it.


#19. Once Upon a Time in the West (re-release)

Metascore: 80

Release date: Sep. 30, 2005


A harmonica-wielding stranger teams up with a desperado to save a widow in this Spaghetti Western, directed by Sergio Leone. While initially receiving mixed reviews, “Once Upon a Time in the West” has since received many accolades, including being named one of the 100 greatest films of all time by Time Magazine.


#18. Hombre

Metascore: 80

Release date: Mar. 21, 1967


Paul Newman plays John Russell, a white man raised by Apaches. On his way to collect his inheritance, the other travelers treat him poorly for his upbringing. When the stagecoach is robbed, Russell is the only one who can save them.


#17. True Grit

Metascore: 80

Release date: Dec. 22, 2010


“True Grit” is a Coen brothers adaption of a novel by Charles Portis, which had already been made into a movie in 1969. Hailee Steinfeld plays Mattie Ross, a girl seeking to avenge her father’s death. She hires U.S. Marshal Reuben Cogburn, played by Jeff Bridges, to assist her.


#16. Django Unchained

Metascore: 81

Release date: Dec. 25, 2012


A freed slave (Jamie Foxx) journeys to save his wife (Kerry Washington) from a Mississippi plantation, accompanied by a German bounty hunter. Quentin Tarantino wrote and directed the film, which went on to be his highest-grossing.


#15. Johnny Guitar (re-release)

Metascore: 83

Release date: Aug. 15, 2003


Joan Crawford stars opposite Mercedes McCambridge in this story about a headstrong saloon-owner who is wrongly accused of murder. Despite initially receiving negative reviews, “Johnny Guitar” is now positively regarded, and was included in the Chicago Reader’s list of 100 best American movies.


#14. Aferim!

Metascore: 84

Release date: Jan. 22, 2016


Set in 19th century Romania, an enslaved man has run away from his master’s home after having an affair with his wife. A local policeman is hired to find him. The director Radu Jude won the Silver Bear Award for Best Director at the 65th Berlin International Film Festival.


#13. Meek's Cutoff

Metascore: 85

Release date: Apr. 8, 2011


This Western survival film follows a group of settlers traveling across an Oregon desert. It becomes apparent that their guide has gotten them lost. The ensemble cast includes Michelle Williams, Bruce Greenwood, Shirley Henderson, and Neal Huff.


#12. Unforgiven

Metascore: 85

Release date: Aug. 7, 1992


Clint Eastwood directed, produced, and starred in this highly lauded Western. Eastwood plays William Munny, a retired bandit who takes on one final job in hopes of putting the money towards his failing farm. It won Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, and Best FIlm Editing.  


#11. Brokeback Mountain

Metascore: 87

Release date: Dec. 9, 2005


Based on a short story by Annie Proulx, “Brokeback Mountain” follows the complicated romantic relationship between two cowboys over two decades. Stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Heath Ledger, and Michelle Williams were all nominated for Academy Awards. The film failed to win the Oscar for Best Picture, leading to discussions on whether that decision was in part due to homophobia.


#10. Bisbee '17

Metascore: 87

Release date: Sep. 5, 2018


Robert Greene’s documentary centers on a town bordering Arizona and Mexico. The community grapples with its past by holding a reenactment of a day one century prior, when more than 1000 immigrant miners were deported.


#9. Sweet Country

Metascore: 87

Release date: Apr. 6, 2018


Set in the Australian outback, “Sweet Country” explores what happens when an Aboriginal farmer kills a white man in self-defense, and is forced to flee for his life. Warwick Thornton directs this Western while Sam Neill, Bryan Brown, and Hamilton Morris all star.


#8. High Noon

Metascore: 89

Release date: July 30, 1952


Will Kane, played by Gary Cooper, faces a dilemma when outlaws threaten to kill him. His wife, played by Grace Kelly, wants him to leave town rather than defend himself. A number of U.S. presidents have listed “High Noon” as one of their favorite films.


#7. Western

Metascore: 89

Release date: Sep. 25, 2015


German construction workers start a project in the Bulgarian countryside, where their differences from the locals quickly become apparent. Valeska Grisebach directed this film, and the entire cast was made up of non-professional actors.


#6. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (re-release)

Metascore: 90

Release date: May 30, 2003


“The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” is the final movie in the “Dollars Trilogy.” Clint Eastwood stars as Blondie, a bounty hunter who teams up with an assassin and bandit to find a buried treasure.


#5. No Country for Old Men

Metascore: 91

Release date: Nov. 9, 2007


Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, and Josh Brolin star in this Western, which begins when a botched drug deal is interrupted by a hunter. “No Country for Old Men” won the Academy Award for Best Picture, and Bardem won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, becoming the first Spanish actor to win an Oscar.


#4. The Rider

Metascore: 92

Release date: Apr. 13, 2018


Chloe Zhao directed this Western drama, which centers on Brady Jandreau, a young man struggling to find his purpose after a brain injury halts his rodeo career. “The Rider” won the Art Cinema Award at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival.


#3. The Gunfighter

Metascore: 94

Release date: June 23, 1950


Gregory Peck plays Jimmy Ringo, a gunfighter who runs into his estranged wife. Even though trouble seems to follow him everywhere, he hopes to convince her he has reformed, and win her back.


#2. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

Metascore: 94

Release date: Apr. 22, 1962


When U.S. Senator Ranse Stoddard returns to the West to attend a funeral, he is forced to rehash his past, including the truth regarding the killing of an infamous outlaw. This black-and-white film was directed by John Ford and stars James Stewart, John Wayne, and Vera Miles.


#1. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

Metascore: 99

Release date: Jan. 24, 1948


Two penniless Americans, Fred Dobbs and Bob Curtin, go on a gold-prospecting trip, joined by an older prospector named Howard. Director John Huston won the Academy Award for Best Director, and his father Walter Huston, who played Howard, won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Humphrey Bogart was not nominated for playing Fred Dobbs, which was considered a snub.