Clint Eastwood as Rowdy Yates on the 1950s Western TV show "Rawhide"

Best Western TV shows of the '50s

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June 17, 2021

Best Western TV shows of the '50s

The '50s were a golden age of TV Westerns. Between 1949 and the late '60s, more than 100 Western TV shows graced the airwaves. From adventure-packed tales of bounty hunters and gunslingers to family-friendly series that ended every episode with a lesson on morals, Western TV shows offered viewers an escape from their everyday lives. Once you heard the opening tune to "Rawhide" or "Maverick," you could be instantly transported to the Wild West.

Like all pop culture trends, TV Westerns eventually faded in popularity, giving way to '60s favorites like "The Carol Burnett Show" and "Monty Python's Flying Circus." Still, some Western TV shows of the '50s still have a dedicated fan base in reruns and on streaming services. To find out which TV Western reigns supreme, Stacker compiled data on all Western TV shows from 1950–1959 and ranked them according to IMDb user rating, with ties broken by votes. To qualify, each show had to have at least 200 votes. Only English-language shows were considered.

Keep reading to discover TV shows inspired by true stories of legendary Western gunslingers, kid-friendly series with animals in starring roles, and even a few shows that featured big-time Hollywood names. After watching some of the shows on this list, you just might be inspired to pull a pair of cowboy boots out of your closet.

#25. The Cisco Kid

- IMDb user rating: 7.3
- Years on the air: 1950–1956

In each 30-minute episode of “The Cisco Kid,” the title character (played by Duncan Renaldo) and his sidekick Pancho (Leo Carrillo) acted as a kind of Western Robin Hood, going after bad guys and helping the poor. The show aired for six seasons—with both color and black-and-white episodes—but was only ever nominated for one Primetime Emmy Award.

#24. Sugarfoot

- IMDb user rating: 7.4
- Years on the air: 1957–1961

Aspiring lawyer Tom Brewster (played by Will Hutchins) heads west to try his luck on the frontier, but his cowboy skills are so poor he earns the nickname “Sugarfoot” in this four-season show. This light-hearted, offbeat Western was one of the first that Warner Brothers produced for television.

#23. Fury

- IMDb user rating: 7.4
- Years on the air: 1955–1960

Animal lovers might get a kick out of “Fury,” a Western TV show all about the intense bond between an orphaned boy named Joey and an untamed black stallion named Fury. The horse Highland Dale not only played Fury in 81 episodes, but actually earned more than the show’s human stars. He also appeared in “The Munsters,” “Lassie,” and “Black Beauty.”

#22. Bat Masterson

- IMDb user rating: 7.4
- Years on the air: 1958–1961

Bat Masterson wasn’t just the titular character in this three-season Western show: He was actually a real gunslinger who gained a reputation as a gambler, sheriff, and fearsome fighter. Masterson was also known for his dapper good looks and suave demeanor, which became a major feature of the fictionalized TV show about his life.

#21. Wagon Train

- IMDb user rating: 7.5
- Years on the air: 1957–1965

Every week, "Wagon Train" told the story of a different passenger on a covered wagon heading from Missouri to California after the Civil War. Though the show was nominated for 12 Emmy Awards over its eight seasons, it never won.

#20. Zane Grey Theatre

- IMDb user rating: 7.6
- Years on the air: 1956–1961

“Zane Grey Theatre” was an anthology series based on the novels of Zane Grey, an American author who wrote about everything from baseball to Western adventures to fishing. The show often incorporated morals into the conclusion of the episodes, giving it a feel-good appeal that audiences loved.

#19. The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp

- IMDb user rating: 7.6
- Years on the air: 1955–1961

Hugh O’Brian played the legendary frontiersman and gunslinger Wyatt Earp for a whopping 226 episodes in the TV show, “The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp.” Though the TV show is based on the actual events of Earp’s life, it is a work of fiction and took some liberties with his many gun fights and feuds.

#18. Laramie

- IMDb user rating: 7.6
- Years on the air: 1959–1963

Set in 1870s Wyoming, “Laramie” follows two boys—Slim Sherman (played by John Smith) and Andy Sherman (played by Robert Crawford Jr.)—struggling to run the family ranch after their father is killed. The TV show was also hugely popular in Japan: Star Robert Fuller was greeted by nearly 100,000 Japanese fans when he visited the country in 1961.

#17. Sergeant Preston of the Yukon

- IMDb user rating: 7.7
- Years on the air: 1955–1958

Viewers headed to Canada—specifically, the Yukon Territory—in “Sergeant Preston of the Yukon,” a show about a Canadian mountie and his trusty dog, Yukon King. The show wasn’t actually filmed in Canada, though: The set was in Big Bear Lake, California.

#16. Sky King

- IMDb user rating: 7.7
- Years on the air: 1951–1962

The hero and title character of "Sky King" didn't ride a horse: He flew a Cessna 310 to chase down bad guys from his Arizona ranch, instead. Like many Westerns, nearly every episode of this show had a strong undercurrent of morality, with Sky King (played by Kirby Grant) teaching his niece Penny (Gloria Winters) about right and wrong.

#15. Hopalong Cassidy

- IMDb user rating: 7.8
- Years on the air: 1952–1954

Audiences first met the title character of “Hopalong Cassidy” in 1904, in Clarence E. Mulford’s book “Bar-20.” Later, William Boyd took the role of Hopalong Cassidy—a rough-around-the-edges cowboy who caught bad guys with his horse Topper—for the big screen before bringing the character to TV in his eponymous show.

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#14. The Rebel

- IMDb user rating: 7.8
- Years on the air: 1959–1961

Nick Adams starred in “The Rebel” as Johnny Yuma, a former Confederate Army soldier who roamed the West after the end of the Civil War. He eventually begins to do good deeds along the way, helping out settlers fighting scamming land developers, mean ranchers, and more.

#13. Trackdown

- IMDb user rating: 7.9
- Years on the air: 1957–1959

In “Trackdown,” Texas Ranger Hoby Gilman (played by Robert Culp) spends his days fighting to defend good people from bad deeds, whether that means going toe-to-toe with bank robbers, horse thieves, or even killers. “Trackdown” was actually a spin-off of another CBS show, “Zane Grey Theatre.”

#12. Tales of Wells Fargo

- IMDb user rating: 7.9
- Years on the air: 1957–1962

Dale Robertson plays Wells Fargo agent Jim Hardie in “Tales of Wells Fargo,” and spends his time tracking down gunrunners, chasing escaped prisoners, and generally solving trouble in the American West. Though Robertson was naturally right-handed, he taught himself to shoot with his left hand to make his character stand out.

#11. Yancy Derringer

- IMDb user rating: 8.0
- Years on the air: 1958–1959

Unlike many of the other Westerns of its time, "Yancy Derringer" didn't take place in a small stagecoach town, on a ranch, or in the lawless Wild West. Instead, the titular character was a suave ladies man who stopped crime in New Orleans.

#10. Lawman

- IMDb user rating: 8.0
- Years on the air: 1958–1962

Laramie, Wyoming, is the setting for “Lawman,” a Western led by Marshal Dan Troop (played by John Russell) and his right-hand man, Deputy John McKay (Peter Brown). Storylines include tarot card readers stirring up trouble, explosives nearly detonating in town, and wrongfully convicted men.

#9. Cheyenne

- IMDb user rating: 8.0
- Years on the air: 1955–1963

During its seven-season run, “Cheyenne” won one Golden Globe Award and was nominated for one Emmy Award. The series hinged on Cheyenne Bodie (played by Clint Walker), a soft-spoken good guy who seemed to have every job, from army scout to ranch foreman to deputy.

#8. Maverick

- IMDb user rating: 8.0
- Years on the air: 1957–1962

Well-dressed gamblers Bret, Bart, and even occasionally, cousin Beauregarde Maverick, travelled from town to town looking for poker games in “Maverick.” Though Roger Moore took the role of British cousin Beauregarde, it was originally offered to Sean Connery.

#7. Rawhide

- IMDb user rating: 8.0
- Years on the air: 1959–1965

Early in his career, Clint Eastwood played the green cowhand Rowdy Yates on “Rawhide,” the Western epic about a continuous cattle drive led by boss Gil Favor (Eric Fleming). Eastwood used the same gun and boots that he wore in Western films such as “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.”

#6. The Adventures of Spin and Marty

- IMDb user rating: 8.1
- Year on the air: 1955

"The Adventures of Spin and Marty" charmed viewers with the unlikely friendship between rich kid Marty (David Stollery) and country boy Spin (Tim Considine). The family-friendly series took place at a summer camp, and only ran for one season.

#5. Tombstone Territory

- IMDb user rating: 8.1
- Years on the air: 1957–1960

Set in Tombstone, Arizona, “Tombstone Territory” follows sheriff Clay Hollister (played by Pat Conway) in his efforts to keep the legendary Western town in line. Harris Claibourne—the editor of the town’s newspaper—and Hollister’s deputies are his right-hand men.

#4. Wanted: Dead or Alive

- IMDb user rating: 8.1
- Years on the air: 1958–1961

In “Wanted: Dead or Alive,” Steve McQueen (played by Josh Randall) is a bounty hunter roaming the West with a sawed-off rifle. The post-Civil War series included everything from revenge plots to run-ins with double-crossing sheriffs to kidnappings for ransom.

#3. Zorro

- IMDb user rating: 8.2
- Years on the air: 1957–1959

The only Western on this list to focus on Mexican characters, “Zorro” starred Guy Williams as Don Diego de la Vega, also known as Zorro. When he donned the iconic mask at night, Zorro became a Robin Hood-style hero, fighting the corrupt military and helping the people of Spanish California.

#2. The Rifleman

- IMDb user rating: 8.3
- Years on the air: 1958–1963

“The Rifleman” was all about a gun—not just any ordinary gun, but a custom rapid-fire Winchester rifle wielded by rancher Lucas McCain (Chuck Connors). Luckily, McCain used his quick-on-the-draw shooting skills for good, helping the town marshal maintain order and raising his son Mark (Johnny Crawford) with a high moral code.

#1. Have Gun - Will Travel

- IMDb user rating: 8.4
- Years on the air: 1957–1963

Richard Boone played Paladin, a gunfighter for hire with an upstanding moral compass, in "Have Gun - Will Travel." He charges the rich a high price for his services, but helps the poor pro bono. Paladin's knightly code is even symbolized by the chess piece embossed on his holster and business card.

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