The 15 Best Westerns Ever Made Ranked, According To IMDb

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Westerns have often been criticized as a genre offering the same, tired tropes and recycled stories – something that many blame for the genre’s ‘death’ following its huge popularity from the 1930s to the late 1960s. While Westerns do draw from the same well of iconography to tell their stories thanks to their setting, the genre is incredibly versatile and diverse in its storytelling. Fort Apache, for instance, is absolutely nothing like The Hateful Eight.

RELATED: 10 Best Western Movies (For People Who Don’t Like Westerns)

While some movies offer a more jingoistic look at the Old West of legend, others are much more cynical in their approach. It’s the different styles, sub-genres, and themes found in the Western that’s given it such a beloved legacy, with many of the best films ever made being entries in the genre.

Updated on January 31st, 2022 by Colin McCormick: With acclaimed movies like The Harder They Fall and The Power of Dog released in 2021, there is a sign that the Western genre could be heading for a resurgence. However, despite the fact that it might not be as popular as it once was, it is a genre that remains a big part of the movie industry and an important part of the history of cinema. For those looking to explore more about the great Western movies, the top-rated titles in the genre is a perfect place to start.

15 The Wild Bunch (1969) – 7.9

  • Available to stream on Classix

Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch was a bit of a game-changer in terms of Westerns as well as action movies in general. While gunfights and violence had always been a part of these types of movies, The Wild Bunch sought to depict it as a brutal and bloody story that helped start a wave of more graphic action sequences.

The movie follows a group of aging outlaws who set out to take one last big score but find themselves the targets of some powerful enemies. It is a riveting adventure that features one of the best battle sequences in movie history.

14 The Revenant (2015) – 8.0

Hugh Glass carrying another person in The Revenant

  • Available to stream on Fubo TV, DIRECTV, and Spectrum on Demand

There seems to be a common theme in Western movies that this was not an easy era to survive in. This can best be seen in the intense and relentless survival story of The Revenant. Leonardo DiCaprio plays a fur trader who is wounded and left for dead by his treacherous companions. He is then forced to make his way back home through the unforgiving landscape.

From Oscar winner Alejandro González Iñárritu, the movie is a beautiful yet brutal odyssey. DiCaprio gives a powerful performance and is joined by Tom Hardy in a solid villainous role.


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13 Dances With Wolves (1990) – 8.0

Kevin Costner kneeling in the Wild West in Dances with Wolves.

  • Available to stream on Netflix, Prime Video, Fubo TV, and Pluto TV

Kevin Costner was one of the hottest actors working in Hollywood when he took a big risk with his epic directorial debut. Dances With Wolves stars Costner as an officer assigned to a Civil War outpost where he forms a bond with the Native American people of the area.

RELATED: 10 Highest-Rated Directorial Debuts On The IMDb Top 250 List

The movie is a sprawling and gorgeous Western that is more interested in the quiet human moments than big action sequences. It makes for an engrossing large-scale story.


12 The Ox-Bow Incident (1942) – 8.0

The posse gathers in The Ox-Bow Incident

  • Available to stream on Starz, Starz on Prime Video, Starz on Roku, and Spectrum on Demand

Older Western movies sometimes have an unfair reputation of being simplistic stories about the men in white hats shooting at the men in black hats. However, a movie like The Ox-Bow Incident proves they could tell complex stories within the genre.

Henry Fonda stars in the movie about a posse who tracks down a trio of men suspected of killing a local farmer. As tensions build, the posse becomes divided on whether to kill the men or not.


11 High Noon (1952) – 8.0

Gary Cooper in High Noon

  • Available to rent on Apple TV

Not only does High Noon provide one of the best Western stories of all time, but it also delivers one of the greatest movie heroes. Gary Cooper stars as Marshal Will Kane, a lawman who is about to hang up his badge when an outlaw heads to town looking to settle a score with him. When no one else in town will help him, Kane stands determined to face his destiny alone.

Along with being a tense Western story with a thrilling climax, it is also a morality tale about someone standing up for what is right even when no one else is willing to stand beside them.


10 Rio Bravo (1959) – 8.0

John Wayne as the Sheriff in Rio Bravo (1959)

  • Available to rent on Apple TV

Directed by filmmaking legend Howard Hawks and starring John Wayne, Rio Bravo follows the story of Sherriff John T. Chance, his deputy, and a hotshot sharpshooter, who sparks the ire of a ruthless gang of outlaws. This forces the heroes to take up arms to defend the titular town of Rio Bravo from the gang’s impending assault.

A lynchpin of the Western genre, Rio Bravo is about as classic as it gets. Between its tried-and-true story, recognizable cast and accomplished director, the movie is the perfect introduction to the genre.


9 Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid (1969) – 8.0

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid watching from a mountain perch.

  • Available to stream on The Criterion Channel

Between its incredible pairing of Paul Newman and Robert Redford in its title roles, subversion of the typical genre narrative, and famous ending, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is one of the most beloved Westerns ever made.

RELATED: Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid & 9 Other Classic A-Lister Team-Ups

The movie follows outlaws Butch Cassidy and his younger companion Sundance, as they commit a series of train robberies – subsequently being forced to flee to Bolivia to escape the law. Although several critics – including Roger Ebert – disliked the film initially, the movie has since earned a reputation as one of the classics of the genre and was even nominated for four Academy Awards.




8 A Fistful Of Dollars (1964) – 8.0

  • Available to stream on Roku, Hoopla, Tubi, Kanopy, and Pluto TV

The first movie in Sergio Leone’s unmatched ‘Man with No Name Trilogy’, A Fistful of Dollars popularized an entire subgenre known as the Spaghetti Western with its flawless execution and iconic style. The movie sees the Man with No Name – played by Clint Eastwood – inserting himself into a tense conflict with three warring brothers, playing the different factions off against each other.

Largely responsible for catapulting Eastwood into pop culture legend, A Fistful of Dollars also features a beautiful score from composer Ennio Morricone – all of which adds up to one of the genre’s most well-known masterpieces.


7 The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) – 8.1

The cast of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

  • Available to rent on Apple TV

With John Ford in the director’s chair, as well as the likes of John Wayne, James Stewart, Lee Marvin, and Vera Miles in front of the camera, it’s no surprise that The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance became such a huge hit.

Telling the familiar story of an underdog – James Stewart’s Ranse Stoddard – who’s forced to take on a merciless outlaw – Lee Marvin’s Liberty Valance – the movie succeeds through its unique style of storytelling, playing with the notion of the ‘Western myth’ and making its characters feel much more real in the process.


6 The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre (1948) – 8.2

Characters outside a tent in The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre (1948)

  • Available to rent on Apple TV

Based on the 1935 novel of the same name by B. Traven, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre sees three impoverished men – played by Humphrey Bogart, Tim Holt, and Walter Huston – set out to strike gold in Mexico.

The movie explores the pitfalls and insidious influence of greed, taking some surprisingly dark turns for a Western of the time. Subverting the traditional ‘good vs evil’ narrative that was something of a staple of the genre at the time, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is one of John Huston’s finest ever directorial efforts – and that’s saying something.


5 Unforgiven (1992) – 8.2

Clint Eastwood in Unforgiven, walking through a house with a long barrelled gun

  • Available to stream on HBO Max

When Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven was released in 1992, the Western genre was seen as dead for the most part. However, this dark and complex tale subverted many of the Western genre’s tropes to tell a powerful story.

Nevertheless, the movie was a huge success and was hailed for its more critical portrayal of the West’s supposed ‘heroes’ – with Eastwood’s protagonist Munny having committed countless murders of men, women, and children before the events of the movie. Unforgiven’s greatest strengths lie in its lack of Hollywood gloss, making its story feel somehow bleaker yet more human than any Western preceding it.


4 For A Few Dollars More (1965) – 8.2

Man With No Name and Col. Douglas in For A Few Dollars More

  • Available to stream on Roku, Tubi, Kanopy, and Pluto TV

For A Few Dollars More serves as the middle chapter of the fantastic Man with No Name Trilogy, with Clint Eastwood and Sergio Leone teaming up to deliver another all-time classic. After Eastwood’s Manco and Lee Van Cleef’s Colonel Douglas Mortimer set their sights on the same bounty, the two men join forces to take down the vicious outlaw El Indio.

RELATED: Clint Eastwood’s 10 Coolest Movie Roles Of His Career

Like many classic movies, For A Few Dollars More wasn’t particularly well-received upon its release but has since become hailed as a shining example of the genre, with Leone’s stylish direction setting the movie apart from others of its ilk.


3 Django Unchained (2012) – 8.4

  • Available to stream on Fubo and Netflix

It may come as a shock to see a film as recent as 2012’s Django Unchained regarded as one of the best Westerns ever made. Between its revisionist sensibilities and unique blend of the traditional and the modern, however, the movie’s fresh take on the Western stands out.

Managing to tell a harrowing story about slavery and vengeance while somehow filling it with humor, heart, and blood-soaked action, Tarantino keeps a lot of plates spinning with Django Unchained – without dropping a single one. The result is a movie that’s satisfying on almost every conceivable level – with its dialogue, characters, and nail-biting tension culminating in one of the most thrilling shootouts ever put to film.


2 Once Upon A Time In The West (1968) – 8.5

The opening scene of Once Upon a Time in the West

  • Available to stream on Hulu, Paramount+, Paramount on Prime Video, Epix, Epix on Prime Video, Epix on Roku, DIRECTV, Sling, and Spectrum on Demand.

As overused as the word has recently become, there’s no other word to accurately describe Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West than epic. Boasting an ensemble cast featuring the likes of Charles Bronson and an against-type Henry Fonda, the movie spins a sprawling, revisionist yarn about violence in the Old West.

A firm favorite amongst many of the greatest contemporary filmmakers including Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorsese, Once Upon A Time in the West’s initially lukewarm reviews eventually gave way to widespread acclaim, with the movie considered to be the quintessential Western movie.


1 The Good, The Bad And The Ugly (1966) – 8.8

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

  • Available to stream on Roku, Hoopla, Tubi, Kanopy, and Pluto TV

If there was only one Western to accurately represent the entire genre, it would undoubtedly be Sergio Leone’s 1968 classic The Good, The Bad and the Ugly. As the grand finale of the Man with No Name Trilogy, every single aspect of the movie from its memorable Ennio Morricone score to its perfectly stylized direction has become iconic.

Following the exploits of Eastwood’s Blondie, as he competes with the nefarious Angel Eyes and the foolish Tuco for a stash of Confederate gold, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’s striking visuals, beautiful score, and relentless tension helped launch the movie into pop culture legend.

NEXT: 10 Best Western TV Shows, According To IMDb

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