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Top 10 Western Movies

VO: Dan Paradis
The old American West has set the stage for countless cowboy filled classics. They are gun totting, horse-riding morality tales of outlaws and heroes once dominated the silver screen. For this list we’re excluding parodies and western-hybrids. From the features starring John Wayne, to Clint Eastwood, all sorts of heroes in-between, these are the best of the best flicks to transport us to a time when the law was abstract and folks tried their luck in a new frontier. Join as we count down our picks for the top 10 westerns. For this list we’re excluding parodies and western-hybrids. Special thanks to our users FilmSpence and hardcorelegend101 for submitting the idea on our WatchMojo.comsuggest page!

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Written by Joe Jatcko:

Top 10 Movie Westerns

They’re some of the most stylish, gritty, and unforgettable movies of all time. They’re also some of the most violent – hang ‘em high, boys. Welcome to and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 westerns.

For this list we’re excluding parodies and western-hybrids.

#10: “True Grit” (2010)

Rarely is the remake better than the original – especially when the original features a drunken, eye patch-wearing John Wayne. That is unless the redux features a drunken eye patch-wearing Jeff Bridges. While The Duke’s turn as Federal Marshal Rooster Cogburn is and always will be iconic, Bridges’ performance – a product of the Coen Brothers’ far darker, sardonic old west – is braver, less glamorous, and more fitting of a tragic hero who’s helping a young girl avenge her father’s murder.

#9: “The Outlaw Josey Wales” (1976)

Rule of thumb: if you ever find yourself in a western with Clint Eastwood, try not to kill his whole family…or his whole posse…or his sidekick. Because if you do, bad things will happen to you – very bad things. Made famous by Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns, Eastwood directs himself in a far more sober picture of the Civil War-era west. Don’t worry though, he still shoots lots…and lots…and lots of guys on his quest for vengeance.

#8: “High Noon” (1952)

Keep your eye on the clock! Gary Cooper stars as Marshal Will Kane who comes back from his honeymoon to save a po-dunk town whose citizens refuse to help him, insist on fighting him, and generally try to convince him to go away. Only they don’t realize the threat they’re under. But, thanks to some help from his still-wedding dress-clad wife, played by Grace Kelly, Kane is able to win the day and ride off into the sunset…again.

#7: “The Magnificent Seven” (1960)

Who says there weren’t Russian cowboys?. Oh, sorry Yul, didn’t realize. Anyhow what isn’t in doubt is Brenner’s ability to assemble a posse, in this classic homage to Akira Kurosawa’s “Seven Samurai.” In fact, with Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, and Robert Vaughn rounding out the group, this may be the greatest posse of all time. A word of advice to the bad guys: when you catch them, don’t drop them right outside of town with all their weapons.

#6: “The Wild Bunch” (1969)

Starring William Holden and Earnest Borgnine, Sam Peckinpah’s 1969 epic is one of the most uncompromising depictions of the Old West ever made. When Holden’s outlaw Pike Bishop and his men flee Texas for Mexico, nearly non-stop shootouts and debauchery follow – all leading to one of the most gruesome endings in any film. But, it’s the valor among thieves that spurns this violent turn of events that truly immortalized “The Wild Bunch.”

#5: “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” (1969)

Forget that this is also probably your grandmother’s favorite movie, Paul Newman and Robert Redford are electric together in their first on-screen team-up. This one’s got everything: gun fighting, fist fighting, knife fighting, perhaps the most famous bicycling montage in film history, and definitely one of the most poignant and haunting endings of all time.

#4: “Once Upon a Time in the West” (1968)

You were expecting someone else? In westerns it’s sometimes hard to figure out who’s actually the good guy; but after Henry Fonda’s character kills a child in his first scene, the smart money isn’t on him. Sergio Leone’s 1968 follow-up to his ground-breaking “Dollars” trilogy and the first of his “Once Upon a Time” trio, this epic proved that Leone could still make great films sans Eastwood, and that playing the harmonica could be totally badass…especially if you’re Charles Bronson.

#3: “Unforgiven” (1992)

This would be the final western for the man who redefined the genre, and it wasn’t going to be a cheery one. In a genre characterized by senseless, consequence-free violence, Clint Eastwood produced, directed, and starred in this depiction of an old gunfighter who’s called on for one last kill. And, the result is a study in regret and contemplation – until, you know, the end.

#2: “The Searchers” (1956)

Despite his undying allegiance to the Confederacy, his overt racism, and his momentary urge to shoot the very girl he’s come to rescue, this is perhaps John Wayne’s greatest performance. While elements such as white people dressed up as Comanches making this noise might make it feel dated, it still stands as the pinnacle of Wayne and legendary director John Ford’s collaborations.

Before we tighten the reins on our top pick, here are some of our honorable mentions:
- “McCabe & Mrs. Miller” (1971)
- “Red River” (1948)
- “Shane” (1953)
- “Stagecoach” (1939)
- “3:10 to Yuma” (1957)

#1: “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” (1966)

Possibly the coolest movie ever made, Clint Eastwood’s final turn as the Man with No Name in Sergio Leone’s epic finale to his “Dollars” trilogy, comes at us unimpeded by any of the moralizing of Eastwood’s later work. Leone’s masterpiece seamlessly integrates a sprawling Civil War sequence into the plot – causing the violent acts of a few outlaws to pale in comparison. When our three anti-heroes finally meet, the result is the greatest showdown ever put to film.

Do you agree with our list? Which westerns make you want to grab the reins with your teeth and take on an entire band of outlaws? For more classic Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to

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