The 100 Greatest Western Movies of All Time: Including Five You've Never Heard Of by the Editors of American Cowboy Magazine

by KasparM | created - 15 Feb 2012 | updated - 15 Feb 2012 | Public
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1. Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)

PG-13 | 164 min | Western

80 Metascore

A mysterious stranger with a harmonica joins forces with a notorious desperado to protect a beautiful widow from a ruthless assassin working for the railroad.

Director: Sergio Leone | Stars: Henry Fonda, Charles Bronson, Claudia Cardinale, Jason Robards

Votes: 253,995 | Gross: $5.32M

2. The Searchers (1956)

Passed | 119 min | Adventure, Drama, Western

An American Civil War veteran embarks on a journey to rescue his niece from the Comanches.

Director: John Ford | Stars: John Wayne, Jeffrey Hunter, Vera Miles, Ward Bond

Votes: 69,419

3. Red River (1948)

Not Rated | 133 min | Action, Adventure, Romance

Dunson leads a cattle drive, the culmination of over 14 years of work, to its destination in Missouri. But his tyrannical behavior along the way causes a mutiny, led by his adopted son.

Directors: Howard Hawks, Arthur Rosson | Stars: John Wayne, Montgomery Clift, Joanne Dru, Walter Brennan

Votes: 23,985

4. High Noon (1952)

PG | 85 min | Action, Drama, Thriller

89 Metascore

A town Marshal, despite the disagreements of his newlywed bride and the townspeople around him, must face a gang of deadly killers alone at high noon when the gang leader, an outlaw he sent up years ago, arrives on the noon train.

Director: Fred Zinnemann | Stars: Gary Cooper, Grace Kelly, Thomas Mitchell, Lloyd Bridges

Votes: 86,735 | Gross: $9.45M

5. Shane (1953)

Not Rated | 118 min | Drama, Western

A weary gunfighter attempts to settle down with a homestead family, but a smoldering settler/rancher conflict forces him to act.

Director: George Stevens | Stars: Alan Ladd, Jean Arthur, Van Heflin, Brandon De Wilde

Votes: 31,666 | Gross: $20.00M

6. Unforgiven (1992)

R | 130 min | Drama, Western

85 Metascore

Retired Old West gunslinger William Munny reluctantly takes on one last job, with the help of his old partner and a young man.

Director: Clint Eastwood | Stars: Clint Eastwood, Gene Hackman, Morgan Freeman, Richard Harris

Votes: 320,564 | Gross: $101.16M

7. Johnny Guitar (1954)

Not Rated | 110 min | Drama, Western

83 Metascore

After helping a wounded gang member, a strong-willed female saloon owner is wrongly suspected of murder and bank robbery by a lynch mob.

Director: Nicholas Ray | Stars: Joan Crawford, Sterling Hayden, Mercedes McCambridge, Scott Brady

Votes: 12,834

8. The Wild Bunch (1969)

R | 135 min | Action, Adventure, Western

An aging group of outlaws look for one last big score as the "traditional" American West is disappearing around them.

Director: Sam Peckinpah | Stars: William Holden, Ernest Borgnine, Robert Ryan, Edmond O'Brien

Votes: 68,806

9. Bad Day at Black Rock (1955)

Not Rated | 81 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery

A one-armed stranger comes to a tiny town possessing a terrible past they want to keep secret, by violent means if necessary.

Director: John Sturges | Stars: Spencer Tracy, Robert Ryan, Anne Francis, Dean Jagger

Votes: 16,366

10. Greed (1924)

Not Rated | 140 min | Drama, Thriller, Western

The sudden fortune won from a lottery fans such destructive greed that it ruins the lives of the three people involved.

Director: Erich von Stroheim | Stars: Gibson Gowland, Zasu Pitts, Jean Hersholt, Dale Fuller

Votes: 7,890 | Gross: $0.16M

11. Stagecoach (1939)

Not Rated | 96 min | Adventure, Western

A group of people traveling on a stagecoach find their journey complicated by the threat of Geronimo and learn something about each other in the process.

Director: John Ford | Stars: John Wayne, Claire Trevor, Andy Devine, John Carradine

Votes: 35,464

12. McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971)

R | 120 min | Drama, Western

A gambler and a prostitute become business partners in a remote Old West mining town, and their enterprise thrives until a large corporation arrives on the scene.

Director: Robert Altman | Stars: Warren Beatty, Julie Christie, Rene Auberjonois, William Devane

Votes: 18,576

13. No Country for Old Men (2007)

R | 122 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller

91 Metascore

Violence and mayhem ensue after a hunter stumbles upon a drug deal gone wrong and more than two million dollars in cash near the Rio Grande.

Directors: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen | Stars: Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin, Woody Harrelson

Votes: 715,463 | Gross: $74.28M

14. They Died with Their Boots On (1941)

Approved | 140 min | Biography, Drama, Romance

A highly fictionalized account of the life of George Armstrong Custer from his arrival at West Point in 1857 to his death at the battle of the Little Big Horn in 1876. He has little ... See full summary »

Director: Raoul Walsh | Stars: Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Arthur Kennedy, Charley Grapewin

Votes: 5,002

15. Will Penny (1967)

Approved | 108 min | Romance, Western

Aging cowboy Will Penny gets a line camp job on a large cattle spread and finds his isolated cabin is already occupied by a husbandless woman and her young son.

Director: Tom Gries | Stars: Charlton Heston, Joan Hackett, Donald Pleasence, Lee Majors

Votes: 3,478

16. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)

Not Rated | 126 min | Adventure, Drama, Western

99 Metascore

Fred Dobbs and Bob Curtin, two Americans searching for work in Mexico, convince an old prospector to help them mine for gold in the Sierra Madre Mountains.

Director: John Huston | Stars: Humphrey Bogart, Walter Huston, Tim Holt, Bruce Bennett

Votes: 95,308 | Gross: $5.01M

17. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)

PG | 110 min | Biography, Crime, Drama

58 Metascore

Wyoming, early 1900s. Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid are the leaders of a band of outlaws. After a train robbery goes wrong they find themselves on the run with a posse hard on their heals. Their solution - escape to Bolivia.

Director: George Roy Hill | Stars: Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Katharine Ross, Strother Martin

Votes: 176,768 | Gross: $102.31M

18. The Ox-Bow Incident (1943)

Not Rated | 75 min | Drama, Western

When a posse captures three men suspected of killing a local farmer, they become strongly divided over whether or not to lynch the men.

Director: William A. Wellman | Stars: Henry Fonda, Dana Andrews, Mary Beth Hughes, Anthony Quinn

Votes: 17,920

19. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)

Not Rated | 123 min | Drama, Western

94 Metascore

A senator, who became famous for killing a notorious outlaw, returns for the funeral of an old friend and tells the truth about his deed.

Director: John Ford | Stars: James Stewart, John Wayne, Vera Miles, Lee Marvin

Votes: 59,500

20. Monte Walsh (1970)

PG-13 | 106 min | Western

An aging cowboy realizes that the West he knew and loved will soon be no more--and that there will be no room for him, either.

Director: William A. Fraker | Stars: Lee Marvin, Jeanne Moreau, Jack Palance, Mitchell Ryan

Votes: 2,036

21. Broken Arrow (1950)

Approved | 93 min | Drama, Romance, Western

Tom Jeffords tries to make peace between settlers and Apaches in Arizona territory.

Director: Delmer Daves | Stars: James Stewart, Jeff Chandler, Debra Paget, Basil Ruysdael

Votes: 6,274

22. My Darling Clementine (1946)

Not Rated | 97 min | Biography, Drama, Western

The Earps battle the Clantons at the OK Corral in Tombstone, Arizona.

Director: John Ford | Stars: Henry Fonda, Linda Darnell, Victor Mature, Cathy Downs

Votes: 18,365

23. Lonely Are the Brave (1962)

Approved | 107 min | Drama, Western

A fiercely independent cowboy arranges to have himself locked up in jail in order to then escape with an old friend, who has been sentenced to the penitentiary.

Director: David Miller | Stars: Kirk Douglas, Gena Rowlands, Walter Matthau, Michael Kane

Votes: 6,767

24. Rancho Notorious (1952)

Approved | 89 min | Western

After the murder of his fiancée, a Wyoming ranch hand sets out to find her killer.

Director: Fritz Lang | Stars: Marlene Dietrich, Arthur Kennedy, Mel Ferrer, Gloria Henry

Votes: 3,284

25. Fort Apache (1948)

Not Rated | 128 min | Action, Adventure, Western

At Fort Apache, an honorable and veteran war captain finds conflict when his regime is placed under the command of a young, glory hungry lieutenant colonel with no respect for the local Indian tribe.

Director: John Ford | Stars: John Wayne, Henry Fonda, Shirley Temple, Pedro Armendáriz

Votes: 14,023

26. She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949)

Not Rated | 104 min | Western

Captain Nathan Brittles, on the eve of retirement, takes out a last patrol to stop an impending massive Indian attack. Encumbered by women who must be evacuated, Brittles finds his mission imperiled.

Director: John Ford | Stars: John Wayne, Joanne Dru, John Agar, Ben Johnson

Votes: 13,374

27. Rio Grande (1950)

Not Rated | 105 min | Romance, Western

A cavalry officer posted on the Rio Grande must deal with murderous raiding Apaches, his son who's a risk-taking recruit and his wife from whom he has been separated for many years.

Director: John Ford | Stars: John Wayne, Maureen O'Hara, Ben Johnson, Claude Jarman Jr.

Votes: 11,810

28. The Gunfighter (1950)

Not Rated | 85 min | Western

Notorious gunfighter Jimmy Ringo rides into town to find his true love, who doesn't want to see him. He hasn't come looking for trouble, but trouble finds him around every corner.

Director: Henry King | Stars: Gregory Peck, Helen Westcott, Millard Mitchell, Jean Parker

Votes: 7,759

29. Rio Bravo (1959)

Not Rated | 141 min | Action, Drama, Western

A small-town sheriff in the American West enlists the help of a cripple, a drunk, and a young gunfighter in his efforts to hold in jail the brother of the local bad guy.

Director: Howard Hawks | Stars: John Wayne, Dean Martin, Ricky Nelson, Angie Dickinson

Votes: 48,042 | Gross: $12.54M

30. Winchester '73 (1950)

Not Rated | 92 min | Action, Drama, Western

The journey of a prized rifle from one ill-fated owner to another parallels a cowboy's search for a murderous fugitive.

Director: Anthony Mann | Stars: James Stewart, Shelley Winters, Dan Duryea, Stephen McNally

Votes: 14,148

31. Hondo (1953)

PG | 83 min | Drama, Romance, War

Army despatch rider Hondo Lane discovers a woman and young son living in the midst of warring Apaches and becomes their protector.

Director: John Farrow | Stars: John Wayne, Geraldine Page, Ward Bond, Michael Pate

Votes: 7,689

32. The Man from Laramie (1955)

Approved | 103 min | Western

A stranger, Will Lockhart, defies the local cattle baron and his sadistic son by working for one of his oldest rivals.

Director: Anthony Mann | Stars: James Stewart, Arthur Kennedy, Donald Crisp, Cathy O'Donnell

Votes: 7,857

33. Ulzana's Raid (1972)

R | 103 min | Adventure, Western

After fierce war chief Ulzana and a small war party jump the reservation bent on murder and terror, an inexperienced young lieutenant is assigned to track him down.

Director: Robert Aldrich | Stars: Burt Lancaster, Bruce Davison, Jorge Luke, Richard Jaeckel

Votes: 4,280

34. Blood on the Moon (1948)

Passed | 88 min | Western

Unemployed cowhand Jim Garry is hired by his dishonest friend Tate Riling as muscle in a dispute between homesteaders and cattleman John Lufton.

Director: Robert Wise | Stars: Robert Mitchum, Barbara Bel Geddes, Robert Preston, Walter Brennan

Votes: 1,632

35. Major Dundee (1965)

Approved | 123 min | Adventure, War, Western

62 Metascore

In 1864, due to frequent Apache raids from Mexico into the U.S., a Union officer decides to illegally cross the border and destroy the Apache, using a mixed army of Union troops, Confederate POWs, civilian mercenaries, and scouts.

Director: Sam Peckinpah | Stars: Charlton Heston, Richard Harris, Jim Hutton, James Coburn

Votes: 6,012 | Gross: $0.01M

36. The Magnificent Seven (1960)

Approved | 128 min | Action, Adventure, Western

An oppressed Mexican peasant village hires seven gunfighters to help defend their homes.

Director: John Sturges | Stars: Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, Eli Wallach

Votes: 76,760 | Gross: $4.91M

37. The Naked Spur (1953)

Passed | 91 min | Thriller, Western

A bounty hunter trying to bring a murderer to justice is forced to accept the help of two less-than-trustworthy strangers.

Director: Anthony Mann | Stars: James Stewart, Janet Leigh, Robert Ryan, Ralph Meeker

Votes: 8,621

38. Fistful of Dollars (1964)

R | 99 min | Western

65 Metascore

A wandering gunfighter plays two rival families against each other in a town torn apart by greed, pride, and revenge.

Director: Sergio Leone | Stars: Clint Eastwood, Gian Maria Volontè, Marianne Koch, Wolfgang Lukschy

Votes: 167,566 | Gross: $14.50M

39. For a Few Dollars More (1965)

R | 132 min | Western

74 Metascore

Two bounty hunters with the same intentions team up to track down a Western outlaw.

Director: Sergio Leone | Stars: Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, Gian Maria Volontè, Mario Brega

Votes: 189,751 | Gross: $15.00M

40. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)

R | 178 min | Western

90 Metascore

A bounty hunting scam joins two men in an uneasy alliance against a third in a race to find a fortune in gold buried in a remote cemetery.

Director: Sergio Leone | Stars: Clint Eastwood, Eli Wallach, Lee Van Cleef, Aldo Giuffrè

Votes: 580,120 | Gross: $6.10M

41. Bend of the River (1952)

Approved | 91 min | Action, Adventure, Romance

When a town boss confiscates homesteader's supplies after gold is discovered nearby, a tough cowboy risks his life to try and get it to them.

Director: Anthony Mann | Stars: James Stewart, Rock Hudson, Arthur Kennedy, Julie Adams

Votes: 6,533

42. Tumbleweeds (1925)

Approved | 78 min | Western

The government will grant a fringe of terrain for the settlers who want to live and work there. The starting sign will be a gunshot which will iniciate the run for the best fields and ... See full summary »

Directors: King Baggot, William S. Hart | Stars: William S. Hart, Barbara Bedford, Lucien Littlefield, J. Gordon Russell

Votes: 474

43. Hombre (1967)

Approved | 111 min | Western

80 Metascore

John Russell, disdained by his "respectable" fellow stagecoach passengers because he was raised by Indians, becomes their only hope for survival when they are set upon by outlaws.

Director: Martin Ritt | Stars: Paul Newman, Fredric March, Richard Boone, Diane Cilento

Votes: 9,581

44. Hud (1963)

Not Rated | 112 min | Drama

Honest and hard-working Texas rancher Homer Bannon has a conflict with his unscrupulous, selfish, arrogant and egotistical son Hud, who sank into alcoholism after accidentally killing his brother in a car crash.

Director: Martin Ritt | Stars: Paul Newman, Melvyn Douglas, Patricia Neal, Brandon De Wilde

Votes: 16,733 | Gross: $10.00M

45. Don't Fence Me In (1945)

Approved | 71 min | Western

Wildcat Kelly has been dead and buried for years. Or has he? Dale is a reporter for an Eastern magazine who comes West to find out the true story of Kelly, of whom Gabby seems to have mysterious knowledge.

Director: John English | Stars: Roy Rogers, Trigger, George 'Gabby' Hayes, Dale Evans

Votes: 180

46. Dodge City (1939)

Approved | 104 min | Western

A Texas cattle agent witnesses first hand, the brutal lawlessness of Dodge City and takes the job of sheriff to clean the town up.

Director: Michael Curtiz | Stars: Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Ann Sheridan, Bruce Cabot

Votes: 3,879

47. The Big Sky (1952)

Approved | 140 min | Drama, Western

The success of the journey focuses on keeping the Indian girl alive as well as themselves to complete trade with the Blackfeet.

Director: Howard Hawks | Stars: Kirk Douglas, Dewey Martin, Elizabeth Threatt, Arthur Hunnicutt

Votes: 3,301

48. Ride the High Country (1962)

Approved | 94 min | Western

An ex-union soldier is hired to transport gold from a mining community through dangerous territory. But what he doesn't realize is that his partner and old friend is plotting to double-cross him.

Director: Sam Peckinpah | Stars: Joel McCrea, Randolph Scott, Mariette Hartley, Ron Starr

Votes: 10,373

49. Open Range (2003)

R | 139 min | Action, Drama, Romance

67 Metascore

A former gunslinger is forced to take up arms again when he and his cattle crew are threatened by a corrupt lawman.

Director: Kevin Costner | Stars: Kevin Costner, Robert Duvall, Diego Luna, Abraham Benrubi

Votes: 59,133 | Gross: $58.33M

50. The Westerner (1940)

Approved | 100 min | Drama, Romance, Western