The 50 greatest westerns – The full list

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We count down the greatest westerns of all time

50

The Hired Hand

Dir Peter Fonda (Peter Fonda, Warren Oates, Verna Bloom)

49

Lonesome Dove (1989)

Dir Simon Wincer (Robert Duvall, Tommy Lee Jones, Danny Glover)

48

Open Range (2003)

Dir Kevin Costner (Kevin Costner, Robert Duvall, Annette Bening)

47

The Claim (2000)

Dir Michael Winterbottom (Peter Mullan, Milla Jovovich, Wes Bentley)

46

Rancho Deluxe (1975)

Dir Frank Perry (Jeff Bridges, Sam Waterston, Slim Pickens)

45

Meek's Cutoff (2010)

Dir Kelly Reichardt (Michelle Williams, Bruce Greenwood, Shirley Henderson)

44

Day of the Outlaw (1959)

Dir André de Toth (Robert Ryan, Burl Ives, Tina Louise)

43

The Missouri Breaks (1976)

Dir Arthur Penn (Marlon Brando, Jack Nicholson, Harry Dean Stanton)

42

Ulzana’s Raid (1972)

Dir Robert Aldrich (Burt Lancaster, Bruce Davison, Joaquín Martínez)

41

Blazing Saddles (1974)

Dir Mel Brooks (Gene Wilder, Cleavon Little, Madeline Kahn)

40

Wagon Master (1950)

Dir John Ford (Ben Johnson, Joanne Dru, Ward Bond)

39

Requiescant (aka Kill and Pray) (1967)

Dir Carlo Lizzani (Lou Castel, Mark Damon, Pier Paolo Pasolini)

38

A Man Called Horse (1970)

Dir Elliot Silverstein (Richard Harris, Judith Anderson, James Gammon)

37

Vera Cruz (1954)

Dir Robert Aldrich (Gary Cooper, Burt Lancaster, Denise Darcel)

36

Little Big Man (1970)

Dir Arthur Penn (Dustin Hoffman, Faye Dunaway, Chief Dan George)

35

Rancho Notorious (1952)

Dir Fritz Lang (Marlene Dietrich, Arthur Kennedy and Mel Ferrer)

34

Ride the High Country (1962)

Dir Sam Peckinpah (Randolph Scott, Joel McRea, Ron Starr)

33

The Magnificent Seven (1960)

Dir John Sturges (Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Eli Wallach et al)

32

The Great Silence (1968)

Dir Sergio Corbucci (Jean-Louis Trintignant, Klaus Kinski, Frank Wolff)

31

High Plains Drifter (1973)

Dir Clint Eastwood (Clint Eastwood, Verna Bloom, Mitch Ryan)

30

7 Women (1966)

Dir John Ford (Anne Bancroft, Sue Lyon, Mildred Dunnock)

29

The Naked Spur (1953)

Dir Anthony Mann (James Stewart, Janet Leigh, Robert Ryan)

28

Rio Bravo (1959)

Dir Howard Hawks (John Wayne, Dean Martin, Ricky Nelson)

27

The Ox-bow Incident (1943)

Dir William Wellman (Henry Fonda, Dana Andrews, Anthony Quinn)

26

Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)

Dir Sergio Leone (Henry Fonda, Charles Bronson, Claudia Cardinale)

25

Django (1966)

Dir Sergio Corbucci (Franco Nero, José Bódalo, Loredana Nusciak)

24

Shane (1953)

Dir George Stevens (Alan Ladd, Jean Arthur, Van Heflin)

23

Stagecoach (1939)

Dir John Ford (John Wayne, Claire Trevor)

22

Seven Men From Now (1956)

Dir Budd Boetticher (Randolph Scott, Lee Marvin, Stuart Whitman)

21

El Topo (1970)

Dir Alejandro Jodorowsky (Alejandro Jodorowsky, Alfonso Arau)

20

High Noon (1952)

Dir Fred Zinnemann (Gary Cooper, Lloyd Bridges, Grace Kelly)

19

One-Eyed Jacks (1961)

Dir Marlon Brando (Brando, Karl Malden, Katy Jurado, Ben Johnson)

18

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)

Dir Andrew Dominik (Brad Pitt, Casey Affleck, Sam Rockwell)

17

Red River (1948)

Dir Howard Hawks (John Wayne, Montgomery Clift, Walter Brennan)

16

Forty Guns (1957)

Dir Samuel Fuller (Barbara Stanwyck, Gene Barry, Robert Dix)

15

Unforgiven (1992)

Dir Clint Eastwood (Eastwood, Morgan Freeman, Gene Hackman)

14

The Wild Bunch

Dir Sam Peckinpah (William Holden, Ernest Borgnine, Robert Ryan)

13

The Shooting (1968)

Dir Monte Hellman (Millie Perkins, Jack Nicholson, Warren Oates)

12

Heaven’s Gate (1980)

Dir Michael Cimino (Kris Kristofferson, Jeff Bridges, Isabelle Huppert)

11

My Darling Clementine (1946)

Dir John Ford (Henry Fonda, Linda Darnell, Victor Mature)

10

The Good, The Bad and the Ugly (1966)

Dir Sergio Leone (Clint Eastwood, Eli Wallach, Lee Van Cleef)

9

Decision at Sundown (1957)

Dir Budd Boetticher (Randolph Scott, Noah Beery Jr, HM Wynant)

8

Johnny Guitar (1954)

Dir Nicholas Ray (Joan Crawford, Sterling Hayden, Mercedes McCambridge)

7

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)

Dir John Ford (James Stewart, John Wayne, Vera Miles)

6

Dead Man (1995)

Dir Jim Jarmusch (Johnny Depp, Gary Farmer, Crispin Glover)

5

The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)

Dir Clint Eastwood (Eastwood, Chief Dan George, Sandra Locke)

4

Winchester ’73 (1950)

Dir Anthony Mann (James Stewart, Shelley Winters, Dan Duryea)

3

The Searchers (1956)

Dir John Ford (John Wayne, Jeffrey Hunter, Natalie Wood)

2

Pat Garrett

Dir Sam Peckinpah (Kris Kristofferson, James Coburn, Bob Dylan)

1

McCabe

Dir Robert Altman (Warren Beatty, Julie Christie, Rene Auberjonois)


Users say

39 comments
Mark
Mark

I was surprised and elated to see McCabe & Mrs. Miller crown the top of this list. I truly do feel that it is the greatest Western film, alongside Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West and Corbucci's The Great Silence. Once Upon a Time in the West is superior in every respect to The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (although both do deserve to be on the list.) All in all, this was the best list of Westerns I've yet seen. My Top Ten: 10. Meek's Cutoff 9. The Wild Bunch 8. The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly 7. Track of the Cat 6. Day of the Outlaw 5. Dead Man 4. Heaven's Gate 3. Once Upon a Time in the West 2. The Great Silence #1. McCabe & Mrs. Miller

k.madine
k.madine

what about the longriders

Mel
Mel

This list is to stir controversy, its abundantly clear the author has no clue about westerns in general, albeit ones opinion is subjective. My list includes most of Clints westerns, Wild Bunch, Open Range, many others I won’t name right now. But what I don’t understand is why some of the made for TV series like Centennial, Broken Trail, and two of my favourites Into the West and the Lonesome Dove Series my personal favourite and all time best. The series begins with Deadman Walking, next Comanche Moon, which leads to Lonesome Dove and then Return to Lonesome Dove and finishes with Streets of Laredo. Yea, its TV but the picture quality is great and acting superb and we can bond with these guys cause we watch them from cradle to grave. There are others like Roots and North and South, all great, I wonder if its because they’re hard to get a hold of. Its to bad cause they’re great watches I highly recommend them. As for the author list, there are at least 49 that were better than McCabe & Mrs. Miller.

NattyBumpo
NattyBumpo

How can True Grit not be on this list?

Phil
Phil

Yeah I'm not sure who decided to put McCabe and Mrs. Miller at number 1, most people who know and understand genre theory involving westerns probably wouldn't even let that touch the top 20. This list is written by someone who's watched a few of these and googled the rest, I'm with a bunch of the guys below me in the comments, completely daft.

Rudigar
Rudigar

Hombre (1967) Paul Newman ?

cf
cf

I'm just glad someone appreciates McCabe & Mrs. Miller for the masterpiece that it is.

Dennis Watson
Dennis Watson

Daft list. The maker of the list is clearly not a fan of the genre, like asking a vegetarian to rate the best steakhouse. Great films are made when they impact and even change the time and society in which they were made, and any list of top fifty needs to reflect that. To have High Noon at #20, Red River at #17 and McCabe & Mrs. Miller at #1 is a joke. Please stick genres you understand.

Jamie Delson
Jamie Delson

Fashions come and go. Whoever made up the list doesn't know westerns, but likes to drop popular auteurist names. These are junk: Johnny Guitar Heaven's Gate Forty Guns The Great Silence These are not even worthwhile watching except for completists: Dead Man Django 7 Women (set in China) Rancho Notorious Day of the Outlaw Rancho Deluxe High Plains Drifter These are honorable, but not very good movies: McCabe and Mrs Miller Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid Decision at Sundown The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford El Topo Seven Men from Now A Man Called Horse Wagon Master The Claim The Hired Hand Once Upon a Time in the West This I have not seen: Requiescant My list ("Modern" westerns, set after WWI, are not included) 1) The Wild Bunch 2) The Searchers 3) Lonesome Dove 4) The Magnificent Seven 5) Rio Bravo 6) Little Big Man 7) Ride the High Country 8) Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid 9) The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance 10) My Darling Clementine 11) Shane 12) The Good, the Bad and the Ugly 13)The Ballad of Cable Hogue 14) The Broken Trail 15) High Noon 16) Open Range 17) Gunfight at the OK Corral 18) The Professionals 19) One Eyed Jacks 20) Tombstone 21) Red River 22) For a Few Dollars More 23) Blazing Saddles 24) True Grit 25) Appaloosa 26) Rustler's Rhapsody 27) The Scalphunters 28) Will Penny 29) Cheyenne Autumn 30) The Gunfighter 31) She Wore a Yellow Ribbon 32) Vera Cruz 33) El Dorado 34) Major Dundee 35) A Fistful of Dollars 36) The Outlaw Josey Wales 37) The Man From Laramie 38) The Tin Star 39) Three Amigos 40) Valdez in Coming 41)The Cowboys 42) Support Your Local Sheriff 43) Nevada Smith 44) The Naked Spur 45) Unforgiven 46) Winchester '73 47) Hour of the Gun 48) Fort Apache 49) Rio Grande 50) The Long Riders

Felonious Punk
Felonious Punk

Excellent list. I'd only make a few changes to tailor it to my list of beloved movies. The main change being to add "Devil's Doorway" very close to the #1 spot.

chris gow
chris gow

I strongly agree with Paul, how could you omit The Big Country? I was scrolling the list anticipating a top ten listing as a bare minimum. Do you people actually watch grown-up films as opposed to some of the adolescent rubbish (I mean Dead Man by Jim Jarmusch, 16 year on it is an embarrassment to watch). Write out 500 times - must do better!

lay
lay

Most of the comments here, as with all these kind of lists, seem to be about what you've left off the list. I hate those kind of comments. But... that said... No TRUE GRIT?!? Are you on crack?!?

qprmatt
qprmatt

young guns , last of the mohicans , the cowboys , true grit, THE ALAMO , , dances with wolves , bury my heart at wounded knee, geronimo, pale rider , could go on with another 10 films with the Duke

Richard Kimble
Richard Kimble

Not strictly a western but with western themes and images , Clint Eastwood's criminally underrated Bronco Billy deserves a passing mention in my book - seriously Richard

s ford
s ford

no 'there will be blood' or 'no country for old men'? if they are classified as a western then i am surprised they are not on the list. also surprised to not see 'the proposition' on the list too.

Rain Dog
Rain Dog

No Silverado? No Tombstone? Really? Both Sergio Leone films belong in the top 5. This list has the order completely wrong. Very embarrassing.

The Movie Nut
The Movie Nut

Certainly an odd list. Nice to see someone liking HEAVEN'S GATE and THE CLAIM, but the omissions are glaring. Not including DANCES WITH WOLVES is just showing bias because it won the Oscar over GOODFELLAS (get over it!). When a list excludes BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID, it can no longer be taken seriously

WTF?
WTF?

are you people on drugs? ahahahahahhahahaha

JEREMY
JEREMY

WOW, bit of a weird list. personal preferences are of course the crux of any list, but OUATITW not even breaking the top 25??? villainy. and no butch cassidy? stupidity. good bad and ugly will forever be my favourite, after all, it was the movie that made me love westerns when previously i had no desire to watch any. the greatest modern western is assassination of jesse james by the coward robert ford. i personally think the unforgiven is a bit overrated. i guess if anything, having so many obscure titles up there makes me interested to seek them out. personally ive only heard of mcabe and mrs miller vaguely, ive never heard it being held in such esteem by anyone of my western loving friends. also, the aussie western The Proposition is an underrated gem, definitely should have been seen by a wider audience.

Paul
Paul

Ouch -- you are really missing out by not including William Wyler's The Big Country (1958), starring Gregory Peck. The cast is amazing – Burl Ives, Jean Simmons, Carroll Baker, Charles Bickford and an unforgettable Chuck Connors. Wyler makes extraordinary use of his widescreen canvas to capture some truly epic locations. Peck is at his finest. It’s overflowing with classic scenes and is one of the true greats of the era.

JamieG
JamieG

You guys do know Altman is dead right, so you won't be getting a letter of thanks anytime soon. How can 'the Magnificent Seven' be so low on the list, the archetypal western, is less than 7 women or the great silence. 'Tombstone' is brilliant and best wyatt earp tale. I feel this is an auteur list, the Wild Bunch is Peckinpah's better film and Unforgiven is Eastwood's better western. You also omitted 'Pale Rider' A shame that you let your critical head rule your fanboy heart

Bob Satuloff
Bob Satuloff

John Ford's "Seven Women" takes place in China in the 1930s. Give us a break!

Drew
Drew

Listen, Tombstone, while not the best but definately top 50 needs to be on this list. You have an all star cast, memorable music, drama, action, and Val Kilmer's Doc Holliday was Oscar worthy. Definately one of the best tellings of Wyatt Earp ever put on film.

History on Film
History on Film

It is a good list, and I am the first to admit that it is impossible to please everyone. Including lesser-known but brilliant movies like the Ox-Bow Incident, Ride the High Country and the Wagonmaster makes you stand out among most lists. However, some of your choices are odd. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford may have been pretty, but it was boring and silly, with an aggravating narration and the unbelievable idea that Jesse James was suicidal. The Long Riders is the definitive version of the James-Younger Gang, and it is actually entertaining. While the remake was an embarrassing example of painful over-acting, the original 3:10 to Yuma deserved to be on the list for Glenn Ford's devilish temptation of Van Heflin, who had only agreed to take the outlaw to the train to be shipped to prison for a large sum of cash. John Wayne and Howard Hawks were so angry with 3:10 and High Noon that they made Rio Bravo to show how real men would handle the situation, which would have been interesting to mention. Either the original True Grit or The Shootist should have been on the list, since they contained Wayne's best acting since Stagecoach. Picking 7 Women, which is a Western set in Mongolia, instead of Sgt. Rutledge, which faced racism head-on during the middle of the civil rights movement, is a strange choice. Finally, Decision at Sundown does not deserve to be one of Budd Boetticher's two entries on the list. It is a fun movie, but Ride Lonesome and Comanche Station are gritty looks at men on the wrong side of the law, who are struggling to balance the need to survive and the desire to do the right thing. Boetticher had little patience for glamorous outlaws and a love of beautiful but harsh scenery, which is missing in Decision at Sundown. Despite my criticisms, it is nice to see that people are still passionate about Westerns. Andrew Allen www.historyonfilm.com

Doc R
Doc R

Or Cheyenne Social Club or How The West Was Won or Cheyene Autumn Jeez!

Doc R
Doc R

Last Train to Gun Hill? Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid? She Wore A Yellow Ribbon? The Cowboys? The Shootist? The Man from Laramie? Bend of the River? Waterhole #3? Any of those--any ONE of them is better than Johnny Guitar or McCabe & Mrs. Miller

Dan Marino
Dan Marino

This list is a joke!! I should have expected it from England! What in the he-- does England know about Westerns?!! First off, Lonesome Dove, which IS THE BEST WESTERN EVER MADE, number 49!!! Puh-lease!! That alone negates this whole list! And no mention of Tombstone?!! Again, this list is insignificant!

M.T. Fisher
M.T. Fisher

MC CABE & MRS. MILLER the best? Now I KNOW you're on acid!

Richard N.
Richard N.

A good list but the rankings are horrible. Any list of westerns that doesn't have Once Upon A Time In The West in the top ten can't be right. Also the previous posters are dead on about some of the films missing. While some of the films on this list are good westerns, they are not as well know because they weren't as good as the more popular westerns (Meek's Cutoff for example).

Mr_S
Mr_S

My all time favorite western is "The Quick and the Dead" (1995). Wonderful, fun, over-the-top performances by all (Gene Hackman, Sharon Stone, Leonardo DiCaprio, Russell Crowe, and a great supporting cast), and great direction by Sam Raimi. Just a fun shoot 'em up that doesn't take itself too seriously.

SteveDJ34
SteveDJ34

First, I disagree with your assertion that Joh Ford needed to make up anything to Native Americans in "7 Women". If you go as far back as "Drums Along The Mohawk", sure, there were some sterotypes, unfortunately necessary for the times. But just 10 years later with "Fort Apache", Ford was already treating Native Americans with respect and honesty. There is NO stereotype in the characters of Cochese and Geronimo, just historical accuracy. John Wayne's character in particular clearly shows respect and affection for them. Second, "Pat Garrett and Bill The Kid" 2nd?!!! That shouldn't even be on the list!! "Stagecoach" "High Noon" being as low as they ae show you are either inorant, or just trying to cause argument on purpose. Not only is it insane to not have "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" included, but you left off the best modern western, "Silverado" (1985). A great story, great cinematography, and a brilliant cast (Brian Denehey, Scott Glenn, Kevin Kline, Danny Glover, Kevin Costner, et all). You really missed the boat with this list.

JR
JR

The Proposition That's it, that's the list.

sandy
sandy

Tombstone??? Silverado??

Red
Red

Did you forget Raoul Walsh's 'Pursued'? 'Django' before 'Faccia a Faccia', or 'Quien Sabe', or 'The Mercenary'? 'Vera Cruz' before 'Ulzana's Raid'? No 'For a Few Dollars More'?? 'The Claim' in the top 50?! 'Dead Man' before 'The Wild Bunch'??? McCabe may be a revisionist western, but the hardly makes it the best. Interesting list...

Maarten
Maarten

Destry rides again (1939) She wore a yellow ribbon (1949) The gunfighter (1950) 3:10 to Yuma (1957) The tall T (1957) Ride lonesome (1959) No name on the bullet (1958) The big country (1958) A fistful of dollars (1964) Hombre (1965) The professionals (1966) Quien sabe? (1966) Support your local sherrif (1968) Faccia a faccia (1968) The ballad of Cable Hogue (1970) The beguiled (1971) My name is nobody (1973) The shootist (1976) Oopsy-daisy. This still won't cover each of your entries that has got to go (including the number one). Well, at least you rightfully omitted Dances with wolves.

Allison
Allison

What??? No "3:10 to Yuma" - original and/or remake? "Dances With Wolves?" "True Grit"? Didn't see the original so I'll go for the remake.