100 Greatest Westerns

(NEW: June 2019) The Old West has been a source of American mythology for well more than a century. The genre grew alongside the birth of cinema. The character of the “cowboy” is instantly recognizable across the globe - and is synonymous both with Hollywood and the United States itself. These 100 films explore the varied ways filmmakers have creatively used the Western and created these larger-than-life legends.  You can see a list of sources used to compile the list here.

The Searchers.jpg

#1) The Searchers

(1956 - dir. John Ford)

John Wayne plays Ethan Edwards - a character who has been debated and analyzed for more than half a century. Monument Valley is as much a star as Wayne in the runaway #1 on this list.

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#2) Once Upon a Time in the West

(1968 - dir. Sergio Leone)

The ultimate Spaghetti Western, the epic was largely shot in Italy and Spain. Henry Fonda, Charles Bronson and Claudia Cardinale shine in Leone’s exciting, moving, beautiful opus.


#3) The Wild Bunch

(1969 - dir. Sam Peckinpah)

The graphic violence of The Wild Bunch shocked many audience members used to years of sanitized TV westerns like Bonanza. Paul W. Gleason wrote an excellent essay on this film in the LA Times, saying The Wild Bunch “killed the Western dream.”


#4) The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

(1966 - dir. Sergio Leone)

The iconic film set during the Civil War is, for my money, Clint Eastwood’s best. The score and the “Mexican standoff” are instantly recognizable.


#5) Unforgiven

(1992 - dir. Clint Eastwood)

Eastwood was nominated for Best Director in Unforgiven, one of four Westerns to win Best Picture. The story of aging gunman “William Munny,” played by Eastwood, explores the nature of violence and the way we perceive it our stories about the West.


#6) High Noon

(1952 - dir. Fred Zinneman)

Often interpreted as an allegory against McCarthyism, High Noon belongs to Grace Kelly as much as it does the hero, Gary Cooper. The film emphasizes dialogue and dramatic tension over action — in contrast to many of the films on this list.


#7) Shane

(1953 - dir. George Stevens)

“Shane, come back!” Alan Ladd stars as the mysterious gunfighter who helps a Wyoming family. With violence that was shocking at the time, the film influenced many Westerns that followed.


#8) Stagecoach

(1939 - dir. John Ford)

The movie that made John Wayne a star. The journey of American archetypes on the Overland Stage Line was one of the best films of 1939 — a year that included Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz.

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#9) Red River

(dir. 1948 - dir. Arthur Rosson, Howard Hawks)

The raucous, fun, time travel classic is a pop icon in itself. The paradoxes are instantly recognizable by generations of film-goers. Don’t marry your mother!

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#10) Rio Bravo

(1959 - dir. Howard Hawks)

Rio Bravo was John Wayne’s response to High Noon, which he considered communist. In High Noon, the hero must stand alone. But in Rio Bravo, the community bands together to defeat the bad guys. Go figure.


#11) Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

(1969 - dir. George Roy Hill)

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#12) The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

(1962 - dir. John Ford)

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#13) McCabe & Mrs. Miller

(1971 - dir. Robert Altman)

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#14) My Darling Clementine

(1946 - dir. John Ford)

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#15) The Outlaw Josey Wales

(1976 - dir. Clint Eastwood)

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#16) The Magnificent Seven

(1960 - dir. John Sturges)


#17) Winchester ‘73

(1950 - dir. Anthony Mann)

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#18) Dances With Wolves

(1990 - dir. Kevin Costner)


#19) High Plains Drifter

(1973 - dir. Clint Eastwood)


#20) Blazing Saddles

(1974 - dir. Mel Brooks)

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#21) One-Eyed Jacks

(1961 - dir. Marlon Brando)


#22) A Fistful of Dollars

(1964 - dir. Sergio Leone)


#23) Django

(1966 - dir. Sergio Corbucci)

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#24) The Naked Spur

(1953 - dir. Anthony Mann)

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#25) Johnny Guitar

(1954 - dir. Nicholas Ray)

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#26) For a Few Dollars More

(1965 - dir. Sergio Leone)


#27) The Ox-Bow Incident

(143 - dir. William Wellman)


#28) Dead Man

(1995 - dir. Jim Jarmusch)

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#29) The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

(1948 - dir. John Huston)


#30) Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid

(1973 - dir. Sam Peckinpah)

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#31) Ride the High Country

(1962 - dir. Sam Peckinpah)

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#32) Lonesome Dove

(1989 - dir. Simon Wincer)


#33) The Great Silence

(1968 - dir. Sergio Corbucci)


#34) El Topo

(1970 - dir. Alejandro Jodorowsky)

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#35) Destry Rides Again

(1939 - dir. George Marshall)


#36) The Shootist

(1976 - dir. Don Siegel

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#37) Little Big Man

(1970 - dir. Arthur Penn)


#38) Heaven’s Gate

(1980 - dir. Michael Cimino)


#39) Meek’s Cutoff

(2010 - dir. Kelly Reichardt)

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#40) The Shooting

(1966 - dir. Monte Hellman)


#41) She Wore a Yellow Ribbon

(1949 - dir. John Ford)


#42) Forty Guns

(1957 - dir. Samuel Fuller)


#43) The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

(2007 - dir. Andrew Dominik)


#44) Fort Apache

(1948 - dir. John Ford)

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#45) The Gunfighter

(1950 - dir. Henry King)

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#46) Open Range

(2003 - dir. Kevin Costner)


#47) Tombstone

(1993 - dir. George P. Cosmatos)

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#48) 3:10 to Yuma

(1957 - dir. Delmer Daves)

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#49) Rancho Notorious

(1952 - dir. Fritz Lang)

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#50) The Man from Laramie

(1955 - dir. Anthony Mann)

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#51) The Great Train Robbery

(1903 - dir. Edwin S. Porter)

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#52) Wagon Master

(1950 - dir. John Ford)

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#53) Ulzana’s Raid

(1972 - dir. Robert Aldrich)

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#54) The Missouri Breaks

(1976 - dir. Arthur Penn)


#55) The Day of the Outlaw

(1959 - dir. Andre de Toth)


#56) Requiescant

(1967 - dir. Carlo Lizzani)

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#57) The Gold Rush

(1925 - dir. Charles Chaplin)


#58) The Big Trail

(1930 - dir. Louis R. Loeffler, Raoul Walsh)


#59) Decision at Sundown

(1957 - dir. Budd Boetticher)


#60) Duel in the Sun

(1948 - dir. King Vidor, Otto Brower)

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#61) Gunfight at the O.K. Corral

(1957 - dir. John Sturges)


#62) Cat Ballou

(1965 - dir. Elliot Silverstein)


#63) Face to Face

(1967 - dir. Sergio Sollima)


#64) Giant

(1956 - dir. George Stevens)


#65) A Bullet for the General

(1967 - dir. Damiano Damiani)

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#66) El Dorado

(1967 - dir. Howard Hawks)

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#67) Support Your Local Sheriff!

(1969 - dir. Burt Kennedy)

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#68) Seven Men From Now

(1956 - dir. Burt Boetticher)

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#69) Duck, You Sucker

(1971 - dir. Sergio Leone)


#70) Cowboy

(1958 - dir. Delmer Daves)


#71) Pale Rider

(1985 - dir. Clint Eastwood)

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#72) Seven Women

(1966 - John Ford)


#73) True Grit

(1969 - dir. Henry Hathaway


#74) Dodge City

(1939 - dir. Michael Curtiz)


#75) Django Unchained

(2012 - dir. Quentin Tarantino)


#76) Vera Cruz

(1954 dir. Robert Aldrich)

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#77) A Man Called Horse

(1970 - dir. Elliot Silverstein)


#78) Warlock

(1959 - dir. Edward Dymtryk)

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#79) The Virginian

(1929 - dir. Victor Fleming)


#80) The Sons of Katie Elder

(1965 - dir. Henry Hathaway)


#81) True Grit

(2010 - dir. Joel & Ethan Coen)


#82) Rio Grande

(1950 - dir. John Ford)


#83) Silverado

(1985 - dir. Lawrence Kasdan)

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#84) My Name is Nobody

(1973 - dir. Sergio Leone, Tonino Velerii)


#85) Union Pacific

(1939 - dir. Cecil B. DeMille)


#86) Angel and the Badman

(1947 - dir. James Edward Grant)

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#87) The Grey Fox

(1982 - dir. Phillip Borsos)


#88) City Slickers

(1991 - dir. Ron Underwood)

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#89) Rancho Deluxe

(1975 - dir. Frank Perry)

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#90) Hell or High Water

(2016 - dir. David Mackenzie)

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#91) The Claim

(2000 - dir. Michael Winterbottom)


#92) Oklahoma!

(1955 - dir. Fred Zinneman)

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#93) The Hired Hand

(1971 - dir. Peter Fonda)


#94) Friendly Persuasion

(1956 - dir. William Wyler)


#95) No Country For Old Men

(2007 - dir. Joel & Ethan Coen)

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#96) The Man From Snowy River

(1982 - dir. George T. Miller)


#97) Rango

(2011 - dir. Gore Verbinski)

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#98) The Long Riders

(1980 - dir. Walter Hill)

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#99) The Revenant

(2015 - dir. Alejandro G. Iñárritu)

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#100) Blood on the Moon

(1948 - dir. Robert Wise)

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2019 List Facts

Oldest Film: The Great Train Robbery (1902)
Newest Film: Hell or High Water (2016)

Number of Films by Decade:
1900s: 1
1910s: 0
1920s: 2
1930s: 5
1940s: 9
1950s: 24
1960s: 22
1970s: 15
1980s: 7
1990s: 4
2000s: 4
2010s: 6

Most Represented Year: 1939, 1950, 1956, 1957, 1966, 1967, 1969 with four each.

Directors with Multiple Films Listed:
9, John Ford (Fort Apache, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, My Darling Clementine, Rio Grande, The Searchers, Seven Women, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, Stagecoach, Wagon Master)
6, Sergio Leone (Duck, You Sucker, A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, My Name is Nobody, Once Upon a Time in the West)
4, Clint Eastwood (High Plains Drifter, The Outlaw Josey Wales, Pale Rider, Unforgiven)
3, Howard Hawks (Red River, El Dorado, Rio Bravo)
3, Anthony Mann (The Man from Laramie, The Naked Spur, Winchester ‘73)
3, Sam Peckinpah (Pat Garrett & Billy the Kidd, Ride the High Country, The Wild Bunch)
2, Robert Aldrich (Ulzana’s Raid, Vera Cruz)
2, Budd Boetticher (Decision at Sundown, Seven Men From Now)
2, Joel & Ethan Coen (No Country for Old Men, True Grit)
2, Sergio Corbucci (Django, The Great Silence)
2, Kevin Costner (Dances with Wolves, Open Range)
2, Delmer Daves (3:10 to Yuma, Cowboy)
2, Henry Hathaway (The Sons of Katie Elder, True Grit)
2, Arthur Penn (Little Big Man, The Missouri Breaks)
2, Elliot Silverstein (Cat Ballou, A Man Called Horse)
2, George Stevens (Giant, Shane)
2, John Sturges (Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, The Magnificent Seven)
2, Fred Zinneman (High Noon, Oklahoma!)