The Best Western Movies of the 1950s

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Vote up your favorite Western films that were released in the 1950s.

Sometimes you just need a little bit of the old heroes. The old American film heroes before rock 'n roll took over and changed how heroes, and masculinity in general were portrayed on screen. These are the best 1950s Western movies, ranked from best to worst by user votes. The best 50s Western movies have a fairly wide array of plots for movies that are all tied to the same genre. Some great 1950s Westerns featured lone riders saving the day, while other good 50s Western movies included elements of comedy. A few top 1950s Western movies even featured romantic love stories.

What are some of the movies that you will find on this best 50s Western movies list? Man of the West, starring the great Gary Cooper, has to be one of the best Westerns of the 1950s or any era. Fun Fact: Cooper did his own horse-riding scenes in this classic film. John Wayne's Hondo is another good Western that was released in the 1950s.

The Western became a musical event when Oklahoma! came out in 1955. Other great films that you will find on this top 1950s Western movies list include The Searchers, High Noon, and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.

Which '50s Western do you think belongs at No. 1 on this list? Give your favorite movies a thumbs up and get in on the conversation in the comments section.
Most divisive: Annie Get Your Gun
Ranked by
  • The Searchers
    1
    John Wayne, Jeffrey Hunter, Natalie Wood
    560 votes
    • Released: 1956
    • Directed by: John Ford

    This John Ford-directed masterpiece has a profound influence on the history of cinema, exploring themes such as racism, vengeance, and redemption through the engaging story of a Civil War veteran on a quest to save his kidnapped niece from the Comanche tribe. The breathtaking Cinemascope captures the vastness of Monument Valley, reflecting the emotional turmoil facing protagonist Ethan Edwards, played by John Wayne in one of his most nuanced performances. Compelling from start to finish, its legacy endures with generations of filmmakers taking inspiration from its unique storytelling and visual style.

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  • High Noon
    2
    Gary Cooper, Grace Kelly, Katy Jurado
    497 votes
    • Released: 1952
    • Directed by: Fred Zinnemann

    This groundbreaking psychological drama defies the conventions of its time, presenting the tale of a retiring sheriff, played by Gary Cooper, who must protect his town from vengeful criminals without the support of his fellow citizens. With its real-time narrative structure and political subtext, the film serves as an allegory for the blacklist era in Hollywood. Delving deep into themes of loyalty, integrity, and fear, all set against the backdrop of a ticking clock, High Noon is not only a gripping suspense but also a biting critique of societal conformity.

  • Shane
    3
    Alan Ladd, Jean Arthur, Van Heflin
    542 votes
    • Released: 1953
    • Directed by: George Stevens

    Alan Ladd's portrayal of the enigmatic gunfighter who helps protect a group of homesteaders from ruthless cattlemen embodies the dichotomy of the classic hero, touching on both the mythic and human aspects of the character. Director George Stevens captures the conflict between the changing times and the Old West ways through the eyes of a young boy transfixed by the stranger in their midst. As the story unfolds, Shane showcases memorable performances, stunning cinematography, and an enduring message about the cost of violence.

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  • Rio Bravo
    4
    John Wayne, Dean Martin, Ricky Nelson
    466 votes
    • Released: 1959
    • Directed by: Howard Hawks

    Teaming up director Howard Hawks and actor John Wayne, this iconic film offers both a gripping tale of camaraderie and a critique of the then-controversial concept of "community policing" in law enforcement. The eclectic ensemble cast, including Dean Martin, Ricky Nelson, and Walter Brennan, brings depth to each role, while the tense standoffs and shootouts make for an engaging viewing experience. By deftly balancing humor, emotion, and suspense, Rio Bravo remains a standout entry in the pantheon of classic cinema.

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  • Hondo
    5
    John Wayne, Geraldine Page, Ward Bond
    434 votes
    • Released: 1953
    • Directed by: John Farrow

    In this riveting adaptation of Louis L'Amour's novel, John Wayne delivers a captivating performance as the titular character, a dispatch rider who finds himself entangled in the lives of a mother and her young son on an isolated ranch. With its stunning Arizona desert landscapes, Hondo serves as a nuanced exploration of relationships, duty, and the complexities of frontier life. The film's gritty realism, engaging characters, and thoughtful approach to its subject matter elevate it beyond simple entertainment.

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  • Winchester '73
    6
    James Stewart, Shelley Winters, Dan Duryea
    389 votes
    • Released: 1950
    • Directed by: Anthony Mann

    Directed by Anthony Mann and starring James Stewart, this unconventional film delves into the darker sides of human nature as it follows the journey of a prized rifle, the Winchester '73, as it changes hands between a multitude of morally complex characters. With its episodic structure, the movie provides insightful glimpses into the lives of each owner, resulting in a tale that is both compelling and thought-provoking. Due to its innovative storytelling and stark portrayal of the human condition, Winchester '73 is heralded as a milestone in cinema history.

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