Westerns

The Best Cowboy Characters In Film & TV History 

Ranker Entertainment
Updated March 25, 2020 3k votes 359 voters 7.5k views 29 items

List Rules Movie and TV characters only

A lot of people have romantic notions about America's Wild West. They dream of a time when people rode on horseback and followed their own code of ethics. Back then, there was still land to discover, and people settled their differences with a showdown at high noon. It seems like it would have been an exciting time to be alive, which is probably why so many people flock to Westerns, and why these stories often feature so many iconic characters. Here is a list of the greatest cowboy characters to ever grace the big and small screens.

The Lone Ranger is a famous example of the classic cowboy. Alongside his friend, Tonto, he follows his own moral code and always stands up for the little guy. Zorro also falls into this category, as did William Munny - at least in his later years. The one thing all these cowboy characters seem to have in common is that they are often loners who stand up for justice, even if it means occasionally breaking the rules. Which cowboy character from films and TV shows is your favorite?

Grab your lasso and vote up all the cowboys you would feel safer having around to protect your town from ruffians.

list ordered by
1
Doc Holliday is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Cowboy Characters In Film & TV History
Tombstone

Played By: Val Kilmer

"I have two guns, one for each of ya."

2
Man with No Name is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Cowboy Characters In Film & TV History
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, A Fistful of Dollars

Played By: Clint Eastwood, Yasuo Yamada, Timothy Olyphant

"It's not a joke, it's a rope, Tuco. Now I want you to get up there and put your head in that noose."

3
Josey Wales is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Cowboy Characters In Film & TV History
The Outlaw Josey Wales

Played By: Clint Eastwood

"Are you gonna pull those pistols or whistle Dixie?"

4
Wyatt Earp is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Cowboy Characters In Film & TV History
Tombstone

Played By: Kevin Costner

"You tell 'em I'M coming... and hell's coming with me, you hear?... Hell's coming with me!"

5
Rooster Cogburn is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Cowboy Characters In Film & TV History
True Grit

Played By: John Wayne

"You can't serve papers on a rat, baby sister. You gotta kill him or let him be."

6
William Munny is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Cowboy Characters In Film & TV History
Unforgiven

Played By: Clint Eastwood

"It's a hell of a thing, killing a man. Take away all he's got and all he's ever gonna have."

7
Ethan Edwards is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Cowboy Characters In Film & TV History
The Searchers

Played By: John Wayne

"Figure a man's only good for one oath at a time; I took mine to the Confederate States of America."

8
Marshal Matt Dillon is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Cowboy Characters In Film & TV History
Gunsmoke, Gunsmoke: Return to Dodge, Gunsmoke: The Last Apache

Played By: James Arness

"If you're gonna to use that gun, you better start on me."

9
Butch Cassidy is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Cowboy Characters In Film & TV History
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

"If he'd just pay me what he's spending to make me stop robbing him, I'd stop robbing him."

10
Tom Doniphon is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Cowboy Characters In Film & TV History
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

Played By: John Wayne

"Liberty Valance's the toughest man south of the Picketwire - next to me."

11
Eric 'Hoss' Cartwright ... is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Cowboy Characters In Film & TV History
Eric 'Hoss' Cartwright Bonanza

Played By: Dan Blocker

"Folks around here judge a man by what he is, not what he was."

12
Lieutenant Dunbar is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Cowboy Characters In Film & TV History
Dances with Wolves

Played By: Kevin Costner

"My name is Dances with Wolves. I have nothing to say to you. You are not worth talking to."

13
The Sundance Kid is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Cowboy Characters In Film & TV History
Blackthorn, The Legend of Butch & Sundance, Outlaw Trail: The Treasure of Butch Cassidy

"What I'm saying is, if you want to go, I won't stop you. But the minute you start to whine or make a nuisance, I don't care where we are, I'm dumping you flat."

14
Will Kane is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Cowboy Characters In Film & TV History
High Noon, High Noon part II: The Return of Will Kane

Played By: Gary Cooper, Lee Majors

"Don't shove me Harv. I'm tired of being shoved."

15
Django is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Cowboy Characters In Film & TV History
Django Unchained, Django, One Damned Day at Dawn… Django Meets Sartana!

Played By: Franco Nero, Jamie Foxx, Jack Betts, Anthony Steffen, George Hilton

"Kill white people and get paid for it? What's not to like?"

16
Sam Chisholm is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Cowboy Characters In Film & TV History
Sam Chisholm Magnificent Seven

"Man carries a gun, he tends to use it."

17
Ranger Cordell Walker is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Cowboy Characters In Film & TV History
Walker, Texas Ranger

Played By: Chuck Norris

"That's what life is all about people, making the smart choices."

18
William Brocius is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Cowboy Characters In Film & TV History
Carly Kiel added Curly Bill Brocius Tombstone

Played By: Powers Boothe, Jon Voight, Lewis Smith

"Looks like we win."

19
Zorro is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Cowboy Characters In Film & TV History
Zorro, Kaiketsu Zorro, The Mask of Zorro

Played By: Toshihiko Seki, Guy Williams, Tyrone Power, Antonio Banderas, Douglas Fairbanks, + more

"Be careful senorita, there are dangerous men about."

20
Ben Wade is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Cowboy Characters In Film & TV History
Ben Wade 3:10 to Yuma

Played By: Glenn Ford, Russell Crowe

"You know, squeezin' that watch won't stop time."

21
Jebediah Nightlinger is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Cowboy Characters In Film & TV History
HarryBerman added Jebediah Nightlinger The Cowboys

Played By: Roscoe Lee Browne

"As a matter of fact I shot that military gentlemen in the buttocks. Just outside Vicksburg."

22
John Ruth is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Cowboy Characters In Film & TV History
John Ruth The Hateful Eight

"You only need to hang mean b*stards, but mean b*stards you need to hang!"

23
Billy the Kid is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Cowboy Characters In Film & TV History
Young Guns

Played By: Emilio Estevez

"You know, Sir, I do admire you, and I sure would like to touch the gun that's gonna kill Billy the Kid."

24
The Lone Ranger is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Cowboy Characters In Film & TV History
The Lone Ranger The Lone Ranger, The Lone Ranger

Played By: Chad Michael Murray, Armie Hammer

"That was supposed to be a warning shot."

25
Dan Evans is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Cowboy Characters In Film & TV History
3:10 to Yuma

Played By: Van Heflin, Christian Bale

"You say one more word, and I'll cut you down right here."