Wild West Movies That Are Probably More Fun Than Going Out On A Friday Night

List Rules
Vote up the Westerns you'd bail on your friends to watch on a Friday night.

There's an undeniable attraction to the lawlessness of the Wild West, where disputes were solved with fists and revolvers, the open frontier was vast and wild, good guys wore white and bad guys wore black, and booze flowed like water. In reality, of course, the romanticized depictions of the Wild West were nothing like the arid, dysentery-filled, boredom-packed reality - but that's why we have movies! We can enjoy the fantasy without all those pesky "facts" that always prove to be total bummers.

In an effort to keep the myth and mystique of frontier life alive, here's a look at some great Wild West movies that have all the gunslinging, whiskey-sipping, bandit punching, train-robbing, poker-playing fun you could possibly want. Some of these are often cited among the greatest Westerns ever made. Others on this list eschew realism or brutality in exchange for endless fun. Each of these, for different reasons, are well worth your time and just might scratch that itch for a retreat to a time of lawlessness and boundless exploration.


  • 1
    65 VOTES

    Legendary lawdog Wyatt Earp (Kurt Russell) decides to retire from the life of crimefighting to open a saloon in the quickly developing town of Tombstone, AZ, with his brothers Virgil (Sam Elliot) and Morgan (Bill Paxton) - both retired lawmen as well - and their families. They're later joined by their friend, gunslinger Doc Holiday (Val Kilmer), who is suffering from tuberculosis. Despite Wyatt's best efforts to keep to himself and live a quiet life, the persistent, chaotic presence of a group of outlaws known as the Cowboys, who rule over the town with chaos and fear, eventually forces the Earps and Doc to don their badges and stand up to the merciless bandits.

    The Cowboys - commanded by the psychopathic Curly Bill (Powers Boothe) and his quiet, menacing right-hand man Johnny Ringo (Michael Biehn) - terrorize Tombstone and its citizens until the brothers face off against them at the infamous showdown at the OK Corral, which leads to the demise of several members. When Morgan is shot in retribution, Wyatt makes it his life's mission to hunt down and shoot every man wearing the signature red sash of the Cowboys. This fun, sometimes over-the-top Western features memorable dialogue and arguably the best performance of Kilmer's career.

    • Actors: Kurt Russell, Val Kilmer, Michael Biehn, Powers Boothe, Robert John Burke
    • Released: 1993
    • Directed by: George P. Cosmatos
    65 votes

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  • Ransom Stoddard (Jimmy Stewart) is an idealistic and ambitious young lawyer who moves from the East Coast to the unincorporated frontier town of Shinbone, where he finds himself in the crosshairs of a vicious outlaw, Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin). Stoddard finds a friend and ally in local farmer Tom Doniphon (John Wayne), who helps Stoddard after he suffers a vicious beating at the hands of Valance. Stoddard opens a law office and starts a school to educate the local residents, which both threaten Valance's grip on the town, and he's a man who only knows how to communicate through force.

    As a fight over statehood begins, with Stoddard advocating for incorporation and Valance being paid by cattle ranchers to block efforts to get the state to join the Union, the tensions between Stoddard and Valance escalate. Stoddard, who always adhered to the rule of the law and the power of intellect over brutality, is suddenly forced to consider abandoning his values to stop Valance once and for all. 

    • Actors: James Stewart, John Wayne, Vera Miles, Lee Marvin, Edmond O'Brien
    • Released: 1962
    • Directed by: John Ford
    42 votes

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  • A small Mexican town is routinely raided and pillaged by a group of bandits led by the evil Calvera (Eli Wallach). In an effort to defend their town and livelihoods, three villagers travel to the Southern border looking to buy arms but are convinced instead to hire Cajun gunslinger Chris Adams (Yul Brenner) who, in turn, rounds up six other trained gunfighters - each with their own motivations for taking on such a dangerous job for such little pay. Upon arriving in the village, the gunfighters help the villagers build defenses and learn how to shoot so they can take on Calvera themselves, and soon begin to form friendships with those who live there.

    After a confrontation with Calvera's men, the seven gunslingers are given a chance to leave the town and avoid facing off against a large bandit force, but they feel bound by honor and their bond with the town to return and fight against Calvera's villainous crew. The Magnificent Seven, released in 1960, is a Western reimagining of Akira Kurosawa's 1954 film The Seven Samurai.

    • Actors: Yul Brynner, Eli Wallach, Steve McQueen, Horst Bucholz, Charles Bronson
    • Released: 1960
    • Directed by: John Sturges
    47 votes

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  • 4
    46 VOTES

    In Big Whiskey, WY, the employees at a brothel put a $1,000 bounty on the heads of two cowboys who cut up one of their co-worker's faces. Living in Kansas, and in need of money for his family, retired gunslinger Will Munny (Clint Eastwood) breaks away from his lawful life, teams up with a young hotshot named the Schofield Kid (Jaimz Woolvett), and brings his friend, fellow reformed outlaw Ned Logan (Morgan Freeman), out of retirement for one last job.

    The group head out to Big Whiskey to take care of the cowboys and collect the bounty, but discover the local sadistic sheriff, "Little Bill" Daggett (Gene Hackman), rules over the town with an authoritarian fist and has forbidden the presence of firearms - or bounty hunters - in the city. After some rough encounters between the trio and Daggett's goons, the job becomes about more than a payday for Munny, and he will stop at nothing to get revenge. The film tackles some of the biggest recurring tropes and themes of the Western genre and went on to win four Oscars, including Best Picture.

    • Actors: Clint Eastwood, Gene Hackman, Morgan Freeman, Richard Harris, Jaimz Woolvett
    • Released: 1992
    • Directed by: Clint Eastwood
    46 votes

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  • 5
    51 VOTES

    In the film that finally earned John Wayne his first and only Oscar, the iconic Western hero stars as a washed-up, eye-patch-clad drunken US Marshal named Rooster Cogburn, who's hired by a stubborn, headstrong teenage girl, Mattie Ross (Kim Darby), to help hunt down outlaw Tom Chaney (Jeff Corey), who slew her father. Meanwhile, a young Texas Ranger named La Boeuf (Glen Campbell), who's also searching for Chaney, joins forces with Cogburn and the frustratingly persistent teen, to track him.

    The 1969 film is considered a classic, and Wayne's performance is among his best. The Coen brothers remade the film in 2010 starring Jeff Bridges as the broken-down Cogburn, Matt Damon as LaBoeuf, and Hailee Steinfeld as Mattie Ross. Both versions of the film have different merits - most notably, the 2010 remake features better performances all around - but there's a timeless quality to the original that makes both indispensable takes on the Western revenge tale.

    • Actors: John Wayne, Glen Campbell, Kim Darby, Jeremy Slate, Robert Duvall
    • Released: 1969
    • Directed by: Henry Hathaway
    51 votes

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  • In director Sergio Leone's most famous film, three opposing forces collide in this tale of greed, bloody vengeance, and bounty hunting. Clint Eastwood reprises his role as The Man with No Name - playing "The Good" referenced in the film's title - who goes by the nickname Blondie. Meanwhile, Tuco (Eli Wallach), AKA "The Ugly," is a Mexican bandit who ran cons with Blondie until the pair had a falling out, and Tuco seeks revenge. Meanwhile, the ruthless bounty hunter who goes by the moniker Angel Eyes (Lee Van Cleef) joins in the fray as all three soon find themselves in a race to find a legendary cache of hidden gold.

    While it's the final installment in Leone's "Dollars" trilogy - with A Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More coming before it - few Westerns have the kind of reputation as The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. With its iconic three-way showdown climax and Eastwood's glare becoming an ingrained part of pop culture and frequently mimicked and parodied in other films, almost everyone knows the references even if they haven't seen the film - and they're even more effective once you have.

    • Actors: Clint Eastwood, Eli Wallach, Lee Van Cleef, Aldo Giuffré, Chelo Alonso
    • Released: 1967
    • Directed by: Sergio Leone
    56 votes

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