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The Greatest Westerns That Don't Take Place In The Old West

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Vote up the greatest Westerns that don't actually take place in the Old West.

They don't make Westerns like they used to. Much like the Wild West itself, the production of Western movies has largely faded away since the genre's golden age, which lasted from the 1940s through the 1960s. However, that doesn't mean Western films stopped being made once Monument Valley stopped being the location du jour.

The tradition of the Western continued to live on - and does so to this day. The spirit of the West was simply transplanted to small 20th-century towns, the Australian wilderness, Iranian ghost towns, and even post-apocalyptic wastelands. These films take instantly recognizable elements of Old West movies and simply take them out of the West, often blending them with other genres and settings no 19th-century cowboy would ever recognize. Some of the best "Westerns" in this vein don't take place in the West at all. The genre has proven just as malleable from a temporal standpoint, with Westerns popping up in every era, including those yet to come.

These are a handful of the greatest Western movies that left the Old West behind.

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  • No Country for Old Men
    Photo: Miramax

    This Oscar-winning film from the Coen Brothers truly does feel like it's set in the Old West, even though it takes place in 1980. The West Texas desert aesthetic certainly helps the film in that regard, but the real Western influences come from the no-frills storytelling and breathtaking tension.

    The film features side arms, desert chases, and an unforgettable villain with a twisted moral code.

    • Actors: Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem, Tommy Lee Jones, Kelly Macdonald, Woody Harrelson
    • Released: 2007
    • Directed by: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
    43 votes

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  • 2
    17 VOTES

    Set in 1990s South Texas, this neo-Western mystery follows a small town sheriff as he investigates the homicide of another sheriff 40 years earlier. He is shocked to find out that the prime suspect is none other than his late father and former sheriff, played by Matthew McConaughey.

    While the movie is not set in the Old West, this story about lawmen and dark secrets - in Texas, no less - certainly counts as a Western.

    • Actors: Chris Cooper, Elizabeth Peña, Joe Morton, Ron Canada, Clifton James
    • Released: 1996
    • Directed by: John Sayles
    17 votes

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  • Putting Tommy Lee Jones in a movie is almost enough to make any movie a de facto Western, but Three Burials accomplishes that tone with or without him. That's because the movie is based on the true story of a Texas teenager who was taken out by a US Marine near the border.

    In the film - which Jones also directed - an undocumented immigrant meets an untimely end after a border patrolman mistakes his firing at a coyote for an attempt on his life. In response to the cover-up, the departed's friend and one-time employer Pete Perkins (Jones) takes matters into his own hands, taking the culprit hostage and digging up his friend's remains in order to return them across the border to their rightful resting place.

    • Actors: Tommy Lee Jones, Barry Pepper, Levon Helm, Melissa Leo, January Jones
    • Released: 2005
    • Directed by: Tommy Lee Jones
    24 votes

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  • 4
    16 VOTES
    The Misfits
    Photo: MGM

    The Misfits is remembered for being the last film of both Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable, with Gable succumbing to complications from a heart attack before the film's 1961 premiere and Monroe passing the following year.

    The iconic blonde bombshell stars as a former exotic dancer turned Nevada horse wrangler as she navigates a world filled with men. It's a touching romantic drama and makes great use of its Western setting.

    • Actors: Clark Gable, Marilyn Monroe, Montgomery Clift, Thelma Ritter, Eli Wallach
    • Released: 1961
    • Directed by: John Huston
    16 votes

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  • 5
    14 VOTES

    Paul Newman stars in Hud as the title character, a morally scrupulous rancher's son who comes into constant conflict with his father Homer. After one of the cows at the ranch perishes from a mysterious disease, Hud and Homer fight over how to handle the situation.

    This slow-burn drama is set in the contemporary 1960s, but its Texas Panhandle setting and thoughtful ruminations on the value of morality clearly evoke a particular strain of Western lineage.

    • Actors: Paul Newman, Melvyn Douglas, Patricia Neal, Brandon De Wilde, John Ashley
    • Released: 1963
    • Directed by: Martin Ritt
    14 votes

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  • 6
    27 VOTES

    Hugh Jackman's last appearance as Wolverine is perhaps his best, and it's one of the best neo-Westerns of the decade. The film follows an old, grizzled Logan in a future in which the X-Men are all but gone. He and Professor Xavier are living near the border when they're approached by a woman desperate for their help, and Logan reluctantly agrees to look after a child.

    There are many parallels to this film and the last days of the Old West - especially the themes about generational cycles and the end of an old way of life - and Logan explicitly calls to mind George Stevens's classic Western Shane.

    • Actors: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen, Richard E. Grant, Doris Morgado
    • Released: 2017
    • Directed by: James Mangold
    27 votes

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