Here are the 16 best westerns on Netflix guaranteed to have you dreaming of the open road.
The 16 Best Western Movies On Netflix
16. ‘Red Dawn’
A small Colorado town might not feel like the most common setting for a classic Western, but Red Dawn turns Calumet, Colorado, into one of the best guerilla Westerns of the 80s. No, there aren’t any horses or cowboys, and the plot revolves around an imaginary Soviet/Cuban occupation of the United States. But if the best westerns always have raised stakes, beautiful countryside, standoffs, and long stares into the distance, then nothing beats Red Dawn. While most people unfavorably remember the failed 2012 Chris Hemsworth reboot, the original Red Dawn is a classic example of how the western mentality never really left.
15. ‘Back To The Future 3’
OK, so hear me out... Most wouldn’t classify Back To The Future 3 as a quintessential western. But nothing beats Michael J. Fox in a cowboy hat and a scenario that doesn’t include accidentally trying to sleep with his mother. After Marty McFly learns that Doc. Brown is trapped in 1855, he and Doc Brown (from another time) go on an epic western adventure to save the day, the DeLorean, and every one of Marty’s past adventures into time. Besides the fact that this is the only film where the future is actually featured (at all), this tech spin on the western world makes Back To The Future 3 a must-watch or at least something to put on while you cook or do some other couch-based task.
14. ‘Casa De Mi Padre’
It is a fundamental fact of mankind that westerns are serious, artistic films. It is also a fundamental fact that Will Ferrell can do anything he wants for the rest of time. In Casa De Mi Padre, Armando Alvarez (Will Ferrell) thinks his family’s ranch has been saved by the appearance of his business savvy younger brother Raul (Diego Luna). But a series of unfortunate and comical events find Armando in love with Raul’s fiance, and the entire family embroiled in a fierce battle with Mexico’s fiercest drug dealer. Come for the comedic genius of Will Ferrell in his prime and stay for pre-Star Wars Diego Luna’s face. Literally, just his face makes the entire movie worth it.
For a serious, honest to god western, Hostiles pretty much fits the bill. Anti-Native Captain Joseph Blocker (Christian Bale) is ordered to escort a dying chief back to his family lands in Montana. Along the way, they encounter Rosalie Quaid (Rosamund Pike) whose family has been killed by a war raid. Together, they make a long and dangerous trek to bury the chief in honor. One of the worst tropes in Western films is the blatant racism for Native Americans. There is something uncomfortable about watching western expansion stylized in front of a beautiful backdrop. While Hostiles acknowledges the struggles of that era through the lens of white saviors, the Native American characters are given the chance to stand on their own. For those looking to escape some of the seriousness, you can play spot Timothee Chalamet playing the perfect role for his body type: a private in desperate need of a sandwich.
12. ‘Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark’
While I was tempted to include every Indiana Jones movie on this list, Raiders of The Lost Ark made the list for its inclusion of the greatest shootout scene of all time. For those who have lived under a rock for 20 years, here’s the basic premise. The setting: American archaeologist Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) is tasked with stopping the Nazi Party from finding the Ark of the Covenant. The vibe: young Harrison Ford sweating in the Peru heat, dressed in a leather jacket that fueled enrollment in archaeology classes for years. The kicker: The Nazi’s are working with Jones’ fellow colleague and a good friend. The lesson: always bring a gun to a knife fight.
11. ‘El Camino’
Yes, Breaking Bad is a television show. But El Camino, the epilogue Netflix film, takes Breaking Bad’s western vibes to a whole other level. Taking place after the final episode of El Camino, Jesse Pinkman flees the life he built with Walter White and tries his hardest to start a new one. To get home free to Alaska, Pinkman is forced to wrestle with his past choices and must decide what his new ones will be. While a lot of good westerns harness the power of time, El Camino leans even harder into the western vibes of the modern-day. Our antiheroes are drug dealers, the wild wild west replaced with a drug-infused landscape, and our trusty steed replaced by a gorgeous El Camino.
10. ‘Hateful Eight’
While this stylized Quentin Tarantino flick is trope enough to inspire a Netflix parody film, its long-lived popularity was well deserved. The Hateful Eight follows the paths of two bounty hunters on their way to collect their funds from Red Rock Wyoming. In the middle of their journey, a blizzard forces them to rest at a local haberdashery, setting into motion a chain of events so haphazard and twisting that to explain would be to spoil the entire film. A thriller of epic proportions, The Hateful Eight compiles a killer cast of bounty hunters, Lincoln lovers, and damsels in distress to engage in the shootout of the century.
9. ‘The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly’
How could I talk about westerns and not include this Eastwood classic? The original spaghetti western, The Good, The Bad, And the Ugly stars an in his prime Clint Eastwood, before his eight children but after god blessed him with the jawline of a king. In the middle of the “War Between The States”, a group of bounty hunters try to kill a Mexican bandit, a fugitive runs with a bundle of Confederate gold, and a mercenary figures out how to get his bounty and much, much, more. If you’re looking for a film that includes horse chases, stolen goods, fugitive rewards, and sheriffs who really shouldn’t have their jobs, you’ve come to the correct place.
8. ‘Once Upon A TIme In The West’
1981 might not have been a great year for the Cold War, but it was a pretty good time for westerns. Once Upon A Time In The West portrays the struggles between a western town, a conniving railroad, and a quest for justice at all costs. Yes, Once Upon A Time In The West was made famous for its casting of Henry Fonda as the villain (since Clint Eastwood was unavailable), but the main focus of this film should be Claudia Cardinale’s epic portrayal of the sexy homesteader because nothing says attractive like a woman in the west who was recently widowed. While critics agree that the 145 minute cut of the film was a financial flop, the cultural reset it provided claimed Once Upon A Time In The West a spot in the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry.
7. ‘There Will Be Blood’
As someone who would listen to Daniel Day-Lewis read the factory warnings on a vacuum cleaner, I would be remiss to not mention There Will Be Blood as one of the greatest westerns Netflix has to offer. Set in the 1898 oil boom, Daniel Day-Lewis stars as Daniel Plainview, a miner who quickly learns that oil is the key to the nation’s future. However, when Plainview gets a taste for oil, his business plans quickly turn sour and he is forced to make tough calls to claim what he thinks is rightfully his. His quest for wealth sets in motion an epic quest for power, blood, and the every disappearing treasure of oil. This film is 158 minutes of cinematic genius and will cause you to think long after the credits roll.
6. ‘Slow West’
Sundance’s 2015 Jury Prize for Dramatic Winner, Slow West is a hidden gem that tells a love story set in the wild, wild, west. Looking for his one true love, Jay Cavendish (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is joined by gruff bounty hunter Silas Sellick (Michael Fassbender) on a quest to find Rose Ross (Caren Pistorious). Once found, Cavendish wants Rose to join him in happily wedded bliss. The twist? Bounty hunter Sellick isn’t helping out of the goodness of heart. Instead, he is trying to claim the $2,000 bounty lying on Rose’s head. While the action in this film slowly rises, the acting, plot, and cinematography work together to make a truly gorgeous film.
While this western is set in Prohibition foothills of Virginia, Lawless’ 2012 bootleg band of brothers provide a welcome addition to the modern western genres. Set in 1931, Forrest, Howard, and Jack Bondurant are three brothers running an illegal moonshine distillery from their Virginia gas station. Their funds and plans are threatened by US Marshall Rakes, who demands a cut of their funds. The brothers are forced to stave off this invasion, all while trying to find and keep the love of their lives. Starring Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy, and Jason Clarke, this violent classic uses the western aesthetic to its advantage, making it a truly memorable film.
While Mudbound takes place around World War 1, it’s setting of the Mississippi Delta helps it to harness the harsh and brutal aesthetics of the best westerns. A film by Dee Rees, Mudbound features the struggles of a black sharecropping family in 1939 and the challenges they face farming a threadbare patch of land in Mississippi. Taking an idealist time and centering on the reality of the American dream, Mudbound takes the western tropes and creates real people out of the heroes. Rather than a final victory, audiences are forced to watch a story of survival above all else.
Yes, Godless is technically a limited series. However, as Godless is so good it can only be watched in one sitting, it has earned its place near the top of the list. Starring a killer ensemble cast (Jack O’Connell, Merritt Weaver, Michelle Dockery), Godless follows vicious outlaw gangs, weary state marshalls, and the women of La Belle, a town run entirely by widowers trying to survive after almost all of their husbands are killed in a mining accident. When the outlaws are unwittingly led to La Belle, the women of La Belle must face down for the battle of their lives. Merrit Weaver plays Mary Agnes McNue, the sister of the sheriff and leader of the ragtag group. Her riveting performance in this female-led take on the classic Western makes this series a must-watch. Plus, what else are you doing to do right now?
2. ‘True Grit’
To make a list of the best westerns and not include True Grit would be mighty bold talk. This 1969 Oscar winner has everything, a daughter in search of vengeance, an outlaw on the run, and a drunk, one-eyed fat man who’s just bored enough to go on the trip of a lifetime. After Mattie Ross’ father is killed by Tom Chaney, she enlists the help of old US Marshal Rooster Cogburn (John Wayne) to bring the fugitive to justice. After teaming up with Texas Ranger La Boeuf, the three scramble to exact their revenge, facing shoot outs, snakes, and deadly wit in the middle of the wilderness. As far as westerns go, the characters in this film prove what it means to have true grit. If you’ve only seen the 2012 remake, you haven’t really seen it.
1. ‘The Ballad of Buster Scruggs’
Is it bold of me to include a vignette musical dramedy as the greatest western film on Netflix? Yes. Am I going to do it anyway? Absolutely. This Cohen Brothers joint stars a veritable who’s who in comedy (Tim Blake Nelson, Liam Neeson, James Franco, Brendan Gleeson, Zoe Kazan, Tyne Daly, Harry Melling, Bill Heck, and Tom Waits) as they navigate, life, love and everything in between on the American frontier. With a saloon full of musical numbers, a singing cowboy, a failed bank robbery, an elderly impresario, a literal gold digger, a widower on the Oregon Trail, and a stagecoach whodunnit, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is a comedic experience like none other. Don’t believe me? See for yourself.