25 best Western movies ever
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)
The third and best-known film in Sergio Leone’s "Dollars" trilogy, this Spaghetti western is arguably the most famous depiction of the violent, opportunistic American West – despite being filmed in Spain and Italy. Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef and Eli Wallach play the titular characters, three men hunting treasure against the backdrop of the American Civil War (it’s actually a prequel to A Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More). One of the most stylish westerns you’ll ever see, and Ennio Morricone’s score is quite simply unforgettable.
It’s best-known now for lending its name to Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained – but Sergio Corbucci’s spaghetti Western is iconic in its own right, spawning over thirty unofficial sequels. Franco Nero stars as the titular drifter, dragging a coffin across a muddy landscape – and into a gruesome adventure with Gothic overtones. Corbucci refused to let the set designers clean the set after a series of downpours, giving the film its distinctively grimy look, while the film’s violence – which includes the hero having his hands smashed – meant it was banned in Britain at the time of its release.
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)
One of John Ford’s many classic westerns, albeit with a far more claustrophobic feel than his sweeping outdoor epics, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance features an all-star cast led by James Stewart and John Wayne. The former plays a US senator whose success came from committing the titular act – Liberty Valance being a notorious outlaw – while Wayne plays a simple man who turns out to be the real hero of the piece. A musing on how the West made men into legends, and how the reality was often very different to the myth.
The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)
Directed by and starring Clint Eastwood, this is one of the earliest "revisionist" Westerns: films that attempted to portray the Old West in a far more realistic, less clear-cut way than the more simplistic good guy/bad guy movies churned out in the past. Civil War farmer Josey Wales wages a bloody war against Union soldiers and bounty hunters after his wife and son are murdered in cold blood.
The Magnificent Seven (1960)
A western adaptation of Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, the film tells the story of seven gunmen – Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen and Charles Bronson among them – who defend a Mexican pueblo from Eli Wallach’s army of bandits. Despite essentially remaking a masterpiece, John Sturges manages to give The Magnificent Seven its own character: faster-paced, less downbeat and arguably more outwardly “heroic” than the Japanese original.