A Beginner’s Guide To Western Films

Nevada Smith Steve McQueen

Western films have been a popular genre for a long time. People love the idea of the Wild West and everything it represents. Some believe it to be a simpler time, and it represents freedom.

We looked at a popular online movie forum and compiled a list of 25 movies for those who want to become more familiar with this popular genre of films.

1. Three Amigos (1986)

Three Amigos! Steve Martin
Image Credit: Orion Pictures.

Three out-of-work actors receive a job offer from El Guapo in Mexico. They head to meet him, thinking this might be a good job that pays well. When they arrive, they learn that El Guapo is a gang leader, not an actor. He makes life miserable for everyone. These three actors determine they must do something and perform real-life heroics.

2. The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (1966)

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Image Credit: Produzioni Europee Associate.

Set during the American Civil War, three men have learned about some gold coins and want to strike it rich. There is a problem, though. Each man has a different piece of information. This means they need to keep each other alive if they hope to find the treasure.

3. Open Range (2003)

Open Range Kevin Costner, Robert Duvall
Image Credit: Buena Vista Pictures Distribution.

Four cattlemen share a bond as they free graze their cattle across the prairies of the West. They come across a small town with a corrupt Sheriff and a rancher who believes the law doesn't apply to him. One of their crew gets beaten up in town and then arrested. After visiting a doctor, they try to head back to the range, but disaster strikes, leading to a confrontation.

4. 3:10 to Yuma (2007)

Russell Crowe and Christian Bale in 3:10 to Yuma
Image Credit: Lionsgate.

Dan Evans tries to make ends meet and sell his land. He goes into town to try and make this happen but witnesses a stagecoach robbery. Shortly after that, the authorities capture Ben Wade. There will be a reward of $200 for the person who transports him to the 3:10 to Yuma train. Dan accepts the job not only for the money but also to try and redeem himself with his son.

5. Young Guns (1988)

Young Guns Lou Diamond Phillips
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox.

Set in New Mexico in 1878, John Turnstall finds some young men and gives them a job on his ranch. He hopes to provide them with work and teach them how to read and behave in society. One of his competitors, Murphy, shoots him, but the judge won't do anything because the sheriff belongs to Murphy. An attorney has the idea to make John's friends deputies so that they can make some arrests.

6. Young Guns II (1990)

Young Guns II
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox.

An aging Billy the Kid tells a young historian his life story. He tells a convincing tale about his life as an outlaw and how he avoided authorities. Patrick Garrett, who supposedly shot Billy the Kid in 1881, receives payment from John Chisum to eliminate Billy once and for all. John then sets out on a journey to find him.

7. The Magnificent Seven (1960)

The Magnificent Seven Steve McQueen, Yul Brynner, Horst Buchholz, Vladimir Sokoloff
Image Credit: United Artists.

A small Mexican village remains constantly under attack from bandits. They eventually fight back and send men to the U.S. border for help. Initially just wanting to buy some weapons, they end up with seven individuals who will help secure the town. They hope to drive away the bandit Calvera and his men for good.

8. The Searchers (1956)

The Searchers Olive Carey, Vera Miles, John Qualen
Image Credit: Warner Bros.

After being gone for three years, Ethan Edwards shows up on the Texan homestead of his brother. He wants to find somewhere he can settle down a bit. Instead, he has to embark on a journey of revenge when the ranch gets burned to the ground, his family taken away from him, and his nine-year-old niece kidnapped. Now, he has to go through the desert to try and track them down.

9. Tombstone (1993)

Image Credit: Buena Vista Pictures Distribution.

After a life as a lawman and gunslinger, Wyatt Earp moves to the town of Tombstone to escape it all. Unfortunately, a gang led by the Clanton brothers believes the law doesn't apply to them, causing trouble for everyone. They cause problems in the area with random acts of violence wherever they see fit. They want Wyatt to be the sheriff, but he refuses. Everything culminates with the famous shootout at the O.K. Corral.

10. Once Upon a Time in The West (1968)

Once Upon a Time in the West Claudia Cardinale
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

Mrs. McBain moves to New Orleans to try and start over. Unfortunately, when she arrives, she discovers someone has taken out her family. She comes across an outlaw on the run, accused of a crime he didn't commit, a man who mysteriously just plays the harmonica, and a ruthless killer hired by a railroad tycoon.

It turns out that this railroad tycoon wants McBain's land and has no problem trying to frame someone else for the crime against her family.

11. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

Senator Stoddard returns to Shinbone to attend services for his friend Tom Doniphon. While there, he speaks to a journalist about his time in Shinbone, which started when he arrived as a lawyer to try to bring law and order to the town. Liberty Valance robbed his stagecoach though and severely beat Stoddard. The senator survived the attack thanks to his friend Tom and his future wife, Hallie. Once he can do so, he tries to find a way to bring Liberty to justice, leading to a shootout.

12. Shane (1953)

Shane Alan Ladd
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

Set in Wyoming in the 1880s, Shane enters a conflict between cattlemen and settlers. He takes a job on a farm that leads to trouble, drawing him into a situation between the townsfolk and a ruthless cattle baron named Rufus Ryker. Shane eventually realizes that he needs to step up and do something to try and stop Ryker's plan.

13. Cat Ballou (1965)

Cat Ballou Jane Fonda
Image Credit: Columbia Pictures.

Cat, a school teacher, has just returned home. When she arrives, she discovers someone has a plot against her family to take their ranch. When a hired gun takes out her dad, this school teacher embarks on a quest for vengeance. This leads her into a life of crime as she attempts to strike back at those who committed these violent acts against her family.

14. The Quick and The Dead (1995)

The Quick and the Dead Sharon Stone
Image Credit: Sony Pictures Releasing.

Ellen, a female gunslinger, rides into a small prairie town on a quest for revenge. She discovers a gun fighting competition about to take place held by the corrupt mayor. The prize will be a hefty sum of cash. Ellen has to go through several dangerous individuals in this fight to the death. Meanwhile, the mayor continues to try to force Cort, an ex-outlaw, to participate in this competition, and he won't take no for an answer.

15. True Grit (1969)

True Grit Kim Darby
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

Mattie Ross sets off on a tale of vengeance and “justice” after a criminal commits crimes against her family. She hires Rooster Cogburn to aid in her efforts to bring this criminal to justice. A third individual, La Boeuf, joins the party shortly after that. They set off on a journey into Indian territory with the odds completely against them in an attempt to see justice served.

16. The Wild Bunch (1969)

The Wild Bunch William Holden
Image Credit: Warner Bros.-Seven Arts.

The “traditional” Wild West is on the way out. A group called the “Wild Bunch” attempts to go for one last score so that they can retire. Unfortunately, their robbery attempt goes wrong, and they need to flee to Mexico. With mercenaries on their trail, they try to hijack a U.S. ammunition train for a revolutionary army. Their association with less-than-reputable individuals starts to weigh on their conscience, which leads to a showdown with all involved.

17. Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid (1973)

Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid James Coburn
Image Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Set in New Mexico in 1881, Patt Garrett has become the sheriff. As an officer of the law, he visits his old friend Billy the Kid and asks him to leave the area, giving him a deadline. Instead, Billy decides to escape the situation entirely, which causes Pat to start an investigation. Billy the Kid has become a thorn in their side, and the governor makes it clear to Pat that he needs to take care of Billy. A lot of blood gets spilled during the hunt, which leads to one more meeting between them.

18. The Culpepper Cattle Co. (1972)

The Culpepper Cattle Co.
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox.

Teenager Ben Mockridge thinks his Wild West farm town has nothing for him. To solve this problem, he asks cattle company owner Frank Culpepper about becoming a cowboy. Unfortunately, this doesn't quite work out for Ben as his new position leads to endless busy work, getting robbed, and witnessing some people getting away with crimes.

19. Bad Company (1972)

Bad Company
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

A young man has no interest in fighting in the Civil War. He avoids the draft at all costs and heads to St. Joseph, MO. He joins a group heading west but quickly realizes the seriousness of the situation. Violence and betrayal happen to be just two of the things he encounters on this journey.

20. The Professionals (1966)

The Professionals Claudia Cardinale
Image Credit: Columbia Pictures.

J.W. Grant's wife has disappeared. A Mexican revolutionary bandit has her and has demanded a ransom of $100,000. He hires four men and promises to pay them each $10,000 if they can get her back. After a few battles they manage to get to her; however, what they learn changes things. With this new information, they begin to question not only the kidnappers but also their employer.

21. Nevada Smith (1966)

Nevada Smith (1966) Steve McQueen
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

Criminals attacked Nevada's parents, setting him on a course for revenge. A gun merchant takes Nevada in and mentors him. He shows Nevada how to properly use a gun and shoot his target. Nevada does everything he can to get to the men responsible for this crime, including going to prison. 

22. Silverado (1985)

Silverado Kevin Kline, Linda Hunt
Image Credit: Columbia Pictures.

A group of criminals runs the small town of Silverado. A group of four men decide to travel there to try and help the town. Along the way they encounter a variety of dangers before getting to the answers they seek. They eventually have to deal with the bad guys to try and restore peace to the area.

23. Hostiles (2017)

Hostiles Christian Bale
Image Credit: Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures.

After fighting for almost twenty years, U.S. Cavalry Captain Joseph Blocker receives an order he never thought he would get. He must escort his biggest enemy, Yellow Hawk, to his ancestral home in Montana. This new assignment makes him sick, and things become even more complicated when settler Rosalie Quaid joins his group of soldiers.

During the journey, enemies must become allies to survive against attacks from different groups. Throughout the adventure Joe finds his loyalties changing. Once they arrive at their destination, he needs to deal with the hostile reception they receive.

24. Maverick (1994)

Maverick Mel Gibson, James Coburn
Image Credit: Warner Bros.

Bret Maverick needs some money to enter a poker tournament. He decides he needs to collect on some debts and do some other gambling to try and earn the cash. During his journey he runs into a colorful cast of characters, such as Marshal Zane Cooper and con woman Annabelle Bransford. Maverick discovers things aren't always as they seem on his road to riches.

25. Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)

The Outlaw Josey Wales Clint Eastwood, Chief Dan George
Image Credit: Warner Bros.

This tale of vengeance takes place after a Union offer kills the family of Josey Wales. He joins a group of fighters to help him achieve his goal. After the war, the group receives amnesty, but Josey refuses to accept that. The same guy who killed his family now has a reason to go after him as well. Josey eventually comes across some settlers and tries to help them get settled. The bounty hunter won't stop, and Josey must deal with it.

If you need to get more familiar with Western films, check out this diverse selection of movies. Whether you want something a bit more “old school” or more modern, you will find something to enjoy.

Source: Reddit

Freelance Contributor at Wealth of Geeks | Website | + posts

Brandon Hofer is a California-based writer who covers the entertainment industry. More specifically, Brandon has covered the gaming industry since 2006, attending and covering the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) every year. Brandon has also attended the Games Developer Conference, Penny Arcade Expo, and various events put on by publishers and developers. Brandon has worked with numerous studios, including Xbox Game Studios, PlayStation, Nintendo, Ubisoft, THQ, Activision, Electronic Arts, and more. Over the years, working with those studios has also allowed Brandon to work with iconic franchises such as the NFL, WWE, and the UFC. Thanks to that experience, Brandon also covers what goes on in the world of sports entertainment, primarily WWE. Brandon's work has appeared on MSN, Muck Rack, Flipboard, GameCrate, Wealth of Geeks, and more.