Westerns don’t rule Hollywood like they used to. Every few years, a big-budget Western rolls out — along with Western-inspired shows like The Mandalorian — but as far as examples either grounded in the present day or reaching back to the wild frontier, the more recent entries are few and far between. Thankfully, streaming services like Netflix aren’t hamstrung by what is current or what’s raked in the most ticket sales. They have a diverse offering of Westerns — from classic spaghetti Westerns to genre mash-ups and some films with a more international flavor. Here are the best Westerns you can find on Netflix right now.
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is an anthology film, featuring six diverse stories set in the American West. Along with being Joel and Ethan Coen’s first Netflix original, Ballad is something of a showcase for everything the innovative filmmakers are known for. For example, the title story — starring Tim Blake Nelson as a singing gunslinger chasing down the film’s namesake — is as goofy and hilarious as Coen classics like Raising Arizona or The Big Lebowski. Other chapters — perhaps most notably Meal Ticket starring Liam Neeson as a traveling impresario — are as harshly bleak and brutal as No Country for Old Men. Anyone who appreciates the work of the Coens would be incomplete without giving The Ballad of Buster Scruggs a try.
Rotten Tomatoes: 91%
Stars: Tim Blake Nelson, Bill Heck, James Franco
Director: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Runtime: 132 minutes
If you call yourself a Western fan and haven’t seen Sergio Leone’s classic The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, then you need to either reevaluate things or hit play as soon as you can. Starring Clint Eastwood as the enigmatic loner Blondie in a race to seize a hoard of gold, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is arguably the definitive spaghetti western. The film is a guilty pleasure only in the sense that there’s no righteous hero to be found. While Blondie might be the “good” referenced in the title, it’s clear he boasts no more moral high ground than his ruthless opponents Tuco (Eli Wallach) and Angel Eyes (Lee Van Cleef). If you haven’t seen this masterpiece, now’s as good a time as any.
Rotten Tomatoes: 97%
Stars: Clint Eastwood, Eli Wallach, Lee Van Cleef
Director: Sergio Leone
Runtime: 161 minutes
Buffalo Boys (2018)
Buffalo Boys won’t dazzle you with a plot that’s at all surprising or clever. The fun of this Indonesian-made film is its purposely exaggerated action. The heroes are exiled Indonesian princes Jamar (Ario Bayu) and Suwo (Yoshi Sudarso) — brothers hidden in America as infants when their father is murdered by the villainous Dutch officer Captain Van Trach (Reinout Bussemaker). Buffalo Boys follows the brothers on their trip across the American frontier and back to Indonesia to find justice for their people. Along the way viewers can enjoy some perfectly executed action sequences, like a train battle early in the film. Know right off the bat that you need to not take its juvenile storytelling too seriously, and you’ll enjoy the infectious fun of Buffalo Boys.
Rotten Tomatoes: 79%
Stars: Yoshi Sudarso, Ario Bayu
Director: Mike Wiluan
Runtime: 103 minutes
Django Unchained (2017)
Controversial, bold, and Quentin Tarantino’s first Western, 2012’s Django Unchained has everything a Western could possibly hope for and then some. Jamie Foxx plays the titular hero, a man on a quest to reunite with his wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) with the help of bounty hunter Schultz (Christoph Waltz). Django Unchained is a love letter to spaghetti westerns, featuring all the unforgiving violence and hilarious black comedy you’d expect from a Tarantino film, not to mention wonderful performances by Foxx, Waltz, and Leonardo DiCaprio as the vicious Calvin Candie. The way Django handles race and the difficult subject of slavery provoked more than a little criticism when it hit theaters, but what Tarantino film didn’t do likewise?
Rotten Tomatoes: 87%
Stars: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Runtime: 165 minutes
The Ballad of Lefty Brown (2017)
Sometimes, all you have left is the sidekick. At least, that’s what happens in 2017’s The Ballad of Lefty Brown. The film’s mutton-chopped namesake, played excellently by Bill Pullman, is John-Wayne-esque Edward Johnson’s (Peter Fonda) partner at the beginning of the film. Unfortunately, shortly before the newly elected Senator Johnson is meant to head to Washington D.C. he’s murdered in front of Lefty. Promising justice to Johnson’s wife, Lefty heads out on a quest he’s hardly prepared for. With beautiful visuals of the Montana landscape and exciting shootouts, The Ballad of Lefty Brown is a great Western through and through.
Rotten Tomatoes: 78%
Stars: Bill Pullman, Kathy Baker
Director: Jared Moshe
Runtime: 111 minutes
The Hateful Eight (2015)
After making Django Unchained, writer and director Quentin Tarantino decided to make another Western. The result was The Hateful Eight, a thrilling story set 12 years after the Civil War. Kurt Russell stars as John “The Hangman” Ruth, a bounty hunter escorting his prisoner, Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh), through hazardous weather. Along the way, Ruth encounters Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) and Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins) before taking shelter from the storm alongside some very questionable characters. From there, all hell breaks loose as secrets are revealed and rival agendas lead to gunfire and bloodshed. It’s already a long movie, but if you want even more Hateful Eight, Netflix also has The Hateful Eight Extended Version.
Rotten Tomatoes: 75%
Stars: Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Samuel L. Jackson
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Runtime: 168 minutes
Big Kill (2019)
Big Kill is a modern throwback to the Westerns of old, with writer and director Scott Martin stepping in front of the camera as rogue gambler Jake Logan. Clint Hummel’s Travis Parker is Logan’s friend and partner, as the movie unfolds largely from their POV. This scandalous duo strikes up an unlikely friendship with straight-arrow Jim Andrews (Christoph Sanders), as they ride into a small town while looking for new opportunities. Unfortunately, the town is in the grip of the Preacher (Jason Patric) and his enforcer, Johnny Kane (Lou Diamond Phillips). Naturally, it’s gonna come down to a gunfight before the credits roll. But it’s a fun ride along the way.
Rotten Tomatoes: n/a
Stars: Scott Martin, Clint Hummel, Jason Patric, Lou Diamond Phillips
Director: Scott Martin
Runtime: 126 minutes
The Outsider (2019)
Country musician Trace Adkins does not play the hero in The Outsider. Instead, that role falls to the titular Outsider: a Chinese railroad worker named Jing Phang (John Foo). Adkins’ Marshal Walker is a small-town sheriff who finds himself in morally darker territory when he’s forced to protect his son, James (Kaiwi Lyman), from Jing’s wrath. Jing’s wife was murdered by James, and that sends Jing on a rampage to get his revenge. Adkins carries the film through his presence alone, but the most interesting thing about Walker is that he knows he’s on the wrong side by shielding James from retribution. But Walker still compromises the few morals he has left while trying to withstand Jing’s onslaught.
Rotten Tomatoes: 50%
Stars: Jon Foo, Trace Adkins, Sean Patrick Flanery
Director: Timothy Woodward Jr.
Runtime: 86 minutes
In Hostiles, Christian Bale plays Joseph J. Blocker, an army captain who fought in several wars against the Native American tribes. At the end of Blocker’s military career, he’s tasked with escorting one of his old foes, Cheyenne Chief Yellow Hawk (Wes Studi), and his extended family home to their ancestral land where Yellow Hawk can die in peace. Along the way, Blocker and Yellow Hawk slowly start to forgive each other for their previous battles. They also join forces to protect Rosalee Quaid (Rosamund Pike) and the other members of their party. But further tragedy awaits as they get closer to their destination.
Rotten Tomatoes: 72%
Stars: Christian Bale, Rosamund Pike, Wes Studi
Director: Scott Cooper
Runtime: 133 minutes
Badland is a very episodic Western, but it excels in its action and the smaller human moments. Kevin Makely stars as Matthias Breecher, a Pinkerton detective tasked to hunt down fugitive Confederate criminals after the Civil War. But after finding Reginald Cooke (Bruce Dern) deathly ill in his adopted homestead, Breecher becomes very close to Cooke’s daughter, Sarah (Mira Sorvino). However, settling down may not be in the cards for Breecher while there are still bad guys that need to be taken down.
Rotten Tomatoes: No rating
Stars: Kevin Makely, Mira Sorvino, Bruce Dern
Director: Justin Lee
Runtime: 117 minutes
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