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.
Slow West‘s title is deceiving; while the film may be a slow burn, it doesn’t move slowly and it builds to an explosive final battle. Michael Fassbender stars as seasoned gunslinger Silas Selleck escorting the young, lovesick Jay (Kodi Smit-McPhee) through the Colorado wilderness. The Scottish boy is searching for his long lost love Rose (Caren Pistorius), who’s on the run from a small army of bounty hunters. Slow West is a gorgeous and heartbreaking film with actors perfectly inhabiting their roles. It’s sure to captivate any fan of the Western, old or new.
Rotten Tomatoes: 92%
Stars: Michael Fassbender, Kodi Smit-McPhee
Director: John M. Maclean
Runtime: 84 minutes
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 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
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
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
If you wish you could find more films like 2007’s No Country for Old Men, one likely candidate might be 2016’s Hell or High Water. The film stars Chris Pine and Ben Foster as brothers who strike out on an impressive bank-robbing spree across west Texas to find justice and salvation for their family. Trailing the brothers are Texas Ranger Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges) and his partner Alberto (Gil Birmingham). All the best things about the neo-western come together in this suspenseful, explosive heist flick, and along the way we get a rare and disconcerting portrayal of rural American impoverishment.
Rotten Tomatoes: 97%
Stars: Dale Dickey, Chris Pine, Jeff Bridges
Director: David Mackenzie
Runtime: 102 minutes
Western/sci-fi mash-up films don’t usually do very well — 1999’s Wild Wild West and 2011’s Cowboys & Aliens were both box office flops — but 1990’s Back to the Future Part III is a great exception. The conclusion to the time-traveling trilogy sends its heroes Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) and Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) to 1885 where they once again have to contend with the family of the boneheaded Biff Tannen, though this time it’s Biff’s ancestor Buford “Mad Dog” Tannen (Thomas F. Wilson). One refreshing and wonderful aspect of Back to the Future Part III that distinguishes it from its predecessors is the focus on Doc Brown’s romance with Clara Clayton (Mary Steenburgen).
Rotten Tomatoes: 80%
Stars: Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Mary Steenburgen
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Runtime: 119 minutes
Set earlier than most Westerns — during the War of 1812 — 2018’s Mohawk is just as much, and perhaps more, of a horror film than it is a Western. Kaniehtiio Horn plays Okwaho, a Mohawk warrior chased by angry American soldiers. Cornered by the soldiers and outnumbered, Okwaho and her lovers — the British Joshua (Eamon Farren) and Calvin, played by former wrestler Justin Rain — become the monsters of the piece, stalking the Americans and delivering ferocious justice. Mohawk was made on a shoestring budget and sometimes that shows in bad ways, but it’s still a thrilling and engaging film.
Rotten Tomatoes: 84%
Stars: Kaniehtiio Horn, Ezra Buzzington, Eamon Farren
Director: Ted Geoghegan
Runtime: 92 minutes
Whether you’re a fan of Westerns or not, Once Upon a Time in the West is an essential classic directed by Sergio Leone, the man who created the spaghetti Western. For well over two and a half hours we watch as the vengeful hero Harmonica (Charles Bronson) pursues Frank (Henry Fonda). The meticulously layered plot slowly reveals the reasons for the conflict, waiting until the final showdown between hero and villain to tell us exactly why Harmonica is so hellbent on extinguishing Frank. Once Upon a Time in the West is a stylish, poetic epic that’s mandatory viewing for fans of the Western, or film in general.
Rotten Tomatoes: 95%
Stars: Henry Fonda, Charles Bronson
Director: Sergio Leone
Runtime: 165 minutes
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