The Magnificent 20: The best western films of all time

The Magnificent 20: The best western films of all time
© Produzioni Europee Associate westerns-good-bad-ugly.jpeg

The western is one of the most beloved genres of all.

In recent years, it seems to have been making a comeback of sorts. Just a few years back Chloé Zhao released her standout rodeo film The Rider, while in 2016, western heads had to contend with Antoine Fuqua’s remake of The Magnificent Seven. John Sturges’ ever-popular original was itself a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s 1954 classic, Seven Samurai.

Below is a reminder of some of the greatest entries in the western canon.

20. Ride Lonesome (Budd Boetticher, 1959)

The pick of Boetticher and Randolph Scott’s superb seven-film collaboration follows stone-faced loner Scott’s obsessive quest to avenge his wife’s murder. Filmed entirely in breathtaking Sierra Nevada locations and also memorable for the classic Western line: “There are some things a man just can’t ride around.”

19. Vera Cruz (Robert Aldrich, 1954)

Double and triple crosses aplenty as mercenaries Burt Lancaster and Gary Cooper team up in revolutionary Mexico to steal a cache of gold. Pretty much dismissed on its release, Vera Cruz can now be viewed as an exhilarating precursor to the spaghetti Westerns of the sixties.

18. Winchester ’73 (Anthony Mann, 1950)

James Stewart showed that he could ride, shoot ‘em up and trade blows with the best of the Western icons in his episodic quest to retrieve his stolen fabled rifle. The great screen villain Dan Duryea almost steals the film as the sneering, sadistic Waco Johnnie Dean.

17. One-Eyed Jacks (Marlon Brando, 1961)

The Magnificent 20: The best western films of all time
© Provided by The Independent (Paramount Pictures)

Brando fell out with original director Stanley Kubrick, leaving the star to helm the only film he directed, a take on the Billy the Kid legend. One-Eyed Jacks became famous for Brando’s excesses with an original running time of over four hours, but is now viewed as a fascinating, brooding masterpiece, and thanks to its stunning Monterey and Big Sur locations, one of the most aesthetically beautiful Westerns ever made. A restored version was shown at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.

16. Rio Bravo (Howard Hawks, 1959)

John Wayne’s sheriff faces an army of bad guys with only a drunk, a young gunfighter and a crippled old man on his side. The interplay between Wayne, Dean Martin and Walter Brennan is a delight and Dino even gets to sing. Great fun all round.

15. My Darling Clementine (John Ford, 1946)

A highly romanticised take on Wyatt Earp and the events at the OK Corral with Henry Fonda as Earp. Lyrical, poetic and with many iconic scenes that linger long in the memory such as Fonda lounging on a porch surveying the town, and his stiff legged dance with his “lady fair” at Tombstone’s new church’s dedication.

14. The Ox-Bow Incident (William A Wellman, 1943)

The Magnificent 20: The best western films of all time
© Provided by The Independent (20th Century Fox)

Henry Fonda’s hero is powerless to intervene as three innocent men are lynched by a mob for a crime that never happened. Social commentary in a Western setting, given added poignancy and resonance by the knowledge that Fonda had witnessed a lynching as a youth.

13. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (George Roy Hill, 1969)

An Oscar-laden buddy movie trading on the wonderful chemistry between Paul Newman and Robert Redford. Throw in William Goldman’s sparkling dialogue and Burt Bacharach’s famous soundtrack and we have an irresistible slice of late sixties cool, tempered with newfound revisionism.

12. The Gunfighter (Henry King, 1950)

With a theme resembling a Greek tragedy that evolved into one of the great Western clichés, ageing gunslinger Gregory Peck tries to put his bloody past behind him only to find that there’s always one more little squirt kid to outdraw.

11. Ride the High Country (Sam Peckinpah, 1962)

An elegiac lament for the death of the old West and a perfect valedictory present for two genre stalwarts, Joel McCrea and Randolph Scott, as a pair of veteran lawmen who have outlived their usefulness.

10. The Magnificent Seven (John Sturges, 1960)

A great storyline, terrific cast, unforgettable music and a series of memorable vignettes including Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen’s opening hearse scene and James Coburn’s knife/gun duel. What more can you ask from a Western?

9. Red River (Howard Hawks, 1948)

Epic Western from a master filmmaker that gave John Wayne the type of part in which he excelled, as the stubborn, driven rancher determined to see a cattle drive to the bitter end even if it means killing the foster son (Montgomery Clift) who takes his herd away from him.

8. High Noon (Fred Zinnemann,1952)

Famously regarded as an allegory of the McCarthy witch hunts in Hollywood, High Noon should first and foremost be enjoyed as a cracking Western set more or less in real time, with anguished lawman Gary Cooper deserted by his town as he faces the bad guys alone.

7. Stagecoach (John Ford, 1939)

Landmark Western that came to define the genre and made John Wayne a star. Part character study mixed with stirring action sequences courtesy of famed stuntman Yakima Canutt, with stunning use of Monument Valley on the Arizona-Utah border, the most single recognisable location in western movies.

6. Once Upon a Time in the West (Sergio Leone, 1968)

The Magnificent 20: The best western films of all time
© Provided by The Independent (Paramount Pictures)

Once audiences got over the shock of Henry Fonda as a cold-hearted killer, they witnessed a western full of astonishing imagery, and one that has never been matched in scale, scope and ambition. Leone referenced virtually the entire history of Westerns in this stunning epic about the coming of the railroad and the modernisation of the West. Ennio Morricone’s wonderfully evocative score has rarely been bettered.

5. Shane (George Stevens, 1953)

Beloved adaptation of Jack Schaefer’s wonderful novel, with Alan Ladd perfect as the buckskinned gunfighter trying to hang up his six shooter but finding that “There’s no living with a killing”. Memorable for so many reasons, from the Oscar-winning cinematography and Jack Palance’s gleeful bad guy to the lump in the throat ending which still resonates as little Joey implores “Come back, Shane!”

4. Unforgiven (Clint Eastwood, 1992)

A ruthless killer turned pig farmer reluctantly takes one last job, and carnage ensues. Eastwood deconstructs the myths and legends of the Western and the result is a revisionist masterpiece that deservedly won Oscars for best picture and best director

3. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (Sergio Leone, 1966)

The most famous spaghetti Western is a stylish, flamboyant, visual treat, with Ennio Morricone’s famous soundtrack at its core. Innovative and hugely influential, boasting several memorable set-pieces, including the authentic and moving civil war sequence.

2. The Wild Bunch (Sam Peckinpah, 1969)

The Magnificent 20: The best western films of all time
© Provided by The Independent (Warner Bros.-Seven Arts)

On its release, Peckinpah’s visceral masterpiece provoked infamy for its level of violence, and even now the amount of blood and gore on show still shocks. But look beyond the balletic beauty of the slow motion carnage and it’s clear that Peckinpah holds true to his recurring themes of the death of the old West, and men out of step with the times facing their own imminent demise.

1. The Searchers (John Ford, 1956)

The saga of a racist outsider’s search for his kidnapped niece still astounds in its dark power, beauty and all round magnificence. Complex, multi-layered and troubling, with a monumental performance from Wayne as the bigoted anti-hero, the film repays repeated viewing.

From news to politics, travel to sport, culture to climate – The Independent has a host of free newsletters to suit your interests. To find the stories you want to read, and more, in your inbox, click here.

News Related


'Sister Wives' star Kody Brown said he was 'dumbfounded' when Christine kicked him out of her bedroom

© Provided by INSIDER Kody and Christine on an episode of “Sister Wives.” TLC;TLC Kody Brown said he was “dumbfounded” when his third wife, Christine, kicked him out of her ... Read more »

Aobakwe Segwe's love for radiology is changing lives

© SUpplied/Vutivi. Dr. Aobakwe Segwe with a patient. Author: Don Makatile Read more small business good news on Vutivi Business News. Even as a child growing up in Mafikeng, North ... Read more »

IGNOU TEE Dec 2021: Last date for assignments submission extended till Feb 5

The Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) has released a notification on Monday, January 24, 2022, regarding the extension of Term-End Examination (TEE) December 2021 submissions. The extended last date ... Read more »

Pokemon Legends: Arceus fans are obsessed with giant ‘sexy' Lopunny

RULE 34 of the internet knows no bounds, and even innocent pokemon aren't safe. Hot on the heels of the 'sexy M&Ms' discourse comes the pokemon fanbase who are currently ... Read more »

Sarah Palin tests positive for COVID, NYT defamation case may be delayed

Former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin tested positive for COVID-19, which may delay her civil suit against the New York Times that was scheduled to go to trial Monday, one ... Read more »

Sacrilege Attempt at Patiala Kali Temple, Accused Arrested; CM Channi Orders Probe

© Provided by News18 Sacrilege Attempt at Patiala Kali Temple, Accused Arrested; CM Channi Orders Probe A sacrilege attempt was made at a historic Kali temple in Punjab’s Patiala on ... Read more »

Bigg Boss 15: Tejasswi Prakash slams everyone accusing her of playing victim card; Says ‘I am strong'

© Provided by Pinkvilla Bigg Boss 15 has been taking new twists and turns with each passing episode. But as we are nearing the finale the episodes are getting quite ... Read more »

Wells Adams 'feels' like he is already married to Sarah Hyland

© Bang Showbiz Sarah Hyland and Wells Adams Wells Adams “feels” like he is already married to fiancée Sarah Hyland. The former ‘Bachelorette’ contestant has been engaged to the ‘Modern ... Read more »

Jr. NTR Gets Over Rs 30 Cr For A Movie Now But His Debut Film Salary Will Surprise His Fans

© Provided by MensXP Telugu superstar Jr. NTR needs no introduction, neither does the weighted lineage of talent he carries with that name. The actor, who has been working for ... Read more »

6 ways to win over an investor, from someone who's been on both sides of a pitch deck

© Provided by Business Insider Allison Barr Allen is the cofounder and COO of Fast, a login and checkout startup. Allison Barr Allen Allison Barr Allen is an angel investor ... Read more »

In UP, why defections are a significant factor this election season

© Provided by Hindustan Times Over the past few weeks, senior BJP minister Swami Prasad Maurya and 13 other lawmakers have defected to the SP and its allies.  (ANI) Come ... Read more »

Boris Johnson 'reconsidering' VAT cut on energy bills – saving every household hundreds

Boris Johnson is understood to be reconsidering a VAT cut on energy bills – saving every household hundreds of pounds as bills surge to record levels. Though no final decisions ... Read more »

Bihar goes slow on Omicron testing, lone lab runs out of reagents

© Provided by Hindustan Times Epidemiologists now say that Omicron has reached the community-spread stage in Bihar. (ANI PHOTO.) The molecular biology laboratory at the Indira Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences ... Read more »

Palin COVID-19 test could delay suit against NY Times

NEW YORK (AP) — Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin tested positive for COVID-19 on a home test kit, just as she was due in court in New York City for ... Read more »

Lauren Goodger's boyfriend Charles knew she was pregnant when he had fling with girl behind Towie star's back

LAUREN Goodger’s boyfriend Charles Drury knew she was pregnant when he slept with another woman. The former Towie star, 35, has announced she is pregnant with her second child – ... Read more »

In global 5G race, European Union is told to step up pace

BRUSSELS (AP) — As the United States grapples with the 5G rollout affecting airlines, a European Union watchdog warned on Monday the EU faces much bigger economic and security threats ... Read more »

Biden administration identifying troops for possible deployment to Europe amid Russia tensions

The Biden administration is in the final stages of identifying specific military units it wants to send to Eastern Europe and writing up the military orders in an effort to ... Read more »

11 of our favourite Valentine's Day hampers 2022

Valentine's Day isn't too far away, and one perfect gift to buy is a hamper. In this article, we've picked out our favourite Valentine's hampers, including options with wine, cheese, ... Read more »

Boost for half-term hols as ALL Covid tests scrapped and double-jabbed kids to get travel passes

ALL Covid tests for vaccinated holidaymakers have been scrapped, the Transport Secretary has confirmed. Grant Shapps said that arrivals will only need to fill in a Passenger Locator Form when ... Read more »

Capitol riot committee has spoken with ex-AG Barr, chairman says

It is not yet clear whether William Barr will give a sworn deposition or testify publicly before the panel. Chip Somodevilla/Pool via REUTERS The House select committee investigating last year’s ... Read more »

Pendakwaan terhadap 2 bekas pegawai Sivarasa, SPRM tak boleh disalahkan, kata peguam

© Provided by Free Malaysia Today Peguam KA Ramu berkata, pendakwaan terhadap dua lelaki berkenaan kelihatan janggal selepas mengambil kira perkembangan semasa. PETALING JAYA: Ahli Parlimen Sungai Buloh R Sivarasa ... Read more »

SC dismisses plea for clarification on its order on Shaheen Bagh protests

© Provided by The Statesman SC dismisses plea for clarification on its order on Shaheen Bagh protests The Supreme Court on Monday refused to entertain an application seeking clarification on ... Read more »

Giants interviewing Brian Daboll a second time after thrilling Bills effort

The epic and breathtaking Bills loss in Kansas City in a classic playoff game Sunday opened the door for the Giants to pounce on Brian Daboll, and they are doing ... Read more »

Centre gets Rs 256 crore as dividend tranches from four CPSEs

© Provided by The Financial Express The government has received about Rs 148 crore from DFCCIL and Rs 72 crore from RVNL as dividend tranches. (Representative image) The government has ... Read more »

Kundali Bhagya, 24 January 2022, Written Update: Natasha plans bizarre plot against Preeta

© Provided by Pinkvilla In today’s episode, Janki advises Preeta to stay alert of Sherlyn’s conspiracy, to which Preeta assures her that she will win and will not spare her ... Read more »

Disney heiress blasts Mouse House over pay inequality in new documentary

Abigail Disney‘s new documentary takes a look at wage inequality at Disney. Getty Images Disney has become a lightning rod for inequality in a new documentary directed by Abigail Disney, ... Read more »

Covid-19: Genome sequencing finds Omicron in 248 of 280 samples tested, says Mumbai civic body

© Provided by The Financial Express Of the seven who had taken only one dose, six had to be hospitalized. (File/Reuters) The civic body in Mumbai on Monday said 248 ... Read more »

73rd Republic Day: These tri-coloured recipes echo patriotic flavours

Celebrated all over India on January 26, Republic Day commemorates the day our country became a sovereign republic and free from the colonial rule of the British after over 200 ... Read more »

Watch: Beating Retreat ceremony rehearsals underway in Delhi. Here's what is special this year

© Provided by Zee News New Delhi: With the 75th Republic Day of India just two days away, the rehearsals for the beating retreat ceremony have started in New Delhi ... Read more »

Here's the date you'll give up your new year's resolutions (spoiler: soon)

Probably exercising in high heels isn’t helping. (Getty Images) Think way back, as long ago as the very beginning of January, several lengthy months ago. Remember those resolutions, and how ... Read more »

Tech tips: 3 ways to record your phone and WhatsApp calls

There are times when you feel the need to record important phone calls but cannot do that as the option to record calls is not immediately available. Some of the ... Read more »

Post-Kohli syndrome: hushed & subdued India

© Provided by Hindustan Times Virat Kohli scored two half-centuries in three ODIs vs South Africa.  (Reuters) India’s tour of South Africa that ended with the ODI series rout on ... Read more »

Mit über 400 PS und Mega-Offroad-Kompetenz - Ford Bronco Raptor (2022)

Ford bringt den Bronco in den USA auch als Brutal-Variante Raptor. Das Modell bekommt nicht nur mehr Power, sondern auch feinste Gelände-Komponenten. © Ford Motor Company Endlich ist sie da, ... Read more »

R-Day 2022: DMRC issues update on Delhi metro services; check timings here

© Provided by Business Today R-Day 2022: DMRC issues update on Delhi metro services; check timings here The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) announced on Monday that services on the ... Read more »

Watch Tesla Model Y Spotted Driving Outside Of Giga Austin Plant

© InsideEVs Tesla Model Y at Tesla Giga Austin (source: Jeff Roberts) It’s the first time we can see a locally produced car driving on public roads. The Tesla Giga ... Read more »

Anti-Semitic incidents at decade high in 2021: report

© SAUL LOEB Holocaust survivor Mark Khazanov wipes his eyes after lighting a memorial candle during an annual remembrance ceremony for victims of the Holocaust and Nazi persecution hosted by ... Read more »

Another delay for ex-deep-sea treasure hunter stuck in jail

FILE – This undated file photo provided by the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office in Delaware, Ohio, shows Tommy Thompson. The former deep-sea treasure hunter is about to mark his fifth ... Read more »

Former DA Midvaal Mayor Bongani Baloyi finds new political home in ActionSA

The former Midvaal mayor has found a new home, after quitting the Democratic Alliance last month. © Copyright (c) Daily Maverick , All Rights Reserved The much-anticipated announcement was made ... Read more »

Albert Fritz steps down as Western Cape DA leader amid misconduct investigation

In a 24-hour rollercoaster ride, interim DA Western Cape leader Albert Fritz has stepped down from the position. This comes after he was suspended from his post as Community Safety ... Read more »

Alpine F1 team was "lost" at start of 2021, admits boss Rossi

The Enstone-based team’s fortunes ebbed and flowed dramatically in the former Renault squad’s first season following its Alpine rebrand, with the returning Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon qualifying between fifth ... Read more »
On you will find lots of free English exam practice materials to help you improve your English skills: grammar, listening, reading, writing, ielts, toeic