These 21st Century Westerns Will Change Your Mind About The Genre

Contrary to popular belief, Western films and television shows are alive and well on multiple platforms in the 21st century, including Netflix as well as various cable networks. The thing is, the genre is a bit different from the stereotypical John Wayne films from way back when.

Now, films such as The Magnificent Seven and True Grit show just how violent, adventurous, and female-dominated modern Westerns can be, without taking out some traditional aspects, such as beautiful cinematography. To highlight the ever-growing genre of Western entertainment, we wrangled together this list of noteworthy 21st-century films and series for you to explore. Enjoy!

The Missing

The Missing
Columbia Pictures
Columbia Pictures

Ron Howard’s western The Missing is harrowing, dramatic, and full of action. After Maggie Gilkeson witnesses her teenage daughter being kidnapped by Apache Rebels, she has no choice but to ask for the help of her estranged father, Samuel. The two have to work together if they hope to rescue Lily before she is sold into slavery south of the border.

The film garnered positive reviews. It’s said to be one of Ron Howard’s best films to date, with fantastic acting and a thrilling plot that keeps audience members on the edge of their seats.

Open Range

Open Range
Touchstone Pictures
Touchstone Pictures

Open Range brings the beauty of Western cinema into the 21st century with its scenery, plot, and character development that covers everyone from friendly cattle drivers to revenge-driven cowboys. The film follows the story of Boss Spearman and his two right-hand cowhands Charley and Mose, as they herd their cattle across the countryside.

But when Mose ventures into a village and doesn’t come back, it’s up to Boss and Charley to rescue him and get revenge on whoever is holding him captive. Film critic Roger Ebert said, “[the movie is] an imperfect but deeply involving and beautifully made Western.”

Godless

Godless
Netflix
Netflix

In La Belle, New Mexico, a mining accident left the western town with a population of primarily women. Now, the town is governed by the hardened women, so when word gets out that the infamous criminal Frank Griffin and his gang of misfits are on their way to town in search of an “ex-brother,” the women band together to take them down.

Godless has been praised for taking the traditional Western genre and modernizing it with a predominantly female cast in a male-dominated genre. This fresh take was highly regarded and helped the mini-series land the title as one of the best shows of 2017.

The Magnificent Seven

The Magnificent Seven
Columbia Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Columbia Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Set in the Old West town of Rose Creek, The Magnificent Seven follows the story of a greedy industrialist Bartholomew Bogue and his bandits who take control of the small town in their quest for gold. When they feel as though their town and livelihoods are at stake, the residents call upon Sam Chisolm, a skilled bounty hunter.

With the help of a group of gunslingers, they take on Bogue and his miscreants in hopes of taking back control of Rose Creek. The film is praised for the work of Denzel Washington as Chisolm and the amazingly choreographed action sequences.

Deadwood

Deadwood
HBO
HBO

The three seasons of the hit television show Deadwood are full of raw language, lawlessness, and more than one shoot-em-up scene. Set in a post-Civil War mining town, Deadwood is lawless and attracts the worst types of people — those who want to get rich or die trying.

Ian McShane, who plays foul-mouthed saloon owner Al Swearengen, has been praised for his performance in the series, and creator David Milch’s writing has been noted as well. The series is highly regarded as one of the best television shows of all time.

The Hateful Eight

The Hateful Eight
The Weinstein Company
The Weinstein Company

Leave it to writer and director Quentin Tarantino to make a western thriller set in the middle of a blizzard. Following the story of eight strangers who hole up at a stagecoach stopover to wait out a snowstorm, The Hateful Eight brings together Tarantino’s typical film formula of over-the-top violence, humor, and a whole lot of action.

Film critic James Berardinelli said, “[The Hateful Eight] is a high-wire thriller, full of masterfully executed twists, captivating dialogue, and a wildly entertaining narrative that gallops along at a pace to make three hours evaporate in an instant. Best film of the year? Yes.”

Broken Trail

Broken Trail
AMC
AMC

Broken Trail brings together two historical events, the transporting of Chinese women to central America to become ladies of the night and the British buying horses in the west. The mini-series follows Prent Ritter and his nephew Tom Harte as they set out to drive horses from Oregon to Wyoming.

Only things aren’t as simple as they appear. Along the way, the two rescue five Chinese women who have been sold into slavery. Of course, their “keeper” isn’t too happy with losing their possessions and sets a gang of killers after the two cowboys and the girls.

True Grit

Broken Trail
Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures

After outlaw Tom Chaney murders her father, young Mattie hires lawman Rooster Cogburn to find him and bring him to justice. True Grit follows the story of the unlikely duo as they journey to find the outlaw, add Texas Ranger LaBoeuf to their crew, and find themselves in hostile territory looking to dish out some Old West justice.

The film was nominated for multiple awards, including an Academy Award for Best Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, and more. Young Hailee Steinfeld even won a Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Young Performer.

Wind River

Wind River
The Weinstein Company
The Weinstein Company

Wind River is a moving, neo-Western mystery that pulls at viewers’ heartstrings. The story follows the death investigation of a Native American woman who dies close to a reservation in Wyoming. And while each scene in the film is said to be perfect, the most beautiful moments are the long conversations between wildlife officer Cory Lambert and grieving father, Martin Hanson.

The film has been praised for its all-star cast, including Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen, and Gil Birmingham, as well as its smart writing. According to a poll by PostTrack, “[viewers] gave the film a 90% overall positive score and a 70% “definite recommend.”‘

Longmire

Longmire
A&E TV
A&E TV

The western crime drama Longmire has had a loyal following since its first season aired in 2012. It follows the story of Walt Longmire, the sheriff of fictional Absaroka County, who wants nothing more than to keep the peace through the county. The thing is, he’s also suffering from emotional wounds and now has to deal with major crimes.

Although the series has modern elements, such as cellphones, it is still considered a neo-western, and a good one at that. According to The Wall Street Journal’s Nancy DeWolf Smith, “if it weren’t for a few modern conveniences, like cellphones and trucks, it might as well be 1875.”

Hostiles

Hostiles
Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures
Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures

Starring Christian Bale, Rosamund Pike, and Wes Studi, Hostiles is one western film you’re not going to want to miss. Set in 1892, New Mexico, the movie follows the legendary Army Capt. Joseph Blocker as he escorts a dying Cheyenne war chief and his family back to their native homeland in Montana.

Of course, crossing all of that land isn’t exactly safe, and the group soon finds themselves banding together to survive the harsh landscape and hostile people they encounter. The film garnered positive reviews, especially for the performance Bale put on.

Appaloosa

Appaloosa
New Line Cinema
New Line Cinema

Based on a novel of the same name by Robert B. Parker, Appaloosa follows the story of two men traveling the 1880s Southwest, bringing justice to towns who have no other choice but to hire them. But when Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch find themselves in the mining town of Appaloosa, things get complicated for the duo.

They’re tasked with ridding the town of rancher Randall Bragg and his cronies, but when widow Allison French arrives, they’re dynamic is shaken. The film is praised: “A traditional genre western, Appaloosa sets itself apart with smart psychology, an intriguing love triangle, and good chemistry between the leads.”

Forsaken

Forsaken
Momentum Pictures
Momentum Pictures

The father and son duo of Donald and Kiefer Sutherland come together in the western drama film Forsaken. It’s 1872, and John Henry Clayton has decided to put away his gun and return home to mend his strained relationship with his father, Reverend Samuel Clayton.

But when a gang hops on the train that runs through their tiny town, Clayton has to decide if he’s done with his violent ways. Or if he should return to being a gun-slinger in order to save those he loves from the people terrorizing the town.

Justified

Justified
FX
FX

Justified follows the story of Raylan Givens, a deputy U.S. Marshal who has his own brand of justice he likes to dish out. But when he is reassigned to his hometown of Harlan, Kentucky, Givens faces more than one foe who is trying to take him out.

This includes a crime-boss named Mags Bennett who serves poison-spiked “apple pie” moonshine to people attempting to disband her “company.” Critics have praised the modern-day western for its colorful characters and intriguing storytelling, as well as its humorous dialogue.

The Ballad Of Lefty Brown

The Ballad Of Lefty Brown
A24
A24

Five years after his first Western, writer-director Jared Moshe proved he’s not letting the western genre take a backseat in cinema. The Ballad of Lefty Brown is beautifully shot, entertaining, and an old-fashioned drama with an unsuspecting twist: Lefty Brown, an underachiever, goes gunning for justice once his Wild West legend of a partner is killed.

Jeffrey M. Anderson from Common Sense Media said, “Writer/director Jared Moshe clearly loves and appreciates the Western genre, and here he’s created one that’s not only classical, skillful, and unpretentious but a fresh angle on an old story.”

Crossfire Trail

Crossfire Trail
TNT
TNT

Expectations were high when actor Tom Selleck and director Simon Wincer teamed up once again for a film adaptation of Louis L’Amour’s novel Crossfire Trail. The film surpassed expectations, following the grim tale of Rafe Covington. After making a promise to his friend to look after his Wyoming ranch and wife after he’s passed, Covington finds himself rehabilitating the land.

But things get a bit crazy after a fatal shooting, and Covington is told he needs to leave town. The film has been praised for its beautiful score and lovely cinematography that is custom to the western genre.

Hell On Wheels

Hell On Wheels
AMC
AMC

Following the story of Confederate Army veteran Cullen Bohannon, Hell on Wheels goes from a revenge story to a full-blown epic in five seasons. After the events of the Civil War, Bohannon can’t seem to put the war behind him, especially after the death of his wife at the hands of a Union soldier.

During his journey, the army veteran comes across a town called Hell on Wheels, and follows the construction of the first transcontinental railroad. Hank Stuever of the Washington Post said, “Hands down, the most intriguing show on the fall slate. Though imbued with epic sweep, Hell on Wheels is a western at heart.”

Hell Or High Water

Hell Or High Water
Lionsgate
Lionsgate

Hell or High Water follows four main characters. On one side of the coin, we have Toby and Tanner Howard, two West Texas brothers who will do pretty much anything to stop their farm from being foreclosed, including robbing more than one bank.

On the other side, there is veteran Texas Ranger Marcus Hamilton and his partner Alberto Parker, two men who will stop at nothing to bring the two brothers to justice. Bouncing off an Oscar-nominated screenplay, director David Mackenzie masterfully entertained the fate of the four leads. But you’re going to have to watch the film to see how the modern western ends.

Yellowstone

Yellowstone
Paramount Network
Paramount Network

First airing in 2018, the Paramount Network hit series Yellowstone has since gained a loyal following. The western series follows John Dutton, a sixth-generation rancher who has to operate in a world of corrupt politicians who make choices based on influential lumber and oil corporations.

The series is full of drama, unsolved murders, always-shifting alliances, and constant conflict for the main character’s ranch. When the two-hour premiere episode aired, Yellowstone became the most-watched original series ever telecast on the Paramount Network.

Monte Walsh

Monte Walsh
TNT
TNT

Director Simon Wincer once again proves he’s an all-star director when it comes to western films with Monte Walsh. The story follows the title character Monte Walsh, a man who finds his cowboy way of life fading due to an ever-expanding civilization.

Now, Walsh has to decide if he wants to keep his lifestyle on the open ranges, or if he wants to stay with his sweetheart and join Colonel Wilson and his traveling Wild West show. In 2004, the film was awarded the Western Heritage Awards Bronze Wrangler for Outstanding Television Feature Film.

The Proposition

Guy Pearce in the Proposition
Sony Pictures Releasing
Sony Pictures Releasing

The Proposition is a 2005 Australian Western film directed by John Hillcoat. The film stars notable actors such as Guy Pearce, Emily Watson, Ray Winston, Danny Huston, among others.

The film tells the story of Charlie Burns (Guy Pearce), one of the notorious Burns Brothers who is captured along with his younger brother Mikey (Richard Wilson), and ordered to track and kill his older brother Arthur (Danny Huston) or else Mikey will be hanged. Known for its violence and impossible moral paradox, the film is a roller coaster of a Western.

The Devil’s Rejects

McGorory in The Devil's Rejects
Lionsgate
Lionsgate

An absolutely twisted take on the Western genre, The Devil’s Rejects, is considered to be a neo-Western horror film in the Firefly film series and a sequel to House of 1,000 Corpses. The stars Sig Haig, Bill Moseley, Sheri Moon Zombie, and Leslie Easterbrook, focusing on three members of a psychopathic family on the run that is now viewed as criminal protagonists.

Released in 2005, the film had minimal commercial success and mixed reviews, although it has now garnered a cult following. It was the last film to feature Matthew McGrory before his death that same year.

3:10 To Yuma

Christian Bale in 3:10 to Yuma
Lionsgate
Lionsgate

3:10 To Yuma is a 2007 Western directed by James Mangold and stars Russel Crowe and Christian Bale in the lead roles. The film tells the story of an impoverished and injured farmer who takes on the dangerous job of transporting a notorious outlaw to justice.

A remake of the 1957 film of the same name, which makes it the second adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s 1953 short story “Three-Ten to Yuma.” The film received positive reviews from critics, grossing $70 million worldwide.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Brad Pitt as Jesse James
Warner Bros. Pictures
Warner Bros. Pictures

Released in 2007, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is considered to be an epic revisionist Western film adapted from Ron Hansen’s 1983 novel of the same name. Directed by Andrew Dominik, the film dramatizes the relationship between the historical figures Jesse James (Brad Pitt) and Robert Ford (Casey Affleck), leading up to James’ assassination.

Known for its artistic style and unique storytelling, the film was nominated for Best Cinematography and Best Supporting Actor for Affleck and has been considered by some critics and Pitt’s and Affleck’s best performances to date.

No Country For Old Men

Havier Bardem in No Country For Old Men
Miramax Film
Miramax Film

A neo-noir Western, No Country For Old Men was written and directed by Ethan and Joel Coen, and based on Cormac McCarthy’s 2005 novel of the same name. Starring Tommy Lee Jones and Javier Bardem, it follows a Texas Vietnam War veteran in 1980 who discovers a cash of gold and is then relentlessly chased by hitman for it.

In 2007, the film was featured on more critic’s top ten lists than any other film and is considered to be the Coen Brother’s best work. In 2016, it was voted the 10th best film of the 21st century.

There Will Be Blood

Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood
Miramax Films
Miramax Films

Loosely based on the 1927 novel Oil! by Upton Sinclair, There Will Be Blood is an epic-period drama written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. Starring Daniel Day-Lewis, the film focuses on a silver miner turned-oil-man and his ruthless quest for oil in Southern California during the oil boom in the late 19th and early 20th century.

The film was acclaimed by both critics and audiences with Day-Lewis winning an Oscar, BAFTA, Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild, and IFTA for Best Actor. Currently, it’ considered one of the greatest films of the 21st century.

Django Unchained

Scene from Django Unchained
The Weinstein Company
The Weinstein Company

A revisionist Western film, Django Unchained, is everything you would expect out of a Quentin Tarantino Film. Starring heavy-hitting actors such as Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio, Christoph Waltz, Samuel L. Jackson, and more, the film is a tribute to old Spaghetti Western films, specifically, Django, an Italian film, from 1966.

Django Unchained went on to become Tarantino’s highest-grossing film to date, grossing over $425 million worldwide against its $100 million budget. It was also nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, with Waltz winning for Best Supporting Actor.

The Revenant

Leonardo in The Revenant
20th Century Fox
20th Century Fox

Loosely based on the life of frontiersman Hugh Glass in 1823, 2015’s The Revenant is a film also based partially on Michael Punke’s 2002 book of the same name. The film stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Hugh Glass, who, after surviving an attack by Native Americans, is mauled by a grizzly bear and left for dead after witnessing the murder of his own son.

Dead-set on revenge, he manages to survive the harsh wildness and exact revenge on those who wronged him. The film was praised by critics and audiences and won numerous accolades for the film’s cinematography, story, and acting.

The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada

The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada
EuropaCorp/MovieStillsDB
EuropaCorp/MovieStillsDB

Starring Tommy Lee Jones, Barry Pepper, Julio Cedillo, Dwight Yoakam, and January Jones, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada is based on the true story. Told from multiple characters’ perspectives, the film shows Melquiades Estrada, a teenager working as a cowboy in Texas, shot and killed by a U.S. Border Patrol officer.

The film is a modern Western that accurately portrays what life is like for some cowboys along the Texas-Mexican border. It was also the first film that Tommy Lee Jones directed.

Rango

rango_37406f07
Paramount Pictures/MovieStillsDB
Paramount Pictures/MovieStillsDB

Western films crossed over into the computer animated genre for the first time with Rango. Top actors including Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Bill Nighy, and Abigail Breslin lent their voices for this incredibly successful film that grossed $245.7 million.

The animated Western film follows a chameleon named Rango who wanders a desert in Nevada and ends up in a town called “Dirt”. Once he learns about the town’s inner-workings, he finds his true calling. Rango is a treat for families who love watching Westerns together.

Damsel

damsel_SmdyFY
Great Point Media/MovieStillsDB
Great Point Media/MovieStillsDB

Western comedy Damsel was shot in just 32 days, with three main actors, 27 film crew members, and 70 extras. Samuel (Robert Pattinson) sets out to rescue his love, Penelope (Mia Wasikowska) after she is kidnapped by the Cornell brothers.

Damsel has plot twists along with the laughs and garnered mostly positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s not a classic Western, but it doesn’t try to be– it’s just what you’re looking for in a modern Western film.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

the-ballad-of-buster-scruggs_erKS6R
Netflix
Netflix

Created by Netflix and released in 2018, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is a Western anthology film by the Coen brothers. The film received outstanding reviews and several awards nominations, complimented for its well-crafted dark sense of humor.

Starring Time Blake Nelson, Liam Neeson, James Franco, Brendan Gleeson, and others, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs will bring the laughs along with the gunfights and cowboy culture. Catch it if you can on Netflix.

Go for Sisters

go-for-sisters
Anarchists’ Convention/Olmos Productions/Go For Films
Anarchists’ Convention/Olmos Productions/Go For Films

Released in 2013, Go for Sisters describes the close resemblance between two long-time friends, Bernice (LisaGay Hamilton) and Fontayne (Yolanda Ross) and follows the two as they try to solve a murder case. Although they’ve known each other since high school, the two’s rekindled friendship later in life is an unusual one, as one of the women works in law enforcement and the other is a parolee.

Set along the US-Mexico border, Go for Sisters was filmed guerrilla-style in 65 locations and cost less the one million dollars to make.

Red Hill

red_hill

Australians love Westerns too, and Director Patrick Hughes knew what he was doing with 2010’s Australian Western thriller film, Red Hill. The film is full of action with a classic chase of the good guys vs the bad guys, as young police officer Shane Cooper moves to a small town and is assigned the task of locating and capturing a prison escapee.

Red Hill checks all of the boxes of a modern Western film. Although the plot is far from original, it’s entertaining and deserves a place on this list.

John Wayne Defined What A Cowboy Was

GettyImages-97382052-58144
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Over the years, John Wayne has come to embody the essence of the Western genre. During the 1930s, he worked on a series of B films in the Western genre until he became a star after acting in John Ford’s Stagecoach in 1939. From there, he starred in over 142 films and produced many of them.

Biographer Ronald Davis proclaimed that “John Wayne personified for millions the nation’s frontier heritage. Eighty-three of his movies were Westerns, and in them, he played cowboys, cavalrymen, and unconquerable loners extracted from the Republic’s central creation myth.” His most well-known roles were in films such as True Grit, for which he won the Academy Award for Best Actor, Red River, The Longest Day, and more.

Gary Cooper Played A Cowboy From Silent Films Into The Golden Age Of Hollywood

garycooper-81273-65321
Photo Credits: Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Photo Credits: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Born in 1901, Gary Cooper had an acting career that lasted from 1925 to 1961. During that time, he was the leading role in 84 films spanning from the ending of the silent film era to the end of the Golden Age of Hollywood. Although he acted in a range of genres, he is best known for playing the role of the American hero, especially in Western films.

He made a name for himself in the Western genre with his first sound film The Virginian, followed by films such as High Noon, Man of the West, The Westerner, Fighting Caravans, and numerous others. Throughout his career, he was nominated for and won many Academy Awards for Best Actor. Cooper also took home Golden Globe Awards, Laurel Awards, and more.

Clint Eastwood Made Everyone Want To Be An Antihero

GettyImages-119202690-74108
Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images
Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

Before Clint Eastwood achieved numerous accolades as an actor, filmmaker, musician, and political figure, he was a Western star. He first came into popularity acting in the Western TV series Rawhide, and later graduated to Western films by playing The Man With No Name in Sergio Leone’s Dollars trilogy which included A Fistful of Dollars, For A Few Dollars More, and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

The final film in the series, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly is what solidified Eastwood as a supreme Western actor. It then led him to star in roles such as Hang Em’ High, Coogan’s Bluff, The Outlaw Josey Wales, Two Mules For Sister Sara, and more. Although Eastwood will forever remain an icon in the Western genre, most of his awards came later in his career for his directing abilities.

James Stewart Relied On His Military Experience In Films

jamesstewart-79934-58097
Photo Credits: Universal/Getty Images
Photo Credits: Universal/Getty Images

James Stewart was not only a respected and beloved actor but was also a military officer. During his military career, he became the highest-ranking actor in military history, even making the rank of Brigadier General in the United States Air Force Reserve. He channeled some of his experience and discipline from the military into the characters he played, especially in his Western films.

He starred with John Wayne in the film The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and is known for his other Western films Bandolero!, Bend of the River, and Broken Arrow. He has since been named the third-greatest male screen legend in the Golden Age of Hollywood, received an Academy Award Lifetime Achievement Award, and the American Film Institute named five of his films in the 100 best American films ever made.

Randolph Scott Won The Hearts of the Public

GettyImages-541056151-53461
ullstein bild/ullstein bild via Getty Images
ullstein bild/ullstein bild via Getty Images

Randolph Scott was a prominent Western actor from 1928 up until 1968. Although he was known to excel in different genres, he was most famous for playing the Western hero, which he played in the majority of his 60 films. His prowess led one critic to write: “Of all the major stars whose name was associated with the Western, Scott most closely identified with it.”

His personality worked well with his Western characters and turned his films into major box office hits. Films such as Abilene Town in 1946 helped prove his skill in the Western genre which he continued to act in, working with famous producers and directors. He was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in 1975 and won a Memoriam Gold Boot for his work.

Sam Elliot Was Destined To Be A Cowboy

samelliot-98902-26025
Photo Credits: MJ Kim/Getty Images
Photo Credits: MJ Kim/Getty Images

Sam Elliot’s acting abilities, as well as his physical appearance and demeanor, led him to be frequently cast as a cowboy or rancher in Western films. On top of that, he also said he associates with the Western tradition, having a relative who fought in the Battle of the Alamo. In part, it’s his cowboy look that helped get him into acting.

He was known to play small parts in Western films because he fit in so well until he eventually landed a role as “Card Player #2” in the Paul Newman-Robert Redford hit Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Elliot has also starred in other big Westerns such as The Quick and the Dead, Tombstone, and I Will Fight No More Forever.

Robert Duvall Is Keeping the Spirit Alive

geronimo-an-american-legend_8c818b92-65184
Columbia Pictures
Columbia Pictures

Robert Duvall is a well-rounded actor. He’s known for his different roles ranging from science fiction shows such as The Twilight Zone to Western classics like True Grit. Although he is a versatile actor, he is beloved for his Western roles in particular.

He began acting in Westerns in the 1950s in films such as True Grit, Joe Kidd, and Lawman, but continues the tradition today in movies like Open Range, Broken Trail, and Wild Horses. Duvall is credited with helping to keep the Western genre alive by maintaining to make these movies and holding them to the high standards they had during the Golden Age of Hollywood.

Henry Fonda Acted In Some Of The Best

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Photo Credits: Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images
Photo Credits: Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

Henry Fonda got his start on Broadway but eventually made his way to the big screen where he established himself known as one of the most prominent Western actors of all time. He made his Hollywood debut in 1935 and after achieving fame he later starred in Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time In the West (1968).

He acted in other Western films such as How the West Was Won, Jesse James, Firecreek, The Cheyenne Social Club, and more. For his acting capabilities, he was named the sixth-Greatest Male Star of All Time by the American Film Institute and is the patriarch of the acting family that includes Jane Fonda, Peter Fonda, Bridget Fonda, and Troy Garity. Although none of his major awards came from his Western films, he’s still highly regarded for his work in the genre.

Burt Lancaster Liked Playing The Tough Guy

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Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images
Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

Burt Lancaster is known as the “tough guy” actor who liked taking on the challenge of playing demanding roles which led to his success as an actor. After gaining attention in Hollywood, he began acting in Western films such as Vengeance Valley, The Kentuckian, and The Unforgiven.

He also co-starred with Lee Marvin in the 1966 hit Western film The Professionals. Lancaster continued to act in countless Westerns throughout his career and won many awards for his acting in different genres. The American Film Institute also named him #19 of the Greatest Male Stars of Classic Hollywood Cinema.

Charles Bronson Was A Gunslinger At Heart

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Photo Credits: Silver Screen Collection/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Photo Credits: Silver Screen Collection/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The Western genre wouldn’t have been the same without the work contributed by Charles Bronson. He is iconic as the typical cowboy character atop his horse, usually plotting revenge. He played all of his roles very naturally which helped him to make a name for himself as a Western actor.

Bronson’s most notable Western films included Once Upon a Time In the West, The Magnificent Seven, and Apache, although he acted in numerous others. Because he liked to play in action-packed gunfighting films, he fit right in with the Western tradition and handled all of his characters with ease.

James Arness Was The Ultimate Television Cowboy

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Photo Credits: Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images
Photo Credits: Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

James Arness was a television actor who helped to bring cowboys to the family living room every week. He is best-known for playing the role of Marshal Matt Dillon on the television series Gunsmoke for 20 years.

Along with Gunsmoke, he also acted in the series How the West Was Won which earned him a large following in the United Kingdom for his portrayal of the character Zeb Macahan. Although he was featured in a few Western films, it was Arness’ contributions to Western television programs that make him one of the most regarded Western actors of all time.

Audie Murphy Was A Real-Life War Hero

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Photo credits: Bettmann / Contributor
Photo credits: Bettmann / Contributor

Audie Murphy truly lived a unique life. Murphy, born in 1925, was one of the most highly decorated combat soldiers in World War II. When he was just 19 years old, he received the Medal of Honor for single-handedly repelling an entire troop of German soldiers for an hour. Additionally, he was awarded every single award for valor from the U.S. Army.

After his astonishing success in the military, Murphy began a 21-year career in film. As an actor, he was best known for his roles in films like The Kid from Texas, Sierra, and The Unforgiven. He appeared in more than 40 movies during his time as a Hollywood actor. Audie Murphy died in a plane crash on May 28, 1971.

James Garner’s Television Character Was So Well-Liked That He Went On To Make Movies

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Photo Credits: Archive Photos/Getty Images
Photo Credits: Archive Photos/Getty Images

Much like James Stewart, James Garner was also a cowboy and a real-life soldier. He was even awarded the Purple Heart for his sacrifice in the Korean War. Garner took experiences from the war and poured them into his acting, particularly in Westerns.

He became well-known through his performance as Bret Maverick in the 1950s television show Maverick and even played the same role in a few feature-length films. Although his Bret Maverick character was his most famous work, he was also in other Westerns like A Man Called Sledge, The Castaway Cowboy, and Duel at Diablo.

Lee Marvin Ended His Career As One Of The Best

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Photo Credits: Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images
Photo Credits: Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

Lee Marvin was a Western actor who also was famous for his work in both television and movies. Although he started out with small features in Westerns, by the end of his career he was one of the biggest stars in Hollywood.

One of his most notable performances was in the Western comedy Cat Ballou in 1965 in which he played the dual roles of Kid Shelleen and Tim Strawn. The film also co-starred Jane Fonda, Henry Fonda’s daughter. He went on to win the Academy Award for Best Actor as well as numerous other awards for his work on the film. He was also in Bad Day at Black Rock, Gun Fury, Hangman’s Knot, and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.

Steve McQueen Made Cowboys Sexy

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FPG/Archive Photos/Getty Images
FPG/Archive Photos/Getty Images

Over the course of his career, Steve McQueen didn’t just earn the reputation of a cowboy, but the suavest cowboy around. His performances in Western flicks and television shows helped make him one of the highest-paid actors of all time during his career. However, he didn’t always get along with directors and producers.

He began his career in showbusiness guest-starring in a Western series titled Tales of Wells Fargo and later acted in the series Wanted Dead or Alive. 1960’s The Magnificent Seven was his first huge hit.

Lee Van Cleef Was The Ultimate Villain

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John Springer Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images
John Springer Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

Not only did Lee Van Cleef have the looks and mannerisms of the perfect Western villain, but he could also act the part too. At first, it was his look that helped him get the role for his early villain parts, but it wasn’t long until his talents became noticed. He made it big after he played opposite Gary Cooper in High Noon.

After that, Van Cleef played the villain in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly and For A Few Dollars More. He gained a lot of popularity outside of the United States for these roles and continued acting for Western television shows like The Adventures of Kit Carson, The Range Rider, and Stories of the Century.