Cowboy movies are a classic (and often problematic) genre in Hollywood history. When it comes to tales of pastoral mystique, violence, and grit, few settings rival the Wild West. For years, there’s been a pretty decent selection of westerns on Netflix, though many rotate in and out semi-regularly. Right now it’s a little light, but there are still some pretty good options.
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The best westerns on Netflix:
Editor’s note: We’ll be updating this list of the best westerns on Netflix regularly as new titles make it to the streaming service.
In A Valley Of Violence
This 2016 movie comes from director Ti West, who previously made acclaimed and atmospheric horror films like House of the Devil, The Innkeepers, and The Sacrament. He took that experience into making a Western movie that looks and feels a bit creepy.
Ethan Hawke plays a drifter who wanders into a nearly abandoned Wild West town. The town’s marshall, played by John Travolta, and his deputy son, tell him to leave town and don’t come back. Hawke’s character does just that. However, outside of town, the marshall’s son and some others attack him and leave him for dead. That’s when things get really violent.
Quigley Down Under
Sometimes Western films don’t have to be set in the US wild west. That’s the case for this 1990 movie. Tom Selleck plays Matthew Quigley, a 19th-century cowboy sharpshooter who answers a newspaper ad seeking the best shooter to come to Australia. He takes the boat to the country down under and shows off his rifle skills to a ranch owner, played by Alan Rickman. However, Quigley soon learns the job he’s been hired to do, and he wants no part of it. You’ll love it — it’s one of the best “westerns” on Netflix.
The Outlaw Josey Wales
Clint Eastwood seemed to be born to be a Wild West movie actor. This 1976 movie is one of his best. His wife and child are murdered on the frontier, and now Josey Wales is both on the ru from bounty hunters as well as going after the people who killed his family off. It’s a terrific twist on the standard Western revenge story.
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs brings six short tales of a whimsical Wild West to Netflix. The Cohen Brothers’ newest work is feature-length but takes a more anthology-style structure. Heck, Buster Scruggs (Tim Blake Nelson) himself is only in the film for maybe 20 minutes. The different stories have their own particular strengths, but they all feature the Cohen Brother’s characteristic tone and dialogue. It’s casual, quick, and very clever, plus it’s got a wicked sense of humor.
This is a great option for someone with a shorter attention span, or if you just want something built with bathroom breaks in mind.
The Hateful Eight
Quentin Tarantino’s eighth film confines its characters to a single room for almost the entire movie. In it, eight strangers from all walks of life are stuck in a Montana trading post waiting out a blizzard.
This being a Quentin Tarantino film, everything escalates rather quickly. It’s crass, humorous, and eventually, brutally violent. It also has some of the most striking cinematography Tarantino’s done so far, with long static shots and wide panoramas. Seriously, sometimes this feels like a stage play, in the best way.
This western on Netflix is a little different. This 2001 movie was an attempt to boost the Wild West genre with new actors. Colid Farrell plays Jesse James, the near-legendary head of the James Gang of bank robbers. There’s a lot of contemporary gun action and music in this movie, but even if it’s not historically accurate, it’s still an entertaining film.
Dances With Wolves
This 1990 Academy Award winner for Best Picture is definitely not your father’s Western. Kevin Costner, who also directed, plays a former Civil War Union soldier who is assigned to a far, far Western outpost. He slowly befriends the local Native American tribe, and later becomes part of their tribe. This focus on the Native American experience made this movie very unique when it was first released.
“Wild Bill” Hickok was a very real lawman in the Wild West. This 2017 movie offers up a fictionalized look at part of his life. He’s basically the new sheriff in town, the town being Abilene, Kansas. He’s trying to keep things safe for the rest of the townspeople by taking out the gunslingers. Luke Hemsworth plays Hickok, and the cast also includes Trace Adkins, Kris Kristofferson, and Bruce Dern.
In search of revenge, Frank Griffin and his gang are looking to eliminate Roy Goode. This man seeks refuge in western town of La Belle, which is inhabited mostly by women due to a mining disaster that killed most men. These women are not to be messed with, though. The town gets together to defend both the town and Roy Goode from these outlaws.
The Ridiculous 6
Westerns are usually violent, sad, romantic, and overall very serious movies. It’s good to take a break and laugh a little with a film like The Ridiculous 6. This movie follows Tommy “White Knife” Dunson Stockburn (Adam Sandler) and his five step-brothers. By the way, he had no idea he had them and they are all completely different. They go on a search for their dad, who wasn’t exactly a great role model.
This movie is… well, ridiculous. Go have some fun!
Here’s a look at a few more Westerns on Netflix you can stream right now:
- The Ballad of Lefty Brown – Bull Pullman plays a Western gunslinger out for revenge against the people who killed his partner.
- Justice – A preacher is killed off in a frontier town, but his brother, a US Marshall, is now going after those same killers.
- Badland – A detective heads into the Wild West to help find and apprehend Confederate soldiers who are in hiding.
- The Killer – This is a Western set in Brazil. A killer who was raised by a local bandit goes in search of him when the bandit goes missing.
- Dead Again At Tombstone – Yes, this is a horror Western, when a dead outlaw is summoned back to life by the devil to help protect an artifact from thieves.