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.
1. 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.
The year is 1892, and after decades of brutal fighting, Captain Joseph Blocker (Christian Bale) is given his final assignment: escort the Cheyenne war chief Yellow Hawk (Wes Studi) and his family back to their home in Montana. Hostiles is a story about the horrors and trauma of war, experienced by the colonized and colonizer.
Not all westerns are lighthearted tales of train robberies and lone gunmen with hearts of gold. This is tense and gritty, and nobody is having a very good time. You’ll love it — it’s one of the best westerns on Netflix.
3. Django Unchained
This is the first, but not the last, Western directed by the great Quentin Tarantino. It takes place just a few years before the US Civil War. Jamie Foxx plays the title character Django. At the beginning of the movie, he is enslaved and separated from his wife. In Texas, he gets some help from a bounty hunter, Dr. King Schultz, played by Christoph Waltz. He frees Django and together they become a bounty hunting team.
It’s at this time that this “Western” takes a turn to the south, specifically Mississippi. Django and Schultz once again team up to free Django’s wife from her plantation and her owner, played by Leonardo DiCaprio. As with all of Tarantino’s films, things get violent fast. It’s a terrific twist on the standard Western revenge story.
4. 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.
5. The Hateful Eight
Quentin Tarantino’s eighth film brings us back to the Old West, but it’s very different to Django Unchained. Rather than a sweeping pastoral journey across the American countryside, The Hateful Eight confines its characters to a single room for almost the entire film. 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.
6. Buffalo Boys
This western on Netflix is a little different. Buffalo Boys is an Indonesian action film about two brothers who flee 19th Century Java after their father, the Sultan of Java, is killed by Dutch Soldiers. The boys go with their uncle to the American West, and they grow up working on building the railroads and learning the cowboy life. Once they become adults, the brothers decide it’s time to go home and get revenge for their father’s death.
Buffalo Boys is damn fun. It feels like an Indonesian take on The Magnificent Seven, only with goofier action.
7. Hell on Wheels
This actually isn’t a movie, but rather a five-season TV show from AMC. Hell on Wheels follows the plight of former confederate soldier Cullen Bohannon (Anson Mount) as he becomes the foreman of the under-construction Union Pacific Railroad. Bohannon is searching for the Union soldiers that killed his family in the Civil War and on his quest he has to help manage the progress of the railroad and keep the peace in Hell on Wheels, the traveling settlement where workers live.
Hell on Wheels features a number of fascinating characters, in addition to Bohannon. No one is as they seem in a town like this, and the show relishes the chance to explore that.
8. The Duel
A series of mysterious murders in small-town Helena leads to an investigation by a Texas Ranger. Abraham, the local preacher and leader welcomes the Ranger warmly to his town, but things turn soon. The investigation becomes personal when the Ranger finds a link to his own life in Helena.
This is a gorgeous Netflix western with a captivating story, so make sure to give it a watch.
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.
10. 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!
Plenty more including classic, war movies, and the list goes on
That’s just a brief look at what’s on Netflix. However, there’s a ton of content you can stream on the service. Here are some of our other Netflix guides worth checking out: