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.
2. 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.
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. Big Kill
This 2018 independent Western movie looks and sounds much like the many Wild Wild movies that were cranked out by the big studios in the 1950s. That’s part of its charm as well. It’s not a revisionist Western like some of the films on this list. It’s a good old-fashioned Wild West shoot-em-up. The plot is pretty simple. Two men are asked by a Philadephia city boy to escort him to the mining town of Big Kill. However, they soon discover that the town has been taken over by a person called the Preacher, played by Jason Patric, and he’s not happy with these new people in town.
“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.
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: