The Western is one of the oldest and most beloved genres in Hollywood. The tales of outlaws and lawmen fighting for survival in a dangerous land have given us some of the best films of all-time. And while the Western might not be as popular as it once was, there are still plenty of films in the genre to enjoy.
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If you’re interested in exploring some of the best Westerns around, Netflix has a solid collection of them ready for you to watch. You can revisit old favorites, discover less-known titles and see some of the more modern takes on the genre. Here are some of the best Westerns now on Netflix.
10 The Salvation
The Salvation is likely the least-known film on this list, but its unique take on the genre makes it worth seeking out. While most Western hinge on the American experience at the time, this film is an immigrant story about a man trying to make a new home with his family only to be pulled into a dangerous world.
The fresh perspective of a familiar tale is boosted by a stellar cast. Mads Mikkelsen continues to cement himself as an unexpected action star. Eva Green is a compelling presence as always. But the scene-stealer is Jeffrey Dean Morgan in a stellar villain role.
The “cowboys and Indians” angle is a much-used trope of Western films and has been one of the most problematic aspects of the genre. Native Americans have often been depicted by Hollywood as terrorizing savages. However, Hostiles is one of the few movies to attempt to tell both sides of the story.
The story is set in 1892 as an Army Captain is tasked with escorting a Cheyenne chief to his new home through dangerous territory. The film attempts to show the brutality experienced by both sides of the conflict. It also helps that it features fantastic performances from Christian Bale, Rosamund Pike and Wes Studi.
8 Dances With Wolves
Dances With Wolves is probably most well-known as the movie that beat Goodfellas to win Best Picture at the Oscars. While it is certainly not on par with Martin Scorsese’s masterpiece, this movie does have a lot to admire.
Kevin Costner directed this tale of an Army Lieutenant assigned to an outpost during the Civil War and his bonding with the Lakota tribes in this territory. Costner was at the height of his stardom and managed to create a beautiful looking film. The film was a massive hit and is largely credited with reviving the Western genre at the time.
7 The Hateful Eight
Tarantino loves Westerns. He loves them so much that he was willing to dedicate two of his supposed ten movies to the genre. This follow-up to Django Unchained was not as big in scope, but it certainly had a lot of personality. The movie follows a group of dangerous strangers who find themselves sharing a small cabin during a blizzard. As bodies pile up, they begin wondering who can be trusted.
Tarantino works his magic with the small setting and milks the tension in every scene. His amazing cast also helps with Samuel L. Jackson, Walton Goggins and Jennifer Jason Leigh as stand-outs.
6 Slow West
Not every Western needs to be non-stop gunfights to be compelling. Some would rather take their time to tell a good story with strong characters – and then get to the gunfights. This small genre entry is about a young naive Scottish man who comes to America to find the woman he loves. He encounters an outlaw who guides him across the dangerous country in his quest.
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Fans looking for heavy action might be disappointed, but there’s a lot to admire about this slow-burn Western. Fassbender is charming and compelling as the mysterious outlaw and Ben Mendelsohn once again provides a great cinematic villain.
5 Wind River
There is some controversy about if a movie needs to be set in a particular time period to be considered a Western. However, we have seen countless examples of movies that use the Western archetype in modern settings to great effect. This is one such example, the story of an FBI agent who teams with a hunter to investigate a murder on a Native American reservation.
While having the story of the Native American struggle feature two White actors isn’t ideal, Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen are solid in the roles. And the movie features one of the tensest standoffs in recent memory.
4 The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs
The Coen Brothers have always shown an affinity for the Western genre and this movie seems like the perfect vehicle to explore that love. The anthology movie features six separate stores set in the Old West. They include tales of bank robbers, prospectors and a singing cowboy.
Not every story is a home run, but none all are interesting in their own way. The first story featuring Tim Blake Nelson as the titular Buster Scruggs is worth the watch on its own. The movie is packed with the Coens trademark black humor and fits comfortably in their impressive filmography.
3 Hell Or High Water
Another modern take on the genre follows two brothers who set out on a bank robbing road trip with a skilled lawman on their tail. The bank robber Western is a common subgenre, but this film manages to find a unique way of depicting it within the context of modern America. This is not a fun romp but rather a tale of desperation in an unfair world.
The main cast of Chris Pine, Ben Foster and Jeff Bridges are all excellent. The film manages to make you sympathize and root for the people on both sides of the law. Not an easy task.
2 The Wild Bunch
The Western has always been a violent genre but this Sam Peckinpah-directed film introduced a whole new level of violence that mainstream Hollywood had never seen. The film follows an aging group of outlaws trying to pull off one last big score as the Old West begins to fade away.
The movie proved to be highly influential as an action picture. Peckinpah’s use of slow motion and quick edits in his action scenes were revolutionary at the time and are still copied to this day. It is a classic throwback adventure that helped usher in a new era of Hollywood. Obviously, a remake is on the way.
1 No Country For Old Men
The Coens more modern take on the Western might just be their masterpiece. This dark adaptation of a Cormac McCarthy movie centers on a man who, after finding money in the desert is pursued by a ruthless killer.
Just as many classic Westerns used the post-Civil War era to explore how American changed, this film brilliantly uses post-Vietnam America to explore another era of change in the country. The tense and brutal chase between Josh Brolin and Javier Bardem is a white-knuckle thrill. But Tommy Lee Jones’s aging lawman is the heart of the movie as he follows the trail of violence and contemplates his place in this new world.