The 25 greatest westerns of all time (2023)

Saddle up for our guide to the most rootin', tootin' genre of them all -- the western. From Golden Age classics to B-movie pulp, John Ford to Quentin Tarantino, here are 25 films that will make you long for days when men were men, women rode horses and saloons were all the rage.

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The Searchers (1956)

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Warner Bros.

You just ain't makin' a Western list without The Searchers, son. The most beloved of all Westerns, this 1956 classic sees John Ford and John Wayne teaming up for a timeless journey through vast, uncharted territory. It opened the door to a new frontier: one without heroes, morals, or romance. The genre would never be the same.

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The Wild Bunch (1969)

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Warner Bros.

As we said, the genre went through some changes after The Searchers. There were more bad guys than ever, more bodies than your local morgue, and enough blood to fill a swimming pool. With 13 outlaws on hand, Sam Peckinpah took that change to new heights.

3 of 25

McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971)

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Warner Bros.

There are a handful of Robert Altman movies that get votes as his best, andMcCabe & Mrs. Miller is one of them. Part of what makes it unique is that it's a cowboy movie in which the main character isn't a cowboy. Instead, he's a normal man roped into the world of outlaws and shootouts due to his profession. Warren Beatty is just some guy who wants to run a brothel. What's so bad about that?

4 of 25

The Power of the Dog (2021)

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2021 gave us one of the great Westerns. In fact, The Power of the Dogwas so good it was nominated for 12 Oscars, even receiving Best Picture buzz at the time.

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Stagecoach (1939)

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United Artists

If nothing else, Stagecoachdeserves recognition for being the first true Western. However, it's also a truly great film. John Wayne plays a cowboy who rides a stagecoach across Indian territory. Is it action-packed? Of course, it is! Those Indians aren't going to shoot themselves! But it's also a great character study, with enough nuance to keep the racism at arm's length.

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Red River (1948)

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United Artists

Some call Red River the best Ford movie he never made. While it certainly owes a debt to the work of Ford, the film stands on its own merits. John Wayne and Thomas Dunson are both excellent in the lead roles, but it's Howard Hawks who winds up stealing the show.

7 of 25

Winchester '73 (1950)

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Universal Pictures

Jimmy Stewart plays a sharpshooter searching for the man who killed his father. There are no laughs or one-liners; just a cowboy, his partner, and a landscape as empty as the those who wander it.

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Seven Samurai (1954)

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Criterion Collection

What is a Japanese samurai movie doing on our list? Well, Kurosawa's Seven Samurai is as much a western as any--featuring a village under attack, bandits, scouts, men for hire, and plenty of standoffs. The film also inspired The Magnificent Sevenand what many consider to be the first space Western, Star Wars.

9 of 25

No Country for Old Men (2007)

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Tommy Lee Jones does his best old-guy-at-the-Y impression: he moves like he's on his last legs, but keeps running up and down the court anyway. His opponent is Javier Bardem, who can shoot like nobody else out there. The final showdown is one for the ages...between 70-80.

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Django (1966)

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Euro International Films

Django is one of those Spaghetti Westerns with an awesome soundtrack. Some of it doesn't hold up. Maybe we don't need Django acting like a frat boy. The action aspects, though, still crackle, and the theme song will be stuck in your head for days on end.

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Rio Bravo (1959)

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Warner Bros.

After the success ofRed River, Hawks decided to make another Western. This time, Wayne plays a sheriff, not a cattle rancher. Exactly how much of this is supposed to be played for laughs is a bit murky, though, because the film starts to build to a big showdown. Before that, it's just a really fun hangout with some great characters.

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The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)

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Warner Bros.

Clint Eastwood has made a few man-on-the-run Westerns. Cry Macho was a bit of a slog, but Outlaw Josey Wales has a lot going for it. For starters, Eastwood is in the starring role, and it doesn't glorify violence like his early stuff and has real things to say about society. It might even be his best film, I reckon.

13 of 25

The Passenger (1975)

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Criterion Collection

Every Antonioni movie is a Western--they all center around lonely wanderers, barren landscapes, and people living off the grid. Heck, this one literally takes place in a desert. Jack Nicholson would rather relax in Africa than return to America, which might as well be a mirage in the distance. He assumes a dead man's identity and becomes A Man With No Name. Don't go in expecting shootouts, though. The Passenger is closer to Wim Wenders than Sergio Leone.

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Shane (1953)

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Paramount Pictures

This is one of those classic Westerns from back in the day. A hero rides into town, sees a group of criminals and decides to do something about it. The difference is that Shane--like its title character--packs a punch.

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The Hateful Eight (2015)

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The Weinstein Company

Sam Jackson. Kurt Russel. Quentin Tarantino. Need I say more?

16 of 25

Forty Guns (1957)

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20th Century Fox

Barbara Stanwyck rides the high country (and everyone in it) in this racy, sexually-charged adventure. Some of the innuendos border on parody ("you think your gun will go off in my face?"), but it has so much style you won't even notice. You'll be too busy admiring the tracking shots and long takes.

17 of 25

My Darling Clementine (1946)

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Criterion Collection

The real-life story that inspiredClementine is fascinating. A lawman, played by Henry Fonda, returns to the town where his brother was shot. He becomes sheriff and goes after the boys who done it. It's a great story, and it feels like Ford, who won 5 Oscars, does it justice.

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The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)

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Paramount Pictures

Ford made 14 Western and Western-adjacent films, and we couldn't include them all. However, since he isthe Tom Brady of Western directors, we figured it was fair to list a couple of them. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is old enough to feature references to John F. Kennedy, but it's still as fresh as anything out there. It stars John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart. And draws parallels between American politics and Mexican standoffs. What could be more relevant than that?

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Johnny Guitar (1954)

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Criterion Collection

There were millions of people in the West, and one assumes they didn't all look like John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart. Of course, when you think of the West, you think of Wayne with a shotgun or Stewart with a pistol. But there were other folks as well. Vienna runs a saloon on the edge of town, and she's about as far from John Wayne as New Port is from New York. She's no good with a gun, but she likes to sleep with people who are. She's a feminist icon; the rare woman to do what she wants, when she wants, with who she wants.

20 of 25

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (1966)

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United Artists

The Sistine Chapel of spectacles, the Grand Canyon of Westerns, the Great Wall of shootouts, and the Colosseum of killers. Sergio Leone's masterpiece is truly one of the seven wonders of the world.

21 of 25

Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)

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Paramount Pictures

How do you follow up on one of the biggest movies in cinema history? If you're Sergio Leone, you add more: more guns, more violence, more commentary, more close-ups and long-zooms, more desert vistas, and certainly more Ennio Morricone. What more do you want?

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Hell or High Water (2016)

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Hell or High Water doesn't live up to the ambition of its director. However, what the movie does have is Chris Pine and Ben Foster as the two bank robbers. They may not be Paul Newman and Robert Redford, but they do come close.

23 of 25

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)

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20th Century Fox

There's no topping this bromance. Paul Newman and Robert Redford are the American Jules and Jim, which means they carry guns, eat pie and ride bikes through the countryside.

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Days of Heaven (1978)

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Criterion Channel

Days of Heaven is one of Terrence Malick's best, and one of the best ever. However, we weren't sure if this story of two field workers in Texas counted as a Western. Ah, what the hell. We're including it anyway for the Rockwellian imagery and golden-hour light.

25 of 25

Unforgiven (1992)

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Warner Bros.

We've finally made it: the final frontier of the final frontier. And what better way to ride off into the sunset than with Unforgiven?

Asher Luberto is a film critic for L.A. Weekly, The Playlist, The Progressive and The Village Voice.


What is the #1 Western movie? ›

1 The Searchers (1956)

The Searchers is John Ford's epic Western, one which most cinephiles consider to be his best, and it truly does live up to the hype. The movie was released in 1956 and stars John Wayne as a Civil War veteran searching for his abducted niece (Natalie Wood) and her sister.

What movies did John Wayne make that were not Westerns? ›

The movie was written by Navy veteran Wendell Mayes and is considered to be an authentic view into the Navy during the war.
  • 'Back to Bataan' (1945) ...
  • 'Hatari! ...
  • 'They Were Expendable' (1945) ...
  • 'Reap the Wild Wind' (1942) ...
  • 'The Longest Day' (1962) ...
  • 'Blood Alley' (1955) ...
  • 'Sands of Iwo Jima' (1949) ...
  • 'The Quiet Man' (1952)
Jan 3, 2023

Did John Wayne and Clint Eastwood like each other? ›

Unfortunately, this dream proposition never came to be. These icons, instead of facing off in a pistol duel in the old West, were entangled in an off-screen feud initiated by Wayne. As the original face of the Western genre, he did not hold favorable opinions of the new gunslinger riding into town in Eastwood.

What is a famous classic western movie? ›

High Noon is a true classic of the Western genre, and is widely regarded as one of the best films of all time.

Who was the best rider in Westerns? ›

However, head and shoulders above everyone was Tom Mix. He worked for the Miller Brothers in the 101 Ranch shows before he and his horse Tony became motion picture's best riding duo.

Who is Clint Eastwood's favorite actor? ›

Speaking in an interview with Patrick McGilligan, which features in the 1999 book Clint Eastwood: Interviews, Eastwood revealed that his favourite actor was the star of White Heat, James Cagney.

What actor was a real cowboy? ›

Francis Benjamin Johnson Jr. (June 13, 1918 – April 8, 1996) was an American film and television actor, stuntman, and world-champion rodeo cowboy.

Who was the wealthiest cowboy actor? ›

How Clint Eastwood REALLY spends his fortune – 'world's richest cowboy!

What movie did John Wayne like the most? ›

John Wayne's Favorite Movies of All Time
  • 5 The Quiet Man (1952)
  • 4 The Searchers (1956)
  • 3 The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921)
  • 2 Gone with the Wind (1939)
  • 1 A Man for All Seasons (1966)
Feb 19, 2023

Did John Wayne do his own riding in his movies? ›

Western movie star John Wayne frequently rode a horse to complete his cowboy image. However, he grew an affinity for one animal in particular. Wayne went out of his way to ensure that he could ride the same horse named Dollar across seven of his movies.

Why did John Wayne walk that way? ›

He was hired because he looked and talked like a hero, but he didn't know how to move like one. Slowly but surely, he learned to move in a very slow, deliberate way; his slow and deliberate walk was simply his way of controlling his body. By the time his body had filled out, the style was pretty much set.

Who was Clint Eastwood's true love? ›

Sandra Louise Anderson (née Smith; May 28, 1944 – November 3, 2018), professionally known as Sondra Locke, was an American actress and director. She achieved recognition for her relationship with Clint Eastwood and the six hit films they made together.

Was John Wayne tough in real life? ›

But the truth about Wayne in real-life led some writers to describe the public image he cultivated as a "living lie." According to the biographer Scott Eyman, author of John Wayne: The Life And Legend, Wayne struggled to live up to his tough guy image by hiding the sensitive side of his personality.

What Western movie was the golden age? ›

The period from 1940 to 1960 has been called the "Golden Age of the Western". It is epitomized by the work of several prominent directors including Robert Aldrich, Budd Boetticher, Delmer Daves, John Ford, and others.

What is the best Western ever written? ›

The Best Western Books of All Time
  • To The River's End by William W. ...
  • True Grit by Charles Portis. ...
  • The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford by Ron Hansen. ...
  • The Quick and the Dead by Louis L. ...
  • The Time It Never Rained by Elmer Kelton. ...
  • Undaunted Courage by Stephen E.

What was the best Western movie in 1960? ›

'The Magnificent Seven' (1960)

What was John Wayne's horse's name? ›

In the days when westerns were big box office and TV attractions, cowboys and their horses often shared equal billing. Champion, wonder horse of the West, was Gene Autry's mount. John Wayne rode Duke, his devil horse, and, of course, there was Roy Rogers and Trigger billed as the smartest horse in the movies.

Did James Arness ride his own horse on Gunsmoke? ›

Morrison is the brother of John Wayne (real name: Marion Morrison). Andrew V. McLaglen directed 96 episodes of Gunsmoke (1955), reuniting him with James Arness. James Arness rode the same Buckskin horse (Buck) in this movie as he rode in many episodes of Gunsmoke (1955).

Who is the king of the Westerns? ›

However, his most enduring image is that of the tall-in-the-saddle Western hero. Out of his more than 100 film appearances over 60 were in Westerns.
Randolph Scott
Scott in the early 1930s
BornGeorge Randolph ScottJanuary 23, 1898 Orange County, Virginia, U.S.
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Did John Wayne meet Wyatt Earp? ›

He was said to have been on the set during the production of the movie, Wild Bill Hickok, in 1923. Five years later, John Wayne apparently met Wyatt Earp on a film set. They got talking and Earp related many of his hair-raising exploits to the actor known as “The Duke”.

Are Jim Carrey and Clint Eastwood friends? ›

In fact, it appears that a friendship developed between the two. According to film critic Richard Schickel's book Clint Eastwood: A Biography, Eastwood was one of the special guests at Carrey's 1995 ceremony at the Chinese Theater, where he had his feet and handprints immortalized.

Who made more movies Elvis or John Wayne? ›

The star of 31 movies throughout his illustrious career, Elvis Presley was the epitome of an entertainer. His proposed co-star, John Wayne, known as “The Duke” to his fans, starred in an estimated 150 movies throughout his career that spanned over 50 years.

What is Clint Eastwood's famous words? ›

Here are 10 of Clint Eastwood's most iconic movie lines.
  1. 1 "Go where you're lookin', and look where you're goin'."
  2. 2 "I know what you're thinking. ...
  3. 3 "Okay, you did two things wrong. ...
  4. 4 "Go ahead. ...
  5. 5 "Dying ain't much of a living, boy." ...
Jan 6, 2023

Did Clint Eastwood serve in the military? ›

Clint Eastwood is an iconic Hollywood actor known for movies such as Heartbreak Ridge, Million Dollar Baby and Gran Torino. He has also produced and directed many famous films, including the Oscar winning film, American Sniper. Eastwood served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War.

Who is the net worth of Clint Eastwood? ›

Some people know him as Dirty Harry. We are talking about the man, the legend, the actor, and the director Clint Eastwood. Clint Eastwood has a net worth of $400 million.
Clint Eastwood Net Worth 2023.
Net Worth:$400 Million
Name:Clint Eastwood
Salary:$35 Million +
Monthly Income:$3 Million +
Date of Birth:May 31, 1930
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Feb 8, 2023

Who is Clint Eastwood good friends with? ›

Morgan Freeman and Clint Eastwood have been good friends since working together in the early '90s on the Eastwood directed Unforgiven. They later teamed up for Million Dollar Baby and Invictus, both of which Eastwood again directed.

What actress did Clint Eastwood date? ›

In the 1970s, he had a fling with restaurant critic Gael Greene whom he started seeing after she interviewed him on the set of Two Mules for Sister Sara. According to McGilligan, Eastwood also had affairs with his co-stars Inger Stevens on Hang 'Em High, Jean Seberg on Paint Your Wagon, Jo Ann Harris on The Beguiled.

What is Clint Eastwood's biggest movie? ›

With a career spanning more than six decades, Eastwood has made a name for himself as an actor, director, and producer.
The 10 Highest-Grossing Clint Eastwood Movies, Ranked
  • 2 The Lion King - 1994 ($968,483,777) ...
  • 1 The Dark Knight - 2008 ($1,004,934,033)
Dec 21, 2022

Who was the longest living cowboy? ›

“Join me as we go back in time and into the life stories of the oldest-known living cowboy on the planet. John Hoiland was born in 1927 and has been a cowboy since day one living on the same land for 95 years.

Who was the last cowboy in America? ›

The Film. The Last Cowboy follows 23 years in the life of Vern Sager, a real American cowboy in one of the most isolated places in America.

Who was the last famous cowboy? ›

Every era eventually ends, and the Old West was no exception. The lawlessness that began with the Civil War's conclusion stretched into the earliest days of the 20th Century. And when that era finally wrapped up, who was its final desperado? Meet Harry Tracy, who went down with guns blazing in 1902.

What actor has made the most money? ›

As of February 2023, Samuel L. Jackson was the highest-grossing leading actor in the United States and Canada, which combined are known as the North American movie market. Movies featuring Jackson as a protagonist collectively amassed 5.72 billion U.S. dollars domestically.

Who is the wealthiest actor alive? ›

Who is the number one richest actor in the world? Currently, Jami Gertz is the richest actor in the world with a net worth of $3 billion.

Who is richest actor in world? ›

Top 10 richest actors in the world
  • #1. Jerry Seinfeld. Age- 68 years. ...
  • #2. Shahrukh Khan. Age- 56 years. ...
  • #3. Tyler Perry. Age- 53 years. ...
  • #4. Tom Cruise. Age- 60 years. ...
  • #5. George Clooney. Age- 61 years. ...
  • #6. Robert De Niro. Age- 79 years. ...
  • #8. Mel Gibson. Age- 66 Years. ...
  • #9. Adam Sandler. Age- 56 Years.
May 11, 2023

Who were John Wayne's best friends? ›

None of John Wayne's show-business friendships were as enduring, or as entertaining, as the kinship he forged with two men he met around the same time—character actor Ward Bond and director John Ford.

Did John Wayne use the same horse in his movies? ›

Western movie star John Wayne frequently rode a horse to complete his cowboy image. However, he grew an affinity for one animal in particular. Wayne went out of his way to ensure that he could ride the same horse named Dollar across seven of his movies.

What movie was Bruce Wayne watching? ›

The Mark of Zorro was the film which Bruce watched with his parents at the Monarch Theatre on the night of their death. One of Dr. Thomas Wayne's last words to Bruce was, "They'd probably throw someone like Zorro in Arkham" in response to Bruce's idolization of the masked vigilante.

What city has been in the most movies? ›

It might come as no surprise that the home of Hollywood is the setting for most movies, with 543 films shot in Los Angeles.

What actress has made the most movies? ›

With a career that spans over a hundred movies so far (and two soon-to-be-released projects on the way), Susan Sarandon is widely renowned as one of the actresses with the most movies in her career.

Which actor has won the most Oscars? ›

As of 2022, Katharine Hepburn maintained her lead as the actor with the most Oscar wins of all time. While the "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" star scored four acting accolades during her career, six fellow actors tied for the second spot with three wins each.

What was John Wayne's famous line? ›

1. "Whoa, take 'er easy there, Pilgrim." 2. "Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway."

What kind of horse did Clint Eastwood ride? ›

Clint Eastwood Used Andalusians in His Westerns

When you think about it, it only makes sense. It's fitting that tall, rugged, and brooding Clint would ride into town from over the horizon on an Andalusian. , Spanish breeds, including the Andalusian, were common mounts in the time.

What kind of car did John Wayne drive? ›

In his personal life Wayne's vehicle of choice was full-size Pontiac station wagons. It seems that he owned at least three during the 1970s.

What was the first western movie to win an Oscar? ›

The first Western to win a Best Picture Oscar.

Who was the first western movie star? ›

The first western movie star was Gilbert M. “Broncho Billy” Anderson. His Broncho Billy films, starting in 1910 with Broncho Billy's Redemption, portrayed the original good-bad man, the outlaw with a bit of humanity who does the right thing when the chips are down.

Is Tombstone the best Western ever? ›

1993's Tombstone is definitively the best western movie ever made. Here's why. The story of Wyatt Earp has been told many times over the years, from history books teaching us about the O.K. Corral, to television shows, and all the way to the big screen and back.

Who made the best Western movies? ›

The Magnificent 20: The greatest Westerns of all time
  • Stagecoach (John Ford, 1939) ...
  • Once Upon a Time in the West (Sergio Leone, 1968) ...
  • Shane (George Stevens, 1953) ...
  • Unforgiven (Clint Eastwood, 1992) ...
  • The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (Sergio Leone, 1966) ...
  • The Wild Bunch (Sam Peckinpah, 1969) ...
  • The Searchers (John Ford, 1956)
Apr 18, 2023

What Western movies won Best Picture? ›

Steven Spielberg recreated one of the stunts during his Indiana Jones film series.
  • 7 Dances With Wolves (1990) Tig Productions. ...
  • 5 Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid (1969) 20th Century Fox. ...
  • 4 No Country For Old Men (2007) Miramax Films. ...
  • 3 Django Unchained (2012) ...
  • 2 How the West Was Won (1962) ...
  • 1 The Revenant (2015)
Mar 26, 2023

Who is the oldest actor to win his first Oscar? ›

In 2021, an 83-year-old Sir Anthony Hopkins became the oldest person to ever win an acting Oscar for his performance in The Father.

What Western films have won Best Picture? ›

Only three traditional Westerns — 1931's “Cimarron,” 1990's “Dances with Wolves” and 1992's “Unforgiven” — and one contemporary Western (2007's “No Country for Old Men”) have won the Best Picture Oscar.

Who is the oldest Western actor still alive? ›

Norman Lloyd's career spans an incredible eight decades, and it's still going, making him the oldest actor and working person in the world. Tim McIntire passed away at the age of 41 on April . Clint Eastwood. Elliott is known for his distinctive lanky physique, full .

Who was the best horseman in Westerns? ›

However, head and shoulders above everyone was Tom Mix. He worked for the Miller Brothers in the 101 Ranch shows before he and his horse Tony became motion picture's best riding duo. Ben Johnson and Joel McCrea were good riders, and recently both Robert Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones are fine horsemen.

Which was more popular Tombstone or Wyatt Earp? ›

The box office shootout was won by Tombstone, which was released in December and earned $56 million, more than double the $25 million raked in by Wyatt Earp, which premiered in June the following year.

Which movie made the most money Tombstone or Wyatt Earp? ›

As far as the box office goes, Tombstone made three times as much as Wyatt Earp, which was really Costner's first flop.

Is Wyatt Earp better than Tombstone? ›

Overall, Tombstone wins by having won most of the categories. The film is overall more memorable and has a tighter focus than Wyatt Earp. The performances stick out as being particularly memorable, with there being many quotable lines that grab your attention.

What was the golden age of Western films? ›

The period from 1940 to 1960 has been called the "Golden Age of the Western". It is epitomized by the work of several prominent directors including Robert Aldrich, Budd Boetticher, Delmer Daves, John Ford, and others.


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