Greatest Westerns of All-Time: Overview - The Part-Time Critic

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Greatest Westerns of All-Time: Overview

Last Updated: 4/8/2022
You can find films 25-11 in the first part of my Top 25 Western Films of All-time HERE
You can find the Top Ten in the second part of my Top 25 Western Films of All-time HERE
You can find my Greatest Western Actions Scenes of All-time list HERE

To keep my Top 25 Westerns list to something manageable and readable, I excluded a lot of other possible lists I wanted to create. For instance, how would I rank the Eastwood films I've seen? What Western "classics" do I think are the most overrated? How would I rank the best musical scores from Westerns? That's what this post is for. Scroll through the following overview of the Western genre and remember that while I was able to watch well over fifty of the most talked about Westerns, I didn't watch everything in the genre. There is a lot I missed - this isn't meant to be comprehensive. Feel free to comment and share your thoughts. Is there a glaring omission here?

  • Brutal Reality of Life on the Plains: The Homesman (2014)
  • Nihilism Behind the Moralist Veneer of the West: The Wild Bunch (1969)
  • Gunfighter Myth vs. Reality: Unforgiven (1992)
  • Cattle Drive / Settling the West: Red River (1948)
  • Fur Trapping / Wilderness Survival: The Revenant (2015)
  • Life of the Upper Plains Indians: Dances with Wolves (1990)
  • Mountain Man Living: Jeremiah Johnson (1972)
  • The Gold Rush: The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) (hon. ment. to The Ballad of Buster Scruggs)
  • Civilization vs. Barbarism: The Proposition (2006)
  • River Rapids Sequence: How the West Was Won (1962)
  • Buffalo Hunt: Dances with Wolves (1990)
  • Train Robbery: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)
  • Best “Wyatt Earp” Movie: Tombstone (1993)
  • Best Exploration of Masculinity: The Power of the Dog (2021)
  • Best Western Character: Val Kilmer’s Doc Holliday in Tombstone (1993)
  • Western Musical: Oklahoma! (1955)
  • Western Collage of Stories: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)

  • 1990's Dances with Wolves - Romantic Western Score LINK
  • 1960's Dollars Trilogy - Stylized Western Score LINK
  • 2014's The Homesman  - Contemporary Western Score LINK
  • 1980's The Long Riders - Traditional / Folk Western Score LINK
  • 1960's The Magnificent Seven - Classic Western Score LINK

  • Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969): Despite the pleasant chemistry and jokes between the two titular leads, this Western feels rather aimless, rambling, and unable to justify glorifying thieves that end up taking the lives of many. There are a handful of fun moments and some nice dialogue, but everything feels rather pointless since there’s never any genuine goal or obstacle to overcome other than don’t get caught. I don't get the "classic" status this film gets.
  • The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966): A grossly overrated Western that never comes close to justifying its three-hour runtime. Like Sergio’s Once Upon a Time in the West, this film is drenched in memorable style (spaghetti Western art direction and that iconic Morricone score) but lacks genuine substance. I don’t think there’s a single thing this film does better than the two previous entries. If anything it doubles down on all the worst parts of the first two. This is the Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End of the “Dollars Trilogy” – tons of ambition, drenched in the style of the first two, but it never feels substantive or clicks like the earlier ones. The plot is a cat and mouse chase for confederate gold with the Civil War in the backdrop. The narrative always feels like a continual wheel spinning to me and I never remember it long after watching. The shootouts are dramatic and iconic (but not shot as ‘action’ scenes), and like the previously mentioned style, are the saving grace of this three bore fest.
  • Once Upon a Time in the West (1968): My thoughts on this one are similar The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. The opening standoff sequence might be the most famous one in the entire film & it's a good bellwether for how you will like the rest of the film...I'm not a fan. I concede the great cinematography, art direction, & concept behind it, but I think it's ultimately just too indulgent. For more, check out my live tweeting during my recent viewing.

*For commentary on these three films, see the Top 25 List
  • The Homesman (2014)
  • Open Range (2003)
  • The Proposition (2006)

*That I've seen
1. Unforgiven (1992) A
2. High Plains Drifter (1973) B
3. Pale Rider (1985) B-
4. A Fistful of Dollars (1964) B-
5. The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976) B-
6. For a Few Dollars More (1965) B-
7. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966) C

*That I've seen
1. Red River (1948) B+
2. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) B+
3. The Shootist (1976) B-
4. The Searchers (1956) B-
5. Rio Bravo (1959) B-
6. Stagecoach (1939) B-
7. Fort Apache (1948) C+
8. She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949) C+
9. True Grit (1969) C
10. Rio Grande (1950) C-

1. Unforgiven (A) 1992
2. The Revenant (A)  2015
3. The Homesman (A-) 2014
4. The Wild Bunch (A-) 1969
5. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (A-) 1948
6. The Power of the Dog (B+) 2021
7. Red River (B+) 1948
8. The Ox-Bow Incident (B+) 1943
9. Dances with Wolves (B+) 1990
10. Django Unchained (B+) 2012
11. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (B+) 1962
12. High Noon (B+) 1952
13. Jeremiah Johnson (B+) 1972
14. The Proposition (B+) 2005
15. Hostiles (B) 2017
16. Open Range (B) 2003
17. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (B) 2018
18. Lonesome Dove (B) 1989
19. High Plains Drifter (B) 1973
20. Shane (B) 1953
21. True Grit (B) 2010
22. 3:10 to Yuma (B) 2007
23. Shanghai Noon (B-) 2000
24. Pale Rider (B-) 1985
25. A Fistful of Dollars (B-) 1964
26. News of the World (B-) 2020
27. Tombstone (B-) 1993
28. The Outlaw Josey Wales (B-) 1976
29. The Shootist (B-) 1976
30. The Magnificent Seven (B-) 1960
31. The Searchers (B-) 1956
32. The Harder They Fall (B-) 2021
33. How the West Was Won (B-) 1962
34. Bone Tomahawk (B-) 2015
35. For a Few Dollars More (B-) 1965
36. The Long Riders (B-) 1980
37. Pat Garret & Billy the Kid (B-) 1973
38. Rio Bravo (B-) 1959
39. 3:10 to Yuma (B-) 1957
40. The Hateful Eight (B-) 2015
41. Stagecoach (B-) 1939
42. The Quick and the Dead (B-) 1995
43. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (C+) 2007
44. The Magnificent Seven (C+) 2016
45. Fort Apache (C+) 1948
46. Geronimo: An American Legend (C+) 1993
47. My Darling Clementine (C+) 1946
48. Wyatt Earp (C+) 1994
49. She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (C+) 1949
50. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (C) 1969
51. Silverado (C) 1985
52. One-Eyed Jacks (C) 1961
53. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (C) 1966
54. Heaven’s Gate (C) 1980
55. The Big Country (C) 1958
56. Appaloosa (C) 2008
57. True Grit (C) 1969 
58. McCabe & Mrs. Miller (C) 1971 
59. Once Upon a Time in the West (C) 1968
60. The Lone Ranger (C-) 2013
61. Young Guns (C-) 1988
62. Rio Grande (C-) 1950
63. Cimarron (C-) 1931

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