Last Updated: June 13th
From the moment the bandit turned his gun toward the camera in 1903’s The Great Train Robbery, no genre of film has been more readily identified with quintessential American cinema than the Western. Though the popularity of classic Western movies waned in the late 1960s, today’s filmmakers still approach the genre with enthusiasm, breathing new life into these cinematic archetypes. Here’s a look at some of the best westerns on Netflix streaming right now.
Blazing Saddles (1974)
Mel Brooks’ classic Western satire tells the story of Bart (Cleavon Little), a black sheriff that comes to the all-white town of Rock Ridge, and eventually teams up with Jim (Gene Wilder), also known as the The Waco Kid. The rambling plot involves a scheme by State Attorney General Hedley Lamarr to prompt the townspeople to abandon their homes, thus making the land cheaper for him to buy. The film was originally slated to star Richard Pryor, one of the screenwriters, in the role of Bart, but the studio was weary of working with him due to his reckless reputation. It was selected for the National Film Registry in 2006 by the Library of Congress, and has been recognized by the American Film Institute numerous times, most recently as a top-10 Western back in 2008.
El Dorado (1966)
A staple of the genre, produced and directed by Howard Hawks, El Dorado stars John Wayne as Cole Thornton and Robert Mitchum as J.P. Harrah, two old friends caught on either side of a range war in the old west. When Hawks pitched the movie to Mitchum, he described it as a movie with “no story, just characters,” and focused on the long-time relationship between Thornton and Harrah. Screenwriter Leigh Bracket called it “the best script I had ever done in my life,” and is regarded as one of the quintessential Westerns ever made and one of the greatest films of all time.