Last Updated: March 8th
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.
The Hateful Eight (2015)
Run Time: 187 min | IMDb: 7.8/10
The Hateful Eight was originally conceived as a sequel to Quentin Tarantino’s 2012 film Django Unchained, but Tarantino almost gave up the idea of making the movie after the script leaked in early 2014. After he oversaw a live script reading in Los Angeles later that year, Tarantino changed his mind and decided to put his latest vision on the big screen. No longer a Django sequel, The Hateful Eight became a standalone story about eight strangers who take shelter at a stopover during a blizzard, all with very different reasons as to why they don’t trust one another. For the film’s score, Tarantino brought in legendary composer Ennio Morricone to do the film’s score, which won him an Academy Award.
Buffalo Boys (2018)
Run Time: 102 min | IMDb: 5.8/10
Mike Wiluan’s imaginative Western blends cultures and fighting styles to give fans a unique take on the genre. The film follows brothers Jamar (Ario Bayu) and Suwo (Yoshi Sudarso), as they leave America after helping complete the Transcontinental Railroad and return home to Indonesia. While riding a train home, they come against a group of white gangsters before arriving to their village and discovering Dutch administrator named Captain Van Trach has enslaved their people for profit. The duo takes on Trach’s outfit to help free their village and while the storytelling falls a bit flat, the action is worth watching.
Django Unchained (2012)
Run Time: 164 min | IMDb: 8.4/10
Another Quentin Tarantino classic, this violent visit back in time to America’s era of slavery carries major Western vibes and gives Lenoard DiCaprio a refreshing turn as the film’s big bad, a plantation owner named Calvin Candie. Tarantino favorite Christoph Waltz plays a German bounty hunter who teams up with Jamie Foxx’s Django, a former slave looking to free his wife (Kerry Washington) from Candie’s clutches. There’s a lot of gore and uncomfortable dialogue and over-the-top action, really, everything you’d expect, but DiCaprio, Waltz, and Foxx make it all worth it.
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)
Run Time: 133 min | IMDb: 7/10
The Coen brothers are back with a slick new Western romp, one that serves as an ode to all of the tropes present in Hollywood’s best Wild West adaptations. Split into six parts, each story is loosely connected though thematically and tonally different. Tim Blake Nelson stars as the titular hero, a sharpshooting songster who takes part in the film’s opening musical portion. From there we get stories of outlaws getting their due, prospectors mining for gold, ghostly hauntings, and wagon trails. Forgetting trying to follow the thread and just enjoy the ride with this one.
Run Time: 117 min | IMDb: 5.7/10
Mira Sorvino stars in this violent Western from director Justin Lee. The action follows a stone-faced gunman named Matthias William Breecher, a Pinkerton detective hired by a former-slave-turned-Senator to track down war criminals who fought for the Confederacy. Sorvino plays Darah, daughter to one such criminal, an ailing general spending his final days on the family’s failing farm. The best stretch of the movie comes when Breecher holes up there, talking about past mistakes with the general and getting close to Sarah, but there’s plenty of wild shootouts and horse-chases sprinkled in between to keep things interesting
In a Valley of Violence (2016)
Run Time: 104 min | IMDb: 6/10
This violent Western didn’t get much fanfare when it first came out, which is strange because it has a pretty solid cast, led by the always-dependable Ethan Hawke. Hawke plays a drifter with a past named Paul who draws some unwanted attention from the sheriff (John Travolta) and his goons when he passes through a small town out West. Misunderstandings lead to dead dogs lead to bloody revenge quests but the predictability of it all is helped out with some strong performances, mainly by Hawke, Travolta, and Taissa Farmiga.
Dance With Wolves (1990)
Run Time: 181 min | IMDb: 8/10
Kevin Costner stars in and directs this ’90s Western adapted from a best-selling novel by Michael Blake. Costner plays Lieutenant John Dunbar, who gets orders to man a remote Civil War outpost out West and spends most of his service befriending wild animals and Native Americans living nearby. Of course, this doesn’t make his military bosses too happy, and he’s forced to choose between his duty or helping the people who have accepted him as one of their own.
The Ballad of Lefty Brown (2017)
Run Time: 111 min | IMDb: 6.3/10
Bill Pullman plays the titular lawman in this Western saga. Lefty Brown is a sheriff’s deputy with a visible limp and an inability to make good decisions. When his partner/boss is killed. Lefty vows to hunt the gang responsible and ends up on a quest with other “outsiders” that reveals some hard truths about who he can really trust.