Best Westerns to Stream on Prime Video


Over a century has passed since the start of Hollywood, and fans have seen the release of hundreds of thousands of movies across various genres. However, one genre has been a staple of cinema since the 1930s, and although its golden age ended in the ’60s, modern films still reference the ambiance of those masterworks.




Over the years, Westerns have entertained audiences with heroic gunslingers while exploring the mythology of the American West. Given the abundance of high-quality films in the genre, it is understandable that fans would want to watch them on everyone’s favorite streaming service, Prime Video. Featuring everything from classical films from the genre, to neo-westerns, revisionist Westerns, and other sub-genres like Western horrors, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. In no particular order, these are the best westerns you can watch on Prime Video right now.

Updated on March 28, 2024, by Soniya Hinduja: This article has been updated with additional content to keep the discussion fresh and relevant with even more information and new entries.


13 The Westerner (1940)

United Artists

 


Starring Gary Cooper and Walter Brennan is this timeless and relatively underrated gem. The Westerner follows Cole Harden, an outlaw accused of stealing a horse that belongs to Judge Roy Bean’s sidekick. When put to trial, Harden somehow manipulates Bean and gets away. Bean, who admires Harden’s twisted sense of justice and corrupt nature, sees him as a threat. When fate brings them face-to-face once again, their rivalry leads to an epic showdown.

Gary Cooper and Walter Brennan Team Up Once More

The movie was Cooper and Brennan’s fourth collaboration together out of eight, and needless to say, they were unforgettable as the brooding outlaw and stubborn judge. Brennen also won his third Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. What’s also worth praising is the impeccable direction by William Wyler, who makes sure to drive the focus from surface shootouts to the complex questions about justice, power, and humanity. The glorious cinematography plunges the viewer into the heart of the Old West and proves why the movie deserves more appreciation.


12 The Magnificent Seven (1960)

The Magnificent Seven 1960 poster

The Magnificent Seven (1960)

Release Date
October 12, 1960

Director
John Sturges

An iconic Western epic, The Magnificent Seven is a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s 1954 Japanese film Seven Samurai. It is set in a lawless and poor Mexican village that is attacked by a ruthless bandit and his men. The desperate villagers hire seven gunslingers led by veteran Chris Adams. With little money and not enough resources, the men agree to stand guard. However, amidst an incoming onslaught, the individual intentions of each of the mercenaries begin to surface.


Sturges Brings Kurosawa to the West

The Magnificent Seven is directed by John Sturges, and while the movie has little samurai action as compared to its inspiration, it is still very ripe with breathtaking shootouts and memorable characters. It features an ensemble cast that includes Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Brad Dexter, Charles Bronson, and more. They deliver outstanding performances as men caught in the face of adversity and class struggles. For embracing genre tropes and telling a tale of honorable outlaws, The Magnificent Seven endures as one of the most entertaining Westerns of all time.

11 High Noon (1952)

High Noon

High Noon

Release Date
June 9, 1952

Director
Fred Zinnemann

Cast
Gary Cooper , Thomas Mitchell , Lloyd Bridges , Katy Jurado , Grace Kelly , Otto Kruger

Serving as an inspiration to several films that came after, High Noon is among a rare number of movies that are shot in real time. The protagonist is the Marshal of the Hadleyville territory, Will Kane. On the day of his marriage to Amy Fowler, he learns that a man he put in jail is being released and is returning to town on the noon train seeking revenge. Unable to seek help from the very people he once protected, Will is forced to face the notorious gunman alone. As the clock ticks down to high noon, there’s an atmosphere of fear enveloping him.


A Real-Time Western

Directed by Fred Zinnemann and starring Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly, High Noon is a powerful story of civic responsibility, moral duty, and accountability. Cooper’s nuance and Kelly’s poise resonated differently with each viewer. Its economic narrative was laced with political allegories, which made the film subject to controversy. But the spectacular scenery, jaw-dropping chases, and utterly compelling characters make High Noon a standout.

10 Heaven’s Gate (1980)


Director Michael Cimino’s follow-up to 1978’s The Deer Hunter takes you to the expansive Wyoming in the 1890s. Former US Marshal James Averill becomes the sheriff of a small town where the wealthy livestock barons have political influence. When Averill befriends a group of immigrant cattle handlers and tries to protect their interests, he clashes with a local rancher and enforcer, Nathan Champion. As the fight to assert dominance escalates, Averill must take a stand and safeguard the town.

A Visionary Epic With a Troubled Production

Regardless of some historical inaccuracies in the portrayal of its characters, Heaven’s Gate is testament to Cimino’s gift for capturing the frontier and its splendid colors. The film took almost a decade to get approval and went through a troubled production process, and it was the re-assessed cut that finally spoke to the audiences. Actors Kris Kristofferson, Isabelle Huppert, and Christopher Walken anchored the story with their experience and made the movie a visionary epic that deserves credit for its enduring spirit.


9 My Name Is Nobody (1973)

Only "Nobody" can take on a great hero in My Name Is Nobody
Titanus

During the dawn of the American frontier of 1898, the legendary aging gunslinger Jack Beauregard wants to retire peacefully. But he is interrupted (or challenged, more likely) by a young man by the name of Nobody who idolizes his fighting skills and his ability to ambush the enemy. Nobody encourages him to fight the Wild Bunch, consisting of 150 men, singlehandedly. Eventually, it is revealed that Nobody was hired to kill Beauregard, and they engage in a duel.

A Playful Comic Western

Based on a clever Sergio Leone-written concept and directed by Tonino Valerii, My Name Is Nobody examines the genre in a playful light. By placing its characters in farcical situations and giving them sly charm, it subverts authority and wisdom and delivers a story that fuels cinema’s love for outlaws and the frontier. Terence Hill and Henry Fonda are an outstanding duo, and the movie is biting, poignant, and highly entertaining.


8 The Hero (2017)

Sam Elliot in The Hero
The Orchard

The Hero offers an introspective glance into the life of an aging Western movie star (Sam Elliot), as he spends his days reliving the glories of the past, while also coming to terms with his own mortality and the meaning of life. Laura Prepon, Krysten Ritter, Nick Offerman, and Katharine Ross are also attached to the cast, with direction provided by Brett Haley (Hearts Beat Loud).

A Bittersweet Reflection

While many modern-day Westerns approach the genre with a sense of violence and manliness, The Hero offers a fresh perspective by looking at the genre through the lens of comedy and humility. Sam Elliot does a tremendous job at playing a fading actor who turns to hedonistic pleasures to deal with the actuality of his situation. Overall, The Hero makes for a bittersweet film that puts forth pertinent questions about the difference between spirituality and material pleasures.


7 Sweet Country (2017)

Hamilton Morris in Sweet Country
Netflix

Set against the backdrop of Australia in the 1920s, Sweet Country follows an Aboriginal stockman who kills a white farm owner in self-defense and flees for his life as a group gathers to hunt him down. The film’s cast is notably comprised of names like Hamilton Morris, Sam Neill, Bryan Brown, and Thomas M. Right, with additional roles played by Anni Finsterer and Natassia Gorey-Furber.


A Fantastic Western Set in the Outback

Sweet Country is powered by Hamilton Morris’ captivating performance of stockman Sam Kelly. Warwick Thornton’s film provides an unflinching look at the glaring racism and brutality inflicted on the Aboriginal people of Australia, untangling the roots of the country’s dark past (and present) and highlighting them in a fashion that’s conducive to great storytelling. Sweet Country’s raw and direct approach sidesteps the melodrama often attached to the theme of racism and presents the narrative in its most bare and visceral form, making it a jewel of the Australian film industry.

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6 Little Big Man (1970)


Based on Thomas Berger’s novel of the same name, Little Big Man stars Dustin Hoffman as Jack Crabb, a man who has been captured and raised by Native Americans only to become a gunslinger and a key player in the battle of Little Big Horn. This particular Western is historically notable due to Chief Dan George, who played Old Lodge Skins, being the first Indigenous American to be nominated for an Academy Award.

Little Big Man Tells a Focused Tale

Arthur Penn’s film treads the thin line between being an entertaining film that’s told with deep emotion and a caricature that’s taking itself too seriously. Fortunately, the former overpowers the latter and focuses on the good bits while occasionally being overindulgent. Hoffman’s character covers all the bases of the Western myth, including moments of gunfighting and horseriding, while also experimenting with the life of a hermit, painting a portrait of a life that’s interestingly lived.


5 Forsaken (2015)

Kiefer Sutherland and Donald Sutherland in Forsaken
Momentum Pictures

Forsaken is a revisionist western featuring a great cast led by Donald and Kiefer Sutherland. The pair play a father and son duo, with the youngest of the pair going adrift after the Civil War, only to return home and find that he now has an estranged relationship with his father. The film is a notable highlight from director Jon Cassar, whose work extends across miniseries like The Kennedys and the long-running television series 24.


A Revisionist Western With Familial Themes

Forsaken deals with themes of relationships and the trauma that comes with them, along with the peripheral emotions of loyalty and family. This is especially highlighted when John’s (Kiefer Sutherland) mother passes away, and he wants to leave behind his life of violence but is sucked back into it when a gang of thugs begins threatening their town, forcing John to go back to his old ways to help out. Though critical reviews were mixed, Forsaken would go on to recieve several nominations at the Canadian Screen Awards, especially for its costume design and art direction.

4 Brimstone (2016)

brimstone

Brimstone

Release Date
March 12, 2016

Director
Martin Koolhoven

Runtime
140

Brimstone ultimately revolves around a woman who is forced to flee when she’s falsely accused of a crime. In a film with plenty of biblical overtones, she’s pursued relentlessly by a fanatical preacher known as The Reverend. Aside from its intriguing hooks, the film also boasted a fantastic cast with Dakota Fanning and Guy Pearce as its leads, and the likes of Game of Thrones stars,Kit Harrington and Carice van Houten in supporting roles.


A Psychological Western

In the ever-evolving styles that classical Westerns have been given revisionist takes, Western horrors have emerged as one of the coolest subgenres around. Brimstone remains one of the forerunners in this category as a brilliant film that contains the best of both its root genres. A creative film that caused a stir with its subversive religious underpinnings, the movie is experienced through four acts, told in a non-linear order. At the Saturn Awards, it would recieve a nomination for Best International Film.

3 One Eyed Jacks (1961)

Marlon Brando as Rio in One-Eyed Jacks
Paramount Pictures


The only film directed by the late, great Marlon Brando, One-Eyed Jacks also starred the iconic actor as a bandit named Rio. After Rio, his mentor Dad, and a third man named Doc, pull off a heist, they’re later tracked down by Mexican police. Doc is killed, but Dad gives up Rio, who’s arrested and jailed. Rio is forced to spend five long years behind bars, contemplating his betrayal and plotting his revenge. After escaping, he flees to California, where he finds Dad has become a Sheriff. He plans to rob the bank there and kill Dad. However, a complication arises when Rio starts to fall in love with Dad’s daughter, Louisa.

Marlon Brando’s Sole Directorial Credit

One-Eyed Jack plays on Brando’s charm and charisma and documents the congruence of romance and aggression. Considered by many film enthusiasts as an underrated gem of the genre, One-Eyed Jack makes for great off-beat viewing as it paints a vast and encompassing picture that juxtaposes beautiful landscapes alongside savage personalities. A pivotal film for Brando, One-Eyed Jacks was selected for preservation by the Library of Congress’s National Film Registry.


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2 Stagecoach (1939)

Stagecoach poster

Stagecoach

Release Date
March 3, 1939

Director
John Ford

Cast
John Wayne , Andy Devine , Thomas Mitchell , John Carradine

In Stagecoach, the titular vehicle travels through the desert, hoping to catch up with the military unit while carrying a few other passengers, including the wife of the officer in charge. The passengers range from a vengeful outlaw to a drunken doctor, but they must work together to survive as their path is littered with hazardous situations. An ensemble cast comprised of John Wayne, John Carradine, Claire Trevor, Louise Platt, and others bring the simple plot of this film to life.


One of the Earliest and Most Influential Westerns

This is the film that started it all, from the reign of Western movies to John Wayne’s incredible career that spanned over four decades. Despite being one of the initial Westerns, the film offers plenty of thrills to keep fans on the edge of their seats, and John Ford’s excellent direction leaves little room for errors. If you’re a fan of the genre, going back to where it all started is incredibly rewarding. It would be an incredibly influential film for a plethora of filmmakers, most especially Orson Welles.

1 The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)


The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is based on a short story by Dorothy M. Johnson. It tells the tale of Ransom Stoddard (played by James Stewart), an attorney who finds himself on the brink of death during a stagecoach robbery by a notorious outlaw named Liberty Valance. However, he is rescued by Tom Doniphon (John Wayne) and brought to a small lawless area where he resolves to end Valance’s reign, even if it means exploiting the law to his benefit.

An All-Time Great Western

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance was among the last movies directed by John Ford. Despite delivering a traditional Western flick with a good vs. evil concept, it is truly a memorable film that never gets old. Edtih Head, who designed the film’s numerous period-accurate costumes, would become one of a select few from the Western genre to receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Costume Design. Though critical reviews at the time of its release were mixed, retrospective opinions are almost completely positive, with many placing the film alongside all-time Western classics like The Searchers.




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