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The Best Western Movies of the 2010s

Updated on July 4, 2017

The myth of the Old West has a storied past. From the early 1800s to the dawn of a new century, brought tales of revenge, gunfights and last stands. Of heroic deeds and betrayals from which sprung legendary lawmen and outlaws. In a multi-racial 1800s America, opportunity divides people by color, men take the law in their own hands and the saying “only the strong survives” is anything but the truth.

One of the most popular genres, Westerns have been around since the invention of cinema. The thing is, it’s quite easy to make one, both financially and production-wise. The costumes and props are the same ever since and you don’t need to build huge sets because there are plenty of deserts and prairies for everybody. That is why, we get a good number of Westerns each year and writers never seem to run out of stories to tell. Here are the best Westerns of the decade (2010-2017), we reckon you’d not want to be a-missin.’

The Revenant (2015)

I ain't afraid to die anymore. I'd done it already.

— Hugh Glass

Directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu

In 1823, trappers led by Andrew Henry (Domhnall Gleeson) are attacked by Arikara Indians and suffer heavy casualties. Frontiersman Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) leads them to safety over the mountains but is attacked by a grizzly bear within an inch of his life. He miraculously survives to exact revenge on trapper John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) who has murdered his half-Indian son and has attempted to kill him. Innaritu’s masterpiece, this filmmaking 101 broke the boundaries of visual interpretation, made use of nature as a co-star, added philosophical trippings, and benefited from an actor hungry for an award. A movie experience since unrealized—it is the best looking Western from now to a hundred years.

Meek's Cutoff (2010)

We're all just playing our parts now. This was written long before we got here. I'm at your command.

— Meek

Directed by Kelly Reichardt

Three pairs of settlers are led through the Oregon desert in 1845 by a guide named Stephen Meek (Bruce Greenwood) in what seems to be a journey going nowhere and they are running out of water. Along the way, they capture a native Indian, who might know where to find water, but days go by, and they are starting to lose hope. The storytelling is very straightforward using just enough dialogue to move from scene to scene. The pace is grueling and slow towards an abrupt, open-ended ending that equally satisfies and disappoints. But, if there's any Western that looks and breathes authenticity, this movie is it. Meek’s Cutoff doesn’t re-invent the Western, it shows its true colors.

Django Unchained (2012)

Django. D-J-A-N-G-O. The D is silent.

— Django

Directed by Quentin Tarantino

A German bounty hunter named Dr. King Shultz (Christoph Waltz) frees a slave named Django (Jamie Foxx) to help him identify a group of wanted men. Upon completing the task, Django becomes Shultz’s apprentice and vows to find his wife which they learn, is a slave property of a ruthless plantation owner named Calvin J. Candle (Leonardo DiCaprio). It’s Quentin Tarantino giving the Western a make-over that it is almost unrecognizable as a Western. As far as revisionisms go, this is the tipping point. The too-colorful characters, the flashiness, the cameos, Django breaks the rules and dazzles. The display of bravura is off the charts here, it’s kinda like Pulp Fiction all over again.

Slow West (2015)

Survival ain't just how to skin a jackrabbit. It's knowing when to bluster and when to hush. When to take a beating and when to strike.

— Silas

Directed by John Maclean

Driven by guilt, Jay Cavendish (Kodi Smit-McPhee), a young man from a wealthy Scottish family, travels to the American West to look for Rose Ross (Karen Pistorius), the girl that he loves. He is nearly killed by outlaws when an Irish bounty hunter, Silas Selleck (Michael Fassbender) saves him. Jay employs Silas to help him find Rose. Incidentally, other bounty hunters are also looking for her. Its easy to say that this Western rides on the charisma of Michael Fassbender’s role—something we are not accustomed to seeing him in. Everything seems to roll with his character and in Jay, he has the perfect outlet. There’s simplicity in the story’s ideals and a whole lot of heart to show them, for a directorial debut movie, this is surprisingly good.

True Grit (2010)

You must pay for everything in this world, one way and another. There is nothing free except the grace of God.

— Mattie

Directed by The Coen Brothers

Charles Portis’ best-selling novel about 14-year old Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) who hires Marshal Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges), she is told to be a man with “true grit,” and track down her father’s murderer, a man named Chaney (Josh Brolin) and bring him to justice. LaBoeuf (Matt Damon), a Texas Ranger rides with them as they make their way deep into Indian territory. “Why remake a classic Western?,” a question that usually pops up. It’s because the Coens can. And they put a mighty load of grit in this picture and Bridges does a marvelous job as Cogburn despite John Wayne’s big shadow following the role. Though the story is old, it still holds well with time, and this is a worthy remake.

Bone Tomahawk (2015)

Pain is how your body talks to you. You'd do well to listen to it.

— Sheriff Hunt

Directed by S. Craig Zahler

A tribe of savages kidnaps three people from a small town. Sheriff Franklin Hunt (Kurt Russell) assembles a group to retrieve them, their destination being a desolate valley and their enemies are revealed to be fearless and brutal cannibals. The chances of getting out there alive is close to none. The movie also stars Patrick Wilson, Matthew Fox and Richard Jenkins which makes this a solid cast. Bone Tomahawk is considered to be a western-horror for there are scenes that would make you sick to your stomach, that if you’re looking for a traditional shoot-em-up, this is far from it. If you can take it, you’d be in for a very well made Western that will not be easy to forget.

The Hateful Eight (2015)

That's the problem with old men. You can kick 'em down the stairs and say it's a accident but you can't just shoot 'em.

— John Ruth

Directed by Quentin Tarantino

In a stagecoach, bounty hunter John Ruth (Kurt Russell) is transporting fugitive Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) when another bounty hunter Major Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) and a sheriff (Walton Goggins) hitch a ride all the way to a lodge where some unusual people are already inside. A terrible blizzard strands them all together and soon, suspicion escalates which leads to cocked guns. The Hateful Eight is a pageant of colorful characters trying to outsmart each other in an Agatha Christie type of situation. A Western whodunnit for a change? A frontier Reservoir Dogs? These may already sound familiar. But, as always, Tarantino’s flair for words and dramatics makes it hard to look away because you might just miss something cool.

The Homesman (2014)

Thank you for the kind words, sister. You're no prize yourself. You're plain as an old tin pail and you're bossy.

— Briggs

Directed by Tommy Lee Jones

Mary Bee Cuddy (Hilary Swank), a spinster in the Midwestern territories, agrees to take three insane women by wagon to Iowa. She chances upon an elder thief George Briggs (Tommy Lee Jones) and saves him from hanging, who in turn accompanies her in the journey—a 5-week ordeal that would test their mettle. Here’s something you don’t normally see in a Western: an unusual plot. A non-revenge, non-gunfighter trail movie that portrays the dark plight of women. With a standout script and an Oscar-studded cast (Jones, Swank and Meryl Streep (cameo) have 5 trophies between them), The Homesman is high caliber drama.

The Retrieval (2013)

You can travel with me as long as you want, ain’t no point goin’ at it alone.

— Nate

Directed by Chris Eska

Set near the end of the American Civil War, The Retrieval tells the story of a black 13-year old boy, Will (Ashton Sanders) and a black man Marcus (Keston John), who make money by ratting out fugitive slaves to bounty hunters. Their latest victim is Nate (Tishuan Scott), whom they trick into going home South where the bounty hunters are waiting, making up a lie that Nate’s brother is dying. Their journey becomes a test of friendship and loyalty. This is not a story that is often told, director Eska paints a dark picture of terrifying times, far from the familiar romantic vision of the West. A movie that evokes the power of the human spirit, there's elegance in this truly exceptional drama.

The Keeping Room (2014)

What if all the men kill all the other men? What if it's the end of the world and we're the last ones left?

— Augusta

Directed by Daniel Barber

As the American Civil War draws to a close, the Union Army make their way down South. A couple of Union soldiers, one named Moses (Sam Worthington) head in advance ruthlessly killing whoever they come across. Augusta (Brit Marling), her younger sister Louise (Hailee Steinfeld), and their slave Mad (Muna Ataru), must defend their home from these rogue soldiers. The Keeping Room does have the feel of a post-apocalyptic, lawless wasteland which turns to a home invasion thriller and shows a different, ugly side of the West. Worthington is somewhat miscast as the bad guy, but the women power is able to carry the movie.

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    • GJones100 profile imageAUTHOR

      GJones 

      16 months ago from Manila, Philippines

      Thanks, Ryan! Magnificent 7 is pretty decent like you said. I might add it as I expand this list.

    • Fullerman5000 profile image

      Ryan Fuller 

      16 months ago from Louisiana, USA

      Great list. Have you seen the remake of Magnificence Seven. Pretty decent western. Very entertaining. Hateful 8 and Django Unchained are amazing films.

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