Special Report

30 Best Western Films of All Time

Tim Emmerick

Source: Courtesy of RKO Radio Pictures

25. Fort Apache (1948)
> Directed by: John Ford
> Starring: John Wayne, Henry Fonda, Shirley Temple

“Fort Apache” finds John Wayne in the lead as Captain Kirby York. The Duke’s character struggles with his commitment to duty when the command of his post is handed over to a dishonorable young officer. The fort used during the film was a set built for this picture but appeared in many later pictures as well. It is currently a city park in Simi Valley, California. “Fort Apache” was one of the so-called three “cavalry” movies that Wayne and Ford collaborated on.

Source: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

24. Shane (1953)
> Directed by: George Stevens
> Starring: Alan Ladd, Jean Arthur, Van Heflin

Alan Ladd stars in the titular role of George Stevens’ 1953 classic “Shane.” Ladd’s character is a mysterious gunfighter hoping to start a new life in farm country when his future is disrupted by a feud between farmers and ranchers. The film was historically expensive at the time, costing Paramount Pictures $3.1 million or $29.4 million today.

Source: Courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

23. Bad Day at Black Rock (1955)
> Directed by: John Sturges
> Starring: Spencer Tracy, Robert Ryan, Anne Francis

“Bad Day at Black Rock” was ahead of its time in both style and subject matter. This post-World War II suspense/thriller finds Spencer Tracy as a physically disabled World War II veteran who encounters bigotry when he tries to visit an Asian-American war hero’s family in a small town in the west. Tracy earned an Oscar nomination for best actor and John Sturges earned a best director nod.

Source: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

22. True Grit (2010)
> Directed by: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
> Starring: Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Hailee Steinfeld

Joel and Ethan Coen’s “True Grit” scores the first modern entry on our list. Jeff Bridges stars as Rooster Cogburn, a U.S. marshal in search of the man who killed the father of Mattie Ross (played by Hailee Steinfeld). According to AFI.com, the Coens knew their longtime collaborator Bridges would star as Cogburn but they held a nationwide search before casting Steinfeld as Mattie Ross.

Source: Courtesy of Universal Pictures

21. Winchester ’73 (1950)
> Directed by: Anthony Mann
> Starring: James Stewart, Shelley Winters, Dan Duryea

“Winchester `73” marked the first of several successful collaborations between James Stewart and filmmaker Anthony Mann. Stewart stars as Lin McAdam, a sharpshooter in search of his stolen one-of-a-kind rifle. The picture helped usher in a new era of Western films by underscoring the senseless violence of the Old West.