The Western, the motion picture category most closely associated with America, began capturing moviegoers’ imaginations just as the frontier itself was closing in the early part of the 20th century. Among the issues the film genre deals with are rugged individualism, moral choices, the role of violence in a lawless land. Westerns have also been criticized for how Spanish-speaking and Native American people are depicted.
More than anything else, Westerns are a form of escapism, and even though people across the United States are emerging from isolation as the result of measures to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re still seeking entertainment options while staying at home. To that end, 24/7 Tempo has compiled a list of classic Westerns available to stream from home according to streaming data site JustWatch, and we ranked them based on user and critic ratings on the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) and Rotten Tomatoes.
Westerns feature some of cinema’s most enduring archetypes: the sharply defined roles of heroes and villains in the silent film era; the swaggering gait of John Wayne; the principled upholders of law and order; the taciturn loner as played by Clint Eastwood; and the anti-hero characters of “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” in the late ’60s. Many Westerns are frequently counted among the greatest movies of all time.
To determine the best classic Westerns that are now available for streaming, 24/7 Tempo identified all of the movies classified as “Western” by the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) that are available for streaming — based on data from website JustWatch. We then created an index based on each film’s Rotten Tomatoes average critic rating, Rotten Tomatoes average audience rating, and IMDb average user rating. Movies were required to have at least 4,000 user votes on IMDb and have been originally released no later than 2000 to be considered classic.
We averaged the user ratings from Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb and weighted by the number of votes for each. The combined user rating was then averaged with the Rotten Tomatoes critic rating. Editorial discretion was then applied to include or omit titles that we felt did not match the classification of a Western movie or that deserved inclusion based on other metrics such as cult status or reputation.