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.
25. Winchester ’73 (1950)
> Starring: James Stewart, Shelley Winters, Dan Duryea
> Directed by: Anthony Mann
> Runtime: 92 min
> Available on: Apple iTunes, Amazon Video, Google Play Movies, YouTube, Vudu, Microsoft Store
“Winchester `73” marked the first of several successful collaborations between James Stewart and director Anthony Mann (“Bend of the River” (1952) and “The Far Country” (1955)). Stewart stars as a sharpshooter in search of a rifle stolen from him after he won it in a contest. Martin Chilton of The Daily Telegraph (UK) said the movie “featured a more complex idea of the noble hero of the west — a man plagued by personal problems and violent impulses.” The film has a Freshness rating among Rotten Tomatoes critics of 100%, and a much lower 86% rating from audiences.
24. Shane (1953)
> Starring: Alan Ladd, Jean Arthur, Van Heflin
> Directed by: George Stevens
> Runtime: 118 min
> Available on: Apple iTunes, Google Play Movies, Amazon Video, YouTube, Vudu, DIRECTV, Microsoft Store, Starz, FandangoNOW, Starz Play Amazon Channel
Alan Ladd stars in the titular role of the George Stevens-helmed classic that boasts a renowned cast including Jean Arthur, Van Heflin, Ben Johnson, Elisha Cook Jr., and Jack Palance. Ladd plays a mysterious gunfighter hoping to start a new life in Wyoming farm country and who becomes embroiled in a feud between farmers and ranchers. “Shane” holds a 97% Freshness rating among critics on Rotten Tomatoes, while just 81% of audiences liked the movie
23. True Grit (1969)
> Starring: John Wayne, Kim Darby, Glen Campbell
> Directed by: Henry Hathaway
> Runtime: 128 min
> Available on: Apple iTunes, Amazon Video, Google Play Movies, YouTube, Vudu, DIRECTV, Microsoft Store, Redbox, Amazon Prime Video, Fandango
The original “True Grit” starred John Wayne in his Oscar-winning role as aging U.S. marshal Rooster Cogburn who is hired by a teenage girl to find the man who killed her father. Moira Walsh of America Magazine said the movie was “an undeniably vivid, exceedingly well directed (by veteran Henry Hathaway) frontier tale that ‘tells it like it was.'” The film holds a Freshness rating of 88% among Rotten Tomatoes critics, who liked it better than audiences who gave it a score of 84%. Robert Duvall and Dennis Hopper, who would become major stars in the 1970s, also appear in the film.
22. The Magnificent Seven (1960)
> Starring: Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson
> Directed by: John Sturges
> Runtime: 128 min
> Available on: Apple iTunes, Vudu, Amazon Video, Google Play Movies, YouTube, Microsoft Store, AMC on Demand, Amazon Prime Video, IndieFlix, Redbox, FandangoNOW
“The Magnificent Seven,” a Western based on Akira Kurosawa’s influential 1954 Japanese film “The Seven Samurai,” is about a Mexican village that hires seven gunfighters for protection from bandits. Kurosawa loved the film and even sent director John Sturges a ceremonial sword in appreciation. Tony Sloman of Radio Times said Sturges secured “a near-perfect cast for this enduringly popular Western.” The film has an 88% Freshness rating among Rotten Tomatoes critics, and an 87% among audiences.
21. Johnny Guitar (1954)
> Starring: Joan Crawford, Sterling Hayden, Mercedes McCambridge
> Directed by: Nicholas Ray
> Runtime: 110 min
> Available on: Apple iTunes, Amazon Video, Amazon Prime Video, Epix, YouTube, Google Play Movies, Hulu, Redbox, Microsoft Store
“Johnny Guitar” is director Nicholas Ray’s different take on the Western genre, with two women, Joan Crawford and Mercedes McCambridge, playing strong leads. Crawford is an iron-willed saloon owner falsely accused of murdering the brother of a rival (McCambridge). Sterling Hayden is Johnny Guitar, a former lover of Crawford, and her ally against McCambridge. Critics liked Ray’s flouting genre conventions, and Rotten Tomatoes critics gave the movie a 93% Freshness rating, and 85% of audiences liked the movie.
20. Way Out West (1937)
> Starring: Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Sharon Lynn
> Directed by: James W. Horne
> Runtime: 65 min
> Available on: Apple iTunes, Hoopla, Amazon Video, Google Play Movies, YouTube, Pluto TV
Laurel and Hardy’s “Way Out West” is one of the older Westerns on the list. The film features cinema’s favorite bumbling duo trying to deliver the deed to a gold mine to a prospector’s daughter, only to have it stolen. One of the film’s more endearing moments is a soft-shoe dance number the pair performs in front of a saloon. Critics on Rotten Tomatoes were completely won over by Laurel and Hardy’s Western spoof, giving it a 100% Freshness rating, with audiences awarding it a 91% score.
19. The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)
> Starring: Clint Eastwood, Sondra Locke, Chief Dan George
> Directed by: Clint Eastwood
> Runtime: 135 min
> Available on: Apple iTunes, Vudu, Google Play Movies, YouTube, Amazon Video, DIRECTV, Redbox, Microsoft Store, FandangoNOW
In this Civil War-era Western, Clint Eastwood recreated his taciturn loner character as Josey Wales, a Missouri farmer who seeks revenge by joining the pro-Confederate Missouri Bushwhackers after his wife and son are murdered by pro-Union Jayhawkers from Kansas. The movie received praise from Native Americans because it depicted them in a non-stereotypical way. Eastwood’s revisionist take on the Western genre holds a 90% Freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and 92% of audiences liked the film.
18. Dances with Wolves (1990)
> Starring: Kevin Costner, Mary McDonnell, Graham Greene
> Directed by: Kevin Costner
> Runtime: 181 min
> Available on: Vudu, Apple iTunes, Google Play Movies, YouTube, Microsoft Store, AMC on Demand, DIRECTV, Redbox, FandangoNOW, fuboTV, Sling TV, Amazon Video
Kevin Costner won the Best Director Oscar and starred in this story about a soldier in the American West who makes peace with wolves and Native Americans and is eventually shunned by his peers. “Dances with Wolves,” which won seven Academy Awards, holds an 83% Freshness score among critics on Rotten Tomatoes, and an 87% rating among audiences. The film has a rating of 8.0 out of 10 among more than 232,000 IMDb users.
17. The Great Silence (1968)
> Starring: Jean-Louis Trintignant, Klaus Kinski, Frank Wolff
> Directed by: Sergio Corbucci
> Runtime: 105 min
> Available on: Vudu, Amazon Video, YouTube, Google Play Movies, Apple iTunes, Hoopla
This Italian-French co-production directed by Sergio Corbucci (“Django”) follows a mute gunfighter named Silence as he protects a group of outlaws from ruthless bounty hunters. The politically charged Western has a perfect score from critics on Rotten Tomatoes and a 90% score from users on the site.
16. McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971)
> Starring: Warren Beatty, Julie Christie, Rene Auberjonois
> Directed by: Robert Altman
> Runtime: 120 min
> Available on: Apple iTunes, Vudu, Amazon Video, Google Play Movies, YouTube, DIRECTV, Microsoft Store, FandangoNOW, HBO Max
A classic of the New Hollywood era, “McCabe & Mrs. Miller” stars Warren Beatty and Julie Christie as a gambler and a prostitute who team up to run a brothel in the Old West. The film plays with conventions of the genre, leading to director Robert Altman referring to it as an “anti-Western.” This approach hasn’t stopped the movie from being embraced by critics and audiences alike, with both delivering an 87% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
15. The Ox-Bow Incident (1942)
> Starring: Henry Fonda, Dana Andrews, Mary Beth Hughes
> Directed by: William A. Wellman
> Runtime: 75 min
> Available on: Amazon Video, Vudu, Apple iTunes, Google Play Movies, YouTube, DIRECTV, Microsoft Store, FandangoNOW
Henry Fonda, who made a film career out of playing characters dealing with issues of justice (“The Grapes of Wrath,” “12 Angry Men”), starred in this Western as a member of a posse out to punish three men accused of murdering a farmer and stealing his cattle. Director William Wellman’s meditation on mob mentality was called by critic Dennis Schwartz of Ozus’ World Movie Reviews as “the best anti-lynching move ever made.” Critics and audiences on Rotten Tomatoes gave the film at least a 90% approval rating, and the thought-provoking movie received a rating of 8.0 out of 10 among IMDb users.
14. My Darling Clementine (1946)
> Starring: Henry Fonda, Linda Darnell, Victor Mature
> Directed by: John Ford
> Runtime: 97 min
> Available on: Apple iTunes, Google Play Movies, Vudu, Amazon Video, YouTube, DIRECTV, FandangoNOW, Microsoft Store
“My Darling Clementine” is considered to be one of the greatest Westerns of all time. The movie has a 100% Freshness rating among Rotten Tomatoes critics. Henry Fonda stars as Wyatt Earp in the days leading up to the famous showdown at the O.K. Corral. Director John Ford is regarded by many film historians as the greatest director of Westerns, setting cinematography standards for shooting outdoors at locations such as Monument Valley on the Arizona-Utah border. Ford met the real Wyatt Earp while working on silent film sets in his youth and claimed that the legend personally recounted the battle of the O.K. Corral for him during coffee breaks.
13. Red River (1948)
> Starring: John Wayne, Montgomery Clift, Joanne Dru
> Directed by: Howard Hawks
> Runtime: 133 min
> Available on: Apple iTunes, Google Play Movies, Vudu, Amazon Video, YouTube, Starz Play Amazon Channel, DIRECTV, Microsoft Store, Starz
“Red River,” directed by Howard Hawks, is always on the short list of greatest Westerns. It is a tale about the intense rivalry between an older cattle baron (John Wayne) and an ambitious younger rancher (Montgomery Clift). Geoff Andrew of Time Out said the movie is “immaculately shot by Russell Harlan, perfectly performed by a host of Hawks regulars, and shot through with dark comedy, it’s probably the finest Western of the ’40s.” Critics on Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a perfect score, and 88% of audiences liked the movie.
12. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
> Starring: Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Katharine Ross
> Directed by: George Roy Hill
> Runtime: 110 min
> Available on: Apple iTunes, Vudu, Google Play Movies, YouTube, DIRECTV, Redbox, Microsoft Store, FandangoNOW, Starz Play Amazon Channel, Starz, Amazon Video
Paul Newman and Robert Redford star as real-life outlaws Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid in one of the most iconic films of the 1960s. The film tapped into the anti-hero mood of the 1960s and skillfully depicted how the West was changing in the early 20th century. The four-time Oscar winner has a 90% Freshness rating among Rotten Tomatoes critics, and 92% of audiences liked the movie.
11. High Noon (1952)
> Starring: Gary Cooper, Grace Kelly, Thomas Mitchell
> Directed by: Fred Zinnemann
> Runtime: 85 min
> Available on: Apple iTunes, Vudu, Amazon Video, Google Play Movies, YouTube, DIRECTV, Starz Play Amazon Channel, Starz, Microsoft Store
Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly lead the cast of Fred Zinnemann’s classic about a lone lawman who stands up to a vicious outlaw despite his new bride’s pleas based on her religious beliefs to avoid the confrontation. Cooper’s Oscar-winning portrayal of Marshal Will Kane was ranked as the fifth-greatest cinematic hero by the American Film Institute in 1998. Critic Willliam Brogdon of Variety said Zinnemann “carefully and deliberately makes the most of the mood cast by the threat of impending violence.” Little wonder that “High Noon” holds a 96% Freshness rating among Rotten Tomatoes critics and an 89% approval rating from audiences.
10. Rio Bravo (1959)
> Starring: John Wayne, Dean Martin, Ricky Nelson
> Directed by: Howard Hawks
> Runtime: 141 min
> Available on: Apple iTunes, Vudu, Google Play Movies, YouTube, Amazon Video, DIRECTV, Redbox, Microsoft Store, FandangoNOW, HBO Max
Howard Hawks directed this Western classic that boasts a stellar cast, including John Wayne, Dean Martin, Ricky Nelson, Walter Brennan, and Angie Dickinson. Wayne plays a sheriff who seeks help from an alcoholic, a disabled deputy, and a young gunfighter to bring a murderer to justice. Chicago Sun-Times critic Roger Ebert said, “To watch Rio Bravo is to see a master craftsman at work. The film is seamless. There is not a shot that is wrong.” Critics awarded “Rio Bravo” a 100% Freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and audiences gave it a rating of 91%. Among IMDb users, the film has a rating of 8.0 out of 10.
9. Stagecoach (1939)
> Starring: John Wayne, Claire Trevor, Andy Devine
> Directed by: John Ford
> Runtime: 96 min
> Available on: Apple iTunes, Vudu, Kanopy, Amazon Video, Amazon Prime Video, Criterion Channel, Hoopla, HBO Max
John Ford’s “Stagecoach” was the first of 12 cinematic pairings with John Wayne, and the film helped create Wayne’s enduring persona. Wayne and co-stars Claire Trevor, Andy Devine, and Thomas Mitchell are stagecoach passengers dealing with inner conflict as they try to cross through Native American country. “Stagecoach” was a big budget film at the time and was noteworthy for using Monument Valley as a location. The film has a perfect score among Rotten Tomatoes critics, and 86% of audiences approved of this Western classic.
8. The Wild Bunch (1969)
> Starring: William Holden, Ernest Borgnine, Robert Ryan
> Directed by: Sam Peckinpah
> Runtime: 135 min
> Available on: Apple iTunes, Google Play Movies, YouTube, Amazon Video, Vudu, DIRECTV, Redbox, Microsoft Store, FandangoNOW, HBO Max, fuboTV, TCM
In this carnage-filled offering from director Sam Peckinpah, an aging outlaw (William Holden) gets his gang together — played by Ernest Borgnine, Warren Oates, Edmond O’Brien, and Ben Johnson — for one last robbery in the early 20th century. Unfortunately for the bandits, things don’t go exactly as planned. The film, which is described by Rotten Tomatoes’ Critics Consensus as a “violent ballad to an old world and a dying genre,” has a 92% Freshness rating on the site.
7. The Searchers (1956)
> Starring: John Wayne, Jeffrey Hunter, Vera Miles
> Directed by: John Ford
> Runtime: 119 min
> Available on: Apple iTunes, YouTube, Google Play Movies, Vudu, Amazon Video, DIRECTV, Microsoft Store, HBO Max
One of John Ford’s masterpieces, “The Searchers” is about the obsession-driven search of ex-Confederate Army soldier Ethan Edwards (John Wayne) for his niece (Natalie Wood), who was abducted by Comanches. The Golden Globe-winner was hugely influential, having an impact on filmmakers including Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, John Milius, and George Lucas. The movie has an exceptional 98% Freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
6. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)
> Starring: James Stewart, John Wayne, Vera Miles
> Directed by: John Ford
> Runtime: 123 min
> Available on: Apple iTunes, Vudu, Amazon Video, Google Play Movies, YouTube, Microsoft Store, Amazon Prime Video, Redbox, Pluto TV, CBS All Access Amazon Channel
“The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” is about an idealistic lawyer, played by James Stewart, who prefers justice to violence, but his hand is forced because of a sociopath outlaw played by Lee Marvin. John Wayne, paired again with director John Ford, teaches Stewart his gunfighting skills. The supporting cast includes Edmond O’Brien and is rich in character actors such as Andy Devine, John Carradine, and Lee Van Cleef. On Rotten Tomatoes, the flick received positive reviews from 93% of critics and 92% of users.
5. The Wind (1928)
> Starring: Lillian Gish, Lars Hanson, Montagu Love
> Directed by: Victor Sjöström
> Runtime: 95 min
> Available on: Criterion Channel
Lillian Gish stars in this silent film from 1928 as Letty Mason, a young woman from Virginia who experiences numerous hardships after moving west to live with her cousin. Writing for AMC Filmsite critic Tim Dirks called it “one of Lillian Gish’s greatest achievements in a powerfully dramatic silent film.” Though the movie may appeal to fewer modern viewers due to its age compared to some of the other Westerns on this list, it’s a gem of its era and has a perfect Freshness score on Rotten Tomatoes.
4. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)
> Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Walter Huston, Tim Holt
> Directed by: John Huston
> Runtime: 126 min
> Available on: Apple iTunes, Google Play Movies, YouTube, Vudu, Amazon Video, DIRECTV, FandangoNOW, Microsoft Store, HBO Max
Greed and paranoia are personified in Humphrey Bogart’s character Fred C. Dobbs in his search for gold in “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.” John Huston won Academy Awards for director and adapted screenplay, and his father Walter won for best supporting actor, the first father and son to do so. Critics gave the movie a perfect Freshness score, with Rotten Tomatoes users delivering a 93% rating.
3. Greed (1924)
> Starring: Gibson Gowland, Zasu Pitts, Jean Hersholt
> Directed by: Erich von Stroheim
> Runtime: 140 min
> Available on: Apple iTunes, Google Play Movies, YouTube, Amazon Video
Directed by Erich von Stroheim and based on a novel by Frank Norris, “Greed” tells the story of the unpleasant fallout a trio experiences in early 20th-century San Francisco after winning the lottery. Despite von Stroheim never completing his epic vision, the groundbreaking Western is described on Rotten Tomatoes as “one of the greatest accomplishments of the silent film era.” On the site 100% of critics and 91% of audiences liked it.
2. Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)
> Starring: Henry Fonda, Charles Bronson, Claudia Cardinale
> Directed by: Sergio Leone
> Runtime: 165 min
> Available on: Apple iTunes, Vudu, Amazon Video, Google Play Movies, YouTube, AMC on Demand, Amazon Prime Video, DIRECTV, Crackle, Popcornflix, Redbox, Microsoft Store, Pluto TV, HBO Max, CBS All Access Amazon Channel
Italian director Sergio Leone helmed this Western epic that utilizes techniques from Westerns of the past as a means of paying tribute to the genre. Charles Bronson plays a man who hunts a cold-blooded killer played by Henry Fonda. The actors’ performances, as well as an effecting score by Ennio Morricone, helped the film score ratings of 95% from both critics and audiences on Rotten Tomatoes.
1. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)
> Starring: Clint Eastwood, Eli Wallach, Lee Van Cleef
> Directed by: Sergio Leone
> Runtime: 178 min
> Available on: Apple iTunes, Vudu, Amazon Video, Google Play Movies, YouTube, AMC on Demand, DIRECTV, Redbox, Microsoft Store, Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, FandangoNOW
The poster child of the Spaghetti Western, “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” tells the story of a tenuous alliance of gunslingers, among them the laconic Clint Eastwood, looking for gold. The film’s gripping story, memorable performances, and iconic Ennio Morricone score make it a favorite among Western fans. The movie has exceptional approval ratings of 97% from both critics and users on Rotten Tomatoes.
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