Netflix has been great over the years at picking up some of the finest western movies of all time. As titles come and go we have to change up our selection, but here’s our current list of the best westerns currently streaming on Netflix.
We’re here to look at westerns, an enduring genre as evidenced by the number of recent releases. Interestingly, there has been a lot written recently about the “Wild West.” The reality seems to be that gunfights were a complete rarity. Few people could afford guns, bullets were expensive, and the vast majority of settlers were peaceful people in search of a better life not looking to be killed.
That life was, of course, unimaginably hard. And that is what many of the new releases examine. Here are ten movies and TV series currently streaming on Netflix we believe are a great start for you to begin exploring the genre. Let us know what you think.
Last updated: August 2019
10. Gone Are The Days – 2018
Directed by: Mark Landre Gould
Starring: Lance Henriksen, Tom Berenger, Billy Lush
Running time: 1hr 39min
Gone Are The Days is not a complicated movie. Having said that, this is an excellent story. The underlying morality is about aging and redemption and Lance Henriksen delivers this perfectly. Tom Berenger is also perfect in his role as the eccentric sheriff. This is not the shoot-em-up adventure that typified earlier westerns. It’s a slower, thoughtful love story. It is only number ten in our list because of what follows. It is, nonetheless, quite a fine film.
9. Dead Man’s Burden – 2012
Directed by: Jared Moshe
Starring: Barlow Jacobs, Clare Bowen, David Call
Running time: 1hr 33min
Dead Man’s Burden is a low budget independent film. It is a David and Goliath story of a family struggling against a mining corporation post civil war. The focus is on the acting, the scenery, and the plot rather than any action sequences. And because of that, it is a powerful movie. There are clever twists and the characters have hidden depths. This is a movie you will likely want to watch twice to understand and appreciate the clues that are delivered throughout.
8. Strange Empire – 2015
Directed by: Various
Starring: Cara Gee, Tattiawna Jones, Melissa Farman
Running time: TV 1 season
From Canada, Strange Empire is the story of three women and their fight for survival after the murders of their men. It delves into family relationships, racial prejudice, and the sense of community in a young town. That the protagonists are women adds strength to a powerful storyline in a departure from white men roaring around being heroic. It is something of a mystery as to why it only survived one season. It deserved more.
7. The Homesman – 2014
Directed by: Tommy Lee Jones
Starring: Tommy Lee Jones, Hilary Swank, Grace Gummer
Running time: 2hrs 2min
The Homesman was a much-nominated movie and, again, has a strong female presence. The Wild West was simply not the domain for only cowboys and Indians. This is a dark and largely bleak morality tale with wonderful artistry. This is a very well acted movie with an odd sort of beauty.
6. The Salvation – 2014
Directed by: Kristian Levring
Starring: Mads Mikkelsen, Eva Green, Jeffrey Dean Morgan
Running time: 1hr 32mins
The Salvation is a classic western revenge movie…except the brother of one of the initial revenge victims now wants his revenge. Double whammy. The bad guys are very bad and the good guys are not entirely good, but certainly right. The acting, direction, photography, and music are outstanding and deliver an absorbing movie. People have decided there are tributes in the film to John Ford and The Searchers, one of the original and greatest westerns. That’s a nice piece of flattery.
5. Hostiles – 2017
Directed by: Scott Cooper
Starring: Scott Shepherd, Rosamund Pike, Ava Cooper
Running time: 2hr 14min
Sadly, the hostiles referred to in the title are Comanches who have a deep resentment at their treatment at the hands of the United States Cavalry. And why wouldn’t they? This episode of American history is now recognized as a travesty. Having said that, it happened and is, therefore, a valid setting for a western story. In this case, and much to his disgust, a cavalry captain has to help his bitter enemy, the chief of the Cheyenne. And there’s the added complication of a settler’s widow. Christian Bale is impressive.
4. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs – 2018 Netflix Original
Directed by: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Starring: Tim Blake Nelson, Willie Watson, Clancy Brown
Running time: 2hr 13min
The Ballard of Buster Scruggs is a pastiche of short stories about archetypal western movie characters. And let’s be clear they are definitely movie characters; Buster Scruggs could never have actually existed. While it just about hangs together as a movie, each story in isolation is compelling. The range of color and depth is extraordinary. It must have been difficult to decide in which order they should run.
3. The Hateful 8 – 2015
Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh
Running time: 3hr 7min
The Hateful 8 is a 3-hour marathon that won an Oscar for the score. Ennio Morricone was famous for the enigmatic references to the early spaghetti westerns and it’s great that he has been recognized. Full of trademark Tarantino violence, the 8 are a collection of travelers on their way to Red Rock (not sure why Red Rock is so important). They are nasty pieces of work and not all of them will make it. A Tarantino classic? Hardly. But still a good movie for fans of his style.
2. Hatfields & McCoys – 2017
Directed by: Kevin Reynolds
Starring: Kevin Costner, Bill Paxton, Matt Barr
Running time: TV 3 Episodes
Montagues and Capulets? Hardly. Devil Anse Hatfields and Randall McCoy were friends as young men but the Civil War changed all that. Their clans become bitter adversaries and the feud escalates to a state level and it takes an intervention by the US Supreme Court to settle things. Based on a true story, it is more of an extra long movie than three TV episodes. But the marathon is worth it. Costner puts in one of his finest performances.
1. Hell On Wheels – 2016
Directed by: Various
Starring: Anson Mount, Colm Meaney, Robin McLeavy
Running time: TV 5 seasons
Hell On Wheels starts as a revenge movie but quickly evolves into the story of the construction of the railroad from east to west. It’s ultimately the story of the colonization of the West. We have pretty much every type of colonizing archetype here from prostitutes to evangelical preachers to civil war rebels and corrupt autocrats. And never forget, the railroads were largely funded out of Europe where vast fortunes were made. Well worth its five seasons.