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The Best Films Based on the Wild West

‘The Wild West’ refers to the American Old West throughout the latter part of the nineteenth century. This time is often symbolised by the cowboy and is characterised by lawlessness and roughness, and it’s these attributes that have made it one of the most popular times in history.

Today, many people continue to research the Wild West, looking deeper and deeper into some of the most intriguing stories that can be found there. And various forms of merchandise have been released to keep this fantastic time alive. Those that are interested in the era can learn more through watching one of the many films based on the time, there are also a huge range of games available. Red Dead Redemption proved to be hugely popular, there is now a sequel expected later this year. Online gaming sites have also capitalised on the popularity of the period, fans of online slots can try their luck with the Wild West theme running throughout a number of games.

It could be argued that a number of classic films really increased interest in this era in America; here are some of the best:

  1. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

No Wild West movie list would be complete without a mention of Clint Eastwood, and this film is arguably the best film about the Wild West that has ever been made.

Directed by Sergio Leone and released in 1966, the plot follows three men – Blondie (The Good) who’s looking to earn some extra dollars as a professional gunslinger, Angel Eyes (The Bad), a hitman who’ll always take out his target when he’s paid to and Tuco (The Ugly), an outlaw who’s trying to take control of his own destiny.

Throughout the film you’ll see them battling it out to try and get their hands on a pot of gold, which is worth $200,000 (slightly short of the $1.2 million it cost to make this film).

  1. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

If you’re looking for a film that’s all about bromance, you needn’t look any further than this one. Butch Cassidy (Paul Newman) and Sundance (Robert Redford) get plenty of laughs as a pair of loveable outlaws.

At the time of release (1969) it was criticised somewhat for its ‘superficial’ gags and ribbing. One critic (Pauline Kael) even went as far as describing it as ‘the bottom of the pit’.

Thankfully, the film, which was directed by George Roy Hill and cost $6 million to make, has weathered well and is now one of our absolute favourites. The perfect Sunday afternoon film that’s renowned for its classic laidback ways.

  1. Unforgiven

Not only does Clint Eastwood also feature in this western but he’s directed this one, too. Winning four Oscars, this 1992 film is probably the most profound work created by Eastwood.


Because it’s not just a film about the Wild West, it’s also an insight into how flawed the genre’s mythology actually is.

The story follows a prostitute who has her face cut with a razor after she mocks someone’s manhood. And when her and her fellow prostitutes place a bounty on this guy’s head, an array of wannabe assassins start to enter the town. This includes William Munny (Eastwood), L’il Bill (Gene Hackman) and English Bob (Robert Harris). But it’s WW Beauchamp (Saul Rubinek) who’s at the heart of the film’s true meaning because of how he embellishes the truth and rapidly changes sides.

This film’s also got the biggest budget on our list – $14.4 million.

  1. High Noon

Directed by Fred Zinnemann and released in 1952, High Noon is all about being torn between love, duty and standing up for the things you believe in – even when no one else stands by you.

Will Kane (played by Gary Cooper) is a town marshal who settles down with his wife (played by Grace Kelly). He plans to lead a quiet life in his retirement but these plans are soon interrupted when he finds out a former gunslinger wants to settle an old score and he’s arriving by the noon train. His wife begs him to run away but he won’t, knowing he has to stay back to not only defend his honour but his town. Everyone turns away from him, and the entire story builds up to the epic gunfight at the end.

It’s the lowest-budget film we’ve mentioned, costing $750,000.

  1. The Wild Bunch

When it was released in 1969, Sam Peckinpah (the director) faced a lot of criticism because of the high level of violence that appeared throughout the film. And even today, viewers can still be shocked by the amount of blood and gore that’s shown.

However, all of this adds up to one of the best westerns you’ll find. The Wild Bunch tells the tale of a group of outlaws who are seeing the world they know and love disappearing before their very eyes. It’s set in 1913, when the Wild West no longer exists and the justice system has changed dramatically. Sensing their time is up, this unruly bunch decide to go out all guns blazing.

It cost $6 million to make.

With all of these fantastic films still widely revered and watched today, can we expect to see any more films made that celebrate the Wild West?

Of course we can! With it being such an iconic period of history, fans will continue to look for nostalgic nods back to the time when cowboys roamed the land.

What are some of your favourite Westerns?

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