The Best Western Film of All Time

Some of the greatest movies in history, which date back over 120 years, have been westerns. “The Great Train Robbery” made in 1903 is among them. This year, “The Power of the Dog,” was nominated for the Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor Oscars. Its 12 nominations were the most for any film in the running for this year.

Westerns also have made the careers of some of America’s most famous actors. John Wayne’s breakthrough role was “Stagecoach” in 1939. His final movie was “The Shootist” in 1976. He was born Marion Robert Morrison, but audiences know him best as John Wayne. An archetypal embodiment of American mythmaking, Wayne’s patriotic brand of machismo has not necessarily aged well in these times of national introspection. That said, films such as “Rio Grande” and “The Searchers” are more nuanced than one might expect. Both paired him with frequent collaborator John Ford, who helmed some of the best westerns we considered.

Carrying the torch from Wayne was living legend Clint Eastwood, who broke through in the 1960s. He and director Sergio Leone brought a completely different sensibility to the genre, eschewing fantasy-based heroism in favor of unsparing grittiness and morally ambiguous characters. It would all come full circle in Eastwood’s 1992 masterpiece “Unforgiven,” which combined traditional genre elements with the notion that there are no real heroes in the Old West. By the time it rolled around, the western genre was a shadow of its former self. To this day, it remains something of a subgenre with a lasting cinematic legacy.

To determine the best western film of all time, 24/7 Tempo developed an index using average ratings on IMDb, an online movie database owned by Amazon, and a combination of audience scores and Tomatometer scores on Rotten Tomatoes, an online movie and TV review aggregator, as of January 2022, weighting all ratings equally. Only movies with at least 10,000 audience votes on either IMDb or Rotten Tomatoes were considered. Directorial credits and cast information also came from IMDb.

The best western of all time was “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly,” directed by Sergio Leone and released in 1966. Here are the details:

  • IMDb user rating: 8.8/10 (718,036 votes)
  • Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 97% (239,989 votes)
  • Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 97% (77 reviews)

The final installment of Leone’s Dollars Trilogy chronicles the violent race for a fortune in buried gold. Donning his signature poncho and brown hat, Clint Eastwood imparts a towering presence as The Man With No Name. Unique camerawork and Ennio Morricone’s immortal score bring the film further to life and cement its enduring legacy.

Click here to see which are the 30 best westerns of all time.

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