The best modern Westerns you need to see

For decades, the Western was king, beginning with The Great Train Robbery in 1903. It was in the 50s and 60s when it was a major force on the big screen, and while the genre disappeared for some time, in recent years there’s been a resurgence.

This week sees Antoine Fuqua’s remake of 1960 iconic classic, The Magnificent Seven hit cinemas. It’s must-see in September with a stellar cast that includes Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt and Ethan Hawke.

The best modern Western films anticipation of this new Western, we take a look back at the best modern Western movies of the noughties.

True Grit

The Coen Brothers created another classic with their adaptation of the Charles Portis novel True Grit. With sharp dialogue, finely-tuned performances and a scene with a man wearing a bear, True Grit is an enjoyably intimate example of the Western. This is a Coen brothers Western, and as a result, the entire film, down to each minor character, is a joy.

Did you know…

The town of Fort Smith was entirely created by hand. There were no special effects used in the town. In combination with the pre-existing town of Granger in Texas, the set was entirely created by the art department. Leaves were even hand picked off the winter trees.

The best modern Western films Country for Old Men

Another cinematic classic from The Coen Brothers, No Country For Old Men uses a story from one of the world’s greatest living writers, Cormac McCarthy.

The classic western showdown pitting a sheriff against an unspeakable evil is transformed into a harrowing story of how quickly a life can unravel due to random events. The Coen Brothers’ take remains fiercely close to the novel, earning them Oscars for best picture, best direction, and best-adapted screenplay. Javier Bardem’s performance as Anton Chigurh is unflinching and terrifying.

Did you know…

The Coen Brothers spend $800 a gallon for fake blood and they used a lot of it. That’s roughly £600 for just over 4 litres of fake blood.

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3:10 to Yuma

James Mangold’s 3:10 to Yuma gives us a great pairing of Russell Crowe and Christian Bale as they traverse New Mexico and examine what it means to be a good guy versus a bad one. This is a brutal movie that is a great introduction for those who don’t really like many westerns. The highlight has to be the performance by Ben Foster, who never really fails when it comes to scene-stealing performances.

Did you know…

If you start watching the film at 1.20pm, the train to Yuma will arrive at exactly 3.10pm.

The best modern Western films

Django Unchained

Django Unchained is pretty much everything we’d expect from a movie that sees Quentin Tarantino tackle the Western genre. It’s got plenty of violence, foul language, and style to spare. It shows that a western doesn’t just have to be a bleak, serious drama or an action movie. In fact, it can be both as well as a blood-spurting, rip-roaring good time. Plus, it’s another brilliant performance from both Leonardo DiCaprio and Christoph Waltz.

Did you know…

During one of the scenes in Candie Land, Leonardo Dicaprio injured his finger during the scene. Tarantino loved it because, despite the blood, he stayed in character, and that take is the one in the film.

The best modern Western films

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Meek’s Cutoff

Kelly Reichardt’s film is loosely based on an 1845 incident on the Oregon Trail, chronicles the ill-fated journey of a wagon train, led by frontier guide Stephen Meek (Bruce Greenwood), through the Oregon desert along the route later known as the Meek Cutoff. Michelle Williams and Greenwood are excellent in their roles, as doubt begins to circle the party like a pack of coyotes, and the film turns Manifest Destiny into an existential hell.

Did you know…

This film uses aluminium wrong as in the time period, it was considered a semi-precious metal, whereas in this film it is seen used for a common pail.

The best modern Western films

Brokeback Mountain

Brokeback Mountain may not be your classic cowboys vs Indians Western movie, but it remains a real powerhouse film in this genre in recent years.

While Brokeback Mountain was a love story, there were some strong Western themes of loyalty and honour running throughout. Directed by Ang Lee, Brokeback Mountain was based on the short story by Annie Proulx.

The movie stars Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal as two cowboys who embark on a secret and forbidden romance.

This epic Western was a smart and touching exploration of relationships as well as a fascinating character study of the two men at the centre of it and how this relationship impacted on their lives.

The best modern Western films

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The Hateful Eight

Set a decade or so after the American Civil War, the story involves an eclectic group of lawmen, outlaws, mercenaries, bounty hunters and fugitives holed up in a stagecoach waypoint to sit out a blizzard. Two of the men are transporting a female prisoner across the country but find themselves wondering if they’ll ever make it out of the assembled company alive. This is Tarantino’s second Western on the trot, following Django Unchained. He says he’ll need to make one more if he wants to be considered a “proper” Western director.

Did you know…

Quentin Tarantino didn’t actually want to make this film after the script was leaked. It was thanks to Samuel L Jackson that the film was even made and as a result, received his first top billing on a Tarantino film.

The best modern Western films


Gore Verbinski and Johnny Depp made two of the most expensive Westerns ever. One of those movies was The Lone Ranger, but that notorious flop shouldn’t diminish the true achievement of Rango, one of the most playful Western adventures. Depp voices a lost city-boy chameleon, a wannabe actor who stumbles his way into the sheriff’s job in a town called Dirt. Anyone can appreciate how Rango uses CGI animation to bring a new gross-glossy grandeur to the Western. It’s amoral fun for all ages.

The best modern Western films

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The Proposition

John Hillcoat’s The Proposition is one of the most brutal and unflinching Westerns in recent years.

This movie was set out in the Australian outback but this didn’t make it any less a Western and Hillcoat really did embody everything you expect to see in this genre in this movie.

Pearce and Winstone excel in this gritty drama and both deliver two powerhouse performances. The notorious outlaw, Charlie Burns (Pearce) is given nine days to and kill his older brother or his younger brother will be executed – they are both on the run from the law for rape and murder.

The best modern Western films

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

This one fell through the cracks when it was released, but it will remain something of a classic for years to come. The cinematography by Roger Deakins is brilliant, as is the movie’s portrayal of the pitfalls of celebrity. Casey Affleck’s portrayal of the lonely ford easily showed that his is as big of a talent to watch out for as his brother Ben.

Did you know…

The film’s original cut was four hours long. It was cut down to 160 minutes.

The best modern Western films

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