Best Westerns of the 21st Century


1. True Grit

Superbly shot by cinematographer Roger Deakins and supported by a host of strong performances, True Grit really is a traditional western in every sense. Indeed, it’s a throwback to Wayne, to Ford, to Fonda, and to the Golden Age of the Western Cinema. The film follows the classic western framework, as it slowly builds and builds to its exciting climax when Mattie, Cogburn, and La Beauf come face to face with end of their search.

2. Open Range

A film that has relatively flown under the radar since its August 2003 release, Open Range directed by Kevin Costner is a story of revenge, as when two aging gunslingers discover the rotting corpses of their fellow travelers, they attempt to bring down the gang of men responsible. The final showdown in this film may very well be the best shoot out in the history of the western; its length, pace, and the way in which it was framed all seem perfectly calculated by Costner.

3. Meek’s Cutoff

For a western featuring no shootouts, no showdowns, and limited violence of any kind, Meek’s Cutoff is a film that contains extraordinary tension within its contemplative pacing. This tension draws itself not from anything physical, but rather emotional and mental, specifically from the fear of the unknown. For our fragile travellers, everyday without water represents a day closer to death; every hilltop represents cover for impending attackers; and every dark of night represents a shadow for potential predators to observe and strategize.

4. The Good The Bad The Weird

Dubbed a Kimchi Western, the first of its kind, based on the famous Korean dish whereby associating itself with the Spaghetti Westerns of old, The Good The Bad The Weird takes several of its components from past examples of the genre and the result is something entirely fresh and invigorating.

Christopher Misch

I've always loved movies, but it wasn't until under the tutelage of Professor Garry Leonard at the University of Toronto that my passion for the industry became an understanding of an art form. With a specific fascination in both the western genre and Asian cinema in general, I am of the view that good movies are either enlightening or entertaining, and if you are truly lucky they are both.
  • Anna

    Have to check out Open Range, haven’t even heard of it before!

  • Seth

    Great picks, still need to see Meeks Cutoff.

    I’d go with…
    1. True Grit
    2. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
    3. 3:10 to Yuma
    4. The Good, the Bad, and the Weird
    5. Open Range

  • Fulmer

    Yes, I’m a big fan of Open Range. Beautifully shot and well cast (particularly Michael Gambon).
    Broken Trail (2006), while a mini series shown on AMC originally, is quite good. Robert Duvall seems to play the same character from Lonesome Dove & Open Range, but I really did not mind. Thomas Hayden Church distinguishes himself quite well & Walter Hill manages to honor the Western genre code while avoiding the cliche pitfalls.
    The Proposition (2005) written by Nick Cave (yes the one & only) with Guy Pearce is a brutal take on the Western in Australia. Not for the meek.

  • Christopher Misch

    The Proposition is great! Such a graphic affair and Danny Huston is just terrifying.

  • Christopher Misch

    Open Range seems to have flown under everybody’s radar.  It’s a traditional western in every sense, but by no means is that a bad thing.

  • Christopher Misch

    Is there anyone who can capture the beauty of the western landscape better than Roger Deakins?

  • Julian Carrington

    I’d have had The Proposition on my list for sure. Love Nick Cave’s score, as well.

  • Baron Ronan Doyle

    The Proposition too for me. Also really fantastic is The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada.

  • Christopher Misch

    The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada is an severely under-appreciated film.

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