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Best Western movies from the last decade

  • Best western movies from the last decade

    While today’s cinema landscape may seem saturated with superhero flicks and biopics, the Western remains one of the most prolific film genres. Early on in the genre the plotlines, themes, and motifs were somewhat formulaic. But modern Westerns have reinvented or expanded on the usual tropes. Using thoughtful cinematography, stylistic special effects, and nuanced screenwriting, today’s Westerns have carved out a new, innovative space within the genre.

    Many contemporary Western films take a deep look into the genre’s human elements. With films displaying the life in the West from a woman’s perspective (Emma Tammi’s “The Wind”), or even from real bronco riders’ experiences (Chloé Zhao’s “The Rider”), contemporary filmmakers are broadening what we once thought were the staples of a Western movie.

    In recognition of some of the best contemporary Western films, Stacker compiled data on all Western films from the 2010s and ranked them according to their Metascores (out of 100). Ties were broken by Letterboxd user ratings (out of five). The data was compiled in November 2019. To qualify, the film had to be listed as a "Western" on two or more of the major databases (IMDb, Metacritic, Wikipedia, Letterboxd, Rotten Tomatoes), released in the United States theatrically or on streaming services between Jan. 1, 2010, and today, and have at least four reviews from critics at significant publications.

    At Stacker, we recognize that genre is meant to help describe and communicate the tone and style of a film, not to be a limiting factor on what films can and cannot be. There are no hard and fast rules that define Westerns, and we agree that more open interpretations of what fits into certain genres are the best way to develop a pool of films that represent all possible expressions of a particular genre. Every film below has been considered according to the cinematic history and development of Westerns.

    Click through to see if your favorite Western from this decade made the list.

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  • #25. In a Valley of Violence (2016)

    - Director: Ti West
    - Metascore: 64
    - Letterboxd user rating: 3.09
    - IMDb user rating: 6.0
    - Runtime: 104 min

    “In a Valley of Violence” is director Ti West’s homage to the Western genre, and stars Ethan Hawke, John Travolta, and Taissa Farmiga. This film was quite different from West’s supernatural films like “The Innkeepers” and “Trigger Man,” and contains some signature elements of a Western, including a mysterious drifter, a bar brawl, and a ragtag entourage. In his homage to the genre, West skirts the line of making fun of it, as well as paying it respect.

  • #24. Never Grow Old (2019)

    - Director: Ivan Kavanagh
    - Metascore: 65
    - Letterboxd user rating: 3.15
    - IMDb user rating: 5.8
    - Runtime: 100 min

    Starring Emile Hirsch and John Cusack, Ivan Kavanagh’s “Never Grow Old” is a classic Western film in its bones, telling the story of an outlaw taking over a dusty frontier town. Kavanagh’s film takes on the standard Western storyline, but gives it a dark and muddy aesthetic that he uses to keep the audience unsettled. However, this twist on the usual Western had mixed reviews, with Frank Scheck of The Hollywood Reporter applauding how the genre was handled expertly, while Glenn Kenny at rogerebert.com felt the effect was unnecessary.

  • #23. Hostiles (2017)

    - Director: Scott Cooper
    - Metascore: 65
    - Letterboxd user rating: 3.44
    - IMDb user rating: 7.2
    - Runtime: 134 min

    Scott Cooper’s “Hostiles” takes the audience on a tour through the landscape of New Mexico to Montana, with heavy nods to John Wayne’s “The Searchers.” Adapted from an unpublished manuscript by screenwriter Donald E. Stewart, the film contains the usual suspects of a Western—horses, guns, and 10-gallon hats—but also explores the role of paradoxes crucial to the genre. Starring Christian Bale, Rosamund Pike, and Wes Studi, this film is a brutal depiction of a journey through the West in the 1890s.

  • #22. The Wind (2018)

    - Director: Emma Tammi
    - Metascore: 66
    - Letterboxd user rating: 2.98
    - IMDb user rating: 5.5
    - Runtime: 86 min

    Westerns don’t often center around the perspective of a female lead, but in Emma Tammi’s “The Wind,” the filmmaker takes on feminism in the West in her horror-Western. The film tells the tale of the biting isolation that wives of cowboys feel in their claustrophobic domestic lives. Tammi’s feature film debut takes the usual Western and turns the plot on its head while keeping many of the elements of the genre, such as the setting and lifestyle.

  • #21. The Homesman (2014)

    - Director: Tommy Lee Jones
    - Metascore: 68
    - Letterboxd user rating: 3.31
    - IMDb user rating: 6.6
    - Runtime: 122 min

    Directed by and starring Tommy Lee Jones alongside Hilary Swank, 2014’s “The Homesman” is a story of survival while traveling across the frontier a decade before the Civil War. Based on Glendon Swarthout’s novel of the same name, this story also offers a feminist critique of the Western genre. Jones uses unusual rhythms and jarring events to evoke the West’s unpredictable, brutal, and beautiful nature.

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  • #20. The Hateful Eight (2015)

    - Director: Quentin Tarantino
    - Metascore: 68
    - Letterboxd user rating: 3.83
    - IMDb user rating: 7.8
    - Runtime: 168 min

    Quentin Tarantino takes his signature style to the Western with his 2015 film “The Hateful Eight.” The film includes the usual elements of the genre—outlaws, a serendipitously assembled ragtag team, and of course, a Western landscape. But as with any Tarantino film, it’s his stylistic direction that is the modern differentiator between this film and classics in the genre. Tarantino’s cinematic foreplay toggles between tropes of the spaghetti Western and gut-wrenching violent sprees.

  • #19. Slow West (2015)

    - Director: John Maclean
    - Metascore: 72
    - Letterboxd user rating: 3.53
    - IMDb user rating: 6.9
    - Runtime: 84 min

    This A24 frontier tale directed by John Maclean and starring Michael Fassbender and Kodi Smit-McPhee, follows a 16 year old’s quest for love and the people he encounters along the way who become his traveling companions. “Slow West” shows the juxtaposition of the beautiful majesty of the West and the ruthless savagery of the outlaws and adventurers who live there.

  • #18. Bone Tomahawk (2015)

    - Director: S. Craig Zahler
    - Metascore: 72
    - Letterboxd user rating: 3.64
    - IMDb user rating: 7.1
    - Runtime: 132 min

    S. Craig Zahler’s film “Bone Tomahawk” tackles the genre mash-up of a horror-Western, with no shortage of gore. Though the violence is prominent, the film thrives in its character development. Starring Kurt Russell as the town sheriff deployed with his posse to save the town’s doctor from cannibalistic natives, the film contains standard elements of a Western, but stands out because of its nuanced direction.

  • #17. Ain't Them Bodies Saints (2013)

    - Director: David Lowery
    - Metascore: 74
    - Letterboxd user rating: 3.28
    - IMDb user rating: 6.4
    - Runtime: 96 min

    David Lowery’s 2013 film “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” skirts the line of being classified as a Western; instead of horses and wagons, viewers see cars possibly from the 1960s or 1970s. However, the core of the movie remains within the genre, taking on themes of violence, sacrifice, and Western archetypes. Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara star as young lovers and soon-to-be parents who are desperate for money. Their situation leads them into shootouts, prison time, and encounters with unsavory characters.

  • #16. Little Woods (2018)

    - Director: Nia DaCosta
    - Metascore: 74
    - Letterboxd user rating: 3.44
    - IMDb user rating: 6.1
    - Runtime: 105 min

    Starring Tessa Thompson and Lily James, Nia DaCosta’s 2018 debut film “Little Woods” tells the story of two sisters facing challenges in North Dakota. Set in modern times, the two struggle to maintain ownership of their home and resort to peddling prescription pills. While on its face the film seems to be unconventional for the genre, the moral and financial sacrifices of the film’s leading ladies align with the struggles often depicted in a Western.

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