The western is one of Hollywood’s oldest and favorite genres. While it’s popularity ebbs and flows from time to time, there have been no shortage of classic westerns from the early days of the studio system to more recently. Tubi TV has hitched its wagon to the genre and is offering some of the best westerns around.
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Here’s a list of some of the best westerns on Tubi Tv right now.
Broken Arrow (1950)
James Stewart is best known as the loveable star of heartwarming films like It’s a Wonderful Life, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and Harvey, but his career was filled with a number of westerns that showed the actor’s harder edge. Broken Arrow is such a film.
Stewart stars as Tom Jeffords, who takes up the challenge of trying to broker a peace between the Apache tribe and settlers in Arizona. The film is based on a true story.
While Broken Arrow does have the problem of using primarily white actors in the portrayals of Native Americans (save for Jay Silverheels, who played Geronimo), it has also been noted by scholars as one of the first major westerns post World War II to portray Native Americans with sympathy.
Dances With Wolves (1990)
Best Picture-winning Dances With Wolves (you can argue it shouldn’t have beat Goodfellas, but it’s still a good movie), isn’t a western of a gun-toting cowboy saving a small town from bandits or stereotypical depictions of Native Americans, it is a soulful telling of the beauty of the old west (in this case the Great American Plains) and the indigenous people that were forced from their land.
Kevin Costner stars (and directs) as Lt. John Dunbar, who forms a deep connection with the land and his indigenous neighbors, ultimately choosing to live with them rather than an ever increasing and hostile presence from Americans. Also starring in the film are Mary McDonnell, Graham Green, Rodney A. Grant, Floyd “Red Crow” Westerman and Tantoo Cardinal.
Dances With Wolves is an epic story beautifully told, acted and presented to audiences.
Decision at Sundown (1957)
Have you ever been watching Blazing Saddles and not gotten the joke when Sheriff Bart says “You’d do it for Randolph Scott,” and then a chorus of trumpets play and the villagers take their hats off in respect? Well, you can see the western star referenced by Mel Brooks in his prime with the film Decision at Sundown.
Scott, who perhaps only trailed John Wayne as a western star in his heyday, stars as Bart Allison, who rolls into Sundown to confront the town’s boss for the death of his wife years earlier.
One of the most famous spaghetti westerns not featuring Clint Eastwood, Django starred Franco Nero as the coffin-dragging gunslinger who decides to take on a group of Southern racists as well as Mexican revolutionaries.
Django’s legacy made an impact on Quentin Tarantino, who copied the hero’s name for his own take on the western genre, Django Unchained, bringing along Nero to make a fun cameo. See what it was about the original Django that caught Tarantino’s eye.
The Gunfighter (1950)
Another classic actor not typically associated with the western, Gregory Peck’s foray into the genre resulted in the well regarded film The Gunfighter, which was directed by Henry King and earned an Oscar nomination for its screenplay by William Bowers and André De Toth.
The Gunfighter follows Jimmy Ringo (Peck), who comes looking for the only woman he’s ever loved but she doesn’t want anything to do with him anymore. Meanwhile, his reputation draws the attention of many as he tries to put his past behind him.
The Homesman (2014)
While there have been some great examples of female-led westerns (Cat Ballou, Annie Get Your Gun and one we’ll touch on in a minute), they still are a minority in the genre. 2014’s The Homesman was a welcome addition to that list though.
Hillary Swank leads The Homesman (directed by Tommy Lee Jones), as a pious, independent woman tasked with driving a group of women who were driven mad by pioneer life on a covered wagon. She enlists the help of a drifter (Jones) to help her across the dangerous territory.
The Homesman was pretty well reviewed, but it is still an underrated entry in Swank’s award-winning filmography.
While Lucky doesn’t fit the bill of the classic western (a tortoise swaps out for horses), Harry Dean Stanton’s titular Lucky has the cut of a western hero — a rigid Navy veteran who is forced to reconcile with the changes going on around him.
The supporting characters in Lucky are also as colorful as many classic westerns, highlighted by David Lynch (yes, the director), as well as Ron Livingston, Ed Begley Jr., Tom Skerritt, Barry Shabaka Henley and Beth Grant.
Lucky was a critical darling in 2017, with much of the praise going to Stanton’s lead performance.
Meek’s Cutoff (2011)
Another female-driven western tale, Meek's Cutoff hails from indie darling Kelly Reichardt. For anyone who is familiar with Reichardt’s work shouldn’t be surprised that it isn’t a typical western shoot-em up, but rather a contemplative but engaging look at the challenges and dangers that were present for westward travelers.
Michelle Williams (a Reichardt favorite) stars with Bruce Greenwood, Paul Dano, Will Patton, Zoe Kazan and Shirley Henderson as members of a group of settlers heading to Oregon in 1845 who become lost amid the harsh conditions.
Meek’s Cutoff was a critics and festival darling when it debuted at the onset of the 2010s.
My Name Is Nobody (1973)
Sergio Leone is the name most often associated with spaghetti westerns, but while he did conceive of the idea of My Name Is Nobody, the film was brought to life by one of his Italian contemporaries, Tonino Valerii.
Starring Henry Fonda and Terence Hill, My Name Is Nobody sees a young gunman meet his idol, who is ready to hang it up. First, the young gunman tries to best him, but soon he must convince him to help in his fight against a ruthless gang.
One-Eyed Jacks (1961)
There’s something about westerns that make big-name actors want to make them one of their first directing jobs. In the case of Brando, it was the first and only time he would step behind the camera.
In One-Eyed Jacks, Brando stars as Rio, an outlaw who attempts to track down his former partner (Karl Malden) after running off with their loot and leaving him to be captured. Katy Jurado, Ben Johnson and Slim Pickens round out the cast.
Explore Brando’s talents beyond as he leads a movie in a different way with One-Eyed Jacks.
Pale Rider (1985)
Only John Wayne is more associated with the western genre than Clint Eastwood. After breaking out in classic spaghetti westerns from Sergio Leone, Eastwood continued to ride the genre back in America, with Pale Rider a favorite among his fans.
Eastwood directs and stars in the film as a mysterious preacher who takes it upon himself to protect a small prospector village from a greedy mining company.
Pale Rider is actually the last western Eastwood made before tackling Unforgiven, where his character and the film challenge many of the western staples that he helped establish.
The Proposition (2005)
American’s don’t have a monopoly on the western genre, as Australia has also crafted a number of their own films that swap the American West with the Australian Outback while hitting on just about everything else you could want from the genre. The Proposition is a great example of the more gritty westerns we’ve come to know in recent years.
Guy Pearce stars as a notorious outlaw who is captured by a lawman (Ray Winstone) and given the chance to save his younger brother by bringing to justice his older brother, hiding somewhere in the Outback. Emily Watson, Danny Huston and Noah Taylor also star.
Stagecoach was closer to the time it was depicting than it is to us today, but this classic western is no less exciting because of that fact.
Directed by John Ford and the first major starring vehicle for John Wayne, Stagecoach tells the story of a group of people travelling together on a stagecoach as they are beset by Native Americans, while also having to deal with their own misgivings about each other. It also features one of the most thrilling action sequences ever put to screen.
When someone is making a list of the best westerns ever made, Stagecoach is an absolute must include, if not right at the very top of the list.
Michael Balderston is a D.C.-based entertainment writer and content producer for What to Watch. He previously has written for TV Technology and Awards Circuit.
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