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The 20 Best Western Films of All Time, According to Rotten Tomatoes

The ultimate western movie ranking and where to watch each one.

Western movies have a rich and storied history that spans over a century of filmmaking. They emerged in the early days of cinema, with pioneers like Edwin S. Porter's The Great Train Robbery (1903) laying the foundation for the genre. These early silent films often portrayed simple, black-and-white tales of good versus evil in the rugged American frontier.

The 1930s and 1940s witnessed the genre's consolidation, thanks to the contributions of legendary actors and directors. Stars like John Wayne became synonymous with the cowboy hero, while filmmakers like John Ford refined Western storytelling techniques. This era established the enduring themes of honor, justice, and the pursuit of a better life that would define the genre.

In the 1950s and 1960s, Westerns enjoyed a resurgence, with the emergence of the "spaghetti Westerns" from Italy, offering grittier and morally ambiguous narratives. The genre diversified to include various subgenres, from traditional to revisionist and comedic interpretations, showcasing its adaptability.

Throughout the 20th century, Westerns remained a reflection of changing American values and ideals. They explored themes such as individualism, the clash of cultures, and the consequences of violence, making them more than just tales of the Old West but insightful commentaries on society.

Today, Western movies continue to evolve, occasionally reimagining their historical settings in fresh ways while preserving the enduring appeal of vast landscapes and iconic cowboy figures. Their legacy in the world of cinema remains an integral part of film history, capturing the spirit of a nation's past and the universal human experience.

The site Rotten Tomatoes compiles film reviews from reputable critics across the mediasphere, averaging them out to generate a score from 0% to a perfect 100%. For their list of the Best Western Movies of All Time, they adjusted their "Tomatometer" to account for films that received fewer reviews, which is why some films with a perfect 100% are ranked lower than films with, say, a 97%.

Here are the 20 best Western films ever released, according to Rotten Tomatoes.

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