cowboy characters
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The 15 Best Cowboy Characters in TV and Film

The wild west has always been a favorite setting for films and TV shows. Stories about gunfighters and lawmen have captivated audiences for decades. 

One thing all the best old west shows and films had in common was their memorable cowboy characters. These are some of our favorites from over the years.

1. Will Kane from High Noon

Played by Gary Cooper in 1952, Will Kane was a town marshal of the fictional town of Hadleyville, which was located in the New Mexico Territory. Kane's character decided it was better to stand up to his enemies and fight than walk away with his new bride and, ultimately, he prevails. His iconic moment was throwing his marshal badge in the dirt at the end of the film.

2. The Lone Ranger

The Lone Ranger, along with his Native American sidekick Tonto, was sort of like the old west's superhero. The masked avenger kept innocent folk safe from all manner of outlaws. The Lone Ranger was played by Clayton Moore on TV and decades later by Armie Hammer in the 2013 film adaptation.

3. Ethan Edwards from The Searchers

Perhaps John Wayne's most iconic role, Edwards was a man on a hunt for revenge against Comanche raiders and on a mission to rescue the girls they kidnapped. The film was directed by legendary western director John Ford as well. 

4. The Man With No Name from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly 

The ultimate spaghetti western. Clint Eastwood stars in arguably the greatest, and certainly most unforgettable, western ever made. He has no name. He doesn't talk much. He just wants the gold.

5. Billy The Kid from The Left Handed Gun

Paul Newman plays one of the most famous outlaws of all time, Billy the Kid, but humanizes the gunfighter in this story of fame gone wrong.

6. Hopalong Cassidy

Based on a series of short stories by Clarence E. Mulford, Hopalong Cassidy was one of the earliest cowboy icons of the small screen, which is why nearly every '50s kid wanted a Hopalong Cassidy milk glass and lunchbox (with the thermos, of course).

7. Matt Dillon from Gunsmoke 

James Arness played one of TV's most memorable characters, Marshal Matt Dillon, and he played him for twenty years across 635 episodes.

Read More: 'Rawhide': The Western Series That Launched Clint Eastwood's Career

8. Josey Wales from The Outlaw Josey Wales

Clint Eastwood earned an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of the Missouri outlaw Josey Wales trying to avenge his family during the Civil War.

9. Wyatt Earp from Tombstone 

In one of the last great Hollywood westerns, Kurt Russell played Wyatt Earp and gunned down his enemies during the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona.  

10. Eric 'Hoss' Cartwright from Bonanza 

Played by Dan Blocker from 1959 to 1972 over 435 episodes, Hoss was a fixture in American homes for 13 years.

11. Butch Cassidy from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Paul Newman makes the list again with this iconic role starring opposite Robert Redford. The film ends with Butch and Sundance going out in a blaze of glory in one of the most iconic shootouts in movie history.

12. Tom Doniphon from The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance 

Played by John Wayne opposite Jimmy Stewart's Ransom Stoddard, and directed by John Ford, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is one of the most well-made westerns of all time.

13. Bret Maverick from Maverick 

James Garner played everyone's favorite clever, gambling lady's man cowboy from 1957 to 1962 (and again in the '80s). Always on the hunt for a card game and always ready with a quip, there were few cowboys who were ever as entertaining as Maverick.

14. Captain Woodrow F. Call and Captain Augustus 'Gus' McCrae

Go ahead, just try to find a Texan who doesn't get a little teary-eyed when they talk about the friendship between Woodrow F. Call and Augustus "Gus" McCrae.

15. Rooster Cogburn from True Grit

One of the classic fictional characters out of all of the western movies, Rooster Cogburn has been portrayed by both John Wayne and Jeff Bridges

Western Film Series of the Sound Era

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