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10 Best Westerns on Prime Video to Watch Right Now

Over a century has passed since the start of Hollywood, and fans have seen the release of hundreds of thousands of movies across various genres. However, one genre has been a staple of cinema since the 1930s, and although its golden age ended in the ’60s, modern films still reference the ambiance of those masterworks.
Over the years, some Westerns entertained the audiences with heroic gunslingers while some explored the lands of fictional Western America. Given the abundance of high-quality films in the genre, it is understandable that fans would want to watch them on everyone’s favorite streaming service, Prime Video. Western legends like John Wayne and Robert Mitchum teamed up on films like El Dorado while classics like True Grit have since been rebooted for a new generation. We’ve selected a few of those iconic Westerns here for fans to enjoy, in no particular order.
10True Grit (1969)

John Wayne and Kim Darby in True Grit

Paramount Pictures

Some films are just meant to please as wide an audience as possible, although most of them essentially experiment in that regard. True Grit, in that sense, shines without any problems, with John Wayne delivering one of his best performances as a cowboy.
The film, which earned an Oscar for John Wayne for Best Actor in a Leading Role, followed a stubborn teenager named Mattie Ross (Kim Darby). She embarked on a mission of vengeance after one of her family’s employees killed her father. With the help of a drunken Texas Ranger, Mattie tracked down him all the way to Indiana hoping to bring her father’s killer to justice, all while dealing with several obstacles along the road.

9The Magnificent Seven (1960)

Cast of The Magnificent Seven from United ArtistsUnited Artists

Great Western thrillers shined in the ’60s, both in terms of storytelling and casting. The Magnificent Seven falls into both categories. The movie itself is a Western remake of Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai with a cowboy aesthetic, but it is brilliantly handled and will go down in history as a classic. The film was remade in 2016, which can also be seen with an AMC+ subscription on Prime Video.
The story takes place in a small Mexican farming village that is oppressed by bandits every year and loses a portion of its hard-earned harvests. The village elders sent three men to find mercenaries who could help them deal with the bandits. The result is the Seven, who became guns for hire for their own reasons. They are left to take on thirty greedy bandits while ensuring that no one dies in the village in one of the most iconic Western films from the ’60s.

8The Horse Soldiers (1959)

John Wayne in The Horse SoldiersUnited Artists

The Horse Soldiers is a tragic Western movie directed by John Ford and starring John Wayne. The film is based on an actual Civil War incident where Col. John Marlowe (John Wayne) is tasked with leading a troop of Union Cavalry and riding hundreds of miles into the enemy’s territory to destroy the railroad at Newton Station, Mississippi.
Accompanied by a few other important personnel, he must lead the troops while avoiding the enemies’ eyes, as well as refrain from contacting the rebel bases until he reaches the destination. Often described as Ford’s most underrated work, The Horse Soldiers is unquestionably worth adding to the watch list.

7The Sons of Katie Elder (1965)

John Wayne and Dean Martin in The Sons of Katie ElderParamount Pictures

The Sons of Katie Elder is a beautiful Western film that captivates the viewers with a theme of brotherhood, plenty of thrills, and flashy action sequences. The film stars John Wayne, Dean Martin, Earl Holiman, and Michael Anderson Jr.
RELATED:The 10 Most Influential Westerns Of All Time, Ranked
The Sons of Katie Elder depicts the story of four brothers who are reunited after learning that their mother was murdered in cold blood. They devise a plan to seek vengeance within their expertise, but things take an unexpected turn when big players like the Marshal and other ominous gunfighters get in their way.

6Duel at Diablo (1966)

Scene from Duel at Diablo movieUnited Artists

Duel at Diablo is an action-packed Western film full of exciting and intense moments that address the underlying issues of discrimination. The movie, filmed in 1966, features a combination of both American and international actors, providing an interesting blend for viewers.
The film follows an ex-scout named Jess Remsberg (James Garner), who is searching for the killer of his wife. However, he is interrupted by Lieutenant McAllister (Bill Travers), who is on a mission to transport ammunition wagons through Apache territory with a minuscule number of soldiers. When the troops are unexpectedly ambushed by enemies, the party must risk traveling through Diablo Canyon to have a shot at survival.

5The Dark Valley (2014)

Scene from The Dark Valley movieFilm Movement

Revenge Westerns often seem to work well, and The Dark Valley surprisingly demonstrates this fact with a gritty tone and stunning cinematography. The film, filled with beautiful imagery and a unique Alpine setting, is a gripping experience for the viewers.
The story is about a mysterious cowboy from Texas who hides a dark secret from his past. He arrives at a sinister valley controlled by a family of dark origins that terrorizes the locals. However, his arrival changes things, and the repressive family decides to take matters into their own hands and let the protagonist fight for his survival.

4El Dorado (1966)

Robert Mitchum and John Wayne in El DoradoParamount Pictures

Howard Hawkins, who received an Honorary Academy Award in 1975, directed and produced El Dorado. The classic Western is everything fans know to expect from a John Wayne film. It goes without saying that he plays nearly the same character in almost every movie, but it worked like a charm in this film. The story is about the reunion of two old friends; a sheriff played by Robert Mitchum and a gunfighter for hire, played by John Wayne.
When they reunite in a western town, they join forces with an old fighter to help a rancher fight against a rival family hell-bent on stealing their water reserves. El Dorado is certainly not among everyone’s Western favorites, but it has what it takes to keep you entertained for a couple of hours without problems.

3Stagecoach (1939)

Classic scene from 1939's Stagecoach movieWalter Wanger Productions

Stagecoach is the film that started it all, from the reign of Western movies to John Wayne’s incredible career that spanned over four decades. Despite being one of the initial Westerns, the film offers plenty of thrills to keep fans on the edge of their seats, and John Ford’s excellent direction leaves little room for errors.
RELATED:20 Biggest Movie Stars Of The 1940s
A stagecoach travels through the desert, hoping to catch up with the military unit while carrying a few other passengers, including the wife of the officer in charge. The passengers range from a vengeful outlaw to a drunken doctor, but they must work together to survive as their path is littered with hazardous situations.

2The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

Scene from The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance movie starring Jimmy Stewart and John WayneJohn Ford Productions

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is based on a short story by Dorothy M. Johnson. It tells the tale of Ransom Stoddard (James Stewart), an attorney who finds himself on the brink of death during a stagecoach robbery by a notorious outlaw named Liberty Valance.
However, he is rescued by Tom Doniphon (John Wayne) and brought to a small lawless area where he resolves to end Valance’s reign, even if it means exploiting the law to his benefit. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance was among the last ones directed by John Ford, and despite delivering a traditional Western flick with a good guy vs. bad guy concept, it is truly a memorable film that never gets old.

1Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)

Henry Fonda in the western movie Once Upon a Time in the WestParamount Pictures

Thanks to the creative and marvelous storytelling of acclaimed filmmaker Sergio Leone, Once Upon a Time in the West is one of the finest Westerns of all time. It’s quite hard to believe that the film was actually released in 1968 since it is well ahead of its time. It both captured the flawless Western ambiance and enhanced the film with incredible soundtracks by Ennio Morricone.
The film follows Frank, a mystery cowboy, on a quest to protect a beautiful young widow from a ruthless assassin working for the railroad. However, over the years, he has made many enemies with one particular individual who will go to any length to see him dead, making his mission fraught with danger at every turn.

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John Wayne

John Wayne Was ‘Disappointed’ He Didn’t Get an Oscar Nomination For His ‘Best Achievement’

John Wayne made it to the Academy Awards three times over the course of his career. However, he only ultimately won a single golden statue. Wayne was “disappointed” that he didn’t get an Oscar nomination for She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, which he considered his “best achievement” over the course of his career. Here’s a look at how that impacted the legendary Western star.

John Wayne played Capt. Nathan Cutting Brittles in ‘She Wore a Yellow Ribbon’

'She Wore a Yellow Ribbon' Ben Johnson as Sgt. Tyree and John Wayne as Capt. Nathan Cutting Brittles posing with hat over chestBen Johnson as Sgt. Tyree and John Wayne as Capt. Nathan Cutting Brittles | Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

She Wore a Yellow Ribbon follows Cavalry Captain Nathan Brittles (Wayne) through the final job of his career before he retires. He seeks to settle an intense situation between the Cheyenne and Arapaho. However, he’s also busy transporting the wife (Mildren Natwick) and niece (Joanne Dru) of his superior. Brittles must do all that he can to stop an all-out war from taking place and get them to safety.

John Ford directs a screenplay written by Frank Nugent and Laurence Stallings. It’s the second installment in Ford’s Cavalry Trilogy, which also contains Fort Apache and Rio Grande. It was one of the most expensive Western movies of its time. Wayne plays a character much older than he was in real life, but Ford trusted him with bringing the character to life.

John Wayne was ‘disappointed’ that he didn’t get an Oscar nomination for ‘She Wore a Yellow Ribbon’

John Farkis’ Not Thinkin’ … Just Rememberin’ … The Making of John Wayne’s ‘The Alamo’ walks readers through the iconic actor’s career. Wayne wasn’t afraid to call out a bad film when he had them, but he also openly talked about the films that he was proud of. His performance as Brittles in She Wore a Yellow Ribbon remains a huge fixture of his career. However, he wasn’t the only one singing praises of his own performance.

“I feel strongly that Duke should have been nominated for an Academy Award for his role in She Wore a Yellow Ribbon,” co-star John Agar said. “He was just brilliant. Remember, too, I have a lot of scenes with him. He played a guy 20 years older. To me, Yellow Ribbon was the best thing Duke ever did.”

Public audiences even felt a similar way. The movie brought in a stunning $9.15 million at the worldwide box office, making it a huge hit. As a result, Wayne knew that he had something special here that kept him involved in acting.

“For the first time, Pappy was treating me like an actor, and he showed me great respect, which I appreciated,” Wayne said. “I felt that I’d worked hard and long to reach the stage of my career, having been thinking of giving it up.”

Wayne continued: “I was disappointed at not even being nominated for Yellow Ribbon. I had played a man 60 years old, which was 17 years older than I was. I have always believed that this was my best achievement in pictures.”

‘True Grit’ won an Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role

She Wore a Yellow Ribbon won an Oscar, but Wayne didn’t even get a nomination. Rather, the film won for Best Cinematography. However, the Academy Awards wouldn’t ignore Wayne forever. He would get two nominations and the eventual win.

Wayne earned his first Oscar nomination for Sands of Iwo Jima. Next, he got another nomination for The Alamo in the Best Picture category. Finally, he won his only Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role for his legendary performance in True Grit. However, he would prove to have a bigger effect on Hollywood than its top award, influencing fight sequences forever.

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John Wayne

John Wayne Once Explained Why He Turned Down so Many ‘Petty, Mean’ Movies

Actor John Wayne is one of Hollywood’s most iconic figures to ever work in movies. However, he was very specific about the roles he would accept and the ones that he refused to involve himself in. Wayne once explained why he turned down so many potentially big movies that he described as “petty,” “small,” and “mean” through the evolution of Hollywood.

John Wayne played particular movie roles

John Wayne in one of his last movies 'The Shootist' alongside Ron Howard. He's wearing a Western outfit and holding a gun, pointing it out standing next to a stunned Howard.L-R: Ron Howard and John Wayne | Bettmann / Contributor

Wayne has over 180 acting credits to his name, spread across movies and television shows. He became a household name for the Western and war genres, ultimately contributing huge star power to the projects later in his career. However, Wayne also wasn’t afraid to speak up when he didn’t like something about the movies that wanted him involved. This held true for both prospective projects and ones that he already signed on for.
The actor ultimately turned down projects that earned attention at the Academy Awards, including High Noon. However, it wasn’t always because he didn’t like the roles themselves. Rather, Wayne was a patriot, who didn’t want anything to do with movies that he deemed insulting to the American image.

John Wayne explained why he turned down so many ‘petty, mean’ movies at the time

The official Wayne Twitter account shared a behind-the-scenes look at one of his movies, The Shootist. He talked about the state of violence in cinema, but he also touched on how he chose what to star in. The film hit theaters in 1976, so it’s worth taking the time period in mind for what he has to say about “modern” filmmaking.

“The whole idea of our business is illusion and they’re getting away from that,” Wayne said. “They’re putting electric squibs in livers and blowing them up in slow motion and then having blood all over everything. I mean, it’s not that there’s more violence in pictures today. It’s that it’s done with such bad taste that people turn their stomachs, not their emotional insides are affected. It turns their stomach. I just don’t want to play anything petty or small or mean. I don’t mind being rough and tough and cruel, but in a big way, no little petty things.”

The actor believed that cinema should be family-friendly

Wayne had a very firm stance when it came to violence in the movies. The rating board once even reached out to the actor to get his input. However, Wayne didn’t want any part in it because he didn’t think a rating system was necessary. He believed that Hollywood should make motion pictures aimed at the whole family.

Wayne starred in a wide variety of movies that included violence, but they never reached the extremes of what he talked about while filming The Shootist. Today’s filmmaking would certainly give him a shock if he were to see how much some movies push the boundaries and make audiences squirm.

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John Wayne

John Wayne Once Confessed the ‘Stupidest Damn Thing I Ever Did in My Life’ Involving His Romance

Actor John Wayne had three wives over the course of his life. However, the couples would always go through various hardships. Wayne always publicly embraced family life and would combine his image as a father with his tough, Western one. The actor once confided in a friend and told them the “stupidest damn thing” he ever did over the course of his lifetime.

John Wayne married his second wife 3 weeks after his divorce became final

John Wayne and Esperanza Baur, the second wife over the course of his life smiling sitting in a car wearing hats

L-R: John Wayne and Esperanza ‘Chata’ Baur | Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Marc Eliot’s American Titan: Searching for John Wayne touched on personal and professional aspects of the actor’s life. The divorce from his first wife, Josephine, was finalized on December 26, 1945. However, that certainly didn’t stop the actor from jumping into another relationship soon after. Wayne married Esperanza Baur, also called Chata, exactly three weeks after his divorce in the Unity Presbyterian Church of Long Beach, which is where his mother married her second husband, Sidney Preen. Actor Ward Bond was Wayne’s best man.

However, everything in Wayne’s life would change when he returned to Los Angeles after his honeymoon with his new wife. They purchased a new home in Van Nuys, California, and made sure to have a separate room for his mother-in-law. As a result, the newly-married couple started to have some difficulties.

John Wayne said that marrying Chata was the ‘stupidest damn thing I ever did in my life’

American Titan: Searching for John Wayne mentioned that Chata wanted to get a real role in a movie, but Wayne didn’t want her to have the life of a movie star. As a result, he told her that she belonged at home. Chata didn’t take this very well and turned to alcohol, developing an addiction.

Wayne ultimately turned to Bond to complain about Chata and his mother-in-law speaking Spanish and their desire for a bigger home. His new wife and her mother would often sleep in the same bed, forcing the actor to sleep on the couch in the living room.

Eliot wrote that Wayne took pride in his physical appearance and kept it in a specific condition for the camera. His ex-wife also took care of her physical appearance, but Chata refused to remove her facial hair, as she had a bit of a mustache. She also wouldn’t bathe very often and refused to shave her legs, which would make Wayne angry. Their arguments became increasingly frequent, which Wayne told Bond.

“Our marriage was like shaking two volatile chemicals in a jar,” Wayne said, admitting that marrying Chata was “the stupidest damn thing I ever did in my life!”

The actor would marry one final time

Wayne’s life moved on past Chata, as they divorced in 1954. Tragically, she died from a heart attack in 1961. Wayne married one final time to Pilar Pallete in the same year that he divorced Chata. They would ultimately remain married until the actor died in 1979, although they no longer lived together. The couple separated, but it was never legally so.

Meanwhile, Wayne became romantically involved with his former secretary, Pat Stacy, until his death.

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