Five Amazing Westerns on Netflix Right Now

Westerns aren’t all gunfights, gangs, and glory. They tell stories of love, loss, revenge, and frequently challenge their viewers to decide for themselves what is right and what is wrong. It is for these reasons that I’ve become so drawn to the genre. In the same way that incredible beauty is woven into desolate western landscapes, seemingly desolate Westerns have the capacity to depict captivating characters and events, as well as portray both the elegance and roughness of human nature. Luckily enough for those of us subscribed to Netflix, the service has an excellent catalogue of Westerns for its subscribers’ viewing pleasure. Here are just a few of my favorites for you to (hopefully) watch and enjoy!

 

Once Upon a Time in the West

   

If you’re in the mood to watch a classic spaghetti Western, look no further. Released in 1968, directed by Sergio Leone of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly fame, and featuring a haunting score by Ennio Morricone, Once Upon a Time in the West is the Western to end all Westerns. The age of lawlessness in the American West is reaching its end as the railroad brings order and civilization from the east. Once follows a resourceful woman determined to make a new life for herself, an amoral criminal hired by the railroad to ensure construction progress at any cost, a notorious gang leader looking to set the record straight, and a tight-lipped harmonica-playing outlaw with mysterious motives as their paths converge, certain to collide. Once keeps its viewers on the edge of their seat with one suspenseful scene after another and Morricone’s gritty score perfectly setting the tone. If anything, this film should be watched to grasp the immense cultural impact it had.

 

Hell or High Water

   

Westerns often conjure images of a bygone era, but they can just as easily be adapted to modern times. Hell or High Water, released in 2016, is one of my favorite films. It tells the story of two present-day Texan brothers, one a moody but wryly smart divorcee and the other a reckless bank robber, as they rob a chain of banks to save their family ranch from foreclosure. And here’s the kicker: the bank chain that the brothers rob is the very same one to which they are indebted. Hell or High Water is a ruggedly human story that asks the viewer whether it is alright to do something wrong for the right reasons. It is well worth the watch.

 

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

   

The Coen brothers churned out a good one here. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, released in 2018, is an anthology film that at one moment may lift the viewer up with heartwarming comedic elements, and in another moment bring them crashing back to reality with gut-wrenching drama. Each of the film’s vignettes has something different to say about the strengths and flaws of human nature but, as a whole, form a very compelling narrative about life in the West. There were several moments while watching the film during which all I could say was, “Oh. Wow.”

 

Longmire   

I must admit, I binged this one. Longmire is a six-season neo-western TV series about Walt Longmire, sheriff of the fictional county of Absaroka, Wyoming. Walt isn’t your typical sheriff. He’s one of four law enforcement officers in a county the size of a small state so, with a little frontier rebelliousness, he’s willing to cut a few corners in order to get the results he desires and protect the Absaroka public. Longmire also provides an interesting look into the relationship between Absaroka’s white residents and the Cheyenne who live on a nearby reservation. With excellent character development and fascinating plots developing each episode, Longmire is an excellent choice if you’re looking for a new long-term show.

Godless

Buckle your seatbelts, this one is a wild ride. Godless (2017) is a seven-episode miniseries that follows a town in the Old West that is inhabited only by women and an outlaw on the run from the gang that raised him. In spite of its brevity, Godless sucks you in and spits you back out an entirely new person. The characters are captivating, the plot and subplots twist and turn in ways one would never expect, and the show does a good job of balancing sequences of calm with sequences of action. Because of Godless’ miniseries format, timewise, it isn’t a massive commitment but offers a great deal more storytelling flexibility. I can’t recommend this show enough.