18 May Top 10 Best Western Movie Characters of all Time
Western movies have been around almost since the west was won and the genre contains hundreds of movies specked with many brilliant characters. We don’t claim to have seen them all but this list definitely compiles some of the highlights of western personas, fictional and real ones. If you are new to westerns then these movies are great introductions to the genre. If you are an expert already then welcome to a walk down memory lane!
10. John ”Pudgy” McCabe (McCabe & Mrs. Miller, 1971)
An atypical western character to say the least. John McCabe (Warren Beatty) is a gambler and flamboyant pimp that sets up shop in a mining town in the cold state of Washington. He runs a successful brothel in the small town but soon runs into trouble with mining tycoon Harrison Shaughnessy. McCabe finds himself in life threatening danger when three hired guns show up to end his days. Pudgy’s reputation as a gunfighter comes into question when his notable fear of his pursuers sends him hiding. McCabe is famously dressed to the tee in this classic western. He wears huge fur coat and bowler hat. Add to that a full beard and a cigar and you have yourself an unforgettable western character.
9. John Dunbar (Dances With Wolves, 1990)
Lieutenant John Dunbar (Kevin Costner) is given free choice of post after a heroic action in a Civil War battle. He chooses an abandoned outpost at the western frontier, an isolated place surrounded by hostile Indian tribes. As the only two men aware of his location is killed, he is soon forgotten by the army. During his isolation he establishes a unique relationship with the Sioux Indian tribe. He abandons his post to go live with the Sioux, learning their language and ways of life but soon the army catches up with him. He is judged as a traitor and must flee and leave the Sioux tribe for good.
8. Billy the Kid (Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid, 1973)
Perhaps the most well known character from the old we west, Billy the Kid remains a legend for his escapades and gunman ship. William H. Bonney (Billy the Kid) is played by Kris Kristoffersen in this movie which tells the tale of the Kid’s last months on earth. Billy the Kid was a real life character, known as a notorious gunman who is said to have killed more than twenty men. Participating in the Lincoln County War in New Mexico in 1878, he became an outlaw after killing a Sheriff during the campaign. Up until then he was pretty much unknown but the wanted posters for “Billy the Kid” would soon change that. He was captured and turned in by Deputy Pat Garrett whom he knew from the war. He then escaped from jail by gunning down two guards, sealing his legacy as an outlaw. Three months later Garrett caught up with the Kid again and this time shot him dead. He was only about 20 years old at the time of his death.
7. Josey Wales (The Outlaw Josey Wales, 1976)
Josey Wales (Clint Eastwood) gained notoriety in the western movie world as a dual wielding mad man with a thirst for blood. In the early days of the Civil War a group of Union guerrillas attack his ranch and kill his family. After this Josey only have one thing on his mind, revenge. He takes up arms with a group of Confederate guerrillas and head to war. Things only seem to get worse for Josey Wales as his whole detachment is captured and massacred by Union Captain Terrill but Josey is not the type to lose heart. As one of only two survivors he keeps on seeking his revenge. A character of few words, however, those few words are backed up by such tenacious action that the scarred rugged face of Wales is enough to make any man shiver with fear.
6. Wyatt Earp (Tombstone, 1993)
A historical character, Wyatt Earp lived from the mid 1800’s to the late 1920’s. He is known for the showdown at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona, which is the story told in the 1993 movie starring Kurt Russell as Wyatt Earp. Earp and his two brothers move to Tombstone to settle down. They are soon harassed by a local gang that call themselves the Cowboys. Being a former lawman, Wyatt Earp is pressured to deal with the gang after the leader kills a local Marshall but walks free at trial. This leads to the legendary gunfight at the O.K. Corral where several members of the Cowboys were shot dead. Later the Cowboys get revenge by killing one of Wyatt’s brothers and handicapping the other. After this, Wyatt manages to squash the gang and live out the rest of his life in peace. He died in Los Angeles in 1929.
5. Butch Cassidy (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, 1969)
This movie tells the story of two of the most notorious bandits from the old west. Butch Cassidy (Paul Newman) and his accomplice the Sundance Kid (Robert Redford) were indeed real life characters. Their claim to fame came from numerous bank and train robberies carried out with their “Hole in the Wall” gang. After a certain train robbery, a posse of lawmen is ordered to catch and kill Butch and Sundance. They flee to Bolivia where they briefly take up honest work before going back to their old ways. Supposedly they ended their days in a hail of bullets sent by Bolivian police but according to different accounts Butch returned to the United States where he died in 1945.
4. William Munny (Unforgiven, 1992)
Old and worn but bad to the bone, that’s Bill Munny (Clint Eastwood) for ya’! A retired bandit with more than a few bodies on his record, he is sought out by the Schofield Kid (Jaimz Woolvett) to do one last job. Being in a poor financial situation with two kids to feed, he accepts. What ensues serves to prove that old Munny has not lost his touch when it comes to sending enemies to the pearly gates. Walking alone into a saloon filled with armed men is one thing. Killing the saloon owner without as much as flinching in front of said armed men, that’s hardcore. I guess age is just a number in the wild west!
3. Will Kane (High Noon, 1952)
Will Kane (Gary Cooper) might just be the bravest of the characters on this list. The classic western High Noon famously portrays his bravery in the face of almost certain death. On the day of Kane’s retirement from law enforcement he learns that a criminal he sent to jail has been set free and is coming on the noon train to kill him. After asking for help from several people in town but only getting turned backs, he decides to face the outlaw and his gang of three men alone. At noon the dramatic showdown begins and Kane, with a little help from mrs. Kane, manages to slay his adversaries. Afterwards he famously throws his sheriff star in the dirt in front of the cowardly townspeople. Now that’s character!
2. Ethan Edwards (The Searchers, 1956)
It’s no easy task choosing which of the legendary John Wayne’s characters is the best but Ethan Edwards definitely stands out. Edwards is a veteran of both the Civil War and the Mexican Revolution. He’s blatantly racist and his hate for the Indians only grows when a group of Comanche Indians kills most of his brothers family and abducts his niece. He then spends five years tracking her down only to realize that she has been assimilated into the Comanche tribe. This movie is considered the best American western of all time by some. Edward’s embodies a lot of both the virtues and the vices that were characteristic of America at that time. He’s an enigma of a character that you can’t help but both love and hate.
1.The Man With no Name (The Dollar Trilogy, 1964-66)
Joe, Manco, Blondie (Clint Eastwood). Call him whatever you want because he’s not going to tell you his real name. We all know this man. The man with the fastest draw in the west. The man with the Clint Eastwood poncho on his shoulders and the stubby cigarillo in his mouth. He doesn’t say much but when he finally does, you can bet your ass that it’s gonna be something damn cool! This stranger entered western mythology when he uttered the famous words “get three coffins ready” and the rest is history. No character in the world of westerns is more memorable than Clint Eastwood’s The Man With no Name. That’s why you don’t see too many Ethan Edwards or Will Kane costumes at your costume party, no one wants to settle for the second best!