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The American Film Institute’s Top 10 Top 10 honors the greatest American films in each of the genres chosen by AFI. There’s no genre more American than the Western. The AFI defines “western” as a genre of films set in the American West that embodies the spirit, the struggle and the demise of the new frontier.

AFI Top 10 Top 10

Westerns

The Searchers

1. The Searchers

Many people consider this to be the best collaboration between director John Ford and Western icon John Wayne. AFI previously recognized this movie as #96 on its 100 Years…100 Movies list and #12 on the 100 Years…100 Movies – 10th Anniversary Edition.

High Noon

2. High Noon

One of the all time great Westerns, this movie about a pacifist marshal who takes a stand against a ruthless outlaw he previously arrested. I doubt anyone would argue against its inclusion on this list. AFI has recognized this movie as #33 on its 100 Years…100 Movies list, #20 on its 100 Years…100 Thrills, #5 on its 100 Years…100 Heroes & Villains, #25 on its 100 Years…100 Songs, #10 on the 100 Years of Film Scores, #27 on its 100 Years…100 Cheers and #27 on the 100 Years…100 Movies – 10th Anniversary Edition.

Shane

3. Shane

Another classic about a gun-for-hire that becomes an almost mythic hero as he defends a Wyoming homestead. AFI has recognized this movie as #69 on its 100 Years…100 Movies, #16 on its 100 Years…100 Heroes & Villains, #47 on its 100 Years…100 Movie Quotes, #53 on its 100 Years…100 Cheers and #45 on its 100 Years…100 Movies – 10th Anniversary Edition.

Unforgiven

4. Unforgiven

Clint Eastwood has long been associated with the Western genre. Here he takes all that he knows about the genre and has crafted a new masterpiece that breaks down the legend of the Old West gunfighter even as it creates a new myth. A classic. AFI has recognized this as #98 on its 100 Years…100 Movies and #68 on its 100 Years…100 Movies – 10th Anniversary Edition.

Red River

5. Red River

The Moose has not seen this movie so I will not comment on it. AFI has not previously recognized this Western starring John Wayne and Montgomery Clift.

The Wild Bunch

6. The Wild Bunch

This overrated Western is famous for its excessive violence and stunts. While it’s not a bad film, the Moose doesn’t think it deserves to be on this list when compared to the many great films that were left off. AFI has recognized this movie as #80 on its 100 Years…100 Movies, #69 on its 100 Years…100 Thrills and #79 on its 100 Years…100 Movies – 10th Anniversary Edition.

Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid

7. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Who can forget the chemistry between Paul Newman’s Butch and Robert Redford’s Sundance in this most unusual and light Western buddy movie. AFI has previously recognized this film as #50 on its 100 Years…100 Movies, #54 on its 100 Years…100 Thrills, #20 on its 100 Years…100 Heroes & Villains, #23 on its 100 Years…100 Songs and #73 on its 100 Years…100 Movies – 10th Anniversary Edition.

McCabe & Mrs. Miller

8. McCabe & Mrs. Miller

The Moose has not seen this movie either so will not comment on it. What the hell have I been doing with my time? AFI has not previously recognized this Robert Altman Western starring Warren Beatty and Julie Christie.

Stagecoach

9. Stagecoach

This 1939 John Ford directed John Wayne movie was very influential to the Western genre. AFI has previously recognized this as #63 of its 100 Years…100 Movies.

Cat Ballou

10. Cat Ballou

How this unwatchable piece of crap made this list is beyond me unless the AFI has instituted an affirmative action policy on the lists it generates. Watch at your own risk. AFI has recognized this as #50 on its 100 Years…100 Laughs list.

COMMENTS

The AFI has done a horrible job compiling a list of the best Westerns. It’s ironic that the Westerns most cinephiles name as their favorites and most deserving to be on this list are the Italian spaghetti Westerns directed by Sergio Leone starring Clint Eastwood. But AFI is only considering the best American Westerns and American has a long and rich tradition of producing great Westerns that long before the stylistic Leone films were ever conceived.

The Moose has not seen two of the movies on this list, Red River and McCabe & Mrs. Miller but I feel it would be fair to remove them and replace them with great classic Westerns that the Moose has seen as there are so many good Westerns. The Moose’s personal Top 10 Westerns list would be, in no particular order, The Searchers, High Noon, Shane, Unforgiven, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Rio Bravo, Blazing Saddles, Pale Rider, The Shootist and The Outlaw Josey Wales.

I’m sure many people would question the inclusion of Blazing Saddles but Mel Brooks sharp satire is one of the funniest films ever made and perfectly sends up the Western genre. Other great Westerns that would almost make the list include The Ox-Bow Incident, The Fastest Gun Alive and Bad Day at Black Rock, the original 1957 version of 3:10 to Yuma and High Plains Drifter .

For fans of the genre, be sure to check out these other almost great Westerns.

From director Kevin Costner: Dances with Wolves and Open Range.

For the Wyatt Earp story: Gunfight at the O.K. Corral is the better movie while Tombstone has very solid performances by Kurt Russell and Wyatt Earp and Val Kilmer as Doc Holiday.

Let the Moose know what other Westerns deserve to be on the list or the almost list.

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