The remake of the classic film THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN opens in theaters today, ushering in the first big budget western from a major studio in quite some time. Westerns have long been a favorite of audiences and the cowboy has been an American archetype since the days of the Civil War. There have been many great westerns made over the last hundred years but there are some specific cowboys who have lastest as the coolest representations of the gun-clad hero. Here is our ranking of the ten coolest movie cowboys of all time. See if you agree and post your favorite gunslinger in the comments below.
Would the TOY STORY films have worked if not for Tom Hanks' performance as the cowboy doll, Woody? Woody's story arc often spent time on his origin as an action figure inspired by a Howdy Doody television show, but it was the big opening sequence in the third film that really showed how good of a sheriff old Woody could be.
Sam Raimi's western is a personal favorite of mine. While Russell Crowe, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Lance Henriksen play cool cowboys alongside the legendary Gene Hackman, it is Sharon Stone who surprisingly steals the show as the heroine. Looking sexy in a duster with a pair of six shooters, the lady's true motivations are not revealed until the end of the film when she duels with Hackman's villain and proves she is more than capable of beating the boys.
HIGH NOON is one of Gary Cooper's most memorable films and is one of the unlikeliest westerns you will see. Featuring gunfights sparingly, the film is told in real time and deals more with moral and emotional impact of one man having to defend a town against a slew of bad guys. Cooper is stellar as Will Kane who wrestles with the impending blood on his hands. The ending of this movie is just fantastic and makes all of the drama leading up to it worth it.
THE SEARCHERS is a very controversial film for the way the characters treat the Natives, especially John Wayne's character of Ethan Edwards. John Ford's film is one of the most beautiful looking movies ever made and often ranks at the tops of best of lists of every genre. It is hard to pick just one John Wayne movie to be worthy of a list like this but THE SEARCHERS may be the famed cowboy's most nuanced and layered performance. While STAGECOACH may be Wayne's most Hollywood cowboy, THE SEARCHERS is his most powerful.
A legendary historical figure, Earp was the focus of two films in the 1990s. While Lawrence Kasdan's film starring Kevin Costner may have been more dramatic, TOMBSTONE is the more action-packed and memorable of the two. From Sam Elliott to Val Kilmer, Michael Beihn to Bill Paxton, this movie is full of awesome cowboys. But, Kurt Russell is the centerpiece as Earp and cemented a long line of playing cowboys. If not for this role, we would not have Russell in either THE HATEFUL EIGHT or BONE TOMAHAWK.
Technically two cowboys, you cannot have Paul Newman's character without Robert Redford's. This duo are more together than they are apart thanks to the chemistry between the lead actors. If you have not seen this movie, shame on you. Westerns may not be everybody's favorite but BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID transcends genre and serves more as a master class in making a buddy movie.
John Wayne made the role legendary but it was Jeff Bridges in the Coen Brothers remake of TRUE GRIT that earns this spot on the list. Bridges has transformed himself from leading man to grizzled veteran and seems to be playing variations of Cogburn in all of his roles over the last few years. I would to if I nailed a role to the degree that Bridges did in this movie. One of the best of all time.
I could have picked Brynner's role in the original THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, but it was his nameless character in Michael Crichton's WESTWORLD that earns this spot. He looks very similar to Chris Adams from THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, down to almost identical outfits and hats. But, The Gunslinger is a murderous android and one of the scariest bad guys from any western. The upcoming HBO series has the great Ed Harris in Brynner's role, but few actors could play hero and villain so well in the same outfit.
Inspired by the long-running series of spaghetti westerns, Quentin Tarantino somehow made Jamie Foxx not suck. I thank the movie gods every day that Foxx got this role instead of Will Smith as Foxx nails the smarmy bounty hunter perfectly. Django's revenge through the film including the bloody showdown at Candieland earns the character this spot on the list. For those unfamiliar with the original movies, check them out and the scene featuring the meeting of Foxx with DJANGO actor Franco Nero is all the cooler.
Charles Bronson, another actor from the original THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, plays a character you may not remember from the epic ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST. Nicknamed Harmonica, Bronson's character plays his signature theme on the instrument he is named after and instills fear in everyone he comes across. It is a subtly magnificent performance and one of the most underappreciated badasses in western history.
Was there any doubt that Clint Eastwood's iconic character would take the top spot? The inspiration for countless cowboys and other characters through history, The Man With No name is responsible for giving us everything from Idris Elba's character in the upcoming THE DARK TOWER to Timothy Olyphant on FX series Justified. Clint Eastwood as a person is often confused with this character and that is because of how powerful the character is and how legendary the performance has become.