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Top Western Movies of the 1980s

a hat and a pistol

If you are looking for 1980s Western movies, this article can be a good start. From provocative dramas to fanciful adventures, you can say that a lot of Western movies during the 1980s are bits of mash-ups. Some have turned into cult favorites.

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Pale Rider

Heaven's Gate

The Long Riders

Silverado

Tom Horn

 

1) Pale Rider (1985)

Clint Eastwood produced, directed, and starred in this 1985 Western movie. “Pale Rider” is also a term that refers to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse as the rider of the pale horse Death. It bears unmistakable similarities to other Eastwood movies before this, such as High Plains Drifter.

The movie is about a mysterious preacher who protects a prospector village from a greedy mining company trying to take over their land.

2) Heaven’s Gate (1980)

Everything is epic about Heaven’s Gate, a film written and directed by Michael Cimino. It’s an epic Western film, with an epic budget… and was an epic failure. It received scathing critical reviews at the time of its release, and earned only $3.5 million domestically (out of its $44 million budget), becoming one of the biggest box-office disasters of all time.

But in the decades since after its release, a critical re-assessment of the film has become more positive. Later re-edits of the film have brought overdue critical acclaim. Heaven’s Gate is now considered one of the greatest American films of all time, as well as a cult favorite.

The film is loosely based on the events from the real-life Johnson County War. It portrays a dispute between the wealthy land barons and European immigrants in 1890s Wyoming.

3) The Long Riders (1980)

The Long Riders is directed by Walter Hill and is notable in part because the main cast of characters consists of four sets of siblings: The Carradines, the Keaches, the Quaids, and the Guests. The film is a somewhat sympathetic portrayal of bank robbers consisting of brothers who begin their legendary bank raids due to revenge.

4) Silverado (1985)

Silverado is a film produced and directed by Lawrence Kasdan, and stars Kevin Kline, Scott Glenn, Rosanna Arquette, John Cleese, Kevin Costner, Brian Dennehy, Jeff Goldbum, and Linda Hunt – pretty much a stellar ensemble cast. It tells of a bunch of misfits who come together to correct the injustices that happen in a small town.

5) Tom Horn (1980)

Tom Horn is directed by William Ward and stars Steve McQueen in one of his final film roles as the legendary frontier scout, outlaw, and gunslinger Tom Horn. The film was based on Horn’s own journals.

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Young Guns

Walker (The Criterion Collection)

The Grey Fox [VHS]

Windwalker

The Mountain Men

 

6) Young Guns (1988)

Young Guns is produced and directed by Christopher Cain and stars Emilio Estevez, Kiefer Sutherland, Lou Diamond Phillips, Charlie Sheen, Dermot Mulroney, Terence Stamp, and Casey Siemaszko. It is a tale of the adventures of Billy the Kid during the Lincoln County War in the 1870s.

In this movie, Billy the Kid and his wayward group of young gunmen become deputies to avenge the murder of a cattle rancher who became their benefactor. But when Billy the Kid takes the authority too far, they now become the hunted.

7) Walker (1987)

Walker, directed by Alex Cox and starring Ed Harris, is also one of those films that failed miserably at the box office – earning only $257,043 domestically from a $6 million budget. However, years after its release, it has become a cult classic. Part of its reputation is due to the fact that its storytelling of the legendary American mercenary leader (and later president of Nicaragua) William Walker is quite unconventional.

8) The Grey Fox (1982)

The Grey Fox is based on a story of a real-life outlaw Bill Miner, who gained notoriety for staging Canada’s first train robbery in 1904. It was produced by Philip Brosos, written by John Hunter, and directed by Peter O’Brian. It stars Richard Farnsworth in the title role. The film has received mostly rave reviews, with Rotten Tomatoes giving it a rare “100% fresh” rating.

9) Windwalker (1980)

Windwalker is a western adventure film based on a novel by Blaine Yoragson of the same name. This film portrays an aged Cheyenne patriarch, named Windwalker, who aids his kin to resist against a band of rival Crow warriors in 1790s Utah.

The film is known for its authenticity – most of its dialogue is spoken in the Cheyenne and Crow languages, with English subtitles.

10) The Mountain Men (1980)

The Mountain Men is a fanciful western adventure film that stars Charlton Heston and Brian Keith in their title roles. It was written by Heston’s son, Fraser Clarke Heston, and directed by Richard Lang. It is a tale of a pair of frontiersmen who go through many sorts of adventures and misadventures in their search for the valley of beavers (beaver trade was a lucrative business then).

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