The American Old West is often romanticized as this anarchic and chaotic frontier with the image of the gun-slinging, horse-riding, and tobacco-chewing cowboy as its perfect representation. Contemporary media was particularly instrumental in the popularisation of the Western United States. This period of mass English settlement in the 18th and 19th Centuries (encouraged by President Jefferson), clubbed with the media’s aggressive sensationalization, promoted the genre into popular culture. As the American frontier passed into history, its numerous and repeated depictions in comic books, films, and children’s toys, the myths of the West took a firm hold on the imagination of people all over the globe.
Westerns are still an extremely prevalent genre of motion picture, with additional money being poured into it by streaming giants such as Amazon, HBO, and Netflix. With the rejuvenation of the television format, several series are continuously exploring the Western motifs as well. Recurring characters and plot structures of this genre trace out the ‘Otherness’ in the vast plains and deserts by upholding the lawless, harsh, and wild signs of the time. Some of these characters include bandits, bounty hunters, Native Americans, outlaws, and gamblers. The background score usually includes American and Mexican folk music such as country and ranchera.
Since 2012, Netflix has taken an active part in the previously unexplored territory of original content, giving rise to ‘Netflix Originals’. Some of the biggest names of the film industry such as Alfonso Cuaron, David Fincher, and Martin Scorsese have collaborated with the company. Both television and cinematic content of the ever-evolving Western genre have found inclusions in the digital library. So, here’s the list of really good Western shows on Netflix that are available to stream right now.
15. Thieves of the Wood (2018- Present)
The script is inspired by a book called ‘De Bende van Jan de Lichte’ by Louis Paul Boon, and it doesn’t fall under the definition of a conventional Western as far as the cinematography is concerned. But the story employs various elements from the genre, especially when it comes to the action. So what is the show about? Well, ‘Thieves of the Woods’ chronicles the story of Jan de Lichte, a war veteran who eventually ends up becoming a bandit and outlaw leader. But there is more to him than meets the eye at first glance. Think of the protagonist as a helping hand for those who are less fortunate. It is almost as if he’s Robin Hood. The show is set in the 18th Century, and there is something to be said for its apt and realistic portrayals of the Belgian society at that time.
When you’re in the mood for something historical and gritty, you can check this show out. Plus, the cast, which includes Matteo Simoni, Stef Aerts, Jeroen Perceval, and Dirk Roofthooft, has given stellar performances. The character development also makes the series an extremely intriguing one.
14. Hap and Leonard (2016-2018)
The eponymous protagonists are actually based on the characters created by Joe R. Lansdale. The author chronicled the tales of Hap and Leonard, two amateur investigators who operate out of the imaginary town of LaBorde in East Texas, in a series of novels. The best friends expend all their efforts to solve the heinous and harrowing crimes they come across. Bringing the roles to life in the TV series are James Purefoy and Michael Kenneth Williams.. ‘Hap and Leonard’ is based in the 80s and features a vast array of stories that cover different themes. There is lost treasure, a femme fatale, and a group of crazy killers that the protagonists must juggle. The very entertaining stories have drama, comedy, action, and violence, and fans of the show were quite heartbroken when it was not renewed for a fourth season. You should keep it in mind for when you want something that treads the same path as the Old West tales but in a less conventional manner.
13. When Calls The Heart (2014- Present)
Did you know that this Hallmark production, which now has 7 seasons under its belt, actually aired as a two-hour movie pilot in 2013? The story follows a young teacher, Elizabeth Thatcher, as she leaves her high-society life to teach in the mining town of Coal Valley. She must now step out of her comfort zone and learn the mannerisms of the small town. Furthermore, she has her own set of unique challenges to overcome. After all, the Royal Northwest Mounted Police Constable, Jack Thornton, is not Elizabeth’s biggest fan since her father has assigned him to protect his daughter. This has the policeman believing that his career is headed nowhere. drama series was actually inspired by a book of the same name by Canadian author, Janette Oke. Given Hallmark’s penchant for overly cheesy and exaggerated stories, it may be simple to brush this series aside.
But that would be a grave mistake. Firstly, ‘When Calls The Heart’ is the kind of show that you can watch with the whole family (this cannot be said for many other productions in the genre). Secondly, it will have you feeling a plethora of emotions from start to finish. Also, Erin Krakow, Daniel Lissing, Lori Loughlin (who was removed after the college admission scandal), and Jack Wagner bring the script to life exceptionally well.
12. Heartland (2007- Present)
‘Heartland’ has built a stellar fan base since its premiere more than a decade ago. Lauren Brooke wrote a novel of the same name, which is what inspired the script. We meet the Fleming sisters and their grandfather, Jack Bartlett, as they overcome many trials and tribulations while living on the ranch. So what about the series makes it inherently Western? After all, one might argue that it relies heavily on drama to further the plot.
However, we believe that the very essence of the genre lies more with the themes it tackles than a specific kind of character on screen. Sure, the booted up cowboy will make you think of the Old West, and we’re not contesting this either. But it is also important to uncover the deeper meaning behind the plot. In conventional Westerns, we have the protagonist usually seeking revenge to make things right, albeit with the help of guns. While this exact element may be missing from ‘Heartland,’ the show still focuses on the themes of right versus wrong, family, love, compassion, and protecting what is important to you. After all, there is a reason that it is going into its 14th season.
11. Supernatural (2005-2020)
‘Supernatural’ is definitely going down in history as one of the most influential and popular shows of the decade. But for the uninitiated, the story follows the Winchester brothers as they take on evil and supernatural beings, including demons and ghosts. At its core, the show delivers a well-crafted narrative and explicates how the protagonists evolve as they keep encountering devilish creatures.
While it belongs to the horror genre, one could argue that the story is quite reminiscent of a Western. Instead of confronting the bad guy in the Old West, they simply meet their foes all across America. Furthermore, the ’67 Chevy Impala the brothers travel in while enjoying their favorite rock songs could be seen as the modern-day equivalent of the gallant horse. The plot really piles on the suspense, and with exceptional acting from Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles, this show is a must-watch.
10. The Hateful Eight: Extended Version (2015)
Directed by Quentin Tarantino, ‘The Hateful Eight’ stars Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Demián Bichir, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, and Bruce Dern as eight strangers who are seeking refuge during a snowstorm. However, as the story unfolds, some grave secrets come to light and the situation becomes perilous.. If you loved this Oscar-nominated movie, then we are happy to tell you that it is now on Netflix as a four-part miniseries that features some footage that has never been seen before. This is one product that, despite being familiar, still draws you in. With a runtime of 210 minutes, the series packs a serious punch and adds to a story that we already know and enjoy.
9. Hell on Wheels (2011-2016)
Featuring the recurring plot of rail-road construction, ‘Hell on Wheels’ is a television series that premiered on the AMC network. The plot focuses on the construction of the First Transcontinental Railroad across the United States. Starring Anson Mount, Colm Meaney, Common, and Dominique McElligot, the show chronicles the lives of the individuals associated with the project, including laborers, mercenaries, sex workers, and surveyors. In fact, the name is derived from the mobile encampment which followed the army of Union Pacific railroad workers westward as they constructed the road in 1860s North America. Comprising of flimsily assembled gambling houses, dance halls, saloons, and brothels, it provides us a pot-boiling premise to seek refuge in.
8. Breaking Bad (2008 – 2013)
‘Breaking Bad’ is the neo-western crime drama television series which, since its release in 2008, has been globally accoladed as one of the best shows ever made in television history. Created by the maverick genius Vince Gilligan, it originally aired on AMC for five seasons. Its inclusion on this list is because the premise is a one of a kind, modern take on the American ‘Wild West’.
When Bryan Cranston, in his career-best performance of the high school chemistry teacher turned drug lord, Walter White, is clubbed with the backdrop of New Mexico, you get a tantalizing neo-western setting. Instead of the outlaws wearing cowboy hats and riding horses, ‘Breaking Bad’ shows them as otherwise domesticated individuals. The wilderness of the desert landscape is as crucial to the inherent wilderness of the characters as it is to the classic Western films of yore. In 2013, ‘Breaking Bad’ even entered the Guinness Book of World Records as the most critically acclaimed show of all time. A spin-off prequel series titled ‘Better Call Saul’ (made subsequently by Gilligan) comes highly recommended as well.
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7. Wynonna Earp (2016- Present)
This drama series beautifully integrates supernatural elements with a healthy dose of horror to give us a one of a kind product in the Western genre. Interestingly, it is based on a comic book series by Beau Smith. The story features the great-great-granddaughter of Wyatt Earp. (For those who don’t know about him, he is a historical figure who is known for being a gambler, lawman, and deputy marshal in the Old West in the 19th Century.)
On Wynonna’s 27th birthday, she realizes that she has special powers that enable her to bring revenants back to Hell. Usually, these animated corpses belong to those who were killed by her famous ancestor. Apart from this, she also battles many supernatural occurrences in order to break her family’s curse. If you’re still hesitant to check the show out despite this intriguing plot, we understand. However, it would be remiss if we did not tell you that ‘Wynonna Earp’ features marvelous acting by Melanie Scrofano, Shamier Anderson, Tim Rozon, Dominique Provost-Chalkley, and Katherine Barrell. Furthermore, this Canadian co-production really gives a unique twist to an otherwise male-dominated genre.
6. From Dawn till Dusk: The Series (2014-2016)
Robert Rodriguez created this series. However, did you know that he also directed the cult-classic eponymous movie that inspired this TV show? ‘From Dawn till Dusk: The Series’ is a continuation of the horror franchise, but with a Western twist to it. Seth and Richie Gecko are back again. But the FBI and Freddie Gonzalez, a Texas Ranger, are looking for the brothers after a robbery leaves several dead. In an attempt to secure their freedom, the siblings head for the Mexico border and take Jacob Fuller, a former minister, and his family hostage.
Eventually, they all end up in a bar that, unbeknownst to them, is operated by vampires. What ensues is a tale of survival. The Gecko brothers are brought to life by D. J. Cotrona and Zane Holtz, whereas Jesse Garcia is the Texas Ranger hot on their pursuit. Championing the essence of the movie, the plot fuses elements from both Western and horror genres. So, when you’re in the mood for something different, keep this show in mind.
5. The Ranch (2016-2020)
Westerns usually have a reputation for being passionate, violent, and aggressive. ‘Au contraire, The Ranch’ is a comedy series. But we think that this is what makes the show so unique. It explores the lives of the Bennetts, who live at the ranch as they try to make the best of their situation. On the surface, it sounds like just another comedy show. But we think that ‘The Ranch’ actually modernizes the Western genre a lot. After all, the image most associated with the genre is that of a cowboy from an era before industrialization brought small municipalities to their knees. This show may not have the same look, but it incorporates many similar elements from the Old West stories. Also, by basing the premise in recent times, it gives us an opportunity to look at how a cowboy ranch exists in the 21st century.
The show stars Ashton Kutcher and Danny Masterson (who was later removed due to sexual harassment allegations) as the Bennett brothers. We get to see them share a relationship onscreen again after ‘That 70s Show.’ Sam Elliot plays their father, Beau, whereas their mother, Maggie, is brought to life by Debra Winger. So, the series also has a star-studded cast going for it. If you want something different within the genre, we recommend checking out ‘The Ranch.’
4. Damnation (2017-2018)
Seth Davenport is a man with a violent past. But to facilitate a strike against the greedy and corrupt local industrialists and agencies, he poses as a preacher. However, Creeley Turner is there to interrupt all his efforts. What the townspeople don’t know is that Seth and Creeley are estranged siblings. Set during the Great Depression, ‘Damnation’ dramatizes the American labor movements that took place in the 1930s. It stars Killian Scott, Logan Marshall-Green, and Sarah Jones. Although the series was canceled after just 1 season, fans have been dying for a sequel to this gritty story.
3. Longmire (2011- Present)
‘Longmire’ is an American modern Western crime show which was developed by John Coveny and Hunt Baldwin. It is based on the ‘Walt Longmire Mysteries,’ a series of novels by the best-selling author, Craig Johnson. Walt Longmire, a sheriff of the fictional Absaroka County, Wyoming, is the titular character, and the plot revolves around him investigating major crimes within his jurisdiction. The first three seasons of the show premiered on ‘A&E’, eventually becoming their highest-rated television series. However, when the network decided against renewing it, Netflix swooped in to salvage season four. Episodes of all six seasons are available for streaming online on the aforementioned platform.
2. Frontier (2016 – Present)
Co-produced by Discovery Canada and Netflix, Frontier is a historical period drama that heavily borrows from the Western genre. Chronicling the North American fur trade in the late 1700s in Canada, it stars none other than our very own Khal Drogo, Jason Momoa. He plays the part-Irish and part Cree outlaw who is campaigning to breach the Hudson Bay’s company monopoly of the corrupt fur trade. An alluring plot combined with powerful performances ranks the show extremely high on our list.
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1. Godless (2017)
Named as one of the ten best TV series of the year by major publications, the Emmy-winning ‘Godless’ is a Netflix original production created by the Academy Award-nominated screenwriter, Scott Frank. This seven-episode series began production in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in September 2016. Hosting a star cast of Jack O’ Connell, Michelle Dockery, Scoot McNairy, Merrit Wever, Thomas Brodie Sangster, and Sam Waterston, the miniseries received positive reviews. The plot follows Roy Coode, an injured outlaw on the run from his former boss, the notorious criminal Frank Griffin, who takes refuge in an isolated mining town primarily governed by women. This series is packed with action and makes for one compelling watch.
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