10 Obscure Western Films with a Devoted Fan Base


The Western genre has entertained us since the birth of cinema. There is just something eternally gripping about the old story of hero cowboys and dirty outlaws fighting for gold, honor, revenge, or the heart of a beautiful woman. And while it boasts beloved iconic classics like The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966) and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), amidst the tumbleweeds and gunfights of the genre lies a collection of hidden gems that have captured the hearts and minds of cinephiles from all over the world.

This article is devoted to some of the most powerful Westerns that have garnered a cult following despite not being able to gain worldwide prominence.

10 Major Dundee

Columbia Pictures

Major Dundee (1965) is a Sam Peckinpah film that follows Major Amos Dundee (Charlton Heston), a Union officer leading a motley group of soldiers and prisoners on a high-stakes mission into Mexico to capture Apache warriors who have attacked American territory. As they deal with both external and internal threats, the group is faced with treacherous landscapes and moral dilemmas.

Despite its strong performances and Peckinpah’s incredible track record, the film faced challenges in achieving global success like that of Sergio Leone’s Dollars trilogy, for example. However, Dundee has gained a loyal following among admirers of Peckinpah’s work and those who appreciate its portrayal of the morally ambiguous realities of war. Today, Major Dundee holds an astounding 97% critics score and a 67% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes.

9 High Plains Drifter

Clint Eastwood in High Plains Drifter
Universal Pictures

Clint Eastwood’s fourth directorial project, High Plains Drifter (1973), tells the story of a mysterious gunslinger (Eastwood) who arrives in the small town of Lago, where he takes on the role of the lawman. The town’s residents hire him to protect them from a trio of outlaws seeking revenge. As the enigmatic stranger dispenses his own brand of justice, disturbing secrets about the town’s past are revealed.

While the film is now considered a classic of the genre, it was not a big success at the time of its release. Its darker and morally ambiguous themes might have contrasted with more traditional Westerns of the time. The film’s eerie atmosphere and the main characters moral ambiguity may not have resonated with audiences used to more straightforward heroic figures. Despite these challenges, High Plains Drifter has found a home in the hearts of hardcore Western fans due to its unique take on the genre’s conventions and Clint Eastwood’s directorial prowess. Today, the film holds a strong 94% critics score and 86% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes.

8 The Big Gundown

The 1966 Spaghetti Western The Big Gundown
Columbia Pictures

Starring one of the most dastardly Western villains of all time (Lee Van Cleef from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, 1966) and directed by Sergio Sollima, The Big Gundown (1967) is the tale of a relentless hunter (Van Cleef as Jonathan ‘Colorado’ Corbett) assigned to capture a Mexican outlaw named Cuchillo (Tomas Milian) accused of raping and killing a young girl. Corbett sets off on a pursuit through rugged terrain and moral dilemmas, leading to unexpected alliances and high-octane confrontations.

Even with a gripping story and a solid cast, the film’s Italian origin might have resulted in some cultural barriers for non-European audiences, which could also be why it did not become a hit among North American audiences. All that aside, in today’s much more inclusive environment, The Big Gundown is celebrated by fans of the genre for its unique character dynamics, intense action sequences, and captivating performances of its leads.RELATED: Underrated Westerns You Should Watch

7 Never Grow Old

John Cusack in Never Grow Old
Saban Films

Released in 2019, Ivan Kavanagh’s Never Grow Old revolves around an Irish undertaker named Patrick Tate (Emile Hirsch) living in a small frontier town with his family. When a notorious gang led by the ruthless Dutch Albert (John Cusack) takes over the town, Patrick’s life is thrown into turmoil as he becomes entangled in violence and blood money. The film explores themes of survival, morality, and the impact of lawlessness on a community.

But even though it is a nail-biting Western with a stellar cast, its limited marketing and distribution caused it to fall under the global radar. Nonetheless, Never Grow Old‘s gritty exploration of ethical complexities and its thought-provoking narrative resonates with those who appreciate its depth and authenticity. And it seems the critics have also found enjoyment in it, giving the film a juicy 90% score on Rotten Tomatoes.

6 Troublemakers

Bud Spencer and Terence Hill in Troublemakers
Rialto Film

Troublemakers, a 1994 Spaghetti Western starring legendary Italian duo Bud Spencer and Terence Hill, follows the misadventures of Matt Kirby (Hill) and Wilbur Walsh (Spencer), two drifters who find themselves in a series of comical scenarios while trying to save a small town from a corrupt banker. Filled with their trademark comedic fighting style and playful camaraderie, the film offers a blend of slapstick antics and action-packed sequences.

Despite Spencer and Hill’s established chemistry and popularity, Troublemakers was released during a period when the popularity of their brand of humor was waning in certain markets. However, the film retains a dedicated following among fans of Spencer and Hill’s unique style, showcasing their timeless charm and comedic genius.

5 Bone Tomahawk

Kurt Russell and Richard Jenkins in Bone Tomahawk (2016)
RLJ Entertainment

Starring Kurt Russel and directed by S. Craig Zahler, Bone Tomahawk (2015) is a lesser-known Western horror film that tells the story of a small group of men who set out on a perilous journey to rescue captives from a tribe of cannibalistic Native Americans. Led by Sheriff Hunt (Russell), the group includes a cowboy gunslinger (Matthew Fox), a crippled rancher (Patrick Wilson), and a backup deputy (Richard Jenkins). The harrowing expedition takes them into the treacherous territory of the cannibal tribe, resulting in intense and gruesome confrontations.

Bone Tomahawk might have deterred a wider viewership due to its high amount of gore and unsettling themes, coupled with limited marketing and distribution. Film critic Roger Ebert noted that “such a solid piece of work with such a strong cast is being barely released in theaters”. However, the film’s popularity has been growing steadily through the years among fans of both genres thanks to its unflinching approach, demonstrating that its impact extends beyond traditional box office success. Be warned; Bone Tomahawk is not for the faint-hearted.

4 Old Henry

Tim Blake Nelson as Old Henry
Hideout Pictures

Old Henry, a 2021 Western drama directed by Potsy Ponciroli, follows Henry, a reclusive widowed farmer (Tim Blake Nelson), and his son Wyatt (Gavin Lewis). When they discover a wounded outlaw (Scott Haze) on their land, their decision to nurse him back to health brings danger to their doorstep. As tensions rise, Henry’s mysterious past is unveiled, leading to a climactic confrontation with a gang led by a corrupt Sheriff named Ketchum (Stephen Dorff) and one of the biggest plot twists in the history of the genre.

Although the film’s slower pacing and adherence to traditional Western conventions might not have worked in its favor to become a global success, Old Henry still resonates with fans of classic Westerns for its authenticity and character-driven narrative. As noted by The New York Times, Old Henry “makes a solid, honorable go of proving once again that the foursquare western isn’t dead.”

3 Ravenous

Guy Pearce in Ravenous (1999)
20th Century Fox

Starring the magnificent Guy Pearce in the lead as Capt. John Boyd, Ravenous is a 1999 horror-comedy banger directed by Antonia Bird. It centers on a group of soldiers stationed at a remote military outpost in the Sierra Nevada mountains during the 1840s. Their lives take a terrifying turn when they encounter a mysterious stranger (Robert Carlyle) with a sinister secret – he is afflicted by an insatiable craving for human flesh. As the soldiers become aware of his cannibalistic tendencies, a battle for survival ensues in the harsh wilderness.

Despite its unique blend of horror and dark humor, Ravenous failed to take its place among more popular Westerns of the 90s. Also, its release amidst other high-profile releases could have limited its visibility. However, that hasn’t stopped Ravenous from gaining a strong fan base among fans of offbeat horror, appreciating its originality and blending of genres, in spite of critics like Roger Ebert describing the film mostly unfavorably as “the kind of movie where you savor the texture of the filmmaking, even when the story strays into shapeless gore”.

2 The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Tim Blake Nelson holds a wanted poster in The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Twenty-five years in the making, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is a 2018 Coen Brothers anthology film that weaves together six distinct stories set in the American frontier. From the whimsical and musical adventures of the sharpshooting Buster Scruggs (Tim Blake Nelson) to darker and contemplative tales of life, death, and morality, the film explores a range of themes and emotions inherent to the Wild West.

However, compared to other Coen films such as No Country for Old Men (2007) orThe Big Lebowski(1998), The Ballad failed to become a big international hit, perhaps in part due to its limited theatrical run and quick Netflix release. Nevertheless, the film’s unique structure and nail-biting narratives have solidified its place among fans of the Coen brothers’ distinctive filmmaking, and the film even won the Golden Osella Award for Best Screenplay at the 75th Venice International Film Festival, where it also premiered. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs currently holds a commendable 89% critics score and 78% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes.

1 Trinity Is Still My Name

Bud Spencer and Terence Hill in Trinity Is Still My Name
West Film

Trinity Is Still My Name (1971), an Italian Spaghetti Western comedy directed by Enzo Barboni, continues the misadventures of the titular brothers, Trinità (Terence Hill) and Bambino (Bud Spencer) from They Call Me Trinity (1970). This time, the iconic super duo find themselves in a series of comical situations while breaking up an arms ring.

Despite its many hilarious moments and the popularity of the previous installment, Trinity Is Still My Name faced challenges in achieving worldwide acclaim. However, in combination with a great soundtrack, the film remains one of the most cherished Spencer-Hill classics of all time, especially in the hearts of European audiences.

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