Billy the Kid: 8 Similar Western Shows You Should Watch

Created by Michael Hirst, ‘Billy the Kid‘ is a Western series that chronicles the life of Billy the Kid, a gunslinger in the 19th century. The 2022 show is based on the life of Bill the Kid (real name Henry McCarty), an outlaw and gunfighter who was known for his role in New Mexico’s Lincoln County War. The show follows the life of Billy the Kid from his humble roots to his days as a gunslinger in the American frontier.

Bolstered by some brilliant writing and a strong performance by Tom Blyth as Billy, the show has garnered appreciation from critics and audiences alike. If you’re someone who’s captivated by this heroic Western show and is looking for something along the same lines, we’ve got you covered. Here is a list of similar shows you will also enjoy. You can watch most of these shows like ‘Billy the Kid’ on Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu!

8. Deadwood (2004-2006)

Helmed by David Milch, ‘Deadwood’ is a Western series that focuses on the lawless and dysfunctional town of Deadwood, North Dakota in the 1870s. Being a mining town, people flock to Deadwood in hopes of riches but have to grapple with the chaos and the hostile locals that inhabit the town. The struggle between the different groups of people is what drives the plot of the 2004 show.

Both ‘Deadwood’ and ‘Billy the Kid,’ depict the rough and untamed nature of the American frontier. In ‘Deadwood,’ the town is a haven for outlaws, prospectors, and a wide range of characters engaged in illicit activities. Similarly, the majority story of ‘Billy the Kid’ is characterized by violence, theft, and evasion of the law. Both shows, quite deftly explore the nuances of morality and the darker aspects of human nature and delve into themes of redemption, betrayal, and the consequences of one’s actions.

7. Hell on Wheels (2011-2016)

Created by brothers, Joe and Tony Gayton, ‘Hell on Wheels‘ is a Western series that chronicles the construction of the First Transcontinental Railroad in the United States during the 1860s. The 2011 show centers around Cullen Bohannon (Anson Mount), a former Confederate soldier who becomes a key figure in the construction of the railroad while seeking personal vengeance. The show explores the challenges, dangers, and political intricacies of this monumental undertaking.

The characters in both shows grapple with personal quests for justice, redemption, or identity. Cullen Bohannon seeks vengeance for the fate that he and his family suffer, and Billy in ‘Billy the Kid’ navigates the blurred lines between outlawry and rebellion. The shows also provide a window into American history during a transformative period and shed light on the social, political, and economic dynamics of the time.  

6. Justified (2010-2015)

Developed by Graham Yost and based on the character created by Elmore Leonard, ‘Justified‘ is a Western series that centers around U.S. Deputy Marshall Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant). The 2010 show focuses on the life and career of Raylan, a strong-willed, quiet lawman haunted by his past, who returns to his native town of Harlan County in Kentucky, to ensure that justice is served to those in need.

The show delves into themes of family, loyalty, and the blurred lines between good and bad, making it a character-driven exploration of justice in a modern Wild West. Just like ‘Justified,’ ‘Billy the Kid’ too explores the moral complexities of a character operating on the fringes of the law. Both shows delve into the gray areas of morality, where the line between right and wrong is often blurred. The characters’ actions are influenced by their circumstances and personal beliefs, making it challenging for the viewers to categorize them as good guys or bad guys, thus making for a complex and effective narrative.

5. The Son (2017-2019)

‘The Son,’ created by Phillip Meyer, Brian McGreevy, and Lee Shipman, based on the 2013 novel of the same name by Meyer, is a western that focuses on the patriarch of the McCullough family, Eli McCullough. The 2017 show tells the multi-generational saga of the McCullough family, focusing on the life of Eli McCullough (Pierce Brosnan), who goes from being a young boy captured and raised by the Comanche tribe to a ruthless Texas cattle rancher who struggles to connect with his family, his son, and daughter, in particular.

Aside from being Westerns, both ‘The Son and ‘Billy the Kid’ delve into the historical context of the American West, shedding light on the complex socio-political landscape of the time, including the conflicts between settlers and indigenous people, and the lawlessness of the land. Both shows feature complex and morally ambiguous characters, in ‘The Son,’ the character of Eli McCullough embodies this complexity, as he is both a ruthless patriarch and a man shaped by the harsh realities of the frontier. Similarly, ‘Billy the Kid’ explores the life and persona of the legendary outlaw while highlighting the multifaceted nature of his character.

4. The American West (2016)

‘The American West,’ directed by John Ealer and executive produced by the legendary Robert Redford, Stephen David, and Laura Michalchyshyn, is a docu-series that details the tumultuous period of the American West during the late 19th century. Released in 2016, it explores the lives of various historical figures, such as Jesse James, Crazy Horse, and Billy the Kid, highlighting their roles in shaping the West.

While Billy the Kid is not exactly a central character in the show, his influence on the era and his involvement in the Lincoln County war is indeed touched upon. Both shows immerse viewers in the gritty and lawless world of the Wild West. Although the show isn’t exactly similar to ‘Billy the Kid’, it highlights his significance in shaping the era and also goes in-depth into his role in the events that transpired during that time.

3. Godless (2021)

Created by Scott Frank, ‘Godless’ is a 2021 Western miniseries that primarily revolves around the fictional town of LaBelle, New Mexico during the late 1800s. The town is inhabited almost exclusively by women after a mining accident killed all the men of the town. Problems arise when notorious outlaw Frank Griffin( Jeff Daniels), comes to town in search of a former protege, Roy Goode(Jack O’Connell).

Both shows feature outlaws and lawmen as central characters, in ‘Godless,’ Frank Griffin is a notorious outlaw, while Roy Goode is a former outlaw trying to escape his past, similar to ‘Billy the Kid,’ which revolves around the titular character, Billy, a famous outlaw who is pursued by lawmen. Violence and conflict are inherent to the Wild West, and both ‘Godless’ and ‘Billy the Kid,’ feature a fair number of shootouts, confrontations, and morally ambiguous characters. The struggle between order and chaos is a central theme in both narratives.

2. Walker (2021-)

Walker,’ developed by Anna Fricke is a 2021 Western drama that follows the life of Cordell Walker (Jared Padalecki), a Texas ranger and a widowed father. The story focuses on Walker, who returns to his hometown of Austin, Texas, to solve crime while struggling to raise his two children. 

The show primarily explores themes of justice and morality, similar to what ‘Billy the Kid’ examines in its narrative. Although Cordell represents law enforcement and Billy the Kid stands on the other side of the law, both characters have a contrasting idea of justice but feel strongly about the idea of the concept. Family Dynamics is another strong presence in both shows as we see in ‘Walker,’ the protagonist grapples with the challenges of being a single parent and maintaining family bonds. ‘Billy the Kid’ also touches on themes of family, as the protagonist often sought vengeance for wrongs done to his family and was known to have close relationships with his fellow outlaws.

1. The Magnificent Seven (1998–2000)

Conceived by Pen Densham and John Watson, ‘The Magnificent Seven’ revolves around seven gunslingers who come together to protect a village from bandits. The 1998 series is based on the film of the same released in 1990, which itself is inspired by Akira Kurosawa’s masterpiece ‘Seven Samurai.’ 

Both ‘The Magnificent Seven’ and ‘Billy the Kid’ are firmly rooted in the Western genre. They capture the rugged and lawless nature of the American land during the late 19th century. The polarising subject of vigilantes and their influence is examined in both shows as the protagonists in both stories are lawless gunslingers, who live by their own moral codes. Redemption is another common theme in both shows, as we see the characters in ‘The Magnificent Seven’ seek redemption for their past deeds by protecting the innocent, and ‘Billy the Kid’ shows Billy’s desire to find a sense of redemption through his actions.

Read More: Best Western TV Shows on Netflix