The American Old West is often romanticized as an anarchic and chaotic frontier with the image of the gun-slinging, horse-riding, and tobacco-chewing cowboy as its perfect representation. As the American frontier passed into history, with 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. This genre’s recurring characters and plot structures trace out the ‘Otherness’ in the vast plains and deserts by upholding the lawless, harsh, and wild signs of the time. Both television and cinematic content of the ever-evolving Western genre have found their place in the digital library of Netflix, which houses some of the most compelling TV shows in the genre.
15. Django (2023-)
‘Django,’ a Western series, brilliantly reimagines Sergio Corbucci’s iconic 1966 Italian film, delivering an enthralling English-language adaptation. With an exceptional ensemble cast featuring Matthias Schoenaerts, Nicholas Pinnock, Lisa Vicari, and Noomi Rapace, the show thrusts viewers into the enigmatic world of the 1860s–1870s Old West. Set in the vibrant New Babylon, a city founded by John Ellis for societal outcasts, ‘Django’ explores themes of family, redemption, and identity. The protagonist, Django, relentlessly searches for his daughter Sarah, leading to a gripping tale of love and loyalty in the backdrop of a tumultuous era. ‘Django’ stands out as an exceptional Western show, blending rich storytelling with a stellar cast and stunning historical setting. You can watch the show here.
14. How to be a Cowboy (2021-)
‘How to be a Cowboy’ is a web series about real-life American cowboys. The six-episode inaugural season revolves around Dale Brisby, a self-proclaimed bull-riding wanderer who is the owner of a Texas ranch. With the help of his brother Leroy, his friend Cheech, and interns Donnie and Jorden, Dale runs his expansive ranch. The series offers a candid and realistic depiction of the life of modern-day cowboys and the struggles they face in their everyday lives. A part of the series also focuses on the training of both Donnie and Jorden as future cowboys and cowgirls. The series also gives its audience a prolonged glimpse into the world of the cowboys, which has rarely been explored through documentarian lenses. Among all the characters in the series, Jorden’s journey is especially remarkable as she seeks to be successful in a space that is overwhelmingly dominated by men. You may watch the series here.
13. Better Call Saul (2015-2022)
A spin-off and prequel to ‘Breaking Bad,’ which also makes an appearance on this list, ‘Better Call Saul’ revolves around the eponymous lawyer, active in the sandy and sunny city of Albuquerque, New Mexico. The show depicts Saul’s life before he adopted the Saul Goodman personality when he was still known as Jimmy McGill. At the start of the show, Jimmy struggles to establish himself as a respectable lawyer but oftentimes ends up using the tricks he has mastered as a con artist to win cases. As the story progresses, Jimmy becomes deeply involved with the criminal elements of his locality, which garners him the attention of quite a few powerful people. A significant part of the narrative is dedicated to the constantly developing relationship between Jimmy and fellow lawyer Kim Wexler, who becomes Jimmy’s wife in later seasons. Feel free to check out the show here.
12. Heartland (2007-)
‘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. You can check out the series here.
11. Supernatural (2005-2020)
‘Supernatural’ is 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 piles on the suspense, and with exceptional acting from Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles, this show is a must-watch. You can watch ‘Supernatural’ here.
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10. Cowboy Bebop (2021)
Inspired by the anime series of the same name, ‘Cowboy Bebop‘ is a science fiction western show developed by Christopher Yost. The series may not be strictly Western, as it is an amalgamation of several other genres, but it is still an exciting watch for fans of shows set in the West. ‘Cowboy Bebop’ revolves around bounty hunters who go after the most dangerous criminals in the galaxy. The ragtag group is led by Spike Spiegel, and they take on several life-threatening assignments, often saving the world in the process, but only if they are paid the right price. You may watch the show here.
9. The Walking Dead (2010 -)
Based on Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore’s comic book of the same name, ‘The Walking Dead’ is a zombie apocalypse neo-western show developed by Frank Darabont. The series follows a group of fortunate survivors in a zombie apocalypse who must fight for their lives with the constant existential threat staring at them. With their lives on the line, these survivors are forced to make complicated choices and compete with rival groups who are willing to go to any lengths for their own lives. You may watch ‘The Walking Dead’ here.
8. Breaking Bad (2008 – 2013)
‘Breaking Bad’ is a neo-western crime drama television series which, since its release in 2008, has been globally acclaimed 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 against 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. A spin-off prequel series titled ‘Better Call Saul’ (made subsequently by Gilligan) comes highly recommended as well. You can watch the show here.
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7. Wynonna Earp (2016-2021)
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 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 gives a unique twist to an otherwise male-dominated genre. You may watch the series here.
6. Country Comfort (2021)
Created by Caryn Lucas, ‘Country Comfort’ is a short-lived comedy series starring Katharine McPhee. The plot revolves around Bailey (McPhee), an up-and-coming country singer whose car starts having problems near the home of a cowboy named Beau and his family. Although Bailey initially knocks on the door of this family, intending to ask for their help with her car, she ends up becoming the most recent nanny for Beau’s five children. Beau’s wife passed away about two years earlier, and though the children can be, at times, difficult, much of that stems from the grief of losing their mother. As the series progresses, the children come to appreciate Bailey’s presence in their lives, and in turn, Bailey realizes how important Beau and his family have become to her. Feel free to check out the show here.
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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’ 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 on recent times, it allows us 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.’ You can watch it here.
4. Song of the Bandits (2023)
Written by Hwang Jun-hyeok and directed by Jun-hyeok and Park Hyun-suk, this KDrama brings together the American Wild West and the Korean period drama together in a most appealing fashion. Starring Kim Nam-gil, Seo-hyun, and Yoo Jae-myung, the series is set against the backdrop of Korea’s uprising against Japan during the latter’s occupation of the former in the disputed land of Gando, China. It showcases the lives of the people who fled their homes in Korea and arrived at Gando, making it their new home and defending it from outside forces. If you like Western shows, you will love this one a lot. You can stream it here.
3. Longmire (2012-2017)
‘Longmire’ is an American modern Western crime show that 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. You may watch them here.
2. Frontier (2016-2018)
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. You may watch ‘Frontier’ here.
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. You can experience it here.
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