There have been so many classic western shootouts that it’s unfair to call this the top 5. But each one of these certainly capture exactly want I love about movie gunfights. Unlike a gun duel, a shootout isn’t just about having a quick draw. These five westerns flat-out let the bullets fly and their signature shootouts are ones to remember. As always, I wouldn’t call this the definitive list. But there’s no denying that these 5 western shootouts are absolutely phenomenal.
#5 – “3:10 TO YUMA” (Heading to the Train Station)
There wasn’t a lot of appreciation for “3:10 to Yuma”, director James Mangold’s remake of the 1957 western. But I loved the film especially the final shootout as Dan (Christian Bale) tries to get his prisoner Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) from the hotel to the train station and ultimately to Yuma Prison. But Wade’s gang is waiting and a firefight erupts as Dan runs through town trying to get Wade on the 3:10. The interesting dynamic between Dan and Wade make the final bullets all the more significant.
#4 – “TOMBSTONE” (Gunfight at the O.K. Corral)
Wyatt Earp, his brothers Virgil and Morgan, and Doc Holliday make their way to the O.K. Corral where members of the Cowboys gang are breaking the law by carrying weapons. Of course it ends up being a fierce firefight which ignites the already existing tension between the Earps and the Cowboys. What makes this scene even better is the buildup leading to the first shot. Incredibly intense and beautifully filmed.
#3 – “THE WILD BUNCH” (Going Out in a Blaze of Glory)
This band of wanted outlaws find themselves up against a crooked Mexican general and his army in the final scene of Sam Peckinpah’s “The Wild Bunch”. Bullets fly and the bodies pile up in what has been called one of the greatest shootouts in movie history. It’s bloody and hyper violent especially for a 1969 western. But it’s also the only way you would expect this film to end.
#2 – “MY NAME IS NOBODY” (Jack Beauregard Versus a Different Wild Bunch)
While “My Name if Nobody” is one of the quirkiest spaghetti westerns made. It’s also one of the best. It features a truly classic shootout even though it’s pretty one-sided. As a chance to stage his last showdown, Jack Beauregard takes on The Wild Bunch (obviously not the same as the #3 on this list), a massive gang of bandits. As they approach on horseback, Jack let’s them have it and let’s just say the results are “explosive”. It’s beautifully filmed and the great Ennio Morricone’s score makes the scene even better.
#1 – “OPEN RANGE” (Showdown Against Baxter’s Boys)
“Open Range” ends with one of the most intense and realistic gunfights you’ll see as Charley and Boss take on Baxter and his gang in the middle of town. One thing that makes it so effective is the complete absence of music once the guns start firing. There is also some clever camera work that gives the scene a really slick and gritty look. Kevin Costner not only starred in the film but directed it and his eye for a shootout is impeccable. Don’t believe me? Then just give the final 15 minutes of “Open Range” another look. It’s amazing.
Agree or disagree? Do you have a western shootout that I should have included? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts or your favorite western shootout.