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5 Great Westerns From Recent Years, Including The Power Of The Dog, And Where To Stream Them

Benedict Cumberbatch in The Power of the Dog
(Image credit: Netflix)

Outside of horror, my next favorite genre is probably the western. Whether it’s from America or a foreign picture with an interpretation of the wild west (Or even better, a samurai film, which inspired many westerns, and vice versa), I just can’t get enough of them. Unfortunately, the western went out of vogue many years ago, but fortunately, they look to be making a comeback. In fact, some recent western movies look to even have some Oscar heat this year.

And I find this to be absolutely amazing. Because in an age when comic book characters like Spider-Man can easily rake in a billion dollars, and sci-fi is bigger than ever, it’s really fascinating to me that an old and dusty genre like the western could be riding back into town. So, here are five westerns from modern years and where to stream them. Yah!

Jesse Plemons and Kirsten Dunst in The Power of the Dog

(Image credit: Netflix)

The Power Of The Dog (Netflix)

In this 2021 film directed by Jane Campion and starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons, and Kodi Smit-McPhee, a rancher who’s a bit of a dick (Cumberbatch) makes his brother’s new wife (Dunst) break down after being incredibly insensitive and mean to her. It’s the kind of film that you would likely not associate with a western since there aren’t any shoot outs or bad men coming into town. Instead, it’s more of a meditative and psychological film, and man, does it end on a dark note.  

The Power of the Dog is based off of a novel by Thomas Savage, and the story and pacing are all very novelistic. In fact, it’s so novelistic that it might be hard to even recommend if you like your westerns with steely gazes and quick draws at the OK Corral. Instead, it’s the kind of Oscar bait that you might expect to see nominated for an Academy Award. In fact, Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, and Kodi Smit-McPhee are all garnering Oscar heat. So, you might want to check this one out just to see what all the hubbub is about. Bub.

Stream The Power of the Dog on Netflix

 

Jonathan Majors in The Harder They Fall

(Image credit: Netflix)

The Harder They Fall (Netflix)

Okay, so, if The Power of the Dog doesn’t seem like your kind of western (though, I definitely think that you should watch it), then 2021’s The Harder They Fall may be more up to your speed. Written and directed by Jeymes Samuel and starring Jonathan Majors, Idris Elba. Regina King, and many others, The Harder They Fall is essentially a revenge story, just like so many other great movies in this genre. A cowboy (Majors) is seeking to kill the man (Elba) who took so much from him, but he finds out that he may have bitten off more than he can chew.

That’s a pretty vague description, but the film is heavier on the action than it is on the storytelling. Jonathan Majors is excellent in the role, and Idris Elba makes for a good villain. But, the best part is probably its side characters, as there’s an interesting cast of heroes and villains throughout, most notably Delroy Lindo as a U.S. Marshall. It’s almost a completely Black western (Unlike Django Unchained), and it’s interesting to see the wild, untamed west from that perspective.

Stream The Harder They Fall on Netflix

Tom Hanks in News of the World

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

News Of The World (HBO Max)

Has Tom Hanks ever played a bad guy? If he has, I honestly can’t remember. And even though a western would be the perfect opportunity for Hanks to shed his good guy persona, you won’t find it here in 2020’s News of the World, as he’s just as good as ever. That’s not to say that that’s a bad thing. It’s just that I wish he would shoot somebody in the back for a change, or kidnap a hostage. But oh well. Directed by Paul Greengrass and starring Hanks and Helena Zengel, News of the World is about a guy who delivers the news (Hanks) who now has to deliver a little girl (Zengel) across a volatile Texas in order to get her back to her aunt and uncle.

You’ve seen News of the World before, even if you haven’t necessarily seen this exact movie. It’s the tried-and-true formula of a father figure who has to bring a child somewhere else safe (think Willow, but in the west), but it’s done in such an engaging and interesting way that you’re still very much up for the ride. Hanks is not a tough guy, but he has to make some tough decisions, and his passenger is no slouch, either. It’s a good film, so watch it, why dontcha?

Stream News of the World on HBO Max

Jake Allyn in No Man's Land

(Image credit: IFC Films)

No Man's Land (Showtime)

And now for a modern western. Directed by Conor Allyn and starring Frank Grillo, Jake Allyn, Jorge A. Jimenez, and George Lopez, 2021’s No Man’s Land is about a Border Patrol incident gone bad as a young man (Allyn) shoots a kid and has to flee, only for the boy’s father (Jimenez) to seek revenge. Here’s the twist though, Allyn is now on the other side of the border, and he’s the one being chased. The film has its pratfalls, and it’s a little slow at times, but it’s an interesting concept, and one that you should definitely check out.

In fact, it’s one of those kinds of films where the critics aren’t too fond of it, but the audience likes it, as it has a 38% critic score, but a 73% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. Honestly, I’m a bit in-between those two scores, but I always love me some modern westerns like No Country For Old Men. Now, granted, No Man’s Land is no No Country For Old Men. But, if you like your westerns modern, then you should definitely give No Man’s Land a shot.

Stream No Man’s Land on Showtime

Tim Blake Nelson as Buster Scruggs

(Image credit: Netflix)

The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs (Netflix)

Lastly, I wanted to end on 2018’s The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. Directed by the Coen Bros. and starring James Franco, Liam Neeson, Tim Blake Nelson, and a whole slew of others, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is actually an anthology western. Yeah! You don’t see many of those every day. Or ever.

There are six different vignettes of varying quality, and they’re all immensely different in tone. Some are funny (and even musical!) while others are pitch black dark (I dare you to not gulp after watching “Meal Ticket”). Honestly, out of all the westerns on this list, this is probably the one that I recommend the most. That said, I am biased. I do love me the Coen Bros.

Stream The Ballad of Buster Scruggs on Netflix

In the end, I’m just happy that I can even write an article about the Western. It means that the genre is not dead yet! For news on more westerns or other 2022 movies, make sure to stop by here often.

Lover of Avatar (The Last Airbender, not the blue people), video games, and anything 90s, he will talk your ear off about Godzilla, so don't get him started.