Who Were the Greatest Western Movie Actors of All Time?

Nothing can be more iconic in the American Television and film industry than Western genre. The old West is now referred to as classic. However, it is rare to see new and true Western anymore. This genre retains all – drama, action, excellent plot, characters and more. It exposed the audience with revenge stories and gang plots. 

Western might be gone today, but the cowboys showed in the stories will always live on. The heroes of these movies are true cowboys not just for their era but for the forthcoming generation as well. They taught us how to represent this part of American history by showing us glimpses of Western life. Besides all, western movies are sure to entertain everyone regardless of age and gender, be it youngsters, men or women.

Popular Western Movie Actors

Here is the list of popular Western movie stars who have graced the small screen as well as silver screen with their dashing looks and mesmerizing expressions. Scroll through the post!

1. John Wayne

John Wayne

The first name to show up on the list of top Western actors is John Wayne for all the right reasons. He literally personified this genre and defined the standards of a cowboy. Wayne did over 140 films during his career and 83 out of them were Westerns. In fact, it is said that the actor did so many Western roles that it is impossible to imagine him in any other character. John played the cavalryman, cowboy, longer ranger and almost all characters in the genre.

Some of the popular films of John Wayne included: True Grit, Red River, The Longest Day, The Searchers, Rio Bravo, and the list go on. Moreover, he also received twenty-one awards for impressive performance, including one Academy Award.

2. Clint Eastwood

Clint Eastwood

Eastwood is another great actor who comes instantly on mind while thinking about skilled Western actors. Born on 31 May 1930; Clint Eastwood was an American actor, composer, director and producer. After experiencing success in Western TV series named Rawhide; Eastwood earned international fame through his role in Dollars Trilogy as a Man with No Name during the mid 1960s. He also played Harry Callahan, an antihero cop, in Dirty Harry five films in the 1970s and 1980s. 

Eastwood is probably one of the most successful and popular actors of today’s generation. He is certainly a well-respected and well-deserved artist who contributed a lot in the film art by giving us best movies of all the time. However, before all his achievements as a director, producer and actor, Clint was a cowboy first who is still remembered as Joe, Blondie and Monco. Although Eastwood is seen playing different roles, but it is not easy to exclude Western from a cowboy. Some of his best western films are: For A Few Dollars More, A Fistful of Dollars and The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly.

3. Gary cooper

Gary cooper

Frank Jones Cooper, also known as Gary Cooper, was a popular American actor who was known for his strong, natural, authentic, understated and silent acting styles. Frank won Academy Award twice for best actor and earned three nominations in the same category. Moreover, he received the Academy Honorary Award for his achievements as an actor in 1961. 

Cooper was listed among one of the top 10 personalities for over 23 years. He remained highest money-making celebrities for around 18 years and that’s not all! The American Film Institute listed him on 11th position out of 25 great male celebrities of classic Hollywood cinema. 

He was known best for his Western style and cowboy looks, which made Cooper popular among both, men and women. He worked in a lot of Western movies, including The Westerner, Man of The West, High Noon and many more. 

4. James Stewart

James Stewart

James Maitland Stewart was a versatile American actor. He worked in the film industry from 1935 to 1991 in around 80 movies, including some classic and Western. 

Apparently, James was a real-life cowboy too as he had a remarkable military career as well, and was reputed as a highest-ranking actor in the history of Military. Moreover, he was starred with John Wayne in the flick The Man Who Shot Liberty Vance. However, James best Western movies were: Broken Arrow, Bend Of The River and Bandolero.

 In 1999, he was ranked number three on AFI (American Film Institute) list of the greatest male actors. This talented celebrity will be remembered forever for his contributions in film industry and in military. Although it is an unrealistic combination, but James managed it somehow and lived a successful life.

5. Steve McQueen

Steve McQueen

Steve McQueen was certainly one of the coolest cowboys in Hollywood history. He played several anti-hero roles and his persona and demeanor had a major share in making him highest paid artist at a point. 

Steve started his acting career by working on the small screen first with a Western series titled Tales Of Wells Fargo. He did another Western Television series named Trackdown. Later, McQueen got a chance to perform on big screen in film Never So Few, and then he got back to the Western genre with The Magnificent Seven, another blockbuster. He was known as the Hollywood bad guy who is loved by everyone.

6. Henry Fonda

Henry Fonda

Henry Fonda was a stage and film actor who was born on 16 May. He spent almost five decades serving Hollywood. Henry had a strong and appealing screen image. He showcased his talent through several films and also earned two nominations and one Academy Award for the category of the best actor.

Fonda started his acting career through the stage. However, he earned popularity in true meaning by working in Western movies. Some classics by him are: The Cheynenne Social Club, Firecreek, Once Upon a Time in the West and the list goes on. Although none of his films based on western genre earned him any recognition or award, but they left a great impact on the audience’s heart. He made it to this list of the greatest western movie actor of all the time, which itself is a proof of his hard work.

7. Charles Bronson

Charles Bronson

Charles Dennis Buchinsky, also called Charles Bronson, was born on 3rd November. He was one of those American actors who played the roles of gunfighters, police officers and cowboys. He collaborated with directors J. Lee Thompson and Michael Winner and worker in 15 films along with his second wife Jill Ireland. 

During his Hollywood career, Charles did several incredible movies on different genres but his Western style gathered a lot of appreciations. He showed his cowboy looks in the films like: Once Upon a Time in the West, Apache and The Magnificent Seven. 

8. James Arness

James Arness

James King Aurness was best known for his long-term work in the TV series Gunsmoke for the role of Marshal Matt Dillon. It was a weekly series and Arness played Dillon from 1955 to 1975 (five decades). 

James is known as the first television cowboy in the history of film industry. He was also a good friend of Western artist John Wayne. To reward his contributions to the TV industry, James Arness got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, which is a big deal.

Moreover, he was also a part of Western Performers Hall of Fame in 1981 at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum situated in Oklahoma City.

Which Western Movie Actor Inspired You The Most?

Hollywood film industry is ruling all over the world for all the good reasons. Apart from several other genres, American Western movies have a different level of the fan following. Although they are rare to see nowadays, but still have a significant place in American film history as old classic movies.

Stars like John Wayne and Clint Eastwood are an inspiration and role models for anyone who is interested in cowboy style, from young boys to adult men. The above-mentioned list of the best western movie actor is compiled on the basis of their popularity, hard work, acting skills and overall cowboy appearances. 

Would you like to add more names to the list?