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The 10 Best Charles Bronson Westerns According To IMDb

Fans of low-budget action movies of the '70s and '80s may know actor Charles Bronson best as the grizzled, world-weary vigilante Paul Kersey from the series of four "Death Wish" films that ran for two decades between 1974 and 1994. In those films, Bronson took to the streets as a one-man army doing battle with the lowlife scum and criminal miscreants that were wreaking havoc in America's cities. However, before Bronson became famous his action crime dramas in the '80s and beyond, he had a lengthy career as one of Hollywood's toughest cowboys, and the actor made a name for himself in classics like "The Magnificent Seven."

Throughout the 1960s and into the 1970s, Bronson appeared in many major Western pictures, and he wasn't limited in the kinds of roles he played either. Whether he appeared as a rough-riding renegade gunslinger, a fierce and noble Native American, a Mexican revolutionary, or a real-life American icon, Bronson was always a force to be reckoned with, whether he was fighting for justice on the frontier or terrorizing it. His best parts usually saw him squinting beneath a wide-brimmed hat and holding a six-shooter, where he was confronting bandits, bringing home bounties, and saving entire villages from the menaces of the old West.

Whether it is a forgotten classic or an all-time great, here are Charles Bronson's 10 best Westerns in which he played a major role, all tallied up and ranked according to their IMDb score. Which one will come out on top? Scroll on to see for yourself.

10. The White Buffalo

"The White Buffalo" sees Charles Bronson take on the role of legendary folk hero Wild Bill Hickok. Per Britannica, Wild Bill was a famed gunslinger and frontier lawman who made a name for himself in several infamous gunfights and operated for a time out of the notorious town of Deadwood. However, this is not the youthful, vigorous version of Wild Bill that some might expect, as "The White Buffalo" shows an older, wiser, and more vulnerable Hickok near the end of his life. In the film, Bronson plays a heavily fictionalized version of the gunfighter in a story that feels a bit like a Wild West version of "Moby Dick."

Troubled by persistent dreams and visions of a massive white buffalo, Hickok feels an almost supernatural pull to seek out and kill the creature. Departing for the hunt, Hickok tracks the buffalo and crosses paths with famed Native American leader Crazy Horse, who claims to have lost his daughter to the same beast. More than just a straightforward Western romp, "The White Buffalo" is also a symbolic tale, with an aging Hickok out for one last adventure in search of an elusive prey. Released in 1977 just as the popularity of Western films was waning, it also featured small cameos from many other older Western veterans, including Jack Warden, John Carradine, Clint Walker, and Slim Pickens.

9. Showdown at Boot Hill

The 1958 film "Showdown at Boot Hill" was a unique Western for its day, as it was a more thoughtful and introspective film than most. The film is a character drama set in the Wild West that explores the man beneath the hat. Bronson plays U.S. Marshal and bounty hunter Luke Welsh, who is headed from St. Louis to Mound City, Kansas to collect the reward on outlaw Con Maynor, who has killed three men. 

However, when Welsh arrives in town, he finds that Maynor is a well-respected and beloved figure in the community for his charitable deeds. When Maynor is killed in a legal duel, the townspeople refuse to identify the body to ensure Welsh cannot collect his reward. Frustrated and mystified by the town's reverence for a man who was once a cold-blooded killer, Welsh stays in town and re-examines his life, profession, and the morals of the frontier.

Though one of Bronson's earliest, lesser-known Western movies, it's one of his better ones, thanks to its more ruminative nature, which allows a commentary about justice in the American West. Despite being one of the older films in Bronson's career, it's aged well and features Bronson in a strong leading role before he became a big Hollywood star. While it may not be what fans looking for a lot of action and thrills have in mind, dedicated followers of the genre will especially enjoy Bronson sharing the screen with Western legend John Carradine.

8. Villa Rides

The Spaghetti Western "Villa Rides" has Charles Bronson playing a major supporting role to his former "Magnificent Seven" co-star Yul Brynner, who appears here in a wondrously awful toupee. Brynner stars in the film as the famed Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa, and Bronson appears as his trusted right-hand man, a wild, brash gunfighter and fellow patriot named Fierro. 

The movie tells the story of an American aviator named Lee Arnold (Robert Mitchum) who is forced to land his plane south of the American border and finds himself caught up in the war between Villa's revolutionaries and the Mexican army. Seeing the atrocities committed by the Mexican soldiers, including the rape and murder of civilians, Arnold puts his support behind Villa and volunteers the use of his plane to help Fierro capture a military fort.

A surface-level exploration of the Mexican Revolution, the 1968 Western film glosses over much of the politics of the Mexican fight for freedom and throws itself headlong into the adventure, excitement, and violent drama of Villa and Fierro's fiery rebellion. While the film may not have been the best of the genre, it had everything a Western enthusiast could want with dramatic action, explosive shootouts, and a bleak outlook. Bronson, meanwhile, may only get third billing, but he delivers everything his fans have come to expect from his best roles as the justice-seeking freedom-fighter Fierro.

7. From Noon till Three

In "From Noon till Three" Charles Bronson plays Graham Dorsey, the leader of a notorious gang of outlaws presumed dead when the rest of his men are killed in a heist gone wrong. However, unbeknownst to everyone else, Dorsey wasn't among them at the time, having had a premonition the night before that they'd all been killed. 

Instead, Dorsey spent the evening seducing a sophisticated woman named Amanda (played by Bronson's real life wife Jill Ireland). When he learns his gang have all died in the robbery, he leaves town and steals the identity of a local doctor, who is executed in his place. When Jill learns of his apparent death, she is heartbroken and writes a book about her affair with the now infamous — and supposedly dead — outlaw leader. Over time, their brief relationship becomes the basis for a stage play and a popular song, making Amanda wealthy in the process.

Dorsey watches as his legend grows from afar, so much that he no longer resembles the highly fictionalized portrait that Amanda has popularized after his supposed death, making a reunion with the woman he loves seem impossible. This offbeat Western straddles the line between drama and romance and focuses more on the man than his adventures. An earnest look at tall tales and forbidden love, the film also allows Bronson to show his range in a sensitive romance about a man who can't measure up to the legend.

6. Guns for San Sebastian

Charles Bronson takes on the role of the villain in this one, playing a Native American warrior in "Guns for San Sebastian."  In 18th century Mexico, a famed outlaw and former soldier, Leon Alastray (Anthony Quinn), is on the lam and attempting to stay one step ahead of the law. While eluding the authorities, he takes on the guise of a Franciscan priest after encountering Father Joseph along his journey. As his journey continues, Alastray eventually finds himself coming to the aid of a village under attack. After meeting a mysterious half-Indian named Telco (Bronson), he is asked to help them fend off the nearby tribe of Yaqui. However, Alastray will have his new alliance tested when it's discovered that Telco is not to be trusted, and his allegiances are not what they seem.

The 1968 film is an action-packed affair with plenty of bombastic, guns-blazing thrills, made all the more exciting by a fantastic score by the legendary composer Ennio Morricone. "Guns for San Sebastian" was also filmed in Mexico, as opposed to Europe, as was the case for many Spaghetti Westerns. The film earned solid reviews and drew a positive response from Variety upon its release who noted its "good direction and battle scenes ... [and] mix of religious-themed action and comedy-romance."

5. Breakheart Pass

Just a year after "Death Wish," Bronson starred in the 1975 film "Breakheart Pass," where a devastating diphtheria outbreak at Fort Humboldt requires a special express train to bring aid in the form of medicine and relief troops. Aboard the train are Utah's governor, his mistress (once again played by Jill Ireland), and U.S. Marshal Pearce (Ben Johnson), who is bringing a notorious fugitive, John Deakin (Charles Bronson), back to town to receive a large cash reward. As the locomotive makes its way across the country strange occurrences begin to mount, with several passengers and many of the relief soldiers killed or missing, while the crates of medicine turn out to be caches of weapons. 

Suspecting there's more going on at Fort Humboldt than a simple epidemic, it's quickly uncovered that there is more to Deakin than meets the eye, and he and the Marshal realize they may have to be careful with who else aboard the train they can trust. A fun, suspenseful mystery thriller with rousing action and a climactic battle, "Breakheart Pass" has all the familiar ingredients of the best Westerns like violent fortune-seeking bandits and courageous, sharp-shooting lawmen. The New York Times gave it a glowing review, praising the more mature Bronson specifically, writing, "[his] great physique is no longer young, but it is more powerful than ever, as if transfused by age with some kind of supervigor that affects brain as well as brawn."

4. Chato's Land

Once again playing a character with Native American heritage in "Chato's Land," Charles Bronson takes the role of a man named Pardon Chato, whose mixed ancestry makes him the target of violence at the hands of hateful local law enforcement. During a fateful encounter, Chato kills the town sheriff in self-defense and is forced to escape the town, suddenly finding himself doggedly pursued by a Confederate captain named Quincy Whitmore (Jack Palance) along with a posse of bigoted soldiers. Just when Chato believes he is in the clear, he discovers that Whitmore has found his home, brutally attacked his wife, and is using her to bring him back into their clutches. Now more than just a man on the run, Chato must fight Whitmore and his gang to rescue his wife. Embracing his wilder ways and abandoning all rules of civil combat, Chato begins to pick them off one by one.

An excessively graphic film that is not for the sensitive type, this is not a fun-loving Western adventure but a visceral foray into the violent life on the Western frontier. "Chato's Land" isn't the escapist fare of "Breakheart Pass" and includes some very explicit scenes, including the gang's sickening attack on Chato's wife. Beyond that, the depiction of vile racial hatred may make some uneasy. However, the fact that the film doesn't hold back is also what has made it such a memorable film among Bronson's catalog of Westerns.

3. Red Sun

Another Spaghetti Western filled with plenty of gore, "Red Sun" was a part of the so-called "East Meets West" sub-sub-genre of films that take Asian heroes and villains and transplants them into the Wild West, often teaming them up with outlaws, cowboys, and gunfighters. This one features Charles Bronson as a renegade outlaw named Link who, alongside his Frenchman partner Gauche, hijacks a speeding train for its cache of gold, only to find a Japanese ambassador and his contingent of samurai guards onboard. 

When Link's partner makes off with a ceremonial sword intended to be a gift to President Grant, Link is forced to team up with Jubei — the head of the Ambassador's royal guard — to track down Gauche. Forced into a critical mission to retrieve the prized blade, Jubei promises to kill him if they fail. Duty-bound, Jubei himself has just one week to retrieve the sword, or honor demands he commits ritual suicide.

Helmed by Terrence Young, director of the first James Bond film, "Dr. No," "Red Sun" is a well-crafted and engaging Spaghetti Western with loads of action and even a little bit of light-heartedness. Never tame, the movie is full of high-stakes thrills and loads of violence, with the sword itself spilling buckets of blood while the shootouts provide plenty of nail-biting moments.

2. The Magnificent Seven

One of the most iconic — if not the most famous — Westerns in Hollywood history, the 1960 classic "The Magnificent Seven" was itself an American adaptation of the famous Japanese film "Seven Samurai" by acclaimed director Akira Kurosawa. In the movie, a black-clad gunslinger named Chris Adams (Yul Brynner) is hired to help defend an impoverished Mexican village from a gang of ruthless bandits who have been brutalizing them. To accomplish the seemingly impossible task, the man in black recruits six others, a mix of outlaws and renegades, each with their own skills and reasons for joining him. The eclectic group of hired hands includes Steve McQueen as Vin Tanner, James Coburn as Britt, and Charles Bronson as Bernardo O'Reilly, a professional gunfighter who is doing the job solely for the money but who turns out to have a heart of gold.

Though they start as strangers, the seven become a tight-knit group who are willing to give their lives in defense of the village they've been hired to protect. Famed for its impeccable direction, thrilling action, and one of the finest casts a Western ever assembled, "The Magnificent Seven" has become one of the most beloved Westerns ever made. Full of unforgettable moments, legendary characters, and quotable dialogue, it earned four sequels, a short-lived TV spin-off, and a remake of its own in 2016 that starred Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt.

1. Once Upon a Time in the West

While "The Magnificent Seven" is the one of most beloved and iconic Westerns produced by Hollywood, "Once Upon A Time In The West" may be among the best and most revered of the Spaghetti Western subgenre. Directed by the celebrated filmmaker Sergio Leone based on a script by Dario Argento and accompanied by a score by Ennio Morricone. The film also boasted a phenomenal cast that included Jason Robards and Henry Fonda, it is easily the best Western in Charles Bronson's catalog. Voted in 2005 by Time as one of the best 100 films ever, the film follows a criminal named Frank (Fonda) sent by a vicious railroad tycoon to terrorize a farmer whose land he covets thanks to its abundant water source. When Frank kills the landowner, it passes to his wife, who has no intentions of going quietly. Meanwhile, Frank is pursued by a shadowy, harmonica-playing gunslinger (Bronson) who has an agenda of his own.

Gorgeously shot, "Once Upon a Time in the West" is considered the quintessential Western and a landmark piece of cinema — Western or otherwise — often seen as Leone's masterpiece. Morricone's score was groundbreaking and iconic, with each character having their own distinct theme that reflected their personality. This Western epic lives up to the hype with a two-hour run time and a complex story, where most cowboy pictures were typically simple, briskly paced adventures. Polished and well-crafted in every aspect, it's one of the rare films that lives up to its lofty reputation.