The 12 Best Westerns to Watch Right Now

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The 12 Best Westerns to Watch Right Now

Everything old is new again. And that goes for… the Western?

Even though we’ve seen Hollywood recycle ideas for years, I don’t know that anyone could have predicted the powerful resurgence of the Western, a classic genre whose television heyday coincided with the Eisenhower administration. But over the last 20 or so years, TV has returned to the Western more times than one might expect, often tweaking it in different ways, whether through inspired genre mashups or modern-day settings that utilize the themes of the Old West. But it wasn’t until the success of Yellowstone, a soapy drama about a ranching family from Montana, that there seemed to be a demand for these types of stories. Now every network and streaming service is attempting to find its own Yellowstone to capitalize on the genre’s recent popularity. So if you’re looking to scratch that Western itch, you’re in luck.

Below, we’ve curated a list of the best Western TV shows you can watch right now. Featuring period dramas and modern-day series, shows that depict the American frontier and shows that perhaps merely draw inspiration from it, the list is varied but full of compelling, watchable shows. The only catch is that these are recent shows. This means you won’t find classics like Gunsmoke, Bonanza, or Have Gun — Will Travel, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t seek those out as well.

These are the best Westerns you should watch right now.


Timothy Olyphant Will Return as U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens in FX's Justified: City Primeval

Watch Justified on Hulu

Both one of the best shows of the 21st century and a series that never quite got the recognition it deserved, FX’s neo-Western is based on a short story by renowned crime novelist Elmore Leonard. Running from 2010 until 2015 and set primarily in the hollers of Eastern Kentucky, Justified stars Timothy Olyphant (who appears in not one, not two, but three shows on this list) as Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens, an effortlessly cool gunslinger who’s nearly as quick with his words as he is his sidearm. But a hero is only as good as his antagonist, and Justified offers one of TV’s very best in Walton Goggins’ charismatic outlaw Boyd Crowder, a silver-tongued mirror image to Raylan. Their shared history creates the connective tissue of the series and is what allowed it to run for six seasons, during which time it offered up some of the highest highs of the most recent Golden Age of TV. Perhaps that is why FX was quick to jump on the revival train and have Olyphant put on the hat and badge again for Justified: City Primeval, a sequel series set in Detroit based on Leonard’s novel City Primeval. You can find that on Hulu, too. —Kaitlin Thomas

Wynonna Earp


Watch on Netflix

Funny, bold, and unapologetically queer, Wynonna Earp blends the themes of the Wild West with the strangeness of the supernatural to create a series unlike any other. Based on the IDW comic of the same name and adapted for TV by Emily Andras, the pulpy drama is set in the fictional town of Purgatory and stars Melanie Scrofano as the eponymous Wynonna, a descendent of legendary gunslinger Wyatt Earp who is cursed to spend her days hunting revenants—the outlaws Wyatt killed who became demons upon his death—to send them back to hell with a magical revolver named Peacemaker. Joining the show’s unconventional heroine on this ride are U.S. Marshal Xavier Dolls (Shamier Anderson), an immortal Doc Holliday (Tim Rozon), Wynonna’s sister Waverly (Dominique Provost-Chalkley), local police officer Nicole Haught (Katherine Barrell) and scientist Jeremy Chetri (Varun Saranga). For four seasons, the cult series followed this ragtag group as they heroically took on everything from witches and vampires to alcoholism and depression. It’s not remotely close to a typical Western, but that’s what makes it worth watching. —Kaitlin Thomas


Watch on Max

Few shows sound as profanely inspired as Deadwood, which has also been referred to as “Shakespeare in the mud.” It deserves every kudos. The extraordinarily compelling Western is ultimately less concerned with its setting and historical accuracy (though it has plenty to spare) than it is about accurately portraying humans. Why do societies and allegiances form, why are close friends betrayed, and why does humanity’s best seem to always just barely edge out its worst? These are the real concerns that make Deadwood a masterpiece. David Milch created a sprawling, fastidiously detailed world in which to stage his gritty morality plays and with it has come as close as anyone to creating a novel on-screen. With assistance from some truly memorable acting by Ian McShane, Brad Dourif, and Paula Malcomson, Deadwood’s sometimes over-the-top representations never veer far enough from reality for its inhabitants to become just characters. (A follow-up movie on HBO also helps sew things up in a satisfying way after the original series’ sudden ending). —Sean Gandert and Allison Keene

Joe Pickett

Watch on Paramount+

Based on the novels by C.J. Box, Joe Pickett scratches the Western itch without the grimdark drama of similar shows, offering up a balance of vengeful violence and wholesome family values in equal measure. The Picketts are one part Little House on the Prairie and one part Far Cry 5. They’re as ready and willing to strike up a cowboy song during a prairie picnic as they are to pick up the nearest rifle, shotgun, or hunting knife to defend kith and kin. They take their lead from patriarch and show namesake Joe Pickett (Michael Dorman), a hard-luck Wyoming game warden who loves his family, his job, and the wild animals that roam Yellowstone’s peaks and valleys, in that order. (Cowboy hats off to the prop and VFX department for bringing realistic emus, eagles, and elk to life—or death—without involving real animals.) The only things Joe hates about his job are the bureaucracy, the meager pay, and members of the seedy underbelly of nearby Saddlestring who will go to unimaginable lengths to consolidate their wealth and power. Not on Joe’s watch. —Dave Trumbore

The Mandalorian


Watch on Disney+

The Mandalorian is a fully formed fantasy universe, filled with interesting characters and lively backgrounds. It’s a TV show with undeniable cinematic quality: things click and whir and bleep and boop alongside foreign chatter and a host of interesting creatures. The world of The Mandalorian immediately feels lived in, throwing viewers right into the middle of the story of the bounty hunter Mando (Pedro Pascal) and The Child (aka Baby Yoda, aka Grogu), who the former must protect as he travels across the galaxy. With wonderfully short episodes that play with a number of different genres, The Mandalorian is both warm and action-packed, sparsely and carefully populated with characters who—however short their tenure—all make a memorable mark. Creator Jon Favreau’s choice to ground as much of the series as possible with practical effects (including Grogu, the pinnacle of the form) was key in making this story about a ragtag group of space travelers feel wonderfully tangible and emotionally grounded, for both Star Wars faithful and casual viewers alike. —Allison Keene

Yellowstone (and its many spinoffs)


Watch Yellowstone on Peacock
Watch 1883 on Paramount+
Watch 1923 on Paramount+

There’s a good chance you’ve seen Yellowstone if you’re reading this. But if you haven’t, here’s what you need to know about the show that jump-started pop culture’s recent obsession with the Western. The popular Paramount series, created by Taylor Sheridan and John Linson, mixes the beats of the Western with the familiar hallmarks of the nighttime soap to tell an addictive story about the Duttons, the owners of the largest ranch in Montana. Led by patriarch John Dutton (Kevin Costner), they have as many internal conflicts as they do outside obstacles. But while the modern day provides plenty of action and drama, the Duttons have a deep and rich history, which is explored in the spinoffs 1883 and 1923. The former follows the men and women who traveled west to settle the ranch at the heart of the show, while the latter focuses on a new generation during a time of particular hardship. There are more spinoffs in the works, too, so you’re not likely to run out of shows to watch any time soon. —Kaitlin Thomas

Hell on Wheels

TV Rewind: AMC's Hell on Wheels and Our Need for More American Period Pieces

Watch on AMC+

This Western—which dramatized the lives of real and fictional players during the construction of competing, cross-country railroads after the Civil War—was never less than a richly sourced imagining of our nation’s great expansion West, with a few can’t-miss psychopaths and tortured heroes for good measure. As Civil War vet turned vengeful gunslinger turned unlikely tycoon Cullen Bohannon, Anson Mount carried Hell on Wheels through bloody, heat-stroked twists and turns for five seasons. And there may never be as resilient and nightmarish a mortal villain as Christopher Heyerdahl’s Thor Gundersen. Just don’t call him The Swede. —Kenny Herzog


Watch on Netflix

While several shows on this list feature nuanced roles for women, Netflix’s limited series from creator and director Scott Frank stands out for the way it centers the women of La Belle, New Mexico, a small town where nearly all the men died in a mining accident two years prior to the start of the series. This gives the show a unique lens through which to view the many traditional hallmarks of the Western genre that are present, including a lawman (Scoot McNairy) tracking a menacing outlaw (Jeff Daniels) and a climactic gunfight that erupts in the center of town when the women (led by an excellent Merritt Wever and Michelle Dockery) arm themselves against said outlaw. But it’s the ways in which society has reshaped itself in the absence of men—the local brothel has been turned into a school, for instance—that are most intriguing and prove that there are ways to make life on the frontier still seem fresh after all these years. —Kaitlin Thomas

Outer Range

The 27 Best Amazon Prime Video Original Series

Watch on Amazon Prime Video

Prime Video’s eerie, Wyoming-set speculative mystery series is so damn unhurried it’s easy to forget you’re watching a mystery at all. Just stretched-wide vistas, a vast, open sky, and a giant, supernatural hole whose secrets no one—or at least, no one with any meaningful narrative power—has the slightest interest in plumbing. This isn’t a failing. An economy of dialogue and a protraction of plot serve Outer Range well, as the mystery of the big spooky hole in a west pasture isn’t the point of the series so much as its psychological fulcrum. It is both a precursor to and the object of a kind of frontier-born religious ecstasy, a divine madness, a theia mania that overtakes every major player by season’s end. That said, if what you’re hoping to get out of the Josh Brolin-starring series is answers, well, getting practiced at waiting. If instead you want a metaphysical, rodeo-themed psychodrama that runs more off manic Mountain West vibes than a pressing need to provide anything resembling an explanation, Outer Range is for you. —Alexis Gunderson


How Netflix's Longmire Modernizes the Myth of "The West"

Watch on Netflix

Based on a series of books by Craig Johnson, Longmire is one of the few procedurals you’ll find on this list. But the six-season show, which follows Walt Longmire (Robert Taylor), the old school sheriff of Wyoming’s Absaroka County, as he and his small department solve crimes throughout the vast expanse of their jurisdiction, weaves ongoing storylines into the narrative to give it some meat. The wide open spaces of New Mexico, which stands in for Wyoming, give the show a sense of place, while the presence of the local Native American population in the story adds depth and brings a unique point of view not found in the majority of current shows about lawmen chasing criminals. The fact that this is a modern series that often feels like it could be set in the Old West (Walt doesn’t own a cell phone, which plays into this very idea) only adds to the allure. —Kaitlin Thomas


Watch on Hulu

Set in the year 2517, after humans have debunked their current solar system for a new star system with its own set of rules and norms, Firefly follows a renegade crew of nine people who live on Serenity, a “Firefly-class” spaceship. In this future, the United States and China are the only two surviving superpowers, and they’ve now merged into a central federal government called the Alliance. There’s a lot of criminal activity that goes down aboard the spaceship, including smuggling rings, bounty hunters, and frozen bodies, and plenty of sexual tension between Malcolm “Mal” Reynolds (Nathan Fillion) and Inara Serra (Morena Baccarin). The show is great for a long weekend binge, given that the series was canceled after just one season, much to its loyal fans’ unending disappointment. —Joyce Chen


Watch on Hallmark

Look, we did say this list was varied. Ride is what happens when you take Western imagery, strip the story of (most) violence, and give it the Hallmark treatment. But that’s not to say the multigenerational family drama isn’t worth watching, especially if you’re someone who maybe can’t stomach the Western’s darker elements. With a never-ending trove of secrets and unspoken feelings making a mess of its central relationships, the series is more addictive than it has any right to be. Set in Colorado, Ride stars Nancy Travis as the matriarch of the McMurrays, a rodeo family attempting to save their ranch while getting over the tragic loss of one of their own during a bull riding competition. As the McMurrays—including middle son Cash (Beau Mirchoff), who has just returned from active duty at the start of the series—try to move on, viewers are offered a glimpse into a world that, to many of us, is a mystery, which, whether realistic or not, is the reason we turn to art in the first place. —Kaitlin Thomas

Kaitlin Thomas is an entertainment journalist and TV critic. Her work has appeared in TV Guide, Salon, Gold Derby, and, among other places. You can find her tweets about TV, sports, and Walton Goggins @thekaitling.

For all the latest TV news, reviews, lists and features, follow @Paste_TV.

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