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10 Most Quotable Western Movies Of All Time


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Summary

  • Western films have produced some of the most quotable movie characters in history, with lines and phrases that have become part of the cultural vernacular.
  • Films like Tombstone, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, and Django Unchained have standout dialogue that showcases the talents of their iconic actors.
  • The Western genre consistently reflects American culture and has had a lasting impact on pop culture through its memorable lines and characters.

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The history of cinema is filled with memorable quotes, and many Western films feature unforgettable dialogue from some of the most prominent stars. The genre had its golden age in the 1950s and 1960s, with the work of directors like John Ford and Howard Hawks establishing an American mythology for the Wild West. Later, filmmakers like Sergio Leone and Clint Eastwood pushed the Western forward with subgenres like the Spaghetti Western and Revisionist Western. More than any other genre, the Western has consistently reflected American culture.

Some of the most quotable movie characters of all time have influenced the American lexicon with lines and phrases that surpass the world of film and become part of the cultural vernacular. In Westerns alone, iconic characters like Val Kilmer’s Doc Holliday and Clint Eastwood’s Man with No Name have been so quotable that those who haven’t seen the films may still know their lines. It speaks to the power of outstanding filmmaking when dialogue transcends the movie’s meaning and can be integrated into day-to-day life. Some Western films stand out for having numerous unforgettable lines.

10 Tombstone (1993)

Directed by George P. Cosmatos

Tombstone

Release Date
December 25, 1993

Director
George P. Cosmatos

Cast
Bill Paxton , Charlton Heston , Sam Elliott , Powers Boothe , Val Kilmer , Kurt Russell , Michael Biehn , Jason Priestley

Runtime
130 minutes

Tombstone is one of the most beloved Westerns made after 1990 and one that beholds traditional Western movie values of heroism and camaraderie. Val Kilmer’s portrayal of Doc Holliday is the standout among the ensemble cast, with so many iconic lines throughout. “I’m your Huckleberry” is one of the best quotes from Western movies, and other idiosyncratic bits of dialogue like “You’re a daisy if you do” are incredible for their unique use of period slang. Kurt Russell’s Wyatt Earp also has unforgettable lines, such as You called down the thunder. Well, now you got it.”

9 The Searchers (1956)

Directed by John Ford

The Searchers

Release Date
March 13, 1956

Director
John Ford

Cast
John Wayne

Runtime
119 minutes

John Wayne and John Ford are one of the most prominent actor & director duos in movie history, and The Searchers is one of their standout achievements. It’s one of the quintessential Westerns of its era, filled with fantastic lines. Wayne’s Ethan Edwards is an iconic Western protagonist, and the film is structured around Wayne’s star power. The line “That’ll be the day” is repeated several times, referring to the character’s unwillingness to die or quit. The dialogue was so famous it even inspired the song “That’ll Be The Day” by the classic rock band The Crickets.

8 The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)

Directed by Sergio Leone

Sergio Leone’s Western epic is not only one of the best films in its genre, it’s commonly considered one of the best movies of all time. There are plenty of phenomenal quotes between the three main characters. “You see, in this world, there’s two kinds of people, my friend: those with loaded guns and those who dig. You dig,” is a notable standout from Clint Eastwood’s Blondie, solidifying him as one of the toughest characters in movie history. Eli Wallach’s Tuco also delivers memorable quotes like “If you miss, you better miss very well.”

7 No Country for Old Men (2007)

Directed by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen

Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) stares with intensity in No Country for Old Men.

In many ways, No Country For Old Men is the definitive Neo-Western, set in the 1980s rather than the Wild West, and exploring characters with modern psychology. Javier Bardem’s Anton Chigurh is one of the most chilling movie villains ever, and nearly every line of dialogue he has is effortlessly iconic. He’s a sadistic psychopath, yet manages to fill every moment with thought-provoking, philosophical ideas, such as the coin toss scene. Tommy Lee Jones and Josh Brolin’s characters also offer some fantastic lines, but Bardem is the film’s main draw.

6 Django Unchained (2012)

Directed by Quentin Tarantino

Jamie Foxx as Django pointing one of his revolvers directly at the camera in Django Unchained

Quentin Tarantino’s have consistently impacted pop culture with unforgettable dialogue and performances. Both of his Westerns, Django Unchained and The Hateful Eight, are packed with great lines. Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington, and Christoph Waltz are firing on all cylinders throughout the film with hilarious, thought-provoking, or emotionally moving lines. The film’s violence is balanced by intelligent, witty writing, making it one of the most iconic modern Westerns.

5 Unforgiven (1992)

Directed by Clint Eastwood

Clint Eastwood as William Munny in 1992's Western movie Unforgiven

Clint Eastwood has made so many iconic films as a star actor, but 1992’s Unforgiven is arguably his best work as a director. It’s a definitive revisionist Western, debunking the mythology of the Wild West and exploring characters who are more bleak and realistic. Unforgiven is one of the best Western movies ever made, and great dialogue from performers like Eastwood, Morgan Freeman, Gene Hackman, and Richard Harris is a significant reason. Lines like “It’s a hell of a thing, killing a man” explored the violence of the Wild West in a meaningful way.

4 The Magnificent Seven (1960)

Directed by John Sturges

The heroes lined up with their guns in The Magnificent Seven

John Sturges’ The Magnificent Seven assembles one of the most impressive Western movie casts ever. Centered around the star power of actors like Steve McQueen and Charles Bronson, the classic film is packed with memorable lines like “We deal in lead, friend.” Such a star-studded team-up movie would have to be filled with great dialogue, and McQueen’s Vin typically gets the best material. The movie was so iconic that it was remade in 2016 as a film starring Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt.

3 Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)

Directed by Sergio Leone

The three gunfighters confront Harmonica at the train station in Once Upon A Time In The West.

Another Sergio Leone masterpiece that isn’t quite as famous as The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is Once Upon a Time in the West. Despite not being as widely recognized, it’s just as unbelievable of a Western film, and stars like Charles Bronson, Henry Fonda, Claudia Cardinale, and Jason Robards are equipped with incredibly evocative dialogue. The film ranges from more comical lines like “How can you trust a man who wears both a belt and suspenders, a man who can’t even trust his pants?” to philosophical ideas like “People like that have something inside… something to do with death.”

2 Blazing Saddles (1974)

Directed by Mel Brooks

Cleavon Little as Sheriff Bart smiling and sitting atop a horse in a still from Blazing Saddles.

Blazing Saddles

Release Date
February 7, 1974

Director
Mel Brooks

Cast
Cleavon Little , gene wilder , Slim Pickens , Harvey Korman , Madeline Kahn , Mel Brooks

Runtime
93 minutes

One of the most unique Western movie experiences ever, 1974’s Blazing Saddles is a satire on the genre that deconstructs the inherent racism of glorifying the Wild West. Mel Brooks movies are always hilarious, and Blazing Saddles is packed with particularly provocative humor. Gene Wilder’s character, Jim, has some of the best line deliveries in the film, including “These are people of the land. The common clay of the new West. You know… morons.”

1 True Grit (1969)

Directed by Henry Hathaway

Image of John Wayne's Rooster Cogburn in True Grit (1969). Shot shows Rooster wielding both a revolver and a repeating rifle on horseback, firing it off to the left of the camera.

Both the original True Grit and the remake by the Coen Brothers in 2010 have fantastic, memorable dialogue. The 1969 version contains another monumental John Wayne role, and the aging superstar is given incredible lines to work with. Rooster Cogburn became an instant classic Western character, even spawning a sequel film following him directly. One-liners like “Looking back is a bad habit” and “You can’t serve papers on a rat, baby sister. You gotta kill him or let him be” sum up the quick-witted but wise veteran cowboy.

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