What could be better than a horror movie set in the Wild West? There is something about the combination of the supernatural and cowboys that just works.
In fact, I love this combination so much that I created my own horror western story, Iron Dogs!
One of the reasons I think it works so well is the setting – desolate places with few people and little technology – which only adds to the challenge faced by the characters, especially when that challenge happens to be monstrous or supernatural.
But it doesn’t mean that the only Westerns are period pieces. Some of the best horror-westerns happen to take place in modern day, and they’re every bit as action-packed and scary.
In this article, we will take a look at some of the best Horror Western movies ever made. So saddle up, partner, and let’s get ready to ride into the night!
What Are the Best Horror-Western Movies?
When a tribe of cannibalistic cave dwellers kidnaps settlers from the small town of Bright Hope, it’s up to elderly Sheriff Hunt (Kurt Russell) to lead a small posse to get them back. The search party includes an aging deputy (Richard Jenkins), a gunslinger (Matthew Fox), and an injured rancher (Patrick Wilson), whose wife is one of the victims.
This Old West tale, set in the 1890s, is a tense and blood-soaked affair, effectively blending the isolation of a small prairie town with the knowledge that the townsfolk have only each other to count on in times of trouble.
With limited resources and a mysterious enemy, they are underdogs from the outset, wholly unprepared for the terror that awaits when they find their quarry. A must-watch for horror and Western fans alike!
Set during the American Civil War, this Western horror movie tells the story of a group of Confederate soldiers on the run with stolen rebel gold. Led by William (Henry Thomas) and Annabelle (Nicki Aycox), the criminals find shelter in an abandoned plantation, unaware that it carries a dark secret.
As the gang tries to rest for the night, they quickly discover they are not alone, falling victim in turn to the supernatural forces found there. By the time they wise up enough to try and escape, it is already too late.
Dead Birds is an effective thriller with strong horror elements in a period setting. And though some visual effects are dated, it has some great performances, especially a young Michael Shannon in a supporting role.
Based on the novel, Vampire$ by John Steakley and directed and scored by horror master John Carpenter, Vampires is a horror Western in a modern setting. When Jack Crow (James Woods) leads a team of vampire hunters sanctioned by the Vatican to clear out a nest in rural New Mexico, they are attacked by a master vampire, Jan Valek (Thomas Ian Griffith).
With only Crow and his trusted lieutenant, Tony Montoya (Daniel Baldwin), escaping alive with Katrina (Sheryl Lee), a bitten prostitute, they soon discover that Valek intends to perform a ritual to dispel the weakness of sunlight.
Stylish and bold, Vampires feels like a modern Spaghetti Western set in the modern world, with Crow as the anti-hero gunslinger and Valek as the brutal and unflinching big bad.
Fearing that hostile Native Americans are kidnapping settlers under mysterious circumstances, John Clay (Clancy Brown) and William Parcher (William Mapother) lead a rescue party into unmapped Dakota territory to track them down.
As bodies begin to pile up, the true nature of the abductors is revealed – a humanoid species called “Burrowers,” formerly subsisting on buffalo but now turned to eating humans since the extinction of their main food supply.
With a nod to The Searchers, this film presents an unflinching study of human behavior and the cost of prejudice, particularly when the very people who can help fight the monsters – the Ute tribe – are, in turn, treated as monsters themselves.
Even though it’s set firmly in the 90s, the Western tropes might seem familiar at first sight – Texas outlaws on the run, trying to get to safety in Mexico, even if it means taking hostages. But what isn’t as familiar is the midpoint swerve that throws everyone’s plans out the window.
Vampires. Lots and lots of vampires.
The fugitive Gecko Brothers (George Clooney and Quentin Tarantino), along with a faithless preacher (Harvey Keitel) and his family (Juliette Lewis and Ernest Liu), versus an army of bloodsuckers led by Santanico Pandemonium (Salma Hayek).
What starts as a prototypical Quentin Tarantino crime-action film transforms into a Robert Rodriguez bloodsoaked orgy of terror, as this campy classic turns both the horror and crime genres on their ears. Clever, funny, violent, and cool. What more could you ask for?
In a futuristic theme park populated by androids, John Blane (James Brolin) and Peter Martin (Richard Benjamin) live out their Wild West fantasies, including actual shootouts as dangerous gunslingers.
But when the system goes haywire, and the androids turn on the human customers, Blane and Martin find themselves in a fight for their lives. Written and directed by Michael Crichton, this precursor to The Terminator features Yul Brynner in his trademark Magnificent Seven outfit as an unstoppable android set on pursuing and killing the heroes.
While leaning heavily on Western tropes, Westworld isn’t afraid to venture firmly into the horror genre, especially once the bloody mayhem begins.
In this neo-Western horror, co-written and directed by Kathryn Bigelow and set in small-town Oklahoma, Caleb Colton (Adrian Pasdar) gets bitten by Mae (Jenny Wright), a vampire drifter. When he starts to turn, Mae’s nomadic companions show up, intent on killing him.
Led by the charismatic Jesse Hooker (Lance Henriksen), the vampire clan instead gives him a chance to join their ranks, despite the open hostility of Severen (Bill Paxton). Caleb wants to become one of the vampiric nomads, but he refuses to participate in their gruesome killing sprees.
But once they turn their sights on Caleb’s sister, Caleb must decide once and for all which family is more important. Gory and cinematic, Near Dark is a fun ride from start to finish.
Set in the mid-19th century, during the dying days of the Mexican-American War, Ravenous tells the story of disgraced war hero, Captain John Boyd (Guy Pearce), who is unceremoniously sent to a remote fort in the Sierra Nevada mountains, following the revelation that he’s actually a coward.
At first settling in, his life is turned upside down when a frostbitten stranger (Robert Carlyle) arrives with a tale of missing settlers, murder, and cannibalism, leading to a bloody betrayal of the American soldiers.
Tied to the Native American legend of the Wendigo, a once-human supernatural being of great strength that turned into a monster after developing a taste for human flesh, this horror western is one of the more visually stunning films on this list, and boasts an impressive cast of character actors in a tense story filled with twists, turns, and gore for the most diehard fans.
Isolated from civilization on a remote homestead in the 19th century American West, frontierswoman Lizzy Macklin (Caitlin Gerard) feels a growing sense of dread borne of the endlessly howling prairie wind. Though her husband, Isaac (Ashley Zuckerman) dismisses her paranoia as superstition, the arrival of newlyweds on a neighboring farm triggers a series of shocking and brutal events.
The Wind takes the Western genre and bends it into a creeping horror film, firmly set between madness and the supernatural. A great slow burn with a satisfying payoff that is told firmly from the female point of view.
Tired of their dull lives in Paradise, a remote town nestled in a Nevada desert valley, repairmen Val McKee (Kevin Bacon) and Earl Bassett (Fred Ward) dream of excitement and adventure. Unfortunately, they get their wish in the form of underground prehistoric sandworms with a taste for human flesh.
Trapped in the valley, the surviving residents of Paradise, including a seismologist (Finn Carter) and an eccentric survivalist couple (Fred Gross and Reba McIntyre) must find a way to escape before the worms pick them off one by one.
A great horror Western offering plenty of excitement and laughs, with a fun ensemble cast and iconic monsters, Tremors is a must-see.
If you enjoy the isolation and creeping dread of Bone Tomahawk, with the grittiness and violence of The Wild Bunch, only set against a supernatural horror worse than any listed above, then my horror-western novel, Iron Dogs, is for you!
Set in 1873, this horror Western tells the tale of six fugitive outlaws who hole up in a deserted New Mexico town, only to be hunted by a terror worse than anything they could imagine.
As a lifelong fan of these amazing genres, I wanted to create something people hadn’t seen before, both in terms of the human elements and the creature at the heart of it all. You can read more about why I wrote Iron Dogs here!
It’s available in softcover and hardcover, ebook, and even audiobook (I turned my book into an audiobook!) on Amazon.
A true Western horror movie for your ears!
Are there any Western horror movies?
Definitely! Western horror is a subgenre of horror that takes place in the American West – either in a period or a modern setting. These films typically feature cowboys, outlaws, and settlers fighting against otherworldly creatures such as vampires, werewolves, and zombies. An example is 2015’s Bone Tomahawk, starring Kurt Russell, which was praised for its unique take on the Western genre.
What is the best Western of all time?
The Searchers, directed by John Ford and starring John Wayne, is often named the best Western movie ever. Released in 1956, it tells the story of a Civil War veteran’s long search for his kidnapped niece. Known for its amazing visuals, powerful acting, and great directing, this movie has had a big impact on films for many years, especially with its themes of racial tension and personal revenge. It’s a must-watch, even if you’re not usually into Westerns.
What horror movie was Clint Eastwood in?
Clint Eastwood, known for his iconic roles in Westerns and action films, surprisingly had a role in a horror movie early in his career. The film is called Revenge of the Creature (1955), a sequel to the classic horror movie Creature from the Black Lagoon. In this movie, Eastwood appears in a small but memorable role as a lab technician. This appearance is notable as it was one of his first in the film industry, long before he became a household name for his roles in Westerns and as Dirty Harry.
So there you have it, my top 10 best horror western movies!
From vampires to cannibals, these movies are sure to get your heart racing and keep you on the edge of your seat. So grab some popcorn and settle in for a scare. And if you’re brave enough, maybe watch them all in one go!
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