20 Westerns Movies to Watch: Celebrating Black-Led Stories in the Wild West

black western movies

While the Western genre often conjures images of rugged landscapes, daring outlaws, and heroic lawmen, the contributions of black actors and filmmakers to this cinematic tradition are too often overlooked. In this list, we delve into the lesser-known but equally compelling narratives of Western films that are Black-led.

From tales of rebellion and redemption to stories of courage and camaraderie, these movies offer a diverse and multifaceted portrayal of the Wild West. Some of these films are inspired by the real lives of black cowboys and outlaws, whose journeys have often been left untold by history. So grab your hat and saddle up as we ride through the untamed frontier of Legends of the Frontier: Black-Led Western Films.

harlem on the prairie 20 Westerns to Watch

Harlem on the Prairie | 1937

Harlem on the Prairie, released in 1937 and starring Spencer Williams and Herb Jeffries, marked a significant moment in Hollywood history. Billed as the first “all-colored” Western musical, the film follows a black cowboy who finds love and adventure while taming the frontier.

posse 20 Westerns to Watch

Posse | 1993

Directed by and starring Mario Van Peebles, this film follows five Buffalo Soldiers who find a gold cache, desert and return to America where they help defend a black town from the KKK, all the while trying to avoid capture by lawmen and military authorities alike.

Buck and the Preacher | 1972

The film is set in the Kansas Territory in the late 1860s. It was one of the first films directed by a Black person to tell the story of Black Americans fighting against the white majority. In this film, directed by and starring Sidney Poitier, a wagon master assists a group of freed slaves in their journey to the promised land out West, Along with a con artist, the Preacher (Harry Belafonte), all while evading relentless bounty hunters.

The Magnificent Seven | 2016

Featuring Denzel Washington in a leading role, this remake of the classic Western sees hired gunslingers defending a town from ruthless bandits.

The Harder They Fall | 2021

An ensemble cast of black actors, including Jonathan Majors and Regina King, delivers a gripping tale of revenge and justice in the Old West, as they confront their pasts and shape their destinies.

Blazing Saddles | 1974

While not led by a black actor, Cleavon Little plays a significant role as the black sheriff in this satirical Western comedy directed by Mel Brooks.

Adios Amigo | 1976

Fred Williamson stars in this Western comedy as a gunslinger who teams up with a con man Richard Pryor to recover stolen gold, blending humor with high-stakes adventure.

Take a Hard Ride | 1975

Jim Brown stars in this film as a cowboy embarking on a perilous journey to deliver a large sum of money, encountering various obstacles and adversaries along the way.

Boss N*gger | 1975

Fred Williamson portrays the title character, a black bounty hunter turned sheriff who challenges the racist establishment in a corrupt town.

Outlaw Johnny Black | 2023

Directed by and starring Michael Jai White, this comedic Western unfolds as the titular character seeks revenge on those responsible for his father’s death, blending action with humor.

Concrete Cowboy | 2020

Starring Idris Elba and Caleb McLaughlin, this film follows a teenager who discovers the world of urban horseback riding when he reconnects with his estranged father in Philadelphia, exploring themes of family and community.

django unchained Westerns to Watch

Django Unchained | 2012

Directed by Quentin Tarantino, this film stars Jamie Foxx as a freed slave who teams up with a bounty hunter to rescue his wife from a ruthless plantation owner, blending elements of revenge and redemption.

Surrounded | 2023

Led by Letitia Wright who stars as a former Buffalo Soldier Moses “Mo” Washington as she travels west to lay claim on a gold mine bequeathed by her late slaveowner father. This was Michael K. Williams’ last role.

Buffalo Soldiers | 1997

Directed by and starring Danny Glover, this film follows a group of black cavalrymen confronting racism and injustice as they serve on the Western frontier, highlighting their struggles and triumphs.

Gang of Roses | 2003

A gang of gold-hunting outlaws takes over a town tearing the sleepy outpost to shreds as they search for riches. They murder a can-can girl, who is the sister of Rachel the onetime leader of a notorious all-girl gang. Rachel then rounds up her four old associates, and they seek revenge for her sister.

Sergeant Rutledge | 1960

Directed by John Ford, this film stars Woody Strode as a black cavalryman wrongly accused of a crime, with his commanding officer defending him against prejudice and injustice.

Man and Boy | 1971

Starring Bill Cosby, this film follows a man’s quest for justice and redemption as he teams up with a young boy to track down those responsible for his family’s tragedy in the Old West.

hateful 8 Westerns to Watch

The Hateful Eight | 2015

Directed by Quentin Tarantino, this film is set in post-Civil War Wyoming, where a diverse group of strangers seek refuge from a blizzard in a remote cabin, leading to betrayal and violence amidst simmering tensions.

Outlaw Posse | 2024

Written by, directed by, and starring Mario Van Peebles, this film sees an outlaw returning from years of hiding in Mexico to claim stolen gold hidden in the hills of Montana

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