Western movies are known for their epic tall tales, heroic cowboys, and of course, ruthless outlaws but one of the genre’s most alluring characters has always been the legendary gunslinger. Classics like John Ford‘s The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and Rio Bravo starring John Wayne have notable sharpshooters and gunfighters, but characters like Harmonica in Once Upon a Time in the West and Doc Holliday from Tombstone, rank in a category all on their own.
Almost every gunman and gunslinger in Western movies manages to hold their own, but the fine folks on Reddit think there are a select few who have impeccable skill and speed. From Russell Crowe‘s reformed character in The Quick and the Dead to Clint Eastwood‘s signature Man With No Name from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, these are 10 of the best and fastest gunslingers in Western movies according to Reddit.
10 ‘The Quick and the Dead’ (1995) – Cort
Redemption is a small town run by a former outlaw, John Herod (Gene Hackman) who announces a single-elimination sharpshooting contest. The contestants vary from a mysterious woman known as The Lady (Sharon Stone) and a young gunslinger, The Kid (Leonardo DiCaprio) who both have a score to settle with Herod, but he has his sights on an unwilling participant named Cort (Russell Crowe).
In The Quick and the Dead, Cort used to be known as one of the most skilled gunfighters in the West but after a life-changing event, he renounced all violence and refuses to compete in the contest. Herod eventually breaks Cort and even though audiences only see him in action for a few moments, his quick-hand and calm defiance is an absolute sight to behold.
9 ‘Open Range’ (2003) – Charley Waite
Charley Waite (Kevin Costner) is a former Union soldier who works as a ranch hand for an open-range cattleman, Boss Spearman (Robert Duvall) in Montana. One day, Spearman sends one of the other men into town for supplies, but when his employee fails to return, Waite and Spearman know that he’s in trouble and set out to rescue him and take revenge on those who took him captive.
Waite is a specially trained gunman and soldier who most would assume goes into a situation guns blazing, but Waite refrains from fully utilizing his skills until the opportune moment. Several Redditors mention Costner’s character in Open Range as a top-tier sharpshooter and according to Reddit user underpants-gnome, his strategic planning and patience make it a more than convincing underdog story.
8 ‘The Magnificent Seven’ (1960) – Chris Adams
When a ruthless outlaw, Calvera (Eli Wallach), and his gang invade a small Mexican village, the defenseless and terrified townspeople hire veteran sharpshooter, Chris Adams (Yul Brynner) and six others to take care of their problem. Adams and his men agree to help and while they train the villagers how to fight and defend themselves, they start planning a diabolic trap for Calvera and his men.
While each of the characters in The Magnificent Seven has their own unique qualities, Adams has an impressive draw and quick wit that sets him apart from his fellow gunmen. Aside from knowing his way around a trigger, Adams is a lawful outlaw and rare sharpshooter who doesn’t showcase his superior skill and instead, focuses his efforts on preparing and protecting the villagers before the battle.
7 ‘Shane’ (1953) – Shane
Shane (Alan Ladd) is a drifter and veteran gunfighter who decides to settle down in a small Wyoming town where he finds a job working for a local farmer, Joe Starrett (Van Helfin). When a dispute breaks out between the townspeople and a cattle baron, Rufus Ryker (Emile Meyer), the safety of Starrett and his family is soon compromised forcing Shane to take action against Ryker and his plan.
George Stevens‘ Western classic, Shane gives an honest perspective into the life of a gunslinger as well as the mythology that surrounds the traditional sharpshooter. Compared to other Western gunmen, Shane has a slightly sensitive and emotional side that resonates with audiences on a deeper level and even though he eventually steps in, he’s mindful of the impression his actions will have on others especially Starrett’s young son who idolizes him.
6 ‘Once Upon a Time in the West’ (1968) – Harmonica
When a railroad baron desires to buy land in Flagstone, he sends a gun-for-hire, Frank (Henry Fonda) to force the owner to sell his property. The owner isn’t interested in selling and, refusing to take no for an answer, Frank kills him and blames the crime on a known gang of bandits to cover his tracks. The only other obstacle standing in the way is the owner’s recently new bride who arrives in town at the same time as a lone gunman known as Harmonica (Charles Bronson).
Reddit user SamuraiJackBauer isn’t a huge Bronson fan, but they think the actor absolutely owned the role of Harmonica in Sergio Leone‘s Spaghetti Western, Once Upon a Time in the West. Harmonica is a man of few words, but he says all he needs to with his trigger hand and a small harmonica that hangs around his neck, which has a major significance to the story that solidifies the character as one of the best (and pretty badass) sharpshooters to ever grace the silver screen.
5 ‘Unforgiven’ (1992) – William Munny
When a woman is viciously attacked by two men in Big Whiskey, Wyoming, her friends secretly offer a reward to anyone who is able to murder them. Word about the incident and hefty bounty reach Ned Logan (Morgan Freeman) in Missouri who convinces his friend and retired gunslinger, William Munny (Clint Eastwood) to go after the men but when they arrive, they are anything but welcomed by the town’s sheriff, Little Bill Daggett (Gene Hackman).
In Eastwood’s Oscar-winning Western, Unforgiven, Munny avoids violence and doesn’t appear to be a major threat to Little Bill who isn’t aware of Munny who has a deadly reputation of once being known as the killer of women and children. After Logan’s murdered and his body’s put out on display, Munny’s done trying to be civilized and finally reveals his true, violent colors to Little Bill and his men with a fully loaded shotgun that earns him a spot on the list.
4 ‘Blazing Saddles’ (1974) – The Waco Kid
While a new railroad system is underway, the discovery of quicksand forces construction to be rerouted through the town of Rock Ridge. In an attempt to run the people out of town, attorney general Hedley Lamar (Harvey Korman) makes railroad worker, Bart (Cleavon Little) the first Black sheriff but when Bart discovers Lamar’s plan, he and the townspeople put aside their differences and come together to defend their home.
In Mel Brooks‘ Western comedy classic, Blazing Saddles, Bart befriends a notorious sharpshooter known as The Waco Kid (or Jim) who is portrayed by funnyman Gene Wilder. The character is an obvious poke at the classic gunfighter but aside from his overly embellished speed and hilarious demise at the hands of an 8-year-old, The Waco Kid’s essentially a homage to the lore of the Western gunslinger.
3 ‘3:10 to Yuma’ (1957) – Ben Wade
When Arizona authorities capture stagecoach robber and murderer, Ben Wade (Glenn Ford), a poor rancher, Dan Evans (Van Heflin) volunteers to take him to the town of Contention City to catch a train to Yuma where he is to stand trial. Along the way, Evans has to fight off Wade’s gang of bandits as well as the temptation to accept a hefty bribe from the outlaw in exchange for his freedom.
While Ford is widely known for his film noir roles in classics like Gilda and The Big Heat, he starred in several popular Westerns and was also dubbed the fastest gun in Hollywood. With a draw of under 0.4 seconds, Ford gets the chance to show off his ace-high shooting skills in 3:10 to Yuma and even though Wade rightfully belongs behind bars, it’s hard not to root for the gunslinger.
2 ‘Tombstone’ (1993) – Doc Holliday
Wyatt Earp (Kurt Russell) is a retired lawman who moves to the town of Tombstone, Arizona with his brothers Morgan (Bill Paxton) and Virgil (Sam Elliott) to start their own business. As they begin to settle down, they’re quickly targeted by a group the outlaw, Curly Bill (Powers Boothe) and his gang known as the Cowboys. The brothers refuse to give in to the Cowboys and with the help of Earp’s friend and sharpshooter, Doc Holliday (Val Kilmer) they fight to restore law and order in Tombstone.
Kilmer gives a showstopping performance in Tombstone as Holliday who is hands down one of the best and unpredictable gunslingers in modern Westerns. Holliday has the ability to strike fear in a man with a single look and according to Redditor Ox_Baker, the scene where Holliday demonstrates his lightening fast hand with just a tin cup is one of the most badass scenes they have ever seen in a Western movie.
1 ‘The Good, The Bad and the Ugly’ (1966) – Man With No Name
During the Civil War, a stranger (Clint Eastwood) and a wanted outlaw, Tuco (Eli Wallach) cross paths with a dying Confederate soldier who informs them of a buried fortune in a cemetery. With one of them knowing the name of the cemetery and the other learning the name of the grave where the treasure is located, the two men continue their unconventional partnership and race to find the gold before a sadistic bandit known as Angel Eyes (Lee Van Cleef) finds it first.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is the third and final installment of Serigo Leone’s Dollars trilogy and features Eastwood’s iconic character, the Man with No Name (or as Tuco calls him, Blondie). Between his ability to meticulously hit a target from yards away to the final showdown at the end, it’s fair to say that the Man with No Name is one if not the greatest gunslinger in Western movie history.
NEXT: The 10 Most Underrated Western Movies, Ranked