Though the Western film genre frequently operates according to well-established rules, it is also a broad canvas that can include many other genres in the mix. Drama, action, mystery, and even horror are often associated with Westerns, but some of the greatest Westerns are the ones that are the funniest. Here’s our list of some of the best Western comedies ever made!
With beautiful Technicolor cinematography and rich Western vistas, this comedy benefits greatly from the trained eye and iconic Americana sensibilities of acclaimed director John Ford.
It also boasts perhaps the most well-known star of the Western genre, John Wayne, as its leading man. Despite its somewhat sexist sensibilities that have not aged especially well, at least equal to Wayne’s superb performance if not outshining him is Maureen O’Hara as Katherine “Kate” McLintock.
Her fiery ability to stand up for herself and against her husband’s at times reckless behavior makes her a standout of the film and the perfect foil and compliment for Wayne’s swaggering, drinking, fistfighting rancher, George Washington “G.W.” McLintock.
Whatever else goes on in the film, the story rises and falls on the tension and passion between these two characters, each played to perfection in a film filled with witty banter and physical comedy.
Blazing Saddles (1974)
Considered not only one of the great Western comedies, but one of the greatest comedies of all time, this sprawling, madcap adventure comes from the creative mind of the legendary Mel Brooks.
Co-written by Brooks with Andrew Bergman, Richard Pryor, Norman Steinberg, and Alan Uger, the film stars Cleavon Little and Gene Wilder as a sheriff and a corrupt politician. The cast includes such talents as Slim Pickens, Alex Karras, and David Huddleston, as well as Dom DeLuise, Madeline Kahn, and Harvey Korman.
True to his style, the film also features Brooks in multiple roles, including Governor William J. Le Petomane, a Native American chief who speaks Yiddish, and a director and pilot who is a winking nod to Howard Hughes.
Intentionally anachronistic, the film plays fast and loose with the boundaries of the Western genre, putting comedy first as Brooks always does with whatever category of film he skewers.
The movie is listed as one of the American Film Institute’s selections of top comedies of the century in its 100 Years…100 Laughs.
Three Amigos (1986)
Directed by Animal House and Coming to America auteur John Landis, this hilariously wacky Western comedy was written by Lorne Michaels, Steve Martin, and Randy Newman.
Newman wrote the film’s songs as well, including “The Ballad Of The Three Amigos,” “My Little Buttercup” and “Blue Shadows on the Trail,” all performed on screen by the titular amigos.
The trio of Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, and Martin Short carry this charmingly goofy film with a comic alchemy that has left fans wishing for a sequel for decades.
Fans of Only Murders in the Building and other collaborations between Steve Martin and Martin Short also have this film to thank for bringing the two actors together and forging a friendship that has lasted ever since.
Employing cartoon physics and outlandish stretches of imagination, the movie stays anchored in its dimwitted trio of silent film stars who think they’re going to shoot a movie in the little town of Santo Poco, Mexico, only to find out they have been enlisted by the town to go up against a real crime lord, El Guapo, deliciously portrayed by Alfonso Arau.
City Slickers (1991)
This classic Western comedy is a standout in the career of Billy Crystal, who stars alongside Daniel Stern, Bruno Kirby, and Jack Palance. The film follows a dissatisfied New Yorker who, on the occasion of turning 40, is convinced by his friends to join them on a cattle drive that is open to tourists.
The friends get a lot more than they bargained for when they meet Curly, the old rancher who runs the cattle drive, played to edge-of-insanity perfection by Palance in a role that won him an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.
While it’s not set in the Old West, this movie is filled with plenty of roping, riding, and ridiculousness, highlighting the talents of Stern, Kirby, and Crystal for hilarious banter and physical gags.
The fish-out-of-water premise also allows the characters to reflect on their increasing age and assess their direction in life, as well as their friendships. From Ron Underwood, director of Tremors and Mighty Joe Young, this movie also features the big-screen debut of Jake Gyllenhaal.
Shanghai Noon (2000)
A decidedly unusual take on the Western comedy genre, this movie blends a Western setting with modern comedic sensibilities and martial arts action. The duo of Owen Wilson and Jackie Chan might not seem at first like it would work, but it very much does as these two balance wacky buddy comedy and physics-stretching physical action.
As a Jackie Chan movie, this film of course features incredibly creative, blindingly fast martial arts, all carried forward with a lightheartedness and whimsy that typify Chan’s comedic work.
Chan stars as a man who has come from China to the American West to rescue a kidnapped princess and teams up with a robber (Wilson) who helps him stand up against a Chinese traitor and deliver the princess safely home.
The blend of Chinese influences with the Old West and Wilson’s signature snarky, surfer dude demeanor is a winning combination that makes this film a lot of fun.
Johnny Depp stars in this Western comedy as a pet chameleon who is lost in a car accident and finds himself the stranger in the “stranger comes to town” trope of Western movies.
In the town of Dirt, there is need for both water and a sheriff, and when Rango shows up, he decides he’s the lizard for the role of town hero. Though this decision is based on pure selfishness, things begin to change as he develops a deeper relationship with the people (desert animals) of the town.
The brilliant supporting cast includes Isla Fisher, Timothy Olyphant, Abigail Breslin, Ned Beatty, and Alfred Molina, among others. Directed by Gore Verbinski of Pirates of the Caribbean fame, this beautifully animated film was nominated for multiple awards and went home with the Oscar for Best Animated Feature.
Come for the comedy, stay for the animation, and enjoy the colorful characters along the way!