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Greatest Classic Western Movie Characters: 7 Roles That Live On Through Big Screen

Image: Greatest Classic Western Movie Characters: 7 Roles That Live On Through Big Screen
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, 1969. (wikimedia/commons)

By    |   Thursday, 23 Apr 2015 02:00 PM

Classic Western characters often combine outlawry with charm, grit, and a hint of mystery. They tend to live in the Wild West, either outside or on the fringes of the law. Misunderstood and valiant, memorable Western characters know how to shoot, smoke, and save lives.

The following are seven of the top classic Western characters:

1. Butch Cassidy

The 1969 film "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" chronicles notorious outlaw Butch Cassidy's migration to Bolivia. Starring Paul Newman as Butch and Robert Redford as Sundance, "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" won four Academy Awards. According to Biography.com, Cassidy's memorability comes in the form of his charming nature, combined with his claim-to-fame: though he was an outlaw, he never killed anyone.

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2. Annie Oakley


Annie Oakley is the main character in the 1935 Western film "Annie Oakley" (Barbara Stanwyck plays Annie) and the 1950 musical comedy "Annie Get Your Gun" (Betty Hutton plays Annie). Both movies follow a romanticized story of Oakley, a real-life sharpshooter who rose from poverty to a starring role with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. "Annie Get Your Gun" received four Academy Award nominations and won the Best Score award.

3. Josey Wales

"The Outlaw Josey Wales" is a 1976 movie directed by Clint Eastwood. Eastwood also played the title character Josey Wales. In the movie, Wales is driven to the criminal life after the murder of his wife and son, and he seeks revenge at all costs. The character is memorable for his innocence, loyalty to his family, and revengeful pursuits. Rotten Tomatoes ranks The Outlaw Josey Wales as Eastwood's third-best movie of all time.

4. Pike Bishop

The 1969 movie "The Wild Bunch" takes place in 1913, during the decline of the Wild West. A leader, an outlaw, and an honorable man, Pike Bishop (played by William Holden) is a member of the Wild Bunch. This criminal gang is past its prime, and must learn to cope with the modern world. The film was nominated for two Academy awards in the Best Music, Original Score for a Motion Picture and Best Writing, Story and Screenplay Based on Material Not Previously Published categories.

5. The Man With No Name

Played by Clint Eastwood, The Man With No Name is a character from the 1966 film "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly," which is part of Sergio Leone's Spaghetti Western trilogy. The character's intelligence, grit, and mystery mark him as a memorable hero; his willingness to help out those in need solidified him as a classic Western character. In 2008, Empire ranked The Man With No Name 43rd out of 100 of the greatest movie characters ever for his steely demeanor and ability get the best of his foes in the end.

6. William Munny


The aging outlaw William Munny is the protagonist of "Unforgiven," a 1992 Clint Eastwood film that won four Academy Awards and two Golden Globes. Munny (played by Eastwood) is forced out of a peaceful retirement by financial strains. Though not exactly an admirable character, Munny's descent back into his dark, criminal past marks his as classic and memorable, according to Dramatica.

7. John Dunbar

The protagonist of the 1990 film "Dances With Wolves," John Dunbar (played by Kevin Costner) is a lieutenant who is transferred to a military post in the Wild West. In 2013, Pajiba ranked Dunbar fourth on the list of the top 10 Bravest, Most Heroic Film Characters In the Past 30 Years.

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Classic Western characters often combine outlawry with charm, grit, and a hint of mystery. They tend to live in the Wild West, either outside or on the fringes of the law. Misunderstood and valiant, memorable Western characters know how to shoot, smoke, and save lives.
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