Yellowstone, 1883 and Our 12 Must-Watch Modern TV Westerns

Adam Fay,

We’ve revisited our previous list of great Modern TV Westerns and updated with some new shows and new thoughts. A spit and polish here, a shift or two there. Now it’s over to you to agree, disagree or challenge us to a showdown at high noon!

When thinking of TV shows set in the Wild West, your mind may go to the early trailblazers like Bonanza, Gunsmoke or Rawhide, but in the past 20 years the humble TV western has slowly been making a significant mainstream comeback.

The huge success of shows like Yellowstone and its prequel, 1883 have renewed our interest in the classic western aesthetic, so we’ve put together our list of the best modern Western TV shows and what we love about each one.

So ya’ll saddle up city slickers. We’re gonna head ’em up and move ’em out.

12. The Son

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A multi-generational epic telling of the story of America’s birth as a superpower through the bloody rise and fall of one Texas oil empire.

Why it’s a Rip-Roaring Yarn

The Son is a series that will absolutely reward the patient viewer. Nobody would accuse this of being a fast-paced heart-racer, but it’s not meant to be. This is a steady paced study of the Old West through the eyes of a grizzled oil baron.

Pierce Brosnan has always exuded enough charm to make anything watchable, and despite being hidden under some heavy whiskers in The Son, he holds the series together efficiently.

A slow-burn for fans of the genre.

Watch The Son on AMC+ via Prime Video

11. Walker

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Walker is a reimagining of the long-running Chuck Norris series. Jared Padalecki plays Cordell Walker, a widower and father of two with his own moral code, who returns home to Austin after being undercover for two years, only to discover there’s harder work to be done at home.

Why it’s a Rip-Roaring Yarn

Part cop procedural, part family drama, Walker is a relatively straightforward story for those who enjoy the Western setting and its characters. With its 3rd season recently launching, we are optimistic about the series finding its feet and drawing us in deeper, but the undeniable charm of lead Jared Padalecki should help make this series shine brighter in future seasons.

Watch Walker in the Fetch TV Store or Stream on Stan

10. The Good Lord Bird

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Based on the award-winning novel by author James McBride, The Good Lord Bird is told from the perspective of Henry “Little Onion” Shackleford, a newly freed teenager who joins abolitionist John Brown on a holy crusade to end slavery. 

Why it’s a Rip-Roaring Yarn

Not gonna lie, it was Ethan Hawke (one of our faves) that got us to enter the world of The Good Lord Bird. His performance is fun and wildly over-the-top, but there’s plenty more to enjoy in this mini-series than the performances alone.

We expected a tough, violent Western from The Good Lord Bird, and while there are certainly rough scenes throughout, what surprised us most was the wicked sense of humour that inhabits the show. This could just be one of the most unassuming comedic Westerns ever made.

Watch The Good Lord Bird on Stan

9. Outer Range

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The Abbotts are coping with the disappearance of their daughter-in-law when the neighbouring Tillersons make a play for their ranch land. Tension comes to a head when a mysterious black void arrives in the Abbotts’ pasture.

Why it’s a Rip-Roaring Yarn

Perhaps one of only a handful of titles in history that can be labelled a Sci-Fi Western, Outer Range is a unique trip well worth taking. For starters, the cast is top notch, with Josh Brolin in the lead and strong support from the likes of Imogen Poots, Lili Taylor and Will Patton.

Some will find the slow burn unveiling of the story too meandering, but others will bask in its general weirdness. There’s hints of Twin Peaks in its delivery, but Outer Range is something different. Patience will reward those who must keep watching to learn its secrets.

Watch Outer Range on Prime Video

8. Hell on Wheels

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Cullen Bohannon, a former soldier and slaveholder, follows the track of a band of Union soldiers, the killers of his wife. This brings him to the middle of one of the biggest projects in US history, the building of the transcontinental railroad.

Why it’s a Rip-Roaring Yarn

On paper, Hell On Wheels looks like a standard western-set revenge story, but this is selling short what the series became over its 5 seasons. Recommended for fans of the genre and newcomers alike, Hell on Wheels will hook you with its smart storytelling and keep you watching with its winning characters and detailed set design.

This is a show that gets better and better by the season so make sure you stick with it through to its satisfying finale.

Watch Hell on Wheels in the Fetch TV Store or Stream on 7Plus

7. The English

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Set in the mythic mid-American landscape in the year of 1890, The English follows Cornelia Locke, an Englishwoman who arrives into the new and wild landscape of the West to wreak revenge on the man she sees as responsible for the death of her son. Upon meeting Eli Whipp, an ex-cavalry scout and member of the Pawnee Nation by birth, they join together and discover a shared history which must be defeated at all costs, if either of them are to survive.

Why it’s a Rip-Roaring Yarn

From the aesthetics of its branding (and the dullness of its title), you may be forgiven for expecting The English to be a meandering slice of Western TV that favours style over substance. You’d be wrong. The English is as brutal as it is gorgeous. Wonderfully lead by Emily Blunt’s brave and uncompromising performance, It flies by without getting bogged down, and is quite possibly one of the most visually pleasing mini series ever made.

Big plaudits we know, and while this Prime Video/BBC co-production was only recently released, we are tagging it as a genuine contender that will gain more and more followers over time.

Watch The English on Prime Video

6. Wynonna Earp

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Wynonna Earp follows Wyatt Earp’s great granddaughter as she battles demons and other creatures. With her unique abilities and a posse of dysfunctional allies, she’s the only thing that can bring the paranormal to justice.

Why it’s a Rip-Roaring Yarn

The most uniquely twisted show on the list, Wynonna Earp is a sci-fi mixed bag that is fast-paced, funny and whole lot unpredictable. Think Buffy The Vampire Slayer set in the west, with enough kick-arse female characters and wild fantasy-based adventures to keep you on your toes.

It’s a joyride that sometimes threatens to veer off-course, but Wynonna Earp is never boring and often hilarious fun.

Watch it if you are in the mood for something different. There is nothing quite like it.

Watch Wynonna Earp in the Fetch TV Store or Stream on Stan

5. Yellowstone

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The Dutton family, led by John Dutton, control the largest contiguous ranch in the United States. In a world far from media scrutiny – where land grabs make developers billions, and politicians are bought and sold. All the while, the ranch politics and Dutton family relationships swing from manipulative to violent.

Why it’s a Rip-Roaring Yarn

Rooted in the strong characters and solid performances of its main cast, Yellowstone was always destined to be a classic drama. It’s comparisons to Dynasty, another classic series, are well-founded. As much as Yellowstone masquerades as a gritty western, at its heart is a family soap opera for the ages.

Naysayers may accuse Yellowstone of being too boomer-centric, but fans know the truth; This is pure, visceral drama with a killer cast. And a series that we happily forgive for drifting into occasional silliness.

Watch Yellowstone in the Fetch TV Store or Stream on Stan.

4. Godless

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In the 1880s American West, murderous outlaw gang leader Frank Griffin hunts for ex-protege Roy Goode. Frank’s chase leads him to La Belle, New Mexico–a town inhabited, after a mining disaster, almost entirely by women.

Why it’s a Rip-Roaring Yarn

In such a classically male-dominated genre, Godless swims against the tide with a predominantly female-driven cast. The beauty of this Netflix series is that it refreshes an often tired, by-the-numbers genre into something that feels fresh and new.

The performances in Godless are knockout, the scenery sweeps you up, and the tension builds into a crescendo over the 7 episodes.

Godless could also act as a solid entry point for those curious about westerns, but turned off by their reputation of being male-driven ego fantasies.

Watch Godless on Netflix (subscription required)

3. 1883

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A prequel to Yellowstone, 1883 follows the Dutton family as they flee poverty in Texas and embark on a journey through the Great Plains to seek a better future in Montana.

Why it’s a Rip-Roaring Yarn

1883 is another gem from the genius mind of Taylor Sheridan that many thought would play it safe as a straightforward prequel to Yellowstone. Fact is, the two shows are completely different offerings. The magic of 1883 is its sheer simplicity. It’s a journey from Texas to Montana, and like all journey’s, there’s physical dangers and emotional challenges afoot.

Sure, we’d tune in to see Sam Elliot read tax legislation and still be left wanting more, but thankfully he is given a great role here and is the glue that holds 1883 together. For those yet to watch Yellowstone, 1883 can be enjoyed as a standalone, and our opinion, should even be given preference over its sister series.

Watch 1883 on Paramount+ or in the Fetch TV Store

2. Justified

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Enforcing his own brand of justice, a strong-willed, quiet lawman haunted by his past, U.S. Marshall Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) has returned to his native Kentucky to do what he has always done best – see that justice is served. 

Why it’s a Rip-Roaring Yarn

Justified is truly a one-of-a-kind series. What starts as a seemingly straightforward cop procedural is quickly transformed into an absolute masterclass of scripted dialogue. Over its 6 seasons, it cements itself as one of the most well-written and strangely addictive shows of all time.

Based on a character created by renowned author Elmore Leonard, and portrayed with effortless cool by Timothy Olyphant, it’s the kind of “you just know if you know” fan-heavy series that is both rewatchable and endlessly quotable.

Justified is also elevated by a few of the greatest (and coolest) villain performances in TV history, lead by Walton Goggins playing Boyd Crowder, and Aussie Damon Herriman as Dewey Crowe.

Watch Justified in the Fetch TV Store or Stream on Stan

1. Deadwood

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The year is 1876. The location: the Black Hills of South Dakota. In an age of plunder and greed, the richest gold strike in American history draws a throng of restless misfits to an outlaw settlement where everything and everyone has a price.

Why it’s a Rip-Roaring Yarn

An absolute crime that it never stretched beyond 3 seasons, Deadwood is The Godfather of Western television. Don’t be put off by its short tenure, a follow up feature-length movie came years later that sufficiently closes the story. Also, don’t be swayed by it’s dirty, uncompromising world-building. With all its unwashed depravity, this could just be one of the most immersive worlds you’ll see on TV. Perhaps comparable only to HBO’s Game of Thrones that came years later, after a season or so of this classic series, you may feel the need to wash the dusty Deadwood streets off your skin.

What’s more, Deadwood is another lesson in the power of dialogue. It drifts from riveting to rip-roaringly hilarious. Ian McShane’s foul mouthed Al Swearengen is reason enough to watch, but every character is so rich, complex and well…Shakespearean in nature.

Deadwood is the sheer definition of a series that rewards those who are bold enough to stay with it.

Watch Deadwood in the Fetch TV Store or Stream on Paramount+

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