The western horror genre is often referred to as one of the rarest and uncommon in the film industry. These unique movies mesh together the classic horror movie tropes with the traditional western movie setting, making for a sometimes eerie, sometimes campy but always entertaining mix. Here are the best western horror movies of all time, ranked.
A cult classic in both the horror and western genres, Tremors follows a group of survivors in a small town who must contend with giant, man-eating worms that have suddenly appeared underground. With the help of an eccentric seismologist, they must find a way to destroy the creatures before they consume everyone in town.
Featuring Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward, Tremors is a perfect example of how fun and entertaining a western horror movie can be. Over-the-top effects and B-movie sensibilities make Tremors a lively movie that still holds up today.
9 The Burrowers
Set in 1879, J.T. Petty’s The Burrowers tells the story of a group of settlers who disappeared without a trace in the Dakota Territory. When a search party is sent out to find them, they soon discover that the missing settlers have been abducted by subterranean creatures called “Burrowers.”
This film truly dares to be different with its original take on the genre, combining the classic western setting with a more modern twist. Petty’s atmospheric direction and the creature designs and effects are excellent, making The Burrowers a great western watch for any horror fan.
8 The Devil’s Rejects
Rob Zombie’s The Devil’s Rejects is a sequel to his 2003 film House of 1000 Corpses. This installment follows the Firefly family – a group of psychopathic criminals – as they go on a rampage of murder and mayhem across Texas.
While The Devil’s Rejects isn’t technically a western, it features many of the same tropes and settings. Zombie’s signature style is on full display here, with numerous nods to The Wild Bunch, Bonnie & Clyde, and other classic crime films with western influences. Often met with mixed reactions, The Devil’s Rejects is a love-it-or-hate-it type of movie that fans will find themselves debating.
7 Dead Birds
Alex Turner’s 2004 Dead Birds is an intense and atmospheric film that follows a group of Confederate soldiers who rob a bank and take refuge in an abandoned plantation house. Soon, they realize that the house is haunted by the ghosts of formerly enslaved people, and they must battle for their lives against the spirits.
Dead Birds is another excellent example of a western horror movie that takes a unique approach to the genre. There are standout performances from a talented cast, and a slow-burning sense of dread makes some scenes truly unsettling as they build to terrifying jump scares.
6 John Carpenter’s Vampires
As one of John Carpenter’s most underrated films, Vampires is a great example of a western horror movie that doesn’t get the attention it deserves. The film follows a group of vampire hunters who are hired by the Catholic Church to eliminate a nest of vampires in New Mexico.
Carpenter’s direction is top-notch, and the film features some excellent action sequences and special effects. The cast is also great, with James Woods leading the way as the vampire hunter Jack Crow. The film has an undeniable western feel, and the New Mexico setting is the perfect backdrop for a vampire story.
5 Silent Tongue
Silent Tongue is a 1993 western horror film directed by Sam Shepard. One of the last movies to feature River Phoenix, Silent Tongue tells a story set in 1873 about a man grieving the death of his wife. He tries to guard her corpse in an effort to prevent her soul from passing to the afterlife and ends up going insane in the process.
One of the more unusual and initially hard to digest films here, Silent Tongue is a western horror movie that demands multiple viewings. Each actor provides a great performance, but it’s Phoenix who truly shines in this role, bringing Shepard’s typically excellent dialogue to life.
4 Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat
Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat is a 1989 western horror comedy directed by Anthony Hickox. Set in the small town of Purgatory, the film follows a group of vampires who live oddly normal lives with the help of SPF 100 sunscreen and a human blood substitute, Necktarine. Essentially, this film is a spoof of the vampire genre that pokes fun at some of the more ridiculous aspects of the lore.
With an excellent cast that includes Bruce Campbell and David Carradine, Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat is a must-watch for fans of horror comedies. It’s campy, over-the-top, and a lot of fun.
3 The Hills Have Eyes
Another entry that is less western and more post-apocalyptic horror set in the desert, Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes is another classic film with elements of both genres. A family on vacation is targeted by a group of cannibals who live in the hills, and they must fight for their lives against the sadistic killers. The Nevada desert setting provides a unique and eerie backdrop for the film’s events.
As one of Craven’s first films, The Hills Have Eyes is an important entry in both the horror and western genres. Even today, it is an impressive and gruesome achievement in filmmaking, with great practical effects and an unsettling story.
2 The Wind
The Wind is a 2018 supernatural western horror film directed by Emma Tammi. The film follows a young couple who move to rural New Mexico in hopes of starting a settlement. Soon, the main characters start to realize that the land is haunted by a demonic presence, causing several twists and turns that make this one of the most unique films on this list.
The Wind is a beautiful and harrowing film with a non-linear story that keeps viewers guessing until the end. The 19th-century setting is one of the most under-utilized periods in horror, and this film does an excellent job of using it to its full potential.
1 Bone Tomahawk
Bone Tomahawk is a 2015 western horror film directed by S. Craig Zahler that stars Kurt Russell and Patrick Wilson. This slow-burn film follows a group of cowboys who set out to rescue several kidnapped settlers from a tribe of violent cannibals.
Although it’s not for everyone, Bone Tomahawk is an excellent film that masterfully blends the western and horror genres. Compared to most films on this list, there is a fair amount of gore, violence, and gruesome scenes. The film’s first half is a drawn-out, straight forward western, but things escalate in a horrific direction in the second half. Every character is well-developed, and the acting is top-notch. Horror fans should definitely check this one out for its unique take on the genre; that seems to be the paradoxical appeal of many horror westerns — most of them are downright unique. The western horror genre is not one that is often explored, but it can provide some truly eccentric and enjoyable experiences.