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30 Best Quotes From Western Movies, Ranked

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30 Best Quotes From Western Movies, Ranked

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Summary

  • Western movie quotes have stood the test of time, resonating in pop culture and offering memorable lines that define the genre.
  • From classic hero vs. villain stories to more complex and challenging narratives, Western movies have evolved but retained iconic quotes.
  • Legendary stars like John Wayne and Clint Eastwood have brought unforgettable characters to life, delivering some of the best Western movie quotes.
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They might not be among the most popular movies today, but Western movie quotes from the genre’s most iconic entries continue to resonate in pop culture. The genre has been a part of Hollywood since its earliest days, making over a century’s worth of Western movie quotes to look back on. Whether it’s from one of the classic and most influential Westerns of the distant past or a modern work of revisionist cinema or parody, these movies have given the world many iconic lines of dialogue. Some of these lines might not even be realized as originating from a Western.

Great Western movies have gone through many iterations over the years, some providing simple stories of good guys versus bad guys, others seeking to reimagine the genre with more challenging stories and complicated characters, and other Westerns have been used to examine America in general. With iconic stars of the genre like John Wayne and Clint Eastwood, there have also been some unforgettable characters who have delivered some of the best Western movie quotes of all time.

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30 “We Deal In Lead, Friend”

Vin (Steve McQueen) – The Magnificent Seven (1960)

The Magnificent Seven is a rare Western movie to receive sequels and it is not hard to see why this was turned into a franchise. A remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, the movie follows a group of gunslingers who are hired by desperate villagers to protect them from a gang of bandits led by Calvera (Eli Wallach). This memorable line comes when Calvera rides into town with his men and meets the Seven for the first time.

With the heroes explaining that he is not allowed any of the villagers’ food that he threatened to take, Calvera questions where they are meant to get the food from. Yul Brynner’s Chris tells him they aren’t in the business of solving problems, to which Steve McQueen’s Vin adds that they “deal in lead. It is a stirring moment with the sleazy villain coming up against some people who will not be pushed around by him and are not there to negotiate.

29 “Deliver My Soul From The Sword. My Darling From The Power Of The Dog.”

Peter (Kodi Smit-McPhee) – The Power Of The Dog (2021)

Peter in a Power of the Dog montage.

One of the few Western movies nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars, The Power of the Dog is an adaptation of Thomas Savage’s novel of the same name. The movie follows a timid young man named Peter who moves to a ranch along with his widowed mother when she marries a new man. However, the pair soon find themselves tormented by Philip, Peter’s new uncle.

After a lot of interesting twists in the dynamic between Peter and Philip, the film and the book both end with this same line. While it’s a quotation from the Bible, its use of the verse goes further, tying up the twist ending of The Power of the Dog and highlighting just what Peter would do to ensure that his loving and kind mother was given a life of peace.

28 “I Won’t Be Wronged, I Won’t Be Insulted, And I Won’t Be Laid A Hand On. I Don’t Do These Things To Other People, And I Require The Same From Them.”

JB Brooks (John Wayne) – The Shootist (1976)

The Shootist John Wayne

One of the few movies in which John Wayne dies also happened to be his last before he passed away in real life. Given his amazing career in Western movies, The Shootist offers the perfect farewell to one of the genre’s greats with a story about an old legend of the West considering his legacy and confronting his own mortality. Wayne plays JB Brooks, a sheriff turned gunslinger who seeks to mentor a young man (played by Ron Howard).

Despite the dangerous world he finds himself in, Brooks has led a long life and came up with his version of the golden rule. He won’t do these things unto others as he expects them not to do unto him. In many ways, this summed up the heroic model Wayne set in his earlier Western movies. While that was going out of style in favor of more complicated heroes, it carries that type of character well.

27 “The Only Time Black Folks Are Safe Is When White Folks Is Disarmed.”

Major Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) – The Hateful Eight (2015)

Major Warren looking off-screen in The Hateful Eight

The Hateful Eight is Quentin Tarantino revisiting his isolated thriller style of Reservoir Dogs within the Western genre. It follows a group of deadly strangers who are forced to share a cabin during a blizzard, not knowing who to trust. Raising the tension of the situation, the movie is set in the aftermath of the Civil War with those on both sides of the fight meeting in this cabin.

One recurring thing in the movie is a letter that Major Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) carries that was from Abraham Lincoln. It charms John Ruth (Kurt Russell) only for Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins) to point out that it is obviously a fake. While Ruth is offended by the lie, Warren very reasonably explains that it works as a sort of shield he uses as a Black man traveling across an often hostile country.

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26 “I Haven’t Lost My Temper In 40 Years, But Pilgrim, You Caused A Lot Of Trouble This Morning, Might Have Got Somebody Killed.”

George Washington ‘G.W.’ McLintock (John Wayne) – McLintock! (1963)

john wayne in mclintock

John Wayne is famous for calling people “pilgrim,” as any impersonation of the actor is incomplete without that term. Yet he only says the word in two movies, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, where he uses it a number of times, and McLintock!, which came out a year later, where he only says it one time, in this quote. Yet even if his use of it was overstated by many, there is something in the way Wayne delivers this word that makes it sound like the most devastating insult of all time.

Wayne’s title character says the line after someone else tries to act tough and barges into a situation with his gun drawn. McLintock quickly grabs the gun away from the man and talks down to him like he is a child who has been running wild. After suggesting someone should punch the man to teach him a lesson, he insists he won’t hit him himself before saying “the hell I won’t” and punches the man.

25 “Time Just Gets Away From Us.”

40-Year-Old Mattie (Elizabeth Marvel) – True Grit (2010)

Silhouette of as 40-year-old Mattie (Ruth Morris) at a cemetery in the ending of True Grit

This perfect final line in the Coen brothers’ remake of True Grit comes from the original novel by Charles Portis, and it was absent from the 1969 film version. Though the John Wayne version is a beloved Western, the Coens’ more faithful adaptation ends up being the better movie with Jeff Bridges stepping into the role of US Marshal Rooster Cogburn and Hailee Steinfeld as young Mattie Ross.

The movie opens and closes with narration from older Mattie looking back on the adventure of her youth alongside Rooster. The movie ends with Mattie’s plans to meet up with Rooster dashed with the news of his death. While she takes the news stoically, Mattie’s narration is a rational yet mournful reflection on the passing of time. It makes for a fitting assessment of the Old West period in general as it faded in time and the figures of the period did as well.

24 “One Hell Of A Time To Tell Me”

The Sundance Kid (Robert Redford) – Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid (1969)

The final shot of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is not like most Westerns. It’s a lighter and more uplifting adventure with two likable outlaws as the main characters. Paul Newman and Robert Redford make for an iconic duo as the titular partners in crime who pull off many jobs and avoid the law together only for it all to catch up with them in the end during the famous final shootout.

Though the Oscar-nominated Western is known for its somber final shot, but even leading up to that moment still captures the fun and humor of the movie. As Butch and Sundance find themselves surrounded by an entire army, they realize their only hope is to shoot their way out. Butch decides to confess that he has never actually shot anyone before followed by Sundance blankly staring at him before suggesting it wasn’t the best time to bring that up.

23 “When You Have To Shoot, Shoot, Don’t Talk”

Tuco (Eli Wallach) – The Good, The Bad And The Ugly (1966)

Elam confronts Tuco in The Good, The Bad and the Ugly (1966)

So many movie villains would do well to heed this advice from Eli Wallach’s Tuco, which is one of the best quotes from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Tuco is the “ugly” one in the title, and though he is often outsmarted by Clint Eastwood’s Blondie, he proves that there is a reason he has managed to survive so long in the Old West. He is always prepared for a fight and never misses an opportunity to come out on top.

At one point during Sergio Leone’s classic Spaghetti Western, the character is in the bath when a foe approaches and explains what he’s doing there and how he’s finally going to kill Tuco. However, while the would-be killer is still blabbing, Tuco fires his gun from beneath his bubbles and finishes the guy off with a one-line offering a too-late tip.

22 “Shane! Shane! Come Back!”

Joey (Brandon De Wilde) – Shane (1953)

The ending shot from Shane with the boy Joey shouting for him to come back.

This filme is a terrific and heartbreaking Western featuring the titular hero played by Alan Ladd. The movie follows the weary gunfighter who attempts to embrace a quieter way of life. He becomes close to an innocent family of ranchers and becomes something of an idol to young Joey (Brandon deWilde). However, when even gunmen threaten their way of life, Shane is forced to pick up his guns again.

The final line from the movie is actually “Bye, Shane,” but it’s faint enough that most viewers remember this shouted line just before it as being the last words of young Joey and the film. After saving the day, Shane rides off into the distance with the young boy desperately, heartbreakingly calling after him. What makes the line so iconic is that the debate still stages on whether Shane was simply riding off to a new life or if he was dying from his injuries.

21 “Well, It’s Not How You’re Buried. It’s How You’re Remembered.”

Wil Andersen (John Wayne) – The Cowboys (1972)

John Wayne in the 1972 movie The Cowboys.

Westerns are all about myths and legends, the stories told about gunslingers that keep their memory alive forever. It is a fitting sentiment to keep in mind throughout John Wayne’s Western The Cowboys. Wayne stars as Wil Andersen, a tough rancher who is forced to take on a collection of young boys as his hired helpers. As Wil teaches the boys about being ranchers, he also teaches them some important lessons of life.

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When one of the boys remarks on how a man is buried poorly in a small grave, Wil reminds him that the way a person leaves the world is a lot less important than the memories they leave behind. It’s a line that means even more at the end of the film when Wil is dead and his exact grave location is unknown. However, the boys carry on his legacy and the lessons he taught them over the years.

20 “I Hear Patience Is A Virtue, But I’ve Never Been Able To Wait And See If That’s True.”

Jim Beckwourth (RJ Cyler) – The Harder They Fall (2021)

RJ Cyler in The Harder They Fall

The cast of characters in The Harder They Fall is made up of some real-life figures from the Old West who the mainstream audience may not be familiar with. One of these characters is Jim Beckwourth (RJ Cyler), a young quick-draw gunslinger who is part of the legendary Nat Love gang.

During his introductory scene, Jim takes on a gang of outlaws. While he is told to wait them out, Jim shows his penchant for living life dangerously with the confidence in his skills to back him up. Westerns are full of reckless characters of the sort who aren’t patient, and they’re also full of great jokey one-liners. Also, the line is said early in The Harder They Fall by RJ Cyler’s Jim Beckwourth, and it’s some good ironic foreshadowing given how he dies later in the film.

19 “You Brought Two Too Many.”

Harmonica (Charles Bronson) – Once Upon A Time In The West (1968)

Three gunslingers wait for Charles Bronson in Once Upon a Time in the West

Action heroes get all the credit for having cool one-liners before and after killing someone, but Westerns have some of the best quotes of this kind. One of the best examples comes from the iconic opening of the Spaghetti Western masterpiece, Once Upon a Time in the West. The movie begins with three gunmen waiting for a train to arrive with their target on board.

The man they are after, known only as Harmonica (Charles Bronson), gets off the train at the station and seems intimidated by the three men waiting for him. As he looks at their three horses, he asks them if they brought them out for him. They laugh and taunt him that they must not have brought enough. Bronson cements himself as a Western icon with one line and he tells the men that there is more than enough before he pulls his gun and shoots down all three men.

18 “What The Hell Are You Worried About? This Is 1874. You’ll Be Able To Sue Her.”

Governor Lepetomane (Mel Brooks) – Blazing Saddles (1974)

Hedley Lamarr grinning in Blazing Saddles

Mel Brooks’s 1974 Western comedy Blazing Saddles is packed with hilarious lines, many of which aren’t suitable for sharing without tons of context and others that haven’t aged so well. However, the movie remains beloved for showing just how laugh-out-loud funny Westerns could be with Brooks clearly having a lot of love for the genre while still finding a lot of opportunities to have fun with it.

Beyond all the innuendo and politically incorrect witticisms, though, is this smart bit that plays with meta-text. Harvey Korman plays a character called Hedley Lamarr, a play on the name of actress Hedy Lamarr. When another character accidentally calls him Hedy Lamarr, Hedley becomes agitated. However, he’s reminded that the setting of this film is 100 years earlier, which is 40 years before the actress was born, so it’s not a problem.

17 “My Mistake. Four Coffins.”

Joe (Clint Eastwood) – A Fistful Of Dollars (1964)

Clint Eastwood smoking in A Fistful of Dollars

Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars kicks off the Dollars Trilogy which helped to establish the Spaghetti Western as a new approach to Western filmmaking. It also helped to make Clint Eastwood a star with his performance as the Man with No Name. Eastwood was perfect for the kind of Western hero who approached even the deadliest of situations with a calm and even laidback demeanor.

Eastwood’s character enters a town and means to kill three men who insulted him. He tells the undertaker to prepare three coffins before proceeding on to face the men. In a darkly comedic moment, he ends up killing four men in the shootout and has to return to the undertaker with his revised body count. It is a line that is similar to Once Upon a Time in the West for its cool delivery but also adds a bit of humor to it.

16 “You’re Short On Ears And Long On Mouth!”

Jacob McCandles – Big Jake (1971)

Big Jake John Wayne

Even as John Wayne got older, he kept finding Western roles that suited his age and felt perfect for him at that stage in his career. He started his career as the stoic tough guy hero who could stand up to any villain. However, later in his career, he perfectly fit into roles as the grump and short-tempered cowboy who was often bossing around the younger crowd who annoyed him.

Big Jake is a perfect example of this and Wayne delivers a wonderful grouchy insult in the movie. The movie has Wayne as a rancher whose grandson is taken by outlaws and he sets out with a posse to get him back. However, Jake isn’t overly impressed with some of the people on this mission, telling one man that he listens too little and talks too much in the most memorable way possible.

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15 “Dyin’ Ain’t Much Of A Living, Boy.”

Josey Wales (Clint Eastwood) – The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)

Josey rests in The Outlaw Josey Wales

John Wayne had a feud with Clint Eastwood for many years with the former feeling that the latter’s darker and more complex Westerns that were in favor were running the heroic genre. However, the two stars had more in common than Wayne would likely admit with Eastwood also being particularly skilled and delivering an intimidating one-liner in his Western adventures.

1973’s The Outlaw Josey Wales gives Eastwood one of his best and most cold-blooded lines in the genre. Coming face to face with a gunman, Wales asks the man if he is a bounty hunter and the man confirms he is by explaining that, “it’s a living.” However, Wales coldly lets the man know that this particular “living” he has chosen for himself has only ensured that it would be a short life after facing off with him.

14 “I Know Enough About Men To Steer Clear Of Them.”

Ula (Katherine Hepburn) – Rooster Cogburn (1975)

rooster cogburn john wayne katharine hepburn

One of the low points of the Western genre was that, for many decades and even in modern Westerns, there weren’t many good roles for women. However, the time period does provide a lot of interesting material to be explored through the perspective of a female character. While Rooster Cogburn, the sequel to True Grit, does mostly focus on John Wayne’s titular character, Katharine Hepburn’s Eula Goodnight gives some of that fresh perspective.

With Hepburn as another iconic screen legend, she makes for a perfect foil for Wayne in this movie as her tough demeanor ensures that she is giving it as good as she gets it and standing up to the grumpy marshal. When Rooster suggests that she doesn’t understand men at all, Eula responds with this perfect dig that suggests she has learned enough and is unimpressed.

13 “No Man Can Walk Out Of His Own Story”

The Spirit Of The West (Timothy Olyphant) – Rango (2011)

Timothy Olyphant as The Spirit Of The West speaking with Rango in the desert in Rango

It is not too often that there are family-friendly Western movies and even rarer when there is an animated entry in the genre. However, Rango is no ordinary movie as it tells the surreal story of a chameleon named Rango (Johnny Depp) who finds himself in a lawless town. He is soon mistaken for a tough hero and the townspeople begin to look to him to save them from the villains.

Rango pays homage to the Western genre in a lot of interesting ways, including the brief role of a character known as the Spirit of the West who is meant to be Western icon, Clint Eastwood. In a fun bit of casting, another Western actor, Timothy Olyphant, does a great Eastwood impression, serving as a wise guide to Rango and delivering this helpful advice. Everybody is the main character of their own story, and there’s no escaping that. It’s also a quote about destiny and responsibility.

12 “You’re A Daisy If You Do”

Doc Holliday (Val Kilmer) – Tombstone (1993)

Doc Holliday (Val Kilmer) at the shootout in Tombstone

Tombstone is filled with plenty of real-life Western figures, including the story’s main character, Wyatt Earp. However, Doc Hollidays quotes in the movie help him to steal every scene. Holliday was a famous gambler and gunslinger who, despite being close to death due to alcoholism, fought by Earp’s side against a gang of ruthless cowboys. Doc is the kind of man who feels most alive in a gunfight and always seems to be having a good time when his life is in danger.

During the infamous gunfight at the O.K. Corral, McLaury (Robert John Burke), thinks he gets the drop on Doc and boasts that he has him now. Doc simply responds with this stone-cold line that more or less tells the man, “Good for you if you can really pull it off” before he turns the tables and shoots the man. The real Doc Holliday was actually quoted in an 1881 newspaper account of the events of the famed gunfight at the O.K. Corral.

11 “I’ve Never Seen A Woman Who Was More A Man. She Thinks Like One, Acts Like One. It Sometimes Makes Me Feel Like I’m Not.”

Sam (Robert Osterloh) – Johnny Guitar (1954)

Joan Crawford in a yellow shirt and red kerchief in Johnny Guitar.

Sometimes labeled a “lesbian Western” ahead of its time, Nicholas Ray’s 1954 film Johnny Guitar was certainly progressive for its subversion of gender roles. While Sterling Hayden has the title role, the movie is mainly memorable for the women characters played by Joan Crawford and Mercedes McCambridge. These portrayals may not be as progressive now, but they made for ground-breaking additions to the Western genre back in the 1950s.

This quote is said early in the film to describe Crawford’s Vienna, a tough saloon owner. While the line feels somewhat problematic in retrospect, leaning into the idea that males were the only ones who could show strength and intelligence. However, that was very much the view back in this era and seeing those views challenged by a character like Vienna makes for an interesting entry into the Western genre.



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