Can You Guess the Western Movie From a Single Sentence Description?

By: J. Rineohl
Image: The Malpaso Company

About This Quiz

The 1903 Western "The Great Train Robbery," starring Bronco Billy Anderson, is widely considered as the first released Western. Although it was a silent film in a genre now known for playful and colorful vernacular, it will always be remembered as the classic that started it all. It's actually amazing that a genre with such inherently familiar characters has sprung such a massive following and thousands of movies. In fact, the genre was so popular in the '50s and '60s that TV produced hundreds of TV shows based on the Wild West, and there have been thousands of movies produced since that TV heydey. 

So, are you ready to "Put up your dukes, partner?" Are you a quiz outlaw, ready to steal the right answer? Or is it time to get the sheriff because things are about to get wild? We will give you a short description of a movie and it will be your job to figure out which movie it is. From cattle barons to Mexican and Confederate gold, few movie genres are as exciting as Westerns. 

While most drifters are hard to trust, a Western drifter tends to have skills you might want to pay attention to, if you need a little help answering the questions in this quiz. So "mount up," it's time to prove your skin, Sassafrass!


Comedy and Western meet in this movie about a black sheriff who stands against a corrupt politician after being appointed by him.

"Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you walk into an open sewer and die." (Mel Brooks, writer and director of "Blazing Saddles.")

The Earp brothers resettle in Arizona and end up battling a band of rustlers called the Cowboys.

"Society questions the police and their methods, and the police say, 'Do you want the criminals off the street or not.'" (Kurt Russell)

Two criminals escape to Bolivia, can't kick their bank robbing habit and get in trouble again.

Although the movie begins with a disclaimer that "Most of what follows is true," in actuality, William Goldman found it too difficult, and in some cases impossible, to determine what was actually true and what was fiction. As a result, he just went with standard lore and wrote a screenplay instead of a book so he would not have to do as much intense research.

A stranger is begged to protect a town from outlaws but allows them to besiege it before killing them.

Eastwood stayed below his $5.5 million budget, but High Plains Drifter did remarkably well for a Western, making it into the top 20 grossing films of 1973 (making $15.7 million at the box office).

A girl hires a U. S. Marshall to track down her father's killer and bring him to justice, but then she insists on going with him to do it.

"I believe you testified that you backed away from the old man, Wharton? …Which direction were you going?" "Backward. I always go backward when I'm backing away." (from "True Grit")

Battle between men with free-range cattle and a land baron.

This is the shortest of the three movies Kevin Costner directed ("Open Range," "The Postman," and "Dances With Wolves"). It runs 2 hours and 19 minutes whereas the other two are about 3 hours long.

An aristocrat is captured by Native Americans, whom he first hates but soon learns to respect, becoming their leader.

Richard Harris (1930-2002) was also in "The Sporting Life," "Camelot," "Gladiator," and other Westerns, such as "Unforgiven." Shortly before his death, he played Albus Dumbledore in "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" and "The Chamber of Secrets."

When a poor Mexican village is regularly raided, they hire American gunslingers to fight back.

"It's like a fellow I once knew in El Paso. One day, he just took all his clothes off and jumped in a mess of cactus. I asked him that same question, "Why?" … He said, "It seemed to be a good idea at the time." (from "The Magnificent Seven," 1960)

A Senator attends a funeral in a Western state and tells a reporter that legends about him aren't true.

"If a Western is a good Western, it gives you a sense of that world and some of the qualities those men had—their comradeship, loyalty, and physical courage. The vogue for the new kind of Western seems pretty unimportant to me. They try to destroy something that has been vital to people for so long." (James Stewart)

A card player, who hopes to prove he is the best card player in the world, tries to raise a poker tournament entry fee on his way to the event.

The budget for Maverick was $75 million and it grossed $183 million worldwide. It was ranked #1 in theaters on its opening weekend.

The Sheriff arrests the brother of a powerful rancher on charges of murder and recruits others to help him in the inevitable shootout that occurs to keep the man in jail.

"You want that gun? Pick it up. I wish you would." (Sheriff Chance in 'Rio Bravo.)

A Union hero is assigned to an abandoned outpost in the West and befriends a Sioux tribe.

"Sir knight? I've just [urinated in] my pants—and nobody can do anything about it."

Forty-something friends go on a cattle drive and are forced to finish it alone when the trail boss has a heart attack and the other cowboys abandon them.

"City Slickers" won one Oscar. It was commercially successful with a budget of only $26 million, it grossed $180 million at the box office worldwide.

A drifter stays with a family and fights a battle against a land baron for them to get rid of all the guns in the valley and make it safe.

This was Jean Arthur's (1900-1991) last film. She was 53 at the time and had been through the transition from silent films to sound. This was her first and only color movie.

Tells the semi-biographical story of a thief turned lawman who tries to bring order to Dodge City and Tombstone.

"Mister, I've been in a really bad mood for the last few years, so I'd appreciate it if you’d just leave me alone." (from the movie "Wyatt Earp")

A group of strangers with secrets they would like to keep is escorted by a cavalry troop as they travel from Arizona Territory to New Mexico Territory.

The cast included Ann-Margaret (who later starred in "Grumpy Old Men" and "The 10th Kingdom") and Stephanie Powers (who went on to star in "Hart to Hart" and "The Girl From U.N.C.L.E."). Slim Pickens and Keenan Wynn both had a part in "Dr. Strangelove: Or how I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb" prior to their involvement in "Stagecoach."

Three men search for Confederate gold in a cemetery.

"You see, in this world, there's two kinds of people, my friend: Those with loaded guns and those who dig. You dig." (from "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly")

A sheriff, on the verge of retirement, can't find any of his friends to help him when a gang is released from prison and plotting his death.

Many U. S. Presidents have been fond of the movie because the hero is alone in the end, with only his pacifist wife to help him. Bill Clinton was reported to have watched the movie 30 times.

Struggling farmer takes one last job as a gunslinger and runs afoul of a sheriff who outlawed guns in his town.

Eastwood had all of the buildings in the town built so they could fully use them. To help maintain the Old West feel, he forbid cars and other modern vehicles on the set.

Retells details of the Lincoln County War in which Billy the Kid was hired as a ranch hand but ended up seeking revenge on the man who killed his employer.

In real life, Tunstall was younger than most of the participants in the Lincoln County War. Those members of his group, the Regulators, who survived the war were never heard from again after moving out of the area.

A poor rancher witnesses a stagecoach robbery and offers to take the bandit responsible to a prison train in exchange for some much-needed cash.

Christian Bale (born 1974) played the main character, Dan Evans, in the 2007 version. The same character was played by Van Heflin (1908-1971) in the 1957 original.

A father who manages a stagecoach company sends his son to one of the stops to learn the business, but the son gets more than he bargained for when four bandits take over the station.

As part of the old studio system, Susan Hayward was in four feature-length movies released in 1951: ?I'd Climb the Highest Mountain," "Rawhide," "I Can Get It for You Wholesale," and "David and Bathsheba." "David and Bathsheba" became the fourth highest-grossing film of the year.

An ex-con tries to start a new life with his son, when a gambler steals his horse and gun, forcing him to make a treacherous trip down the river.

The Salmon River, on which the river in the movie was based, winds through a canyon that is more than a mile deep. For more than 150 years after Lewis and Clark's expedition, the only direction that people could travel was down the Salmon River, but now highly-skilled power boat operators can make the upriver trek.

A woman arrives in town to find her husband and children dead, but the man accused of killing them and a drifter join together to help find the real murderer.

This movie marked Henry Fonda's change from a strong dramatic hero to a villain. His children, Jane and Peter Fonda, and grandchildren, Bridget Fonda and Tony Garity, also became actors.

Deputy raises a lynch mob to find the murderer-cattle rustler of a rancher and hangs three men without a trial or the sheriff.

"The Ox-Bow Incident" was nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award in 1944. It received two more award nominations and five wins.

A man must hang an old friend when the friend takes up with cattle rustlers.

Joel Albert McCrea (1905-1990) played the Virginian. His paychecks went to buying farmland, and he became one of Hollywood's wealthiest ranchers.

A man inherits a brothel from his brother and first wants to make it a boarding house, but soon runs into trouble in more ways than one.

"I hope you won't be disappointed. You see, I am not a very interesting person. I haven't ever done anything except be other people…" (Henry Fonda)

A lady enters a gunfighting contest with an ex-gunslinger turned priest to take out the town's outlaw mayor.

Making only $18.5 million on a $35 million budget, this revival spaghetti Western opened to mixed reviews, but everyone praised Spinotti's cinematography. Sergio Leone was the noted inspiration for the film.

When a man's father dies, he is sent to a nearby cattle station to prove himself as a man, all the while seeking an elusive Brumby mob of horses.

"The Man From Snowy River" was an Australian production that cast Kirk Douglas in a major role. It was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture- Foreign Language but lost to Gandhi.

An injured notorious gunman is nursed back to health by a non-violence practicing Quaker family and must make a choice between their world and his when he falls in love with their daughter.

Like Indiana Jones, Marion Mitchell Morrison "John Wayne" (1907-1979) also took his nickname from the family dog "Big Duke." He never thought of himself as "John Wayne" but rather Duke Morrison, a name the studios felt sounded more like the name of a stuntman than that of a leading man.

Four men brought together by chance and heading toward the same town, work to clean it up from a land baron.

"Can't you see this horse loves me?" "I had a gal do that to me. It didn't make her my wife." (from Silverado)

A silent film where a group of bandits knocked out a telegraph operator at a railroad station and rob a train.

The Great Train Robbery (1903) was one of the first films to have an actual narrative—most of the previous films were more like abstract art. It is also regarded as one of the first Westerns.

Three bandits choose different sides of the law and eventually must fight against each other.

William Holden (April 17, 1918—November12,1981) was the best man in Ronald Reagan's wedding. Suzanne Vega mentions his death in "Tom's Diner" (1982): "I open up the paper there's a story of an actor who had died while he was drinking…" Holden bled to death after becoming drunk and hitting his head on a nearby table.

A Cavalry Captain on the edge of retirement is tasked with a dual mission: quiet the native uprising in the wake of Little Big Horn and escort two women to a stagecoach.

"Never apologize. It's a sign of weakness." (John Wayne as Captain Nathan Brittles in "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon.")

A cowardly farmer is abandoned by his wife for a braver man and ends up falling for a mysterious new woman who happens to be the wife of a notorious gunslinger.

On a $40 million budget, "A Million Ways to Die in the West" grossed only $43 million in the U. S. and $87 million worldwide. Most critics liked the idea of a modernized, unconventional Western comedy, but felt MacFarlane's acting, writing, and editing fell short.

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