Western Comedies 1 - Western ComediesWestern Comedies 1 - Western Comedies

Usually when we think of Westerns, we think grit and guns. Eastwood or Wayne staring down the bad guy. The white hat riding into town. But life on the frontier wasn't always so stoic -- some Westerns even have (gasp!) a sense of humor. So giddyup -- check out these ten memorable Western comedies.
Photo by <i>Blazing Saddles</i>, Gene Wilder, Cleavon Little, 1974. Photo courtesy of the Everett Collection.

Western Comedies 2 - 1. Blazing Saddles (1974)Western Comedies 2 - 1. Blazing Saddles (1974)

The Setup: The gold standard for Western comedies, this Mel Brooks favorite spoofs the Old West with a vengence.

The Punch Line: Sheriff Bart (Cleavon Little) teams with alcoholic gunslinger "The Waco Kid" (Gene Wilder), who's "killed more men than Cecil B. DeMille, " and the townsfolk of Rock Ridge (where everyone's last name is Johnson) to ward off conniving Attorney General Lamarr (Harvey Korman) and his band of thugs (which includes just about every stereotype you can imagine). The good guys win, of course, breaking the fourth wall into the Warner Bros. Studio and climactically ending the battle with Sheriff Bart kicking Lamarr in the groin at Grauman's Chinese Theatre.
Photo by <i>Blazing Saddles</i>, Gene Wilder, Cleavon Little, 1974. Photo courtesy of the Everett Collection.

Western Comedies 3 - 2. !Three Amigos¡ (1986)Western Comedies 3 - 2. !Three Amigos¡ (1986)

The Setup: A blundering silent-movie trio, known as the Three Amigos, mistakenly believe a Mexican village's plea for help from the dastardly El Guapo (Alfonso Arau) is an acting gig and head south of the border, only to realize they're in a lot of trouble.

The Punch Line: The Amigos (Chevy Chase, Steve Martin and Martin Short) try to thwart the bandits with the help of a singing bush and an invisible swordsman. Upon realizing the villagers can sew, the Amigos go all-in on the farce and scare off the outlaws by creating an army of Amigos in their trademark Mariachi costumes.
Photo by <i>!Three Amigos¡</i>, Chevy Chase, Steve Martin, Martin Short, 1986. © Orion Pictures. Photo courtesy of the Everett Collection.

Western Comedies 4 - 3. Maverick (1994)Western Comedies 4 - 3. Maverick (1994)

The Setup: Sarcastic gambler Bret Maverick (Mel Gibson) is on his way to a high-stakes riverboat poker tournament but is waylaid by beautiful con artist Annabelle Bransford (Jodi Foster), virtuous Marshal Zane Cooper (James Garner), wealthy Commodore Duvall (James Coburn), a hostile Indian chief (Graham Greene) and an angry rival (Angel Molina).

The Punch Line: Nothing is as it seems. Cooper is Maverick's conman father; the Indian chief is Maverick's friend. The commodore robs his own poker game, then "Pappy" Maverick robs him, then he and Maverick get together to share the spoils. Then Annabelle robs them both. Confused? Don't worry -- it's funny, we promise.
Photo by <i>Maverick</i>, Graham Greene, Mel Gibson, 1994. © Warner Brothers. Photo courtesy of the Everett Collection.

Western Comedies 5 - 4. City Slickers (1991)Western Comedies 5 - 4. City Slickers (1991)

The Setup: Having a midlife crisis? Just go west! Mitch (Billy Crystal), Phil (Daniel Stern) and Ed (Bruno Kirby) escape the pressures of modern life by heading out on a two-week cattle drive. Think of it as fantasy camp for wannabe cowboys.

The Punch Line: On their cattle-drive, the boys meet Curly (Jack Palance), a sagacious old cowboy. He teaches them the ropes of cowboy life... and then dies. At Curly's funeral, Phil eulogizes, "The man ate bacon at every meal... you just can't do that!" After delivering a calf, crossing a river and learning to lasso, they head back to real life with a new perspective.
Photo by <i>City Slickers</i>, Daniel Stern, Billy Crystal, Bruno Kirby, 1991. © Columbia Pictures. Photo courtesy of the Everett Collection.

Western Comedies 6 - 5. The Frisco Kid (1979)Western Comedies 6 - 5. The Frisco Kid (1979)

The Setup: Gene Wilder is an undisputed master of comedies -- and Western comedies are no exception. The Frisco Kid one-ups The Shakiest Gun in the West by sending not a dentist to the West, but a Polish rabbi (Wilder).

The Punch Line: A rabbi roaming the Old West? What could be funny about that? Rabbi Avram takes on a traveling companion, Tommy Lillard (Harrison Ford) -- who turns out to be a bank-robber -- and the two head for San Francisco. But Tommy makes the mistake of robbing a bank on Friday, not knowing that the rabbi doesn't make getaways on the Sabbath.
Photo by <i>The Frisco Kid</i>, Gene Wilder, Harrison Ford, 1979. © Warner Brothers. Photo courtesy of the Everett Collection.

Western Comedies 7 - 6. The Shakiest Gun in the West (1968)Western Comedies 7 - 6. The Shakiest Gun in the West (1968)

The Setup: Jesse Haywood (Don Knotts), a dentist from Philadelphia, goes West to establish a new frontier in the fight against "oral ignorance." Haywood doesn't get far before encountering shenanigans, as his stagecoach is hijacked.

The Punch Line: Oh, where to start. Knotts' bumbling antics as an eastern dentist out of his element in the rough-and-tumble West make the movie. He undergoes a sham marriage to bandit Penelope "Bad Penny" Cushings (Barbara Rhoades) and performs a variety of classic Western heroics with her help, eventually becoming legendary "Doc the Haywood." Not quite his original goal of spreading "dental health across the West like a plague!" -- but the comic payoff is well worth the hygienic sacrifice.
Photo by <i>The Shakiest Gun in the West</i>, Don Knotts, Barbara Rhoades, 1968. Photo courtesy of the Everett Collection.

Western Comedies 8 - 7. Wagons East (1994)Western Comedies 8 - 7. Wagons East (1994)

The Setup: Just like Almost Heroes, this movie would tragically be best known as its star's (John Candy) last. Here, another rag-tag band takes to the trails, only this time, the eclectic group -- led by a drunk, James Harlow (Candy) -- is disenchanted by life in the 1860s West and decides to hitch their wagons in the opposite direction.

The Punch Line: Harlow leads the gang into Sioux Indian territory; they're also chased by a cavalry and pursued by mercenary gunslingers hired by railroad robber barons to forestall any bad publicity. The biggest laughs come when the gang finds out that Harlow had been part of the cannibalistic Donner Party.
Photo by <i>Wagons East</i>, Richard Lewis, John Candy, 1994. Photo courtesy of the Everett Collection.

Western Comedies 9 - 8. Almost Heroes (1998)Western Comedies 9 - 8. Almost Heroes (1998)

The Setup: In Chris Farley's last starring roll, he and Matthew Perry played explorers setting out to beat Lewis & Clark in their 1804 discovery of the Western frontier.

The Punch Line: This classic odd-couple pairing has Perry as an uptight aristocrat and Farley as a comically intense tracker. The explorers and a band of misfits brave Indian attacks and more on their way to an (uncredited) defeat of Lewis & Clark. But the movie is all about Farley's hallmark antics and one-liners -- like when he declares that animals are "fearsome beasts of the mountains and plains!"
Photo by <i>Almost Heroes</i>, Bokeem Woodbine, Eugene Levy, Matthew Perry, Chris Farley, 1998. Photo courtesy of the Everett Collection.

Western Comedies 10 - 9. Back to the Future Part III (1990)Western Comedies 10 - 9. Back to the Future Part III (1990)

The Setup: The '80s come to the Old West. Picking up where its predecessor leaves off, Part III finds Doc (Christopher Lloyd) living in 1885 and Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) traveling back in time to rescue the DeLorean -- so he can destroy it, to prevent the space-time continuum from being disrupted.

The Punch Line: Unfortunately for Marty, there isn't any gasoline to power the car in 1885. Eventually, the duo averts catastrophe by harnessing a diesel train to set everything right -- past and future. Oh, and Marty gets to use his trademark hoverboard in 1885.
Photo by <i>Back to the Future Part III</i>, Christopher Lloyd, Michael J. Fox, 1990. © Universal. Photo courtesy of the Everett Collection.

Western Comedies 11 - 10. Wild Wild West (1999)Western Comedies 11 - 10. Wild Wild West (1999)

The Setup: Western goes hip-hop. Will Smith's Capt. James West teams up with Kevin Kline's Marshal Artemus Gordon to save President Ulysses S. Grant (also played by Kline) from ex-confederate inventor Dr. Arliss Loveless (Kenneth Branagh).

The Punch Line: There really isn't one. Despite grossing almost $50 million in its first six days, the movie was universally panned. It even won three Razzie awards as the worst movie of the year.

Which western comedy is your favorite? Click here to vote.
Photo by <i>Wild Wild West</i>, Will Smith, Kevin Kline, 1999. Photo courtesy of the Everett Collection.

Life on the frontier wasn’t always so stoic — some Westerns have (gasp!) a sense of humor. So, giddyup — check out these ten memorable Western comedies.

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