Western comedies continue to dazzle and entertain audiences with their sidesplitting humor, thrilling action, and engaging storylines. The unique film genre has been successfully utilized in Hollywood for decades, going as far back as the 1930s, with iconic comedic duo Laurel and Hardy bringing the uproarious hijinks in the smash hit Way Out West. Some of the most celebrated movie stars of yesterday’s past headlined these flicks, such as Jane Fonda, Steve Martin, James Garner, and Don Knotts.
While the genre was undoubtedly a fan favorite in twentieth-century cinema, a few knockout films in more recent years captured the magic of the two storytelling styles. Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson were hilarious as a mismatched outlaw pair in the 2000 success Shanghai Noon, while Mel Gibson helped bring a popular television series to the big screen in the ‘90s farce Maverick. Let’s look at some of the funniest Western comedies out there.
Update December 31, 2023: This article has been updated with even more great comedic Westerns that are worth checking out and where each title is streaming.
13. Way Out West (1937)
Comedy dream team Laurel and Hardy were back at it again in the hilarious 1937 hit Way Out West, which follows the iconic performers as they set off to deliver an important deed for a goldmine in the rough-and-tumble town of Brushwood Gulch. However, when the hapless pair accidentally delivers the document to the wrong hands, it only causes more trouble for the duo.
Laurel and Hardy’s Favorite Project
The beloved classical Hollywood duo were in their slapstick glory in the memorable western spoof, serving as a satire for the popular musical westerns sweeping the nation, with standouts like Gene Autry at the forefront. Both Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy considered Way Out West one of their favorite projects, as they were given the opportunity to perform both their routines and fun musical numbers. While the comedy in the movie will still entertain today, the humor of the 30s is still removed from modern humor, making this one notable but just enough to squeeze into our list.
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12. The Apple Dumpling Gang (1975)
Telling the amusing tale of a gambler and notorious bachelor (Bixby) who becomes the guardian of a trio of orphaned siblings, the film follows the kids as they discover they’ve inherited a massive amount of money from their deceased father. However, this causes them to be pursued by a slew of greedy characters, including a pair of bumbling and lovable outlaws (Knotts & Conway).
A Classic Disney Comedy
Comedy heavy-hitters Don Knotts and Tim Conway kicked off their string of slapstick cinema hits with the 1975 farce The Apple Dumpling Gang, with the uproarious duo appearing opposite Bill Bixby in the beloved Disney flick. The performance of the leading funnymen, who would go on to reprise their roles in the 1979 follow-up The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again, carried the feel-good comedy. The movie hovers at only a 60% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, so while it is part of the Disney classic catalog, it may not be to everyone’s liking.
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11. Lust in the Dust (1984)
After fleeing her workplace, dance-hall girl Rosie Velez (Divine) finds herself lost in the desert. She is then saved by gunman Abel Wood (Tab Hunter), who brings her to the small town of Chili Verde and the saloon of Marguerita Ventura (Lainie Kazan). With rumors of gold nearby, the three team up to get the treasure before Abel’s rival, Hard Case Williams.
A Raunchy Western
Lust in the Dust is notable mainly for the teaming of queer icon Divine and Tab Hunter after they had acted opposite each other in John Water’s Polyester. It is only one of two films where Divine was not working under Water’s direction. Still, the movie took to parodying familiar Western tropes while adding a raunchy comedic edge to the story, making for a unique entry in the genre. Enjoyment of the movie depends entirely on the audience’s ability to embrace the crass and crude stylings, as critics of the film were pretty split, having a love/hate relationship with the Paul Bartell-directed comedy.
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10. Shanghai Noon (2000)
Shanghai Noon centers on Chinese Imperial Guard Chon Wang (played by Jacki Chan), who is tasked with saving a Chinese princess who has been abducted and brought to Nevada’s wild West. Out of his cultural depth, he ends up teaming with outlaw Roy O’Bannon (Owen Wilson) to rescue the princess and get her out of dodge.
A Winning Duo for Western Comedies
Owen Wilson and Jackie Chan are a delightful oddball duo in the 2000 martial arts action comedyShanghai Noon, superbly blending the Western genre with elements of kung fu, humor, and buddy cop camaraderie in the thrilling big screen extravaganza. Shanghai Noon was both a critical and commercial hit, earning just under 100 million on a 55 million dollar budget and currently sitting at an 80% fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes. The movie spawned a sequel, Shanghai Knights, in 2003, and talks of a third have been brought up but have not materialized and are unlikely to come to fruition.
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9. Cannibal! The Musical (1993)
Based on the true story of Alferd Packer, convicted of cannibalism in 1874, Cannibal! The Musical takes a dark comedic approach to the tragedy around the man’s life. Packer became infamous when it was found out he had cannibalized his exploration party, which he had botched by lying about his experience as a guide and getting stuck in the cold Colorado weather.
Matt Parker and Trey Stone’s First Movie
Despite helping to create one of the most popular animated television shows of all time in South Park, Matt Parker and Trey Stone’s Cannibal! The Musical is an often overlooked gem by the duo. Still, the movie contains the crass and absurd humor one would expect, complemented by simple yet catchy songs that would also become a large part of the duo’s skill set for film and TV. It is the funniest instance of cannibalism in cinema you will come across, and only in such a way that the iconic creators could pull it off.
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8. Maverick (1994)
Richard Donner directed the sidesplitting 1994 Western comedy Maverick, an adaptation of the television show of the same name that features Mel Gibson as the sly con man and savvy poker player Bret Maverick. Maverick wants to attend a high-stakes poker tournament with a lucrative payout. While coming up with the funds to enter, he makes enemies with fellow swindler/hopeful Annabelle (Jodie Foster) and resilient Marshal Zane Cooper (James Garner).
The Perfect TV-To-Movie Adaptation
Maverick was a knockout with moviegoers, earning an A- CinemaScore rating and raking in $183 million at the box office while nabbing an Academy Award nomination for Best Costume Design. This is Mel Gibson at his best, working alongside long-time friend Jodie Foster and James Garner, who was the original star of the TV series. The trio working off each other makes this clever Western comedy work so well, and the movie remains a classic in the genre.
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7. Support Your Local Sheriff! (1969)
Leaning into the tried-and-true Western plot frequently used in the popular genre, the 1969 parody Support Your Local Sheriff! stars James Garner as the rugged and confident gunfighter Jason McCullough. The sharp-shooter arrives in the Colorado town of Calendar to rid it of the many rampant criminals, joining forces with the local “village idiot” to clean house.
A Wonderfully Constructed Satire
Despite initially failing to make a splash with audiences, the comedy has gone on to find new life in the years since its release, with Decent Films commenting, “Garner brings a variation on his ‘Maverick‘ persona to this classic satirical Western [that] does for Westerns what The Princess Bride did for fairy-tale fantasy.” A sequel entitled Support Your Local Gunfighter was released in 1971, with most of the original cast returning.
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6. Outlaw Johnny Black (2023)
Hell-bent on hunting down the man who killed his father, Johnny Black is on a mission to ground Brett Clayton, a task that has put him on the most wanted list in the Wild West. Written by Michael Jai White, who also stars as Johnny Black, the movie is considered a spiritual sequel to his blaxploitation parody, Black Dynamite.
A Laugh-A-Minute Western
Being the spiritual successor to Black Dynamite will be evident to those who loved White’s first attempt at creating a wholly original character, as Johnny Black carries the same cool, calm exterior. Outlaw Johnny Black can be slapstick, but the bulk of it comes from poking fun at Western tropes while building up Johnny Black as a larger-than-life hero who is only undermined by the odd case of verbal diarrhea. Given the lack of diversity in the Western genre, it is refreshing to get White’s absurd humor thrown into the mix
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5. Cat Ballou (1965)
Sensational leading lady Jane Fonda appeared alongside Lee Marvin in the 1965 western comedy Cat Ballou, telling the story of an aspiring schoolteacher who embraces the outlaw life after she sets out to seek vengeance against the man responsible for her father’s murder. On her quest for revenge, Cat seeks help from a has-been gunslinger and a charming cattle rustler to track down the hired gun, with entertaining hijinks naturally ensuing.
Landing in the American Film Institute’s Top 10 of All Time
Lee Marvin won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his dual performance as the dangerous hitman and washed-up trigger-man who helps Kat. Cat Ballou landed on the American Film Institute’s top 10 list of greatest westerns and was lauded for its humor and darker elements. The movie currently sits at 90% fresh with a 74% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, a testament to the longevity of this 60s comedy.
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4. Three Amigos! (1986)
Three Amigos! centers on the cowboy-playing silent film trio, who are inadvertently mistaken for real-life gunfighters. This results in them being paid by a small group of desperate villagers in Mexico to rid their home of a ruthless villain known as El Guapo. Together, the trio have to try to play into the role despite being terrified of finding themselves faced with real action versus onscreen.
Three Amigos! Proves His Versatility With a Trio of Iconic Comedians
John Landis directed the 1986 cult classic hit Three Amigos!, touting a sensational ensemble cast led by comedy greats Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, and Martin Short. The legendary comedians were each able to show off their unique comedic flair and charisma in the underrated flick, which gradually gained a passionate fan following and garnered appreciation since its initial debut. The Los Angeles Times called Three Amigos! “a goofy delight. It’s like a cross between a big-budget Three Stooges movie and a Hope-Crosby road picture, with dozens of old cowpoke gags thrown in to spice up the brew.”
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3. The Good, the Bad, the Weird (2008)
Inspired by the Sergio Leone-type westerns, The Good, the Bad, the Weird follows three individuals racing to find a treasure in 1940s Manchuria. “The Good” is a bounty hunter, “The Bad” is a charismatic hitman, and “The Weird” is an eccentric outlaw; all three of them clash in a race against time to capture a map that holds the location of life-changing riches.
Korean Action Comedy Meets Spaghetti Western
For those who want action in abundance with a comedic edge, The Good, the Bad, the Weird is an ideal pick. While paying homage to the spaghetti western, the movie feels fresh in interjecting the explosive action and absurd comedy that big-budget South Korean films have become known for. The movie currently scores an 81% fresh score and an 83% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, showing both critics and audiences appreciated the comedic styling of director Kim Jee-woon. The movie also benefits from putting Korean icon Song Kang-ho in the role of the most comedic character, ‘the weird.’
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2. City Slickers (1991)
Chronicling the entertaining journey three longtime friends embark upon to escape the mundane aspects of their everyday lives, the 1991 comedy City Slickers depicts the trio as they set out on an exciting cattle drive from New Mexico to Colorado with the supervision of a seasoned cowboy. Their inexperience on the trail and in ‘roughing it’ leads to various awkward interactions as the two attempt to change their metropolitan ways.
Learning the Hard Way
Billy Crystal, Daniel Stern, and Bruno Kirby are superb as the thrill-seeking men who find their seemingly carefree two-week adventure complicated by fearsome foes, hilarious blunders, and heart-warming bonding. The Oscar-winning City Slickers has landed on countless critics’ lists of funniest films of all time and is a knockout for its absurdly amusing humor and uplifting overall message. The movie also had an equally enjoyable, though not as well-received, sequel in City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly’s Gold.
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1. Blazing Saddles (1974)
Hands down, the most iconic and exceptional Western comedy ever created is Mel Brooks’ 1974 satirical masterpiece Blazing Saddles. The movie depicts the noble efforts of the newly appointed sheriff of Rock Ridge Bart (Cleavon Little), the frontier town’s first black lawman subjected to racial prejudice by its opinionated residents. When a group of dangerous thugs threatens the small community, Bart becomes the townspeople’s only hope, so he partners up with the local booze-loving gunslinger Jim (Gene Wilder) to get the job done.
Breaking Ground and Being Hilarious While Doing It
Blazing Saddles earned three Academy Award nominations and is one of the most revered parodies to ever grace the silver screen, with Todaynoting retrospectively that the classic “skewer[ed] just about every aspect of racial prejudice while keeping the laughs coming.” The sensational picture was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry in 2006 and remains a hallowed comedy staple. The movie also stands as one of director Mel Brooks’s most beloved comedies, which says a lot compared to other classics of his like Young Frankenstein and Spaceballs.
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