I’ve been planning this review for what feels like forever, and it’s finally time. I’m beyond stoked to present the best Keith Carradine Westerns, ranked in order!
I remember the exact moment when I started the hunt for Keith Carradine’s Westerns. I was watching a Tom Selleck Western with my late father-in-law, and suddenly this voice became the most important thing on screen. I knew that voice – it was my long-lost, silver fox crush, Agent Lundy of Dexter’s mind-blowing fourth season.
And there he was, easing so comfortably into the genre that I was instantly hooked. How had I never known this before? I looked at his IMDb page, and realized I had some serious work to do.
Fast forward a couple years of greedy hunting from thrift stores and online sellers and streaming TV. I now consider myself an expert on this charismatic cowboy, and definitely not a crazed fangirl because this was totally in the name of journalism.
So here it is, folks. Every Keith Carradine Western, ranked in order. You’re welcome.
1. Dead Man’s Walk (1996)
The main reason Carradine’s turn as William ‘Bigfoot’ Wallace is in the number-one spot is because Dead Man’s Walk is a TV miniseries that’s almost five hours long. And that’s the amount of Keith Carradine we deserve.
Carradine is an instant scene stealer here, handily commanding attention even the moments when “Bigfoot” Wallace is silently judging people (and he’s REALLY good at that). His tall, lanky form and gloriously unkempt moustache perfectly evoke a shrewd scout. You get leadership, emotion, and cheek. It’s a fantastically doomed performance from start to ugly crying finish.
2. Deadwood (2004)
Now, the only reason Keith Carradine’s turn as Wild Bill Hickok in Deadwood’s first season isn’t number one on my rankings list is because I’m still mad. You had this fan-freaking-tastic actor giving you the best Wild Bill we’ve ever seen, and you kill him off after just four episodes?!
I’m pretty sure if James Butler Hickok himself could see Carradine’s performance, he’d be like “goddamn, he’s good.” You get a Wild Bill who is revered yet exhausted and increasingly aware of his humanity. And he looks incredibly fine with that long hair and moustache. It’s a flawless performance.
3. Last Stand at Sabre River (1997)
Writing this roundup I’m realizing that my favourite thing is about Carradine is his wide range of facial expressions. I imagine he’s incredibly animated in conversations. Maybe he’ll read this and feel compelled to offer me an interview and I’ll be able to say for sure…
Ahem. In Last Stand at Saber River Carradine’s character is more enjoyable than Tom Selleck – and that’s a feat. It’s not my favourite movie featuring either of them, but it’s higher up on Carradine’s list because his character isn’t a beleaguered family man like Selleck’s. He gets to play both a bad guy and a good guy, and do a lot of shooting.
4. Monte Walsh (2003)
Honestly, this is kind of a tie for position three. Monte Walsh is such a great movie with strong acting across the board – it just hurts your heart to watch it.
Chet Rollins (Carradine) and Monte (Selleck) are aging cowboys coming to terms with the fact that there’s no place for them in the new world. Carradine doesn’t have a ton of screentime here, but every minute of his performance is achingly relatable.
5. The Long Riders (1980)
The Long Riders is nothing like the other movies on this list. For starters, Carradine is way younger. But it’s a unique piece of Western cinema because of its darker story, brutal action, and the fact that its cast contains FOUR Hollywood families: the Carradines, the Keaches, the Quaids, and the Guests.
Carradine rocks a weirdly fake moustache for half the movie and soft, fluffy ‘70s hair throughout, and much of his screentime devoted to a young romance. But he’s so good at his Western gig, and so natural in gunfights and horseback scenes, that he makes it work.
Honourable Mention: Raising Hope (2014)
This is one of my favourite TV shows of all time. When Carradine appeared in the fourth season, as crazy tourist-ranch entertainer Colt Palomino, I lost it. I mean truly lost it. Squealing and pointing and everything.
If you’ve seen him all serious and soulful in everything else and you just need one more dose, this is the perfectly ridiculous performance to round it out. And fun fact: this was technically his second Western role opposite Garrett Dillahunt, who played the coward Jack McCall in Deadwood.
The Rest of Keith Carradine’s Westerns
If you search ‘Keith Carradine Westerns’, some of these other movies will come up and you might be tempted to chase them down. I’m here to shed light on why these are not worthy of ranking (although some are still worth a watch).
McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971)
Carradine’s first-ever role, and he plays a wide-eyed young cowboy with a handful of lines in an all-around strong movie. He manages to make an impression with the brief appearance, and you can feel his ease in the genre.
Cold Feet (1989)
This one was a double piss-off because the script is SO F*CKING BAD that even Carradine looking fine in a Stetson AND the brilliantly unpredictable Tom Waits can’t make it enjoyable. I’m enraged about the fact that it comes up under ‘Westerns’ when it’s NOT a Western, and causes innocent people to waste money on the DVD. Although, Bill Pullman does make a darn cute rancher.
Wild Bill (1995)
If you adored Carradine as Wild Bill in Deadwood, DON’T FALL INTO THIS TRAP (and more importantly, don’t waste lots of money on the bizarrely rare DVD). He’s in it for like five seconds.
All Hat (2007)
Here’s a quiet, modern Canadian Western with a great cast, but the lead is off-putting and most of the powerhouse talents including Carradine are sidelined. He’s in a fair chunk of the movie, but the character doesn’t give him much to do other than his trademark knowing looks.
Cowboys & Aliens (2011)
All that considerable talent is wasted in an old-man dad role and he spends most of the movie kidnapped off-screen. Carradine should have had Harrison Ford’s role. There, I said it.
The Power of the Dog (2021)
This one got my Carradine-loving hopes way up for nothing. If you get up to grab a snack, you’d miss Carradine entirely. His character’s only purpose is to set up Kirsten Dunst for her fall (which, by the way, is truly outstanding and the movie itself is incredible if a little out there for the average Western fan).