10 Women-Centric Westerns That Godless Fans Will Love
The Western genre hasn't always been kind to women. In the dusty world of the Wild West, gunslingers like John Wayne and Clint Eastwood commanded the screen for decades. However, Netflix's women-centric miniseries Godless is proof that women can lead Westerns with just as much confidence and swagger as the men who established the genre. Thanks to layered performances from Michelle Dockery and Merritt Wever, Godless's mining town, ran by women, is a place full of grit, gumption, and a healthy dose of feminism. In this landscape, women rule and men are outsiders even though they're moving through a world that has long served as their big-screen home.
With just seven episodes, Godless's only fault is that there's just not enough of it. Thankfully, it's not the only women-led Western out there. Women don't often take center stage in stories about the American West, but when they do, they tend to shine. Once you finish Godless, these 10 women-centric Western movies and TV shows will be there waiting for you like that first sip of water to quench your thirst after a long ride through the desert.
Westworld (2017- )
HBO's existential sci-fi/Western isn't exclusively about women, but the female characters are at the forefront of the show's twisted theme park world. Their slow awakening to their true nature and belief in their own autonomy is the kind of feminist storytelling that's still a rarity in the genre.
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Mad Max: Fury Road is a postapocalyptic Western with a weathered female hero shepherding women to freedom in the face of unthinkable evil. Furiosa doesn't ride into town on a horse, but there's no mistaking the fact that she's a true Western hero.
The Keeping Room (2014)
In the waning days of the Civil War, three women are left alone to face two soldiers who are coming to take their home. Starring Brit Marling and Hailee Steinfeld as sisters and Muna Otaru as an African-American slave, The Keeping Room is one of the few Westerns that shines a light on the experiences of a black woman in the West. The film is deeply unsettling and anchored by three fierce female performances that Godless fans will love.
The widow, the prostitute with the heart of gold, the gender-norms-bucking gunslinger — they all have their role to play in the late, great Deadwood, but that role is never the one you would expect. Alma struggles with addiction, while Trixie is harder than she looks, and Calamity Jane is full of insecurities. These layered women weren't the show's sole focus, but without them, Deadwood never would have worked.
True Grit (2010)
Steinfeld stars as the 14-year-old Mattie, a young woman who refuses to do what is expected of her after her father is murdered. Seeing her take matters into her own hands with defiance and fortitude makes True Grit a classic Western in the best possible way.
The Ballad of Little Jo (1993)
In Godless, Merritt Wever's character feels free to shake off the trappings of gender after her husband's death, but in The Ballad of Little Jo, Josephine does it as a means of survival. After giving birth out of wedlock, her family turns her out, and Josephine quickly learns that her best chance at a new life is one lived as a man.
The Missing (2003)
When her daughter is kidnapped, Maggie (Cate Blanchett) has no choice but to work with her estranged father in order to bring her child home. Directed by Ron Howard, The Missing is a taut, compelling story of how far parents will go to protect their children.
The Homesman (2014)
There's no getting around the fact that Hilary Swank's Cuddy is a tragic figure, but she's also a woman on a mission to help other women. In a world where mental health care is nonexistent, Cuddy is willing to risk everything to get three women in various states of distress to a place where they can receive the help they so desperately need. Watch out for a brief but wonderful cameo from Meryl Streep.
Meek's Cutoff (2010)
Set on the Oregon Trail, Meek's Cutoff focuses on the women who set out on a perilous journey alongside their husbands, only to realize they may need to take their fates into their own hands if they have any hope of keeping their families alive.
Damnation (2017- )
USA's Damnation is set in the '30s, but it's every bit as rugged as the West of Godless. Here, the women of the town are ready to start a revolution of their own as they sense the world is on the brink of change.