So, your child has entered a cowboy phase. You want to introduce them to your favorite cowboy classics, but when it comes to this genre, there are a lot of concerns parents might have. Sometimes, the Wild West gets
pretty wild. Gun violence, hard-drinking, and other adult behaviors might be too much for little cowfolk. But believe it or not there are plenty you can enjoy as a family, from those made just for kids to family-friendly Western fun, and we’ve put together some of the best cowboy movies for kids.
Of course, it would be irresponsible not to address the fact that even “family friendly” cowboy movies can be just a bit (or a lot) problematic. From the inclusion of racial stereotypes in many of these movies can be troubling, from frequent use of of
anti-Native tropes, to Mexican characters performed by white actors in brownface, to the complete lack of representation of Black and Asian characters and stories, even though there is no “cowboy culture” without the labor of these populations. (Did you know 25% of cowboys were Black?) Even the idea of an untamed, unsettled “wild” West is kind of a problem: Indigenous people had been living on that land for millennia.
BUT. There’s a reason cowboy movies have endured for as long as they have. We keep coming back to these characters and stories because, at the heart of it, they’re fun as heck. And with proper framing and discussions, there’s still a lot of ways to enjoy these films.
(A word of warning: many of these movies were made before the designation “PG-13” existed. Something rated “G” or “PG” in the 50s would often not be given the same rating today. To see if a movie is right for your family, we recommend checking out Common Sense Media for some specific parental concerns!) Go West, Go Wild
When George and the Man with the Yellow Hat are asked to farm-sit, George bonds with would-be cowboy Emmett. But the three soon find themselves in a pickle when all the animals escape the farm! It’s up to this trio to roundup the herds and save the farm.
Stream Go West, Go Wild, rated TV-Y, on Peacock Toy Story 2
Yes, you can find a cowboy (dare we say
the best of all cowboys) in every Toy Story movie, but Toy Story 2 is probably the most cowboy-heavy plot. When an unscrupulous toy collector steals Woody to send to a toy museum in Tokyo, Woody learns that he was once the star of a popular television show called Woody’s Roundup. Soon, he must decide whether to be a legend in a museum, or a toy in Andy’s room. Stream Toy Story 2, rated G, on Disney+ The Apple Dumpling Gang
Three orphaned children must use their cunning to ward off a parade of slapstick outlaws, gamblers, and ne’er-do-wells who are after the fortune their gold-mining father left them in his will.
Stream The Apple Dumpling Gang, rated G, on Disney+ Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
Midcentury audiences loved two things more than probably anything else: cowboys and musicals. Enter
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, where cowboys sing and dance as often as they draw pistols. In this story, Oregon mountain man Adam marries Millie, less for love and more to take care of him and his six unruly brothers. Millie takes it upon herself to bring a “civilizing” touch to these rugged frontiersmen. Stream Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, rated G, on Amazon Prime Old Yeller
When a scruffy yellow dog joins the Coates family, they begrudgingly take him in. But the pup soon proves himself a hero, saving family members from all manner of danger.
(We probably need to don’t tell you there’s a tragic twist at the end of this movie. We say “
Old Yeller” and you probably say “Oh, that’s a cowboy movie? I thought it was just a sad movie about a dog dying.” It’s both. So be warned!) Stream Old Yeller, rated G, on Disney+ Home on the Range
Heroines Maggie, Grace and Mrs. Caloway take it upon themselves to fight an unjust eviction notice and save their home by collecting the ransom on notorious cattle rustler Alameda Slim. Did we mention Maggie, Grace, and Mrs. Caloway are cows? The plot thickens...
Stream Home on the Range, rated PG, on Disney+ Spirit Untamed
Lucky Prescott’s mother was one of the greatest horsewomen in the west before she died. Now, after moving to the sleepy town of Miradero, Lucky befriends a wild mustang, whose rebellious spirit is quite familiar. Lucky and her new friends must work together to reunite Spirit with his herd.
Stream Spirit Untamed, rated PG, on Amazon Prime Horse Crazy
Three children hope to capture a wild pony of their own. But when they find themselves among a gang of wanted horse thieves, it’s up to them to return a prize stallion to his rightful owner.
Stream Horse Crazy, rated TV-G, on Amazon Prime An American Tail: Fievel Goes West
The Mousekewitz Family are Americans now, but after some time in New York City, they feel the urge to move west. There they meet con-artist Cat R. Waul (get it?), whose promise of a cat-and-mouse Utopia is not what it seems. With the help of Sheriff Wiley Burp, the mice finally realize their American dream.
Stream An American Tail: Fievel Goes West, rated G, on Peacock Oklahoma
You’ll never find cowboys and prairie bells with more melodious voices than you will in
Oklahoma. Romance, drama, and a contentious box social are brewing in a small town in Oklahoma as it awaits statehood. Can Laurie, Annie, Curly, and Will find love? (It’s a musical so... yeah, obviously they will.) Stream Oklahoma, rated G, on Disney+ The Sign of Zorro
Aristocrat by day and justice by night! Don Diego has returned to California after finishing schooling in Spain, and is determined to put an end to the local commandant’s corruption and tyranny.
Stream The Sign of Zorro, rated G, on Disney+ King of the Grizzlies
Moki is a Cree man who works as foreman for a local cattle rancher. When a grizzly bear attacks the herd, the rancher shoots the bear and one of her two cubs. Moki decides to raise the surviving bear whom he names Wahb, and the two form a special bond that is tested when the rancher decides to go after the now grown bear...
Stream King of the Grizzlies, rated G, on Amazon Prime Rango
Until recently, Rango the chameleon was a pampered family pet. But when accidentally winds up in a frontier town, he must summon his inner animal to survive the adventures of the Wild West.
Stream Rango, rated PG, on Netflix Back to the Future III
Doc Brown has decided to retire in the Old West, but when Marty McFly learns his friend is murdered in the past, he might time travel in the DeLorean to save him before it’s too late.
(And no, you really don’t need to watch the previous two movies to know what’s going on in this one.)
Stream Back to the Future III, rated PG, on Amazon Prime High Noon
Former marshal Will Kane and his new bride Amy are preparing to leave their small New Mexico town. But when they hear criminal Frank Miller and his cronies are returning to seek revenge on marshal, Kane must find a posse to help him fight by high noon.
Stream High Noon, rated PG, on Amazon Prime Cat Ballou
A musical comedy spoof of traditional westerns, Cat Ballou is the story of the titular character (played by the always delightful Jane Fonda) who turns outlaw after the death of her father.
This movie is unrated, but is
recommended for kids 9 and up for mild violence and alcohol. Stream Cat Ballou on Amazon Prime The Magnificent Seven
A gang of bandits has been terrorizing a poor Mexican village, but when a teenager dies in a raid the townsfolk decide enough is enough. They hire a ragtag band of gunslingers to help them defend themselves. (Your child may recognize the plot from
.) A Bugs Life
This film is not rated, but is
recommended for children over 13 for violence. Stream The Magnificent Seven on Amazon Prime Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Based on a true story, this movie follows the adventures of two charismatic train robbers trying to stay one step ahead of the law. With the help of the clever Etta, they take lawmen for a wild ride, but how long can they keep this up...?
Stream Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, rated PG (in 1969, when there was no PG-13 designation so – caveat emptor), on Amazon Prime Wild Wild West
When President Ulysses S. Grant learns that diabolical inventor Dr. Arliss Loveless is planning to assassinate him, it’s up unlikely duo James West and Artemus Gordon to foil the plot.
Stream Hacksaw, rated PG-13, on Amazon Prime True Grit
When 14-year old Mattie Ross’ father is murdered in Arkansas, she reaches out to rugged gunslinger Rooster Cogburn to bring the killer to justice.
Stream True Grit, rated PG-13, on Amazon Prime