There’s just something about cowboys that makes them perfect romantic leads. Passionate, strong, and in tune with nature, cowboys are always sure to deliver in the romance department, and the many cowboy romance movies that have been made over the years are a testament to that!
From romance that blossoms out of the epic battles of the West to tales of forbidden love, here are nine cowboy romance movies that will make you swoon.
In 1882, Boss Spearman (Robert Duvall) and his hired hands lead an ideal life herding cattle across the open range of Montana. When one of his cattle hands Mose (Abraham Benrubi) is beaten and jailed after going into the nearby town of Harmonville for supplies, he and another hired hand Charley (Kevin Costner) go to rescue him. They find the town at the mercy of a ruthless land baron, Denton Baxter (Michael Gambon), who hates open-rangers. Baxter later sends his men to intimidate Boss and his workers, which results in a deadly fight.
Boss and Charley vow revenge and a fight is brewing in the streets of Harmonville. The rangers find allies in Doc Barlow (Dean McDermott) and his sister Sue (Annette Bening), who Charley is immediately attracted to. This modern epic Western is equal parts action and romance.
In the summer of 1963, rodeo cowboy Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) and ranch hand Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) are hired to herd a rancher’s sheep on Brokeback Mountain in Wyoming. Over the course of the summer, the two develop a relationship, but part ways when their job is finished. Ennis marries his long-time girlfriend Alma (Michelle Williams) and Jack marries fellow rodeo rider Lureen (Anne Hathaway). But when the two men reunite, they cannot deny their feelings for each other.
For the next two decades, Jack and Ennis keep up their affair on sporadic fishing trips away from prying eyes. Jack repeatedly asks Ennis to run away and start a life together, but Ennis refuses, knowing that being together will cost them everything. This Oscar-winner is a tear-jerking romance for the ages.
A country boy at heart, Bud Davis (John Travolta) moves to Houston to make enough money to buy land of his own in his hometown of Spur, Texas. He quickly embraces the local nightlife, spending many evenings at the honky tonk bar Gilley’s in nearby Pasadena. There he meets and falls in love with Sissy (Debra Winger) and they get married. The two fight often, since Sissy is fiercely independent while Bud believes in traditional gender roles.
Everything comes to a head when Sissy rides the mechanical bull at Gilley’s despite Bud forbidding her to do it. It turns out Bud’s rival Wes Hightower (Scott Glenn) had been secretly teaching his wife how to ride. They split up and Sissy moves in with Wes. Bud immediately misses his wife and sets out to win the mechanical bull-riding competition at Gilley’s in order to win her back.
The Horse Whisperer
One morning, teenager Grace MacLean (Scarlett Johansson) suffers a traumatizing riding accident that badly injures her and her horse Pilgrim. Both Grace and Pilgrim seem permanently scarred by the accident, but her mother Annie (Kristin Scott Thomas) is convinced that healing Pilgrim will allow Grace to heal. She enlists the help of a “horse whisperer,” Tom Booker (Robert Redford), who agrees to the job on the condition that Grace also participates in the treatment. She, Annie, and Pilgrim head out to the Montana ranch where Tom lives with his brother and his brother’s family.
As both Pilgrim and Grace begin to heal both physically and mentally, Tom and Annie grow closer. Still, they are reluctant to acknowledge their feelings. Annie is married and is passionate about her job as a New York magazine editor and Tom’s wife left him because she felt she belonged in the city. But Annie’s time in Montana leads her to question how happy she really is with her life.
The Longest Ride
No list of romantic movies is complete without a Nicholas Sparks adaptation! Luke Collins (Scott Eastwood) and Sophia Danko (Britt Robertson) could not be more different. He is a professional bull rider and she is a college student with big dreams of breaking into the art world in New York City. The two can’t help falling in love, but their worlds might be too different for their relationship to work.
Meanwhile, Sophia strikes up a friendship with Ira Levinson (Alan Alda), a 91-year-old man she rescued from a car crash. During her visits to him, Ira tells Sophia the love story between him and his late wife Ruth (Oona Chaplin). In the 1940s, Ira and Ruth are happily married and decorate their house with paintings they love, but struggle with the fact that they cannot have children. Ira’s story may just be the inspiration Sophia and Luke need that proves love can withstand anything.
The Man From Snowy River
This Australian Western tells the story of Jim Craig (Tom Burlinson) who, after the sudden death of his father, sets out to prove that he is worthy of inheriting the family ranch. He gets a job on a ranch in the Australian lowlands owned by Harrison (Kirk Douglas). His skills are doubted by the other cowboys, and they repeatedly demean him. He quickly forms a bond with Harrison’s daughter Jessica (Sigrid Thornton), who is searching for information about the mother she never knew.
Jim is soon unfairly blamed for the loss of a prize colt and Harrison fires him. But when Harrison announces a financial reward for the retrieval of the horse, Jim sees an opportunity to restore his honor and prove he is worthy of Jessica’s love.
Legends Of The Fall
In the early 20th century, William Ludlow (Anthony Hopkins) leaves the corrupt and violent world of the army and moves his family out to rural Montana. His wife soon leaves him with his three sons Alfred (Aidan Quinn), Tristan (Brad Pitt), and Samuel (Henry Thomas). When Samuel returns home from Harvard, Tristan is instantly attracted to his fiance Susannah (Julia Ormond). All three brothers enlist in the army to fight in World War I, and Samuel is killed even though Tristan swore to Susannah to protect him.
When the surviving brothers return home, Alfred also falls for Susannah. He becomes a congressman while Tristan continues to live a rancher’s life. As time goes on, their rivalry over Susannah threatens to tear the family apart.
Country music sensation Wyatt “Dusty” Chandler (George Strait) has become disillusioned with his fame, feeling like the elaborate special effects in his stage show are overwhelming his music. He decides to ground himself by quietly escaping his tour and returning to the small country town he grew up in. Hiding his identity, he takes a job on Ernest Tucker’s (Rory Calhoun) ranch. He soon builds a connection with Ernest’s daughter Harley (Isabel Glasser).
Meanwhile, Dusty’s tour must go on, and his manager Lula (Lesley Ann Warren) is determined to track him down. Once she finds him, Dusty will have to face the lies he’s told in order to build his new life and will have to choose between his newfound happiness and the career he left behind.
One of the most beloved, influential and romantic musicals of all time, Oklahoma! is a cowboy romance with great songs. Set in the year just before Oklahoma becomes a state, carefree cowboy Curly McLain (Gordon MacRae) has long pined for farm girl Laurey Williams (Shirley Jones). One morning, he shows up at her farm to ask her to that evening’s box social that’s being held to raise money to build a new schoolhouse. Frustrated that he took so long to ask her, Laurey rejects him.
In order to get back at him, Laurey instead accepts the invitation of her menacing farmhand Jud Fry (Rod Steiger). As the day goes on, Laurey is torn between her love for Curly and her fear that Jud will hurt him. Oklahoma! is a great love story and Curly and Laurey’s duet “People Will Say We’re In Love” is one of the most iconic in musical theater history.
Featured still from "The Man From Snowy River" via 20th Century Fox.