The 10 Most Badass African American Movie Cowboys Of All Time

The west is going to get a little wilder when They Die By Dawn hits the big screen! The action flick starring Nate Parker, Michael K. Williams, Erykah Badu and Rosario Dawson tells the stories of real life African American cowboys from the past, teaming up, kickin’ ass and taking names!

Our very own Meghan O’Keefe was lucky enough to attend a screening last night, and asked the stars which African American rough riders from history were their biggest inspirations. Michael K. Williams had to go with Ben Hodges, whereas Jeymes Samuel went with Rufus Buck and Cherokee Bill. “When Cherokee Bill was getting executed they said to him, ’Any last words?’,” he shared. “And he said, ’I came here to die, not to talk.'” OK, it’s pretty hard to top that for badass-ness. But we’re sure as hell going to try with our very own list of the 10 most badass African American cowboys in cinema history. Enjoy!

10. Morgan Freeman as Ned Logan in Unforgiven (1992)

[Photo: Warner Brothers]

Morgan Freeman may be pushin’ it a little bit in the age department, but this retired gunslinger isn’t ready to be put out pasture quite yet.

9. Will Smith as James T. West in Wild Wild West (1999)

OK sure, the movie kinda blew. But the Badass levels Will Smith is able to transport to the 19th century totally makes up for it in this confused steampunk feature.

8. Fred Williamson as Big Ben in Adios Amigos (1976)

Football legend Fred Williamson wrote, directed and stared in this mid seventies comedy alongside Richard Pryor

7. Bill Cosby as Caleb Revers in Man and Boy (1971)

As weird as it is to think of Mr. Sweaters doing anything badass, Bill Cosby chose this western drama for his film debut about a Civil War soldier on a mission with his son to recover their stolen horse. Pudding pops were still a long way off.

6. Cleavon Little as Sheriff Bart in Blazing Saddles (1974)

[Photo: Warner Brothers]

The new Sheriff in Mel Brook’s legendary comedy is as funny as he is badass. Dealing with racism at every turn, Bart even manages to free himself from gunpoint by…holding himself at gunpoint! And let’s not forget, he also has a hell of a voice.

5. Max Julien as Bushrod in Thomasine & Bushrod (1974)

[Photo: Columbia]

Thomasine & Bushrod was designed to be an African American take on Bonnie & Clyde, where the couple went on a tear through the south, stealing from the rich white landowners, Robin Hood-style.

4. Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte as Buck and The Preacher in Buck And The Preacher (1972)

[Photo: Columbia Pictures]

This one starts off like every rom com. At first Harry Belafonte’s Preacher doesn’t really like Buck. In fact, he wants to kill him in order to collect a reward from a white gang. But then they fall in buddy love and team up to take on the (white) world, side by side. It also gets bonus badass points for being Sidney Poitier’s directorial debut!

3. Mario Van Peebles as Jessie Lee in Posse (1993)

Buffalo Solider Jessie Lee is out for the blood of the man who killed his preacher father. We’re pretty sure it wasn’t the same preacher from Buck And The Preacher, however.

2. Danny Glover as Mal Johnson in Silverado (1985)

Danny Glover is never too old for this s–t.

1. Jamie Foxx as Django in Django Unchained (2012)

[Photo: Weinstein Company]

Not since Austin Powers has a dude killed more people while wearing a blue crushed velvet suit. If that’s not badass, we don’t know what is!

Related: Real Black Cowboys Live On Screen In They Die By Dawn



VH1 Music Editor + Seltzer Enthusiast