Taylor Sheridan, the auteur behind Yellowstone, is on top of the world right now. With a prequel hot off a successful first season (1883), two more spinoffs in the pipeline (1932 and 6666), and a new Jeremy Renner vehicle recently renewed for a second season (Mayor of Kingstown), Sheridan has built a TV empire—and that’s not even mentioning the handful of other series he has under development. Sheridan’s clearly not going anywhere.
But what do you watch when you’ve devoured the entire Taylor Sheridan oeuvre, including his movies—my favorites are his screenplays for Sicario and Hell or High Water—and you’re still in the mood for more? Yellowstone is a series that appeals to viewers for any number of reasons; an average viewer might come for old-school frontier-justice thrills and stay for the beautiful Montana vistas and gorgeously naturalistic ranching scenes. At times it’s a brutally violent crime thriller; in other scenes, it’s a vaguely political drama about land ownership, or an exploration of PTSD and inherited trauma. That’s why it’s easy to find a number of shows that scratch that Yellowstone itch—whether they’re set in the Wild West or the biggest city in the world.
Let’s begin with another modern western drama: Justified, a 2010 FX drama based on Elmore Leonard’s novella Fire in the Hole. Developed by Graham Yost, Justified brings an Old West-style lawman, Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant), into the present day. Givens is reassigned to Lexington, Kentucky, after his quick-draw shooting of a hitman in Miami—an act of just-barely-justifiable vigilante justice that easily recalls Yellowstone’s John Dutton and the branded ranch hands who do his bidding (though they face far fewer consequences than Givens). A new sequel series has been announced entitled Justified: City Primeval, so it’s the perfect time to catch up.
Where to stream: Hulu
…But Justified wouldn’t exist without Deadwood, David Milch’s groundbreaking western drama for HBO, which initially introduced Olyphant to a wider audience. Co-anchored by an instantly classic lead performance from Ian McShane, Deadwood tells the fictionalized origin story of the settlement Deadwood, South Dakota. Focusing primarily on real-life Deadwood residents and featuring countless other historical figures, the series infused its civilization mythmaking with comedy and tragedy, becoming one of the greatest dramas ever despite its famously too-soon cancellation in 2006. Luckily, the series was resurrected for a satisfying final movie 13 years later. And though it remains under-recognized, Deadwood still starts conversations today—like in this spring’s comprehensive Deadwood Bible by critic Matt Zoller Seitz.
Where to stream: HBO Max
Let’s travel back to the beginning of serious TV westerns. Gunsmoke began in 1952 as a radio series, before making the jump to TV in 1955. Over the next 20 years, the show would produce 635 episodes, weathering a switch from half-hour to hour-long episodes and, eventually, a transition to color. (That made it the longest-running live-action primetime TV series ever, until Law & Order: SVU surpassed it a few years ago.) Centered on the virtuous but nuanced Marshal Matt Dillon (James Arness), the series is set in Dodge City, Kansas, in the 1870s. It’s filled with fascinating, funny, and moving morality tales, often penned by legends like Sam Peckinpah. It gave a necessary dose of weight and grit to the classic western—and kicked off a slew of new western dramas that lived in its shadow.
Where to stream: Some available on Pluto TV and Paramount+
This is another classic western series that inspired countless imitators. Bonanza follows the daily lives of the beloved Cartwright family: patriarch Ben (Lorne Greene) and his sons Adam (Pernell Roberts), Hoss (Dan Blocker), and Little Joe (Michael Landon). Transposing family-focused conflicts from the classic sitcom into a western template, the show tackled serious social issues and modest everyday drama. Setting most of its stories at the Ponderosa Ranch and in nearby towns, Bonanza provided an unusually realistic look at ranch life.
Where to stream: Some available on YouTube and The Roku Channel
On the melodramatic side of the western family drama is Dallas—while the Cartwrights were mutually supportive and endearing, the Ewings of Texas were constantly scheming and feuding. It’s easy to see why Yellowstone was immediately likened to this soap opera when it first premiered; they share a sensibility, though Yellowstone has never had a character break out to the level that greedy oil tycoon J.R. Ewing did. J.R. made Dallas the highest rated nighttime soap of the ’70s and ’80s—and his specific brand of charismatic evil has influenced TV villains for decades.
Where to stream: IMDb TV
There’s a reason many have called Yellowstone “Succession in the West.” Setting aside the differences in setting and style, the two dramas have a lot in common: a rich patriarch presiding over an empire, four kids (primarily two younger sons and a daughter) jockeying for control of that empire, and a larger meditation on the ephemerality of power. When it comes to viewership, Succession has nowhere near the numbers of its western counterpart—but its blend of incisive satire and sneakily moving family drama have earned it widespread acclaim as one of the best series currently on TV.
Where to stream: HBO Max
Outside of the Taylor Sheridan universe, Godless is one of TV’s more recent western hits. Set in 1884, the drama focuses on a young outlaw named Roy (Jack O’Connell) who’s on the run after betraying his terrifying criminal father figure Frank (Jeff Daniels) during a robbery. But what really sets this one apart from other westerns is its unusually female ensemble, offering rich roles for actresses like Merritt Wever and Michelle Dockery that far surpass Yellowstone’s two female characters, Beth and Monica. And at only seven episodes, Godless is an easy binge.
Where to stream: Netflix
One of Yellowstone’s biggest assets is its setting; it luxuriates in the natural beauty of Montana and Utah, where much of the series is filmed. The 2012 western crime drama Longmire, originally on A&E until it was canceled and picked up by Netflix, shares that strength. It focuses on a county sheriff in the Wyoming plains—making it another rare rural series, alongside Yellowstone and the popular Missouri-set drama Ozark. It’s also one that features Native American actors and characters, and like Yellowstone, it spotlights the conflicts that arise between competing authorities over tribal jurisdiction.
Where to stream: Netflix
“What ever happened to Gary Cooper?” Tony Soprano asked in the pilot of The Sopranos, often regarded as the best TV drama of all time. “The strong, silent type. That was an American. He wasn’t in touch with his feelings. He just did what he had to do.” In 1999, Tony embodied a particular strain of American masculinity: resistant to change, and reverent towards the mythically confident western heroes of Hollywood’s Golden Age. His obsession with the past—and a reliance on violence, powered by delusional rationalization—formed the basis for most modern TV antiheroes, including Yellowstone’s John Dutton, a man even more stubborn about expressing his feelings than Tony. You don’t need me to explain why you should watch The Sopranos; it’s The Sopranos.
Where to stream: HBO Max
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