Cavalry Westerns

Nicholas Chennault ~ January 29, 2014

Cavalry Westerns:


The U.S. Cavalry has been showing up in westerns almost as long as there have been westerns.  Cavalry movies as a subgenre came into their own right after World War II, with John Ford’s Cavalry Trilogy, and continued to be popular up to the Vietnam era, around 1972.  Then they largely disappeared, after Ulzana’s Raid.

The list below, which is admittedly incomplete, is a collection of westerns in which the cavalry plays some significant role in the plot.  The cavalry shows up briefly in Stagecoach, for example, but it does very little in the movie aside from chasing off the Apaches at the last minute in stereotypical fashion.  So Stagecoach is not really considered a cavalry movie.  The best of these cavalry movies have a post of their own, and more of them will have posts in due course.  If you have a nomination for a cavalry movie that is not on the list, leave a comment.  We’re always adding more as they come to our attention.

The sublists involve themes one finds only in cavalry westerns, or in military movies generally:  Dealing with the Wrong-Headed Commander, Teaching the Young Lieutenant, Managing Mutinous Troopers, The Old Scout Who’s Almost Outside the Military, and the use of Indian Scouts, usually Apaches of questionable loyalty.


John Wayne as Capt. Nathan Brittles in She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, one of the most visual of cavalry movies.

The Plainsman (1937; Sioux and Cheyennes, southern plains to Dakotas)

Santa Fe Trail (1940; pre-Civil War, chasing John Brown across Kansas and at Harper’s Ferry)

They Died With Their Boots On (1941; Custer, Civil War and the Sioux)

Fort Apache (1948; Cochise’s Apaches, Arizona)

Station West (1948; Arizona)

She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949; Sioux, Cheyennes, etc.)

Ambush (1950; Apaches, Arizona)

Two Flags West (1950; Civil War, New Mexico)

Rio Grande (1950; Texas-New Mexico, Apaches)

Rocky Mountain (1950; Civil War, southern California, Shoshonis)

Tomahawk (1951, Red Cloud’s War and Fetterman Massacre, Wyoming, Sioux)

Apache Drums (1951, Mescalero Apaches, Arizona)

The Last Outpost (1951; Post-Civil War, Confederate raiders, Arizona)

Only the Valiant (1951; Apaches, New Mexico)

Slaughter Trail (1951, Navajos, New Mexico)

Red Mountain (1951; Civil War, Confederate Raiders, Colorado)

Warpath (1951; Sioux, Dakotas)

Wild Stallion (1952)

Bugles in the Afternoon (1952; Dakotas)

Springfield Rifle (1952; Colorado, Civil War)

Last of the Comanches (1953; Comanches)

Thunder Over the Plains (1953; Reconstruction Texas, Vigilantes)

Escape from Fort Bravo (1953; Civil War, Apaches, Arizona)

Hondo (1953; Apaches, Arizona)

War Paint (1953; Death Valley)

Conquest of Cochise (1953; Apaches, Arizona)

Charge at Feather River (1953; Cheyennes)

War Arrow (1953; Kiowas, Texas)

Seminole (1953, Seminoles, Florida)

Column South (1953; Apaches, Navajos)

Drum Beat (1954; Modoc War, California-Oregon)

Arrow in the Dust (1954; Nebraska-Wyoming, Pawnees and Apaches)

They Rode West (1954; Kiowas, Comanches)

Battle of Rogue River (1954; Pre-Civil War, Oregon)

Sitting Bull (1954; Sioux, Northern Plains)

Southwest Passage (1954, camels vs. Apaches, Arizona-N.M.)

The Yellow Tomahawk (1954; Cheyennes)

The Command (1954)

Saskatchewan (1954; Sioux in Canada)

Smoke Signal (1955; Utes, Grand Canyon)

The Gun That Won the West (1955; Sioux, Red Cloud’s War, Wyoming)

The Last Frontier (1955; Sioux, Red Cloud’s War, Wyoming-Montana)

7th Cavalry (1956; In the Wake of Custer, Dakotas-Montana)

Comanche (1956; Comanches, Texas)

Pillars of the Sky (1956; Yakima War, 1855, Oregon-Washington)

Trooper Hook (1957; Apaches, Arizona)

Run of the Arrow (1957; Sioux, Red Cloud’s War)

Ride Out for Revenge–Calhoun (1957; Cheyennes, Colorado?)

Tomahawk Trail (1957; Apaches, Arizona)

Revolt at Fort Laramie (1957; Civil War/Red Cloud’s Sioux, Wyoming)

Escort West (1958; Modocs, California?)           

Fort Bowie (1958; Apaches, Arizona)

Oregon Passage (1958, Shoshones, Oregon)

Ambush at Cimarron Pass (1958; Apaches, New Mexico)

Apache Territory (1958; Apaches, Arizona)

Fort Massacre (1958; Apaches, Arizona)

They Came to Cordura (1959; Mexican revolution)

The Wonderful Country (1959, chasing Apaches in Mexico)

Yellowstone Kelly (1959; Sioux, Montana)

The Horse Soldiers (1959, Union Cavalry, Civil War in the East)

Pillars of the Sky (1868, Palouse War, Oregon)


Buffalo soldiers on patrol in Sgt. Rutledge.

Sergeant Rutledge (1960; Apaches, Arizona)

Two Rode Together (1961; Comanches, Texas)

A Thunder of Drums (1961; Apaches, Arizona)

Sergeants 3 (1962; Indian Territory, 1870)

Cheyenne Autumn  (1964; Cheyennes, Oklahoma to Montana)

A Distant Trumpet (1964; 1883, Apaches, Arizona)

Advance to the Rear (1964; Civil War, comedy)

Major Dundee (1965; Civil War, Apaches, Mexico)

The Great Sioux Massacre (1965; Sioux, Custer in the Dakotas)

The Hallelujah Trail (1965; Cheyennes, Colorado, comedy)

The Glory Guys (1965; a Custer-figure in the Southwest, like Fort Apache)

Fort Courageous (1965)

Alvarez Kelly (1966; Confederate Cavalry, Civil War in the East)


Duel at Diablo

Duel at Diablo (1966; Apaches, Arizona)

Savage Pampas (1966; Argentina)

A Time for Killing (1967; Confederates, Utah to Mexico)

Custer of the West (1967; Sioux and Cheyennes, Kansas, Dakotas, Montana)

40 Guns to Apache Pass (1967; Apaches, Arizona)    

Chuka (1967; Arapahoes, 1876, New Mexico?)

Soldier Blue (1970; Southern Cheyennes)       

The Bravos (1972; Kiowas, New Mexico?)         

Ulzana’s Raid (1971; Apaches, Arizona)

The Revengers (1972; Comanches)

Dances With Wolves (1990, Lakotas)

Geronimo:  An American Legend (1993; Apaches, Arizona and Mexico) 

In Pursuit of Honor (MfTV, 1995)

Buffalo Soldiers (MfTV, 1997)  

Hostiles (2017, Comanches and Cheyennes) 

 CavFtApache Henry Fonda in Fort Apache.    

The Wrong-Headed Commander

Fort Apache

Two Flags West


Bugles in the Afternoon


War Arrow

Column South

The Yellow Tomahawk

Fort Bowie

Tomahawk Trail

The Last Frontier

7th Cavalry


Run of the Arrow


Ride Out for Revenge

Oregon Passage

Yellowstone Kelly

The Raiders

The Glory Guys

Custer of the West

Fort Courageous


Little Big Man


Bruce Davison and Burt Lancaster in Ulzana’s Raid.             

Teaching the Lieutenant

She Wore a Yellow Ribbon


A Thunder of Drums

A Distant Trumpet

Ulzana’s Raid


John Russell and Joel McCrea in Fort Massacre.

Mutinous Troopers

Only the Valiant

War Paint

The Command

7th Cavalry

Revolt at Fort Laramie


Apache Territory

Fort Massacre

They Came to Cordura

Fort Utah



John Wayne as Hondo Lane in Hondo.

The Old Scout

Ambush (Robert Taylor and John McIntire)

Hondo (John Wayne and Ward Bond)

The Yellow Tomahawk (Rory Calhoun)

Apache Territory (Rory Calhoun)

Yellowstone Kelly (Clint Walker)

Major Dundee (James Coburn)

Duel at Diablo (James Garner)

The Stalking Moon (Gregory Peck)

Valdez Is Coming (Burt Lancaster)

Ulzana’s Raid (Burt Lancaster)

Geronimo:  An American Legend (Robert Duvall)


Jorge Luke as Ke-Ni-Tay in Ulzana’s Raid.

Indian Scouts


War Arrow

Apache Drums

Tomahawk Trail

Oregon Passage

A Distant Trumpet

Major Dundee

Ulzana’s Raid

Geronimo:  An American Legend







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