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Beyoncé’s Album Cowboy Carter Was Inspired by These Classic Westerns

Beyoncé’s Album Cowboy Carter Was Inspired by These Classic Westerns


  • Beyoncé’s No.1 album Cowboy Carter draws inspiration from diverse movie Westerns, from Thelma & Louise to The Hateful Eight and more.
  • Each track on Cowboy Carter is a reimagined Western film, mixing classic cover songs with new original compositions.
  • The album cover’s design mirrors Thelma & Louise, and its cinematic influences push the Western genre to new frontiers like outer space.



After debuting her hit single “Texas Hold ‘Em” during the Super Bowl in February, pop superstar Beyoncé’s eighth studio album Cowboy Carter instantly shot to the top of the music charts in March 2024. The country-western album is the second release in Beyoncé’s eclectic music trilogy after Renaissance, a reinvention that has attracted a whole new fanbase. The 79-minute album features 27 tracks and mixes a collection of classic cover songs with new original compositions, drawing inspiration from Beyoncé’s upbringing in Houston, Texas.

Apart from being inspired by the unheralded mythology of the American Black cowboy (via Harper’s Bazaar), Cowboy Carter is influenced by a handful of classic and modern movie westerns that Beyoncé specifically named in the album’s press release. As the album continues to dominate the charts, it’s time to highlight the cinematic inspirations behind Beyoncé’s Cowboy Carter.

8 Thelma & Louise (1991)

Thelma & Louise

Thelma & Louise

Release Date
May 24, 1991


Callie Khouri

Ridley Scott’s classic film of outlaw friendship, Thelma & Louise, has inspired the cover design for Cowboy Carter‘s limited vinyl release. The movie stars Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon as two friends evading the law on a cross-country trek across the American West. Apart from the excellent performances, the movie is best known for its emotionally heartfelt ending that is suspended with a literal cliffhanger.

While most of the movies enumerated in the album press release influence specific tracks, Thelma & Louise has inspired the appearance of Cowboy Carter‘s physical media release. According to the press release: “The limited-edition vinyl depicts a microphone in the shape of a gun a la Thelma and Louise running from the law, but the gun is invisible, hyper exaggerated reality.”

7 Space Cowboys (2000)

Frank wears a headset in Space Cowboys
Warner Bros.

Directed by Hall of Fame western movie star Clint Eastwood, Space Cowboys rounds up a veteran ensemble cast known for horse-riding filmography. The movie stars Eastwood, James Garner, Donald Sutherland, and Tommy Lee Jones as a quartet of aging astronauts tasked with repairing a damaged satellite in deep space. Despite its otherworldly setting, the movie feels like a classic movie-western thanks to the recognizable cast, barren landscapes, and high-stakes search and rescue mission.

According to Cowboy Carter‘s press release, “Each song is its own version of a reimagined Western film.” Although it’s unclear which track on the album is inspired by Space Cowboys, pushing the tropes and tenets of a classic Western movie into a new frontier in outer space tends to align with Beyonce’s bold new reinvention. Rather than repeating the same old dusty setting, Beyonce’s new project shoots for the moon and succeeds just as Eastwood and his cast do. Rent on Apple TV+.


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6 O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)

More of a depression-era farce than an outright Western, Joel and Ethan Coen’s beloved 2000 movie O Brother, Where Art Thou won awards for its stellar blue-grass soundtrack led by James Carter and the Prisoners. The story follows three bumbling prison escapees in the 1930s who go on an odyssey across the American South full of sprawling arid landscapes and classic Western iconography.

According to the press release for Cowboy Carter, “Some aspects of the percussion were inspired by the ‘O Brother, Where Art Thou?’ soundtrack, where it was more Bluegrass.” In addition to Bluegrass, the soundtrack to the Coen comedy also incorporates country, blues, gospel, and Southern folk music to create an unforgettable soundscape. The soundtrack was produced by T-Bone Burnett, an acclaimed, multi-Grammy-winning musician who has worked on several Westerns.

5 Urban Cowboy (1980)

Sissy and Bud stand at the bar in Urban Cowboy
Paramount Pictures

Directed by James Bridges, Urban Cowboy adds a touch of romance to Western film conventions. John Travolta plays Bud Davis, a Texas cowboy who moves to Houston and begins working for an oil factory. When Bud meets and falls for his dancing partner Sissy (Debra Winger), the two settle down and begin a family.

Given Beyonce’s upbringing in Houston, it’s easy to see why she’s chosen to honor Urban Cowboy in Cowboy Carter, especially since much of the action takes place at the famed dive bar, Gilley’s Club. Beyond the romantic drama and effective performances, Urban Cowboy was hailed in its day for reviving mainstream country Western music. Notable artists on the soundtrack include Johnny Lee, Mickey Gilley, Kenny Rogers, Bonnie Rait, The Charlie Daniels Band, JD Souther, and more. Stream on Pluto TV.

4 The Hateful Eight (2015)

Cowboy Carter also takes cues from Quentin Tarantino’s 8th feature filmThe Hateful Eight. The snowbound, hyper-violent Western concerns a ragtag band of strangers who hole up in a Wyoming haberdashery. A murder mystery gives way to a gory revenge tale during the polarizing finale, where Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) ends up in a much different place than where he began.

The Hateful Eight‘s musical score was arranged by Ennio Morricone, the legendary composer behind the most iconic Spaghetti Westerns on record (and interestingly, there’s a track on Cowboy Carter titled “SPAGHETTII”), including The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. Beyond the movie’s Western tropes and Morricone’s contributions, The Hateful Eight is the first movie on the list of album influences to concentrate on the experience of the American Black cowboy.

3 Five Fingers For Marseilles (2017)

Tau stands alone outdoors in Five Fingers for Marseilles
Indigenous Film Distribution

The most obscure influence on the list, Five Fingers for Marseilles is a South African Neo-Western directed by Michael Matthews. The plot concerns Tau (Vuyo Dabula), a member of the Five Fingers, a rebel group of freedom fighters. After becoming an outlaw and being driven off his land, Tau returns 20 years later to find peace, only to discover a menacing new threat he must contend with.

Praised for its stylish visuals, fresh South African setting, and surprise twist ending, Five Fingers of Marseilles takes tired and trampled Western film conventions and turns them on their ear to deliver a riveting Neo-Western. The low-budget fusion of the old with the new synthesizes a wildly unforgettable experience that makes a profound statement about Apartheid and racial inequity. Stream on Tubi.

2 The Harder They Fall (2021)

Directed by Jeymes Samuel, The Harder They Fall is an acclaimed neo-western featuring a contemporary hip-hop soundtrack. The story follows Nat Love’s (Jonathan Majors) revenge campaign as he sets out to kill the man who murdered his parents when he was a child. In addition to Love, the characters are based on real Black cowboys, law enforcers, and outlaws whose stories went untold in the late 19th-century American West.

In addition to directing and co-writing the screenplay, Samuel wrote many of the sounds featured on the soundtrack. Beyoncé’s husband, Jay-Z, co-wrote and performed the track “Guns Go Bang” with Kid Cudi. As such, it’s easy to see how the movie inspired Cowboy Carter. Other artists on the soundtrack include such famous international talents as Fela Kuti, Barrington Levy, Seal, Dennis Brown, Pretty Yende, Koffee, and more.

1 Killers of the Flower Moon (2023)

Martin Scorsese’s Oscar-nominated epic Killers of the Flower Moon tracks the unthinkable genocide of the Osage Nation in 1920s Oklahoma. The film fuses Western iconography with historical accuracy to tell a must-see, yet little-known chapter in America’s past. Although it walked away empty-handed, the film scored 10 Oscar nominations, including a Best Leading Actress nod for breakout star Lily Gladstone.


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While it’s unclear which track is inspired by the Scorsese epic, the press release for Cowboy Carter states that Beyoncé often had “the films playing on a screen during the recording process.” As such, it’s no stretch to presume that the album’s opening track, “American Requiem,” could be influenced by Killers of the Flower Moon. It’s not only the second-longest song on the album behind “II Hands II Heaven,” but the title also hints at a mass for the dead, a la the Osage people who were systematically murdered.

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