10 Best ‘Gunsmoke’ Episodes, According To Fans


Gunsmoke ran for an extraordinary 20 seasons, which ranked it as the longest-running live-action television series at the time. However, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit ultimately surpassed this incredible record. Nevertheless, the show continues to hold a special place in the hearts of many longtime fans. Here’s a look at the 10 best Gunsmoke episodes ranked from 10th to first, according to fans on IMDb.

‘Prairie Wolfer’ (1964)

According to Gunsmoke fans, the 10th best of all 635 episodes is “Prairie Wolfer” from season 9 episode 16. At the time of writing, the audience score sits at 8.8. Andrew V. McLaglen directed the episode, which was written by John Dunkel.

“Prairie Wolfer” follows Festus (Ken Curtis), as the Cattlemen’s Association hires him soon after he gets into Dodge. A pack of wolves is hunting and killing the local cattle, which sends panic through the community. However, things aren’t so simple, as he seeks out Marshal Matt Dillon’s (James Arness) help to set things right.

‘Seven Hours to Dawn’ (1965)

“Seven Hours to Dawn” from season 11 episode 1 ranks in ninth place with the audience score also sitting at 8.8. Director Vincent McEveety brings Clyde Ware’s script to life.

Mace Gore (John Drew Barrymore) is the leader of a gang who makes their move to take over Dodge City. The town believes that Matt was killed, so Festus and Doc (Milburn Stone) put a plan together of their own. They begin to place a trap to capture Mace, but he typically leaves before dawn.

‘The Cabin’ (1958)

Fans rated “The Cabin” the eighth best of the Gunsmoke episodes, which was season 3 episode 24. It also has an 8.8 rating. The episode is directed by John Rich and written by John Meston.

Matt finds himself caught in the middle of a lethal blizzard without anywhere to go other than a nearby cabin. However, he finds two dangerous bandits inside, who kidnapped a young woman. They continue to assault her after they killed her father.

‘The Jailer’ (1966)

Gunsmoke Season 12 Episode 3 is called “The Jailer,” which landed next on the ranking. It also earned an 8.8, but with more reviews added to the total. McEveety once again returned to the show to direct, but working with Hal Sitowitz’s screenplay this time.

Etta Stone (Bette Davis) is introduced as a disgruntled old woman, who successfully manages to get Kitty Russell (Amanda Blake) and Matt captured. She throws them into an amateurish jail to await their fate. Etta plans to execute Matt via hanging after she claims that he killed her husband 6 years prior.

‘The Quest for Asa Janin’ (1963)

Ranking in sixth place is season 8 episode 38, also called “The Quest for Asa Janin.” McLaglen makes his return to the director’s seat, breathing life into Paul Savage’s screenplay. This particular Gunsmoke episode also holds an 8.8 audience score.

A young man is convicted of the crime of killing a saloon girl, but Matt is convinced that it isn’t the case. He’s certain of the boy’s innocence, but he’ll need proof to back it up. The marshal decides to hit the road to track down another suspect, but he must do so quickly before the young man is brought to the gallows.


‘The Widowmaker’ (1973)

Director Bernard McEveety’s “The Widowmaker” is considered one of the best Gunsmoke episodes, ranking in fifth place. Paul F. Edwards wrote the screenplay for season 19 episode 5 that would keep with the high 8.8 IMDb audience rating that determined many of the show’s top scores.

Scott Coltrane (Steve Forrest) earned plenty of respect from others thanks to his gun skills. He’s considered to be the fastest gun out there, but he doesn’t want to live that life anymore. He just wants to live out the rest of his days alongside his wife. However, random bandits have other plans, as they seek to gain a reputation for killing the man.

‘Wishbone’ (1966)

The fourth best of the Gunsmoke episodes is season 11 episode 22’s “Wishbone.” The episode was directed by Marc Daniels and written by Savage. It once again shares the 8.8 IMDb audience rating.

Festus becomes superstitious when it comes to using the wishbone of a dead chicken. He snaps it in half to make a wish, hoping for it to come true. However, Festus decides to use it for the good of someone else when he finds that a venomous snake bit Doc. Meanwhile, Matt tracks down three outlaws who held up a stage, where they murdered the driver and their guard.

‘With a Smile’ (1963)

Next up is Gunsmoke Season 8 Episode 29, which is titled “With a Smile.” McLaglen directed a screenplay written by Meston. It’s the final episode with an 8.8 audience rating.

When a rancher’s entitled son is convicted of murder, he somehow believes that he’ll be able to make it out alive. He plans to use his father’s riches and prominence to escape his fate against the hangman.

‘Caleb’ (1964)

Season 9 episode 26 is the next episode on the list, which is called “Caleb.” Director Harry Harris breathes life into Savage’s screenplay. The episode stands tall with a 9.0 audience rating.

The episode tells the story of Caleb (John Dehner), who has no children and lives as a poor farmer. He’s down on himself and his wife only continues to kick him while he’s down. Caleb finds himself moving into Dodge City to find meaning in his life, and he ultimately succeeds in doing so. However, it results in him deciding not to wear a gun and being challenged to a duel.

‘The Gallows’ (1962)

Finally, audiences determine that the best of the Gunsmoke episodes is “The Gallows.” Season 7 episode 22 was directed by McLaglen and written by Charles Marquis Warren. It holds a staggering 9.2 audience rating on IMDb.

Matt pursues a man named Pruit Dover (Jeremy Slate), who is suspected of killing another person. After bringing him to Dodge City to face the music, the marshal gets shot and wounded quite badly. To the hero’s surprise, he discovers that Pruit doesn’t try to escape to claim his freedom. Rather, he stays with Matt to nurse him back to health.