All 5 Seasons of ‘Yellowstone,’ Ranked From Worst to Best

The highest highs and the lowest lows of the Dutton family saga.


Five years on from its game-changing series premiere, the impact of Yellowstone cannot be overstated. With its masterful blend of heady dialogue, cinema-level visuals and time-tested procedural TV, Yellowstone managed to do what the other great neo-Western, Deadwood, couldn’t: Elevate the Western genre while maintaining pop TV sensibilities. Sometimes, the series relies too heavily on soap opera dramatics. But for every insane Beth Dutton moment, Kelly Reilly gives us a compelling glimpse into the chinks in her armor. And just when you think the series has lost the plot, Taylor Sheridan’s wicked-good dialogue and Kevin Costner’s award-winning portrayal of patriarch John Dutton plunges you right back into the dynastic drama. Yellowstone will end with the forthcoming Season 5, Part 2, so we’ve compiled a definitive ranking of all 5 seasons to guide your first-time watch or (more likely) tenth rewatch.

Below, we rank and dissect every season of Yellowstone, summarizing the plot of each installment, recounting some of the wildest moments on offer and spotlighting the best quotes that will live on in the culture long after the Duttons make their last stand. Disclaimer: Every season of Yellowstone is A-1, but some seasons are just… more A-1 than others.

#5. Season 5

Why It’s #5: Season 5, Part 2 is still to come, so we’re placing Season 5 at the bottom of the ranking for now. So far, that placement is justified. Not much has happened in Yellowstone‘s final outing, and the show has succumbed to some of its worst impulses. Monica suffers yet another unspeakable tragedy, and Beth’s violent tendencies lack the ingenuity that made her previous brawls so compelling. But the excellent midseason finale promises a family showdown to end the fight for the Dutton Ranch once and for all.

What Happened: As the new Governor of Montana, John Dutton has an even bigger target on his back. Jamie publicly calls for his impeachment and, with the help of Market Equities plant Sarah Atwood (Dawn Olivieri), resolves to kill John and Beth. Meanwhile, Kayce and Monica re-enter the family fold for the umpteenth time.

  • Standout Episode: For a season that’s left so much to be desired, the midseason finale is a watershed moment in Yellowstone history. As Jamie gears up to do the unspeakable, John and Beth realize they’ve given him everything he needs to destroy the Dutton family.
  • Wildest Moment: Beth vs. Summer, Round 2.
  • Most Iconic Quote: “You shocked we found a way to circumvent the consequences of defending ourselves? I’m shocked we needed a way, but we do. We always have. And unless we’re willing to walk away from 120 years of our family bleeding into this ground, we always will.” — John Dutton explaining the Train Station.
  • Vibes: Prince Harry’s Spare, “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys,” Hamlet and Clint Eastwood’s poncho in the Man With No Name trilogy.

#4. Season 4

Why It’s #4: R&R must mean revenge and recuperation to the Duttons, because they waste no time licking their wounds after the Season 3 attacks. But the season is weighed down by Kayce’s never-ending vision quest and Jimmy’s sojourn to the historic 6666 Ranch (owned by Taylor Sheridan), which ends up feeling like a spinoff series that never got off the ground.

What Happened: John comes home from the hospital dropping F-bombs left and right, but his injuries don’t stop him from striking up a romance with environmental activist Summer Higgins (Piper Perabo) and running for governor. Beth has a worthy new adversary in Market Equities’ Caroline Warner (Jacki Weaver). When she’s not wearing her corporate raider hat, she’s nurturing her new family: Rip and the lovable rascal Carter (Finn Little). Now with a son of his own, Jamie is forced to sever all ties with his Dutton-hating biological father Garrett Randall (Will Patton).

Standout Episode: The Season 4 finale is the apotheosis of Beth. When she learns that Garrett Randall put the hit out on the Duttons, she gives Jamie the worst-tasting ultimatum ever. He murders Randall and dumps him at the Train Station, and Beth snaps a photo for leverage.

  • Wildest Moment: The correct answer is Rip murdering Season 3 baddie Roarke Morris by tossing a rattlesnake at his face, but the one that’s in our hearts? When a camouflaged Kayce climbs out of the grass in the Season Premiere looking like the Swamp Man and everyone manages to keep a straight face. Come on.
  • Most Iconic Quote: “I am the rock therapists break themselves against.” — Beth Dutton
  • Vibes: Cillian Murphy stumbling out of the hospital in 28 Days LaterRambo, “It’s The Hard-Knock Life,” reluctant dad cinema and when they stuff the prom queen’s body in the trunk in Jawbreaker.

#3. Season 2

Why It’s #3Yellowstone‘s sophomore outing does some clever maneuvering to further the plot, so it’s close on the heels of Season 1. Each character is tested. Can Kayce retain his humanity through the worst? Is Jamie’s loyalty ever really rewarded? And what is John willing to risk to save the ranch?

What Happened: With the introduction of the Beck brothers (Neal McDonough and Terry Serpico), Yellowstone dives into the sinister world of corporate sharks and white-collar crime. Beth is brutally attacked at her office and Tate is kidnapped by a bunch of neo-Nazis, leading the Duttons to forge an unholy alliance with former enemies Dan Jenkins and Thomas Rainwater.


Standout Episode: The Season 2 finale, “Sins of the Father,” is a stirring meditation on fathers and sons, grounded by Tate’s heart-stopping rescue. Elsewhere, John writes a touching letter declaring Rip his son and gifting him the ancestral Dutton home. The waterworks continue with flashbacks to John Dutton, Sr., played by the great Dabney Coleman (9 to 5).

  • Wildest Moment: When Rip throws a chair through a glass wall to save Beth; then, she smashes one of her attackers’ faces in with an ashtray. These two are the wild beating heart of Yellowstone.
  • Most Iconic Quote: “I have every right to be here. Every right. I have a right. This is America.” – Dan Jenkins in his final moments.
  • VibesSuccession, “What is this? A center for ants?!,” Neal McDonough’s other iconic villain Robert Quarles from Justified and the old adage “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

#2. Season 1

Why It’s #2Yellowstone‘s inaugural season begins with two magnificent episodes, but descends into melodrama later on. Despite its soapier aspects, the show’s blending of Shakespearean drama, classic Western fare and modern procedural TV is really the first of its kind. For that, we’re giving the season its flowers.

What Happened: After an attempt on his life, and in the midst of a secret battle with cancer, John Dutton calls upon his somewhat-estranged children to defend the empire they stand to inherit. Greedy Paradise Valley developer Dan Jenkins (the incomparable Danny Boston) and the business-minded new Reservation Chief Thomas Rainwater (Gil Birmingham) orchestrate a land-grab, and so-called progress threatens to destroy the cowboy way of life.

Standout Episode: The Yellowstone series premiere, “Daybreak,” is one of the greatest TV pilots ever made. A car crash, a cattle dispute and the death of a cowboy expertly tell you everything you need to know about the Dutton dynasty and its never-ending fight for survival.

  • Wildest Moment: There’s so much to clutch your pearls at in Season 1: Lee’s death, Monica’s coma, the meth lab explosion, Dan Jenkins’ hanging — the list goes on. But the most egregiously unlucky moment? When a Fish & Game officer is thrown from her horse and impaled by a metal rod not five minutes after Rip warned her to take it slow.
  • Most Iconic Quote: “Leverage is knowing if someone had all the money in the world, this is what they’d buy.” — John Dutton
  • VibesKing Lear, Carhartt, “A Country Boy Can Survive,”and Dallas.

#1. Season 3

Why It’s #1: Season 3 begins with a refreshing change of pace as the Dutton men converge on the cattle camp for the summer. It’s an opportunity to slacken the pace and live in the tense, but loving interactions between John, Kayce and Tate — in other words, the lineage of Dutton Ranch heirs. It’s fitting, then, that the season should be preoccupied with the past and trauma. At the top of the season, we see the majesty of what the Duttons are fighting for; by the finale, it’s clear that their battle to save the ranch may result in no more Duttons left to enjoy it. That’s the thrust of Yellowstone, and nowhere is it more nuanced and well-articulated than in Season 3.

What Happened: Market Equities happened, that’s what. Our new big-bad is handsome corporate devil Roarke Morris (Josh Holloway, Lost), who gives as good as he gets when sparring with Beth. Once again, John Dutton finds himself in league with Chief Rainwater to rout an enemy that makes war via corporate takeover. Business aside, the family drama of it all reaches new heights: Jamie’s adoption comes to light, and the horrific truth behind Beth’s infertility nearly saps John Dutton of his resolve.

Standout Episode: Gotta be the explosive (literally) Season 3 finale, when the Duttons are targeted in a string of coordinated attacks. Not only does it provide masterful action set pieces and Hitchcock-grade suspense, but it offers a tantalizing glimpse at a world where the Duttons are not all-powerful.

  • Wildest Moment: How about when Jimmy breaks his back, twice? In case you forgot, Yellowstone sometimes feels like it was written by a gaggle of elementary school kids dreaming up the most insane plot points possible — and we mean that in the best way.
  • Most Iconic Quote: “You are the trailer park. I am the tornado.” — Beth Dutton
  • VibesThe Big Short, “It ain’t much, but it’s honest work,” and Daniel Day-Lewis shouting “Bastard from a basket!” in There Will Be Blood.

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