10 Best John Wayne Movies, Ranked (According To IMDb)
John Wayne is synonymous with classic western films. That wasn’t all he did, though, and his best work can be found here.
- BY KASY LONG
- PUBLISHED 2 DAYS AGO
Western films will always be associated with John Wayne. Known as “The Duke,” he was one of the top box office draws for three decades during Hollywood’s Golden Age of cinema. He appeared in over 150 movies during his career. He was brilliant in every role, whether he was playing a cowboy, a colonel, or a marshal. “The Duke” was always the hero.
Wayne’s legacy continues today, even 40 years past his death in 1979. Fans still love his films and credit him as the best western star of all time. Let’s take a look at 10 of his best movies, ranked according to IMDb.ADVERTISING
10The Cowboys (1972) – 7.4
By the 1970s, Wayne’s career was slowly dwindling as movie viewers were growing less interested in western films. However, his 1972 film, The Cowboys, still remains as one of his best performances. The film focuses on veteran cattle rancher Wil Andersen (Wayne). He is about to embark on a big cattle drive when his crew unexpectedly quits to join in the historic California Gold Rush.
Needing workers, Wil enlists the help of local schoolboys. At first, Wil is grumpy and frustrated with the teen boys. However, a bond forms between Wil and the boys as they become their own family.
9True Grit (1969) – 7.4
The 1969 film True Grit is undeniably Wayne’s most memorable film out of his entire career. After hired hand Tom Chaney (Jeff Corey) murders the father of 14-year-old Mattie Ross (Kim Darby), she hires U.S. Marshal “Rooster” Cogburn (Wayne) to seek vengeance. He is a man of “true grit” and he teams up with Texas Ranger La Boeuf (Glen Campbell) in his manhunt.
The film earned Wayne his first and only Academy Award for Best Actor. To this day, the film is regarded as a truly iconic film of the western genre. When you think of Wayne’s career, you typically associate him with True Grit.
8El Dorado (1966) – 7.6
The 1966 film El Dorado is a collaboration between Wayne and another memorable western film star, Robert Mitchum. The film centers on gunslinger Cole Thorton (Wayne), who returns to the town of El Dorado to work for a heartless landowner, Bart Jason (Ed Asner). However, he realizes he will have to fight his old friend, J.P. Harrah (Mitchum). So, he turns down the offer.
Instead, he teams up with J.P. to protect the citizens of El Dorado from Bart. At the same time, he helps J.P. with his alcoholism. A story about friendship with plenty of gunfights, El Dorado is a western you don’t want to miss.
7The Shootist (1976) – 7.6
1976’s The Shootist was Wayne’s final film role, and it was one of his most memorable performances. He plays J.B. Books, an aging gunfighter who was recently diagnosed with cancer. He travels to Nevada at the turn of the 20th century for one last gunfight. He rents a room from the widowed Bond Rogers (Lauren Bacall) and her son, Gillom (Ron Howard).
Books is puzzled by many citizens in the town like a man who wants to avenge his brother’s death. Others are looking to make a profit off of Books’ notoriety. Knowing his time is running up, Books devises one last gunfight to end his life with a, well, bang.
6Red River (1948) – 7.8
John Wayne was always the hero, but that wasn’t the case in the 1948 film, Red River. He starred as Thomas Dunson, a tyrannical cattle rancher who works with a faithful trail hand, Groot (Walter Brennan) and his protégé and adopted son, Matt Garth (Montgomery Clift). They lead a cattle drive to Missouri following the Civil War.
This journey isn’t easy, and Thomas becomes a dictator. This causes Matt to rebel against him, and they wonder if they’ll ever be a “family.” If you’re used to watching Wayne as a hero, it might be difficult to watch his behavior in this movie, but it’s a stand-out performance.
5The Quiet Man (1952) – 7.8
The 1952 comedy-drama The Quiet Man is one of the rare times Wayne didn’t star in a western. Instead, he teamed up with Maureen O’Hara, his co-star in four other popular romantic films. The Quiet Man is the best movie they made together.
After accidentally killing an opponent in the ring, boxer Sean Thornton (Wayne) flees to Ireland to buy his family’s homestead. While doing so, he meets and falls in love with Mary Kate Danaher (O’Hara). Their romance seems perfect until Mary Kate’s brother wants to buy Sean’s property out from under him. Uh-oh!
4Stagecoach (1939) – 7.9
In the 1930s, Wayne mostly worked as an extra or had small roles in films. In 1939, he finally got his big break in showbusiness in Stagecoach, where he played Ringo Kid, a young outlaw who was seeking revenge for his father and brother’s deaths.
The film includes a diverse group of characters, including an alcoholic philosophizer (Thomas Mitchell), a woman with a poor reputation (Claire Trevor), a shy liquor salesman (Donald Meek), and many other travelers. They’re all aboard the same stagecoach and they must live with each other. The film set Wayne on a path to stardom.
3The Searchers (1956) – 7.9
Wayne was best when he was starring in westerns. In the 1956 film The Searchers, Ethan Edwards (Wayne) returns home to Texas following the Civil War. Several members of his brother’s family are killed and abducted by Comanches, so Ethan is on a hunt to track them down and bring them home.
He eventually finds out that his niece, Debbie (Natalie Wood), is alive and with her adopted brother, Martin (Jeffrey Hunter). This sends Ethan on a dangerous mission to find them. If anyone can find them, it’s “The Duke.”
2Rio Bravo (1959) – 8.0
In the 1959 film Rio Bravo, gunslinger Joe Burdette (Claude Akins) kills a man in a saloon. This causes Sheriff John T. Chance (Wayne) to arrest him, along with the help of the town drunk, Dude (Dean Martin).
However, John soon finds himself in trouble when Joe’s brother, Nathan (John Russell), comes to town to bust his brother out of jail. John must stand his ground, but he’s tested on numerous occasions. It doesn’t seem like the Sheriff will win in this film, but who can really defeat “The Duke”?
1The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) – 8.1
The 1962 film The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance has everything you want in a good western: gang members, violence, and John Wayne. The film begins with Senator Ransom Stoddard (James Stewart) arriving in town to attend the funeral of rancher Tom Doniphon (Wayne). When he’s asked why he’s attending the funeral, the movie flashes back to 25 years prior.
When Ransom was visiting the town, he ran into a cruel gang led by Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin). Tom Doniphon came to the rescue and saved Ransom’s life. Tom repeatedly helps Ransom and the two become a competitive force against Liberty Valance. They’re just too good to be stopped.
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About The Author
Kasy Long is a full-time freelance writer and editor based in Indiana, USA. She specializes in entertainment news, feature stories, lifestyle articles, and more. She covers entertainment news on Screen Rant for Valnet, Inc. She has a passion for everything Old Hollywood, particularly her favorite show of all time–“I Love Lucy.” In her spare time, Kasy can be found reading, writing, painting, and attempting new recipes.More About Kasy LongADVERTISING