What do you think the best John Wayne movie is? Look through our list of John Wayne movies and make your own list of top John Wayne movies. Did you know John Wayne is considered to be the biggest box office draw of all time? I was also surprised to learn that he was in more than just westerns. I am continually amazed at how popular many of his movies still are. He had such a long career too and pretty much only quit because of his health right before he died. He was often in 5 movies in one year. Since he did so many movies so fast, some of them aren’t so good but there are also quite a few that are very well done. Here are our picks for the best:
Here is our compilation video we posted on Youtube so you can watch a summary of this blog:
#9 – The Sons of Katie Elder (1965)
Mommy Bear’s Opinion - It’s interesting to watch the relationship between the four sons. They all have quite the personality. Another great John Wayne western to add to your DVD collection.
Summary – Katie Elder bore four sons. The day she is buried they all return home to Clearwater, Texas, to pay their last respects. John Wayne is the eldest and toughest son, the gunslinger. Tom (Dean Martin) is good with a deck of cards and good with a gun when he has to be. Matt (Earl Holliman) is the quiet one – nobody ever called him yellow… twice. Bud (Michael Anderson, Jr.) is the youngest. Any hope for respectability lies with him. Directed by Henry Hathaway (True Grit), an acknowledged master of the western, the story has a dual theme: not only is this a he-man’s story, but it is also a drama of the maternal influence of Katie Elder, movingly portrayed from beginning to conclusion.
Mommy Bear’s Opinion - One of his more popular movies. Beautifully done in technicolor. It has beautiful scenery and admirable themes of honor and wisdom.
Summary – A masterpiece of mood and heroics, this second film in director John Ford’s renowned cavalry trilogy (Fort Apache and Rio Grande are the others) features one of John Wayne’s most moving performances as a cavalry officer in his final week of service on the frontier. Under makeup aging him some 20 years, he inhabits the role of a wily veteran who knows the sting of war and vows to make his last mission one of peace.
#7 – True Grit (1969)
Mommy Bear’s Opinion - This movie was recently re-done but the new version isn’t clean enough to sell on our website. One of several movies he plays Rooster Cogburn. You’ll definitely want to check it out.
Summary – The cantankerous Rooster is hired by a headstrong young girl (Kim Darby) to find the man who murdered her father and fled with the family savings. When Cogburn’s employer insists on accompanying the old gunfighter, sparks fly. And the situation goes from troubled to disastrous when an inexperienced Texas Ranger (Glen Campbell) joins the party. Laughter and tears punctuate the wild action in this extraordinary Western which also features performances by Robert Duvall, Jeremy Slate and Strother Martin.
#6 – The Cowboys (1972)
Mommy Bear’s Opinion - A great rough western for viewers who like John Wayne. Some great messages about duty, loyalty, responsibility and perseverance.
Summary – John Wayne had brawled bareknuckle, gunned down desperadoes, fought jungle wars and piloted the skies. But The Cowboys gave him one of his juiciest roles as a leather-tough rancher who, deserted by his regular help, hires 11 greenhorn schoolboys for a cattle drive across 400 treacherous miles.
Mommy Bear’s Opinion - A classic war drama. There is a reason this won Academy awards. An all-star cast that covers a lot of ground and is moving, huge production. It’s even much less gory than today’s war movies. I appreciate the fact that the men in the movie were actually all alive during World War II so it feels more personal than current war movies.
Summary – Seen through the eyes of Allied generals, foot soldiers, strategists and paratroopers, The Longest Day recounts the largest and greatest military mission of all time. In a battle that would change the course of history, 5,000 ships unloaded over 3 million men on the beaches of France, and the Allies gained a valuable foothold on enemy territory, at an incalculable cost. This massive production required five directors and featured an international cast of thousands, including John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, Henry Fonda, Eddie Albert, Richard Burton, Sean Connery, Peter Lawford, Rod Steiger, Stuart Whitman, Robert Ryan, Edmond O’Brien, Curt Jürgens and more!
#4 – Red River (1948)
Mommy Bear’s Opinion - Lots of heart and soul in this movie. It’s inspiring how Tom Dunson will stop at nothing to protect his living. Many say it’s the best western of all-time.
Summary – John Wayne gives “one of the best performances of his career” as Tom Dunson, a cattle baron who built his ranch with hard work and a determination to kill any man who would dare try to take his land. But when plummeting livestock values endanger his beloved ranch, Tom and his adopted son set our to get a fair price for their cattle by driving them through the treacherous Chisholm Trail from Texas to Kansas. Battling Indians, stampedes and dissension among the ranch hands, Tom proves that he’ll stop at nothing to reach his destination. He’ll risk danger, hardship, betrayal..and perhaps even his own sanity.
#3 – The Searchers (1956)
Mommy Bear’s Opinion - The first John Ford/John Wayne movie. A little rough around the edges, still some great acting. Many different themes going in and out make it a little hard for some to follow, but for those who stick with it, you will be well-rewarded.
Summary - Wayne plays an ex-Confederate soldier seeking his niece, captured by Comanches who massacred his family. He won’t surrender to hunger, thirst, the elements or loneliness. And in his five-year search, he encounters something unexpected: his own humanity.
#2 – The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)
Mommy Bear’s Opinion - Not as popular as some of his others, but a great movie none-the-less. It’s also hard to go wrong with John Ford directing it and Jimmy Stewart in it too. Some great acting by an all-star cast and an interesting plot.
Summary – Stewart plays the bungling but charming big-city lawyer determined to rid Shinbone of Valance, and he finds that he has an unlikely ally – in the form of a rugged local rancher (Wayne). The two men also share the love interest (Miles). But when the final showdown becomes inevitable, one of the two will attempt to get the gunman…but the other one will wind up getting the gal.
#1 – Rio Bravo (1959)
Mommy Bear’s Opinion - A good movie to start with if you aren’t sure if you will like his movies. Several other stars (see below) are in this movie and you can tell they enjoyed making this film. There are several underlying stories and some great music too.
Summary – On one side is an army of gunmen dead-set on springing a murderous cohort from jail. On the other is Sheriff John T. Chance (John Wayne) and his two deputies: one a recovering drunkard (Dean Martin), the other a crippled codger (Walter Brennan). Also in their ragtag ranks are an unseasoned, trigger-happy youth (Ricky Nelson) and a woman with a past (Angie Dickinson) – and her eye on Chance. Director Howard Hawks lifted the Western to new heights with Red River. Capturing the legendary West with a stellar cast in peak form, he does it again here.
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