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John Wayne

12 John Wayne Movies With a 100% Tomatometer Score on Rotten Tomatoes

John Wayne has over 180 acting credits to his name. However, critics didn’t rave about many of his performances, often saying that he only plays himself. That isn’t to say that the same group didn’t praise any of the legendary actor’s movies. There are 12 Wayne movies that earned the coveted 100% Tomatometer score on Rotten Tomatoes, but they aren’t all the titles that one would expect: his only Oscar-winning role in True Grit isn’t on the list.

‘The Big Trail’ (1930)

John Wayne as Breck Coleman and Marguerite Churchill as Ruth Cameron in one of his first movies 'The Big Trail' looking at each other with a horse behind them

L-R John Wayne as Breck Coleman and Marguerite Churchill as Ruth Cameron | John Springer Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

The Big Trail follows an upstart fur trapper named Breck Coleman (Wayne). He strikes an agreement to lead and protect a group of pioneers along the Oregon Trail. However, they face many dangers, such as a raid, a blizzard, and the scorching desert. Breck tries to begin a romance with a woman named Ruth Cameron (Marguerite Churchill). Meanwhile, he seeks revenge on the men who killed his mentor.

The first of Wayne’s movies to put him in the lead role is The Big Trail. However, the film failed at the box office. As a result, Wayne had difficulty returning to the leading role at the movies. He would ultimately get there, but it took some time.

Critics look back at The Big Trail for its historical value, calling it a “must for Wayne fans.”

‘Baby Face’ (1933)

Baby Face tells the story of Lily Powers (Barbara Stanwyck) and her sexual escapades. She’s the daughter of a speakeasy owner who lives a somber life in Pennsylvania. However, her whole life is turned upside down when her father dies in an accident. She joins her friend, Chico (Theresa Harris), on a freight train and heads to New York City to seduce powerful men to make her way to the top.

Wayne plays a supporting role in Baby Face as Jimmy McCoy Jr., one of Lily’s lovers.

Critics praise the movie for its ability to touch on the dark subject matter and the timeliness quality that allows it to still play well in modern-day.

‘Stagecoach’ (1939)

John Ford’s Stagecoach follows a group of passengers on the Overland stagecoach heading toward Lordsburg, New Mexico in the 1880s. The characters include a philosophizer (Thomas Mitchell), a lady with a poor reputation (Claire Trevor), and a liquor salesman (Donald Meek). However, they must deal with an escaped outlaw named the Ringo Kid (Wayne) and other threats along the Wild West.

It’s worth noting that Stagecoach is Wayne’s only movie with a “certified” rating, meaning that it meets a higher review input on the platform. Critics called Stagecoach “the best that the Western genre has to offer” and refer to Wayne’s “mesmerizing star turn.”

‘Dark Command’ (1940)

Dark Command takes place at the turn of the Civil War. It follows the townsfolk of Lawrence, Kansas as they are caught in the crossfire between the North and the South. Mary McCloud (Claire Trevor) marries a seemingly peaceful man (Walter Pidgeon) but doesn’t realize that he has a dark secret. He’s part of a gang that steals from and terrorizes those who support the North.

Wayne plays Mary’s former lover, Bob Seton. He’s a Union supporter who Mary’s husband plans to execute.

Critics on Rotten Tomatoes note that the film was a huge box office hit, calling it an “unusual Western.” The reviews commend director Raoul Walsh’s developed action.

‘The Long Voyage Home’ (1940)

The Long Voyage picks up in the early days of World War II. An English cargo crew includes Swede (Wayne), Smitty (Ian Hunter), Yank (Ward Bond), and Driscoll (Thomas Mitchell), who are traveling from the West Indies to Baltimore. However, they realize that their new cargo is dynamite, making them uncomfortable. They begin to question if there’s a Nazi spy on board.

The critical reception is very positive, recognizing the Wayne movie for its “haunting” ability to depict life at sea.

‘The Fighting Seabees’ (1944)

The Fighting Seabees follows Wedge Donovan (Wayne), who is the civilian head of a construction company. However, everything changes when he’s asked to train Navy men as specialists. Wedge wants to show that his own crew is able to get the job done, but Japanese soldiers prove him dead wrong.

Rotten Tomatoes critics explained that this is one of Wayne’s very best World War II movies, celebrating the actor’s impact in the film.

‘Fort Apache’ (1948)

Fort Apache tells the story of a stubborn Civil War hero named Colonel Owen Thursday (Henry Fonda). He heads to Arizona with his daughter, Philadelphia (Shirley Temple), to assume his position as the head of the Fort Apache outpost. However, he butts heads with the calm Captain Kirby York (Wayne), who tries to warn Thursday against battling with local Native Americans.

Fort Apache got positive reviews thanks to a tremendous cast, including Wayne, and the film’s social commentary.

‘Red River’ (1948)

Red River follows Thomas Dunson (Wayne) after he starts a Texas cattle ranch. He has the help of his trail hand named Groot (Walter Brennan), his protégé, Matt (Montgomery Clift), and an orphan. However, Thomas must travel on a cattle drive to Missouri for better prices after the economic impact of the Civil War. The journey weighs on Thomas and Matt, as they begin to turn on one another.

Critics continue to celebrate the complexity of the character, Thomas, which is a rare compliment given to Wayne movies. Rotten Tomatoes critics crown Red River for its ability to escalate the typical Western movie.

‘Sands of Iwo Jima’ (1949)

Sands of Iwo Jima follows the despised Marine Sgt. John Stryker (Wayne), who puts his men through exhausting training. However, the rough nature of the war in the Pacific begins to transform their negative opinion of Stryker into respect. They’ll need all of the training that they got in order to fight to survive the Battle of Iwo Jima.

The reviews for Sands of Iwo Jima note that it’s one of the movies “tailor-made” for Wayne. They call out its status as a piece of propaganda but celebrate that it highlights one of the actor’s best roles.

‘The Comancheros’ (1961)

The Comancheros tells the story of an aging Texas ranger named Jake Cutter (Wayne) after his partner is killed. He’s assigned to apprehend a gambler (Stuart Whitman), who is a prisoner who escaped his execution. However, Jake encounters the Comancheros, a gang of outlaws providing guns and booze to the Comanches. As a result of working with the gambler, Jake begins to question his assignment.

The Rotten Tomatoes reviews rave about the Wayne movie’s charm and lively nature. They criticize its predictability but note how it always remains entertaining.

‘The Sons of Katie Elder’ (1965)

The Sons of Katie Elder explores four sons as they reunite in their Texas hometown for their mother’s funeral. Gunfighter John (Wayne) and Tom (Dean Martin) are the oldest brothers, who discover that their father gambled away their family ranch, resulting in his murder. The brothers plan to avenge his death and win back their family ranch.

Out of all the Wayne movies, some critics explain how they have a soft spot for The Sons of Katie Elder. It isn’t necessarily demanding of its audience, but it’s an exciting Western with a great cast.

‘El Dorado’ (1967)

John Wayne Called ‘Red River’ Story ‘One of the Best’ He’d Ever Heard but Didn’t Want to Play an Old Man

El Dorado picks up as a heartless tycoon named Bart Jason (Edward Asner) hires a group of bandits to force the MacDonald family out of El Dorado to claim their land. The town sheriff is too busy with his own woes to help the family. However, a noble elder gunfighter named Cole Thorton (Wayne) learns about what’s happening and decides to help. He heads to El Dorado with his friend, Mississippi (James Caan), to stand up for what’s right.

The reviews tip their hat at El Dorado as one of Wayne’s most entertaining movies. It’s called “funny,” “moving,” and “vivid” storytelling that keeps its audiences entertained for the duration of its runtime.

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John Wayne

John Wayne’s death was ‘ordered’ by Joseph Stalin because of star’s threat to comm*n*sm

Wayne was renowned for detesting the values of communism, so much so he even played a prominent role in creating the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals (MPA) in 1944, becoming President five years later.
Its membership included the likes of Ronald Reagan, Walt Disney and Clark Gable.
For a man so intrinsically linked to stereotypical personas of what a man should look like in the Thirties and Forties, it is a surprise that, unlike his fellow Americans, Wayne did not fight in World War Two.
His contemporaries, such as Gable, Jimmy Stewart, Mel Brooks and Kirk Douglas, all served, but Wayne was excused on medical grounds and instead continued his film career.

John Wayne on the set of Stagecoach

John Wayne: The star of the set of Stagecoach (Image: GETTY)

Being unable to serve was a “terrible embarrassment” for Wayne, Carolyn McGivern’s 2000 book John Wayne: A Giant Shadow argued. The star reportedly said: “Mine became the task of holding high and ever visible the value that everyone was fighting for.”
However, there were counterclaims that Wayne could have served, including by author Marc Eliot, who discussed the topic in his 2014 book American Titan: Searching for John Wayne.
He claimed Wayne did not want to fight Germany on account of his relationship with Marlene Dietrich, a German actress he reportedly had an affair with. Unwilling to end the bonk, Wayne instead just vetoed taking part in the war.
In 2014’s publication John Wayne: The Life and Legend, by author Scott Eyman, Wayne, who won the Best Actor Oscar in 1970, described how one encounter affected him while he grew up.
He wrote: “Duke Morrison [Wayne]’s learning experiences were not always pleasant, but deeply imprinted on his ethical compass. He remembered catching a bee, and tying a thread around the creature so all it could do was fly in circles. A boy who was about three years older and had recently arrived from Poland walked by and said, ‘Don’t do that.’

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John Wayne

John Wayne was in so much pain he couldn’t sleep when filming Western with Ann-Margret

By the 1970s, John Wayne was coming towards the end of his career as a Hollywood star. In 1973, aged 65-years-old, he had been living with one lung for the best part of 10 years and was suffering from emphysema on the remaining one. That year he released two Westerns, which aren’t remembered as his best but saw the ageing icon carry on with much determination. One of these films was The Train Robbers, which co-starred Ann-Margret as a feisty widow who works alongside three cowboys in recovering a cage of gold. Despite his health problems on the movie, Wayne refused to delay filming and strived forwards. Ann-Margret had fond memories of her co-star’s tenacity during this period.
Ann-Margret recalled: “Duke was still a strong, rugged, formidable man, larger-than-life and incredibly personal. He was a big teddy bear, and we got along famously. Duke gave me the confidence I lacked.”

The Viva Las Vegas star appreciated this given that 1972 had been a very difficult time in her life, having been seriously injured when performing in her Lake Tahoe show. In terms of the confidence boost she needed, the actress had to overcome her fear of horses as there was much riding for her character. It was here that Wayne gave her support and helped her overcome this obstacle. Yet even before shooting started, Duke had fractured two of his ribs, which was so painful he struggled to sleep at night.

wayne and ann-margret
John Wayne was in so much pain he couldn’t sleep when filming Western with Ann-Margret (Image: GETTY)

wayne and ann in the train robbers
John Wayne and Ann-Margret in The Train Robbers (Image: GETTY)

As a result, Wayne’s action scenes in The Train Robbers had to be scaled down, with co-star Rod Taylor remembered Duke being “slightly” infirm during the shoot. The Time Machine star said the Western legend had trouble with his balance and understandably needed afternoon naps.
Wayne also released Cahill: US Marshall in 1973, which saw a significantly weakened Duke having to use a stepladder to climb onto a horse. That year also marked the death of his most famous collaborator, the director John Ford.

Upon news of the filmmakers’ death that August, Wayne told journalists: “I’m pretty much living on borrowed time.”

train robbers poster
The Train Robbers poster (Image: GETTY)

wayne and ann
Ann-Margret thought John Wayne was a “teddy bear” on set (Image: GETTY)

Duke would go on to make a couple of better-reviewed Westerns in True Grit sequel Rooster Cogburn opposite Katherine Hepburn and The Shootist.
The latter film was his final one and saw him playing a terminally ill gunfighter. The Hollywood icon himself died of cancer just a couple of years later in 1979.

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John Wayne

10 Best John Wayne Movies, Ranked by Viewers

‘Baby Face’ (1933) – 7.5/10The Most Popular John Wayne Movies According to IMDb

‘The Longest Day’ (1962) – 344
‘The Quiet Man’ (1952) – 367
‘Chisum’ (1970) – 1,999
‘Rio Bravo’ (1959) – 2,355
‘The Searchers’ (1956) – 2,872
‘The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance’ (1962) – 2,963
‘El Dorado’ (1966) – 3,372
‘McLintock!’ (1963) – 3,664
‘Stagecoach’ (1939) – 3,905
‘True Grit’ (1969) – 4,016

1‘The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance’ (1962)
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)

Director: John FordStars: James Stewart, John Wayne, Vera Miles, Lee Marvin
IMDb: 8.1/10 | Metascore: 94 | Popularity: 2,963
John Ford’s 1962 classic western ‘The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance’ is a timeless masterpiece. Featuring performances from James Stewart and John Wayne, the film follows Ransom Stoddard (Stewart) as he arrives in the town of Shinbone, Arizona in pursuit of justice.

He quickly meets Tom Doniphon (Wayne), the local lawman, and together they take on notorious outlaw Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin). In a climactic showdown against all odds, the two succeed in defeating Liberty but at what cost?
The movie thoughtfully explores themes of justice and friendship that are still relevant today. Stewart’s and Wayne’s performances are legendary while the movie’s cinematography and score create an unforgettable viewing experience – one that will stay with audiences for generations to come.
2‘Rio Bravo’ (1959)
Rio Bravo (1959)

Director: Howard HawksStars: John Wayne, Dean Martin, Ricky Nelson, Angie Dickinson
IMDb: 8.0/10 | Metascore: 94 | Popularity: 2,355
‘Rio Bravo’ is an iconic Western classic by director Howard Hawks, starring John Wayne, Dean Martin, Ricky Nelson, and more. This beloved film follows the epic tale of Sheriff John T. Chance as he arrests a powerful rancher’s brother for murder and defends against his gang until a U.S. Marshal arrives with help from unlikely allies; a cripple, drunkard, and young gunfighter.

Rio Bravo (1959) Official Trailer – Johh Wayne, Dean Martin Western Movie HD

Watch this video on YouTube

Despite its small budget of $1 million, ‘Rio Bravo’ went on to make over five times that at the box office. Its popularity has only grown throughout the years due to its talented cast (John Wayne delivering a powerful performance), memorable characters, and suspenseful plot arc. It remains one of the most unforgettable classics in Western cinema history.

3‘The Searchers’ (1956)
The Searchers (1956)
Director: John FordStars: John Wayne, Jeffrey Hunter, Vera Miles, Ward Bond
IMDb: 7.9/10 | Metascore: 94 | Popularity: 2,872
John Wayne‘s timeless performance in John Ford’s 1956 classic “The Searchers” is widely regarded as one of the best westerns ever made. Based on Alan Le May‘s 1954 novel, the film follows Ethan Edwards, a middle-aged Civil War veteran consumed by his desire to find his abducted niece (Natalie Wood). Along with his adopted nephew Martin (Jeffrey Hunter), Ethan embarks on a quest fraught with danger and emotion.

With its complex characters and examination of darker themes, “The Searchers” was both a critical and commercial success upon release and has only grown in popularity over time.
4‘Stagecoach’ (1939)
Stagecoach (1939)

Director: John FordStars: John Wayne, Claire Trevor, Andy Devine, John Carradine, Thomas Mitchell
IMDb: 7.8/10 | Metascore: 93 | Popularity: 3,905
This classic Western film directed by John Ford follows a group of travelers as they make their way from Tonto, Arizona to Lordsburg, New Mexico in a stagecoach. Along the way, they encounter Native Americans and outlaws that challenge them to band together for survival.

Starring John Wayne and Claire Trevor, ‘Stagecoach’ is an enduring cinematic masterpiece with its gripping action sequences and rich characters. The themes of courage in the face of adversity have made this movie timeless while it continues to capture viewers’ hearts after over 80 years since its release.
5‘Red River’ (1948)
Red River (1948)

Directors: Howard Hawks, Arthur RossonStars: John Wayne, Montgomery Clift, Joanne Dru, Walter Brennan
IMDb: 7.8/10 | Metascore: 96
A classic Western film from 1948, ‘Red River’ has stood the test of time and still captivates audiences today. Directed by Howard Hawks and starring John Wayne, Montgomery Clift, Walter Brennan, Joanne Dru, and Coleen Gray in supporting roles, the movie follows the story of a Texas rancher and his adopted adult son as they embark on their first cattle drive from Texas to Kansas along the Chisholm Trail.
As tensions rise between them over managing the cattle drive, viewers are treated to thrilling action sequences amidst stunning cinematography and an emotional score. Along with its memorable characters and gripping drama throughout, ‘Red River’ remains one of cinema’s greatest Westerns ever made.
6‘The Longest Day’ (1962)
The Longest Day (1962)

Directors: Ken Annakin, Andrew Marton, Gerd Oswald, Bernhard Wicki, Darryl F. ZanuckStars: John Wayne, Robert Ryan, Richard Burton, Henry Fonda
IMDb: 7.7/10 | Metascore: 75 | Popularity: 344
An epic war movie, ‘The Longest Day’ is about the Allied invasion of Normandy on D-Day during World War II. Directed by Ken Annakin, Andrew Marton, and Bernhard Wicki, this film features a star-studded cast of John Wayne, Robert Ryan, and Henry Fonda. The story follows several characters from different countries as they fight for the liberation of France in one of the most important battles in history. Through precision camera work and clear storytelling, it conveys a powerful message about courage and sacrifice while still staying true to its historical accuracy.

The Longest Day (1962) Trailer #1 | Movieclips Classic Trailer

‘The Longest Day’ showcases a variety of technical skills that are essential for any successful war movie. It uses dramatic music to emphasize key moments while also relying on voiceover narration to explain complex events or describe emotional scenes with clarity.
7‘The Quiet Man’ (1952)
The Quiet Man (1952)

Director: John FordStars: John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara, Barry Fitzgerald, Ward Bond
IMDb: 7.7/10 | Metascore: 85 | Popularity: 367
Returning to his hometown in Ireland, Sean Thornton is a former American boxer looking to reclaim the family farm. He meets Mary Kate Danaher and falls in love with her fiery spirit despite the disapproval of their community. Directed by John Ford, ‘The Quiet Man’ follows their journey as they strive for happiness together.

The Quiet Man (1952) Trailer #1 | Movieclips Classic Trailers

This classic romantic drama stars Maureen O’Hara and John Wayne, both delivering powerful performances that have stood the test of time.
8‘The Shootist’ (1976)
The Shootist (1976)
Director: Don SiegelStars: John Wayne, Lauren Bacall, Ron Howard, James Stewart
IMDb: 7.6/10 | Metascore: 77
Directed by the legendary Don Siegel, ‘The Shootist’ is a critically acclaimed 1976 Western film based on Glendon Swarthout‘s novel. The movie stars John Wayne in his final acting role before he passed away three years later; it also features Lauren Bacall, Ron Howard, and James Stewart with a screenplay written by Miles Hood Swarthout and Scott Hale.

J.B Books (John Wayne) is a renowned gunfighter struggling to accept his looming death as he is diagnosed with cancer and chooses to spend his remaining time in seclusion at a boarding house managed by Lauren Bacall‘s character–a widow who rents him one room. Despite Book’s wishes for peace during these last days, conflict arises when young gunslingers challenge the greatness of Books’ reputation as the best shooter.
9‘El Dorado’ (1966)
El Dorado (1966)

Director: Howard HawksStars: John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, James Caan, Charlene Holt
IMDb: 7.5/10 | Metascore: 85 | Popularity: 3,372
Sheriff J.P. Harrah (Robert Mitchum) embarks on a journey to bring justice to a small town in California and meets up with an old acquaintance, Cole Thornton, who helps him take on a powerful rancher and his gang of criminals. This classic Western movie features action-packed fights, thrilling horse chases, and gun-slinging showdowns – all held together by John Wayne‘s authoritative presence and Robert Mitchum‘s charming charisma.

With its tightly written plot and well-paced tension throughout, ‘El Dorado’ is an unforgettable movie experience that stands the test of time as one of the greats of the Western genre.
10‘Baby Face’ (1933)
Baby Face (1933)

Director: Alfred E. GreenStars: Barbara Stanwyck, George Brent, Donald Cook, Alphonse Ethier
IMDb: 7.5/10
Barbara Stanwyck stars in this classic pre-Code Hollywood drama as Lily Powers, a young woman determined to succeed despite her difficult circumstances. She uses her beauty and wit to seek revenge on the men who have wronged her, learning valuable lessons about power and manipulation along the way.

Despite its age and John Wayne‘s minor role, ‘Baby Face’ remains an iconic piece of cinema today due to its strong female lead, bold themes, and powerful performance from Stanwyck. It is also an important reminder of how far we have come since 1933 when it comes to gender inequality in America – but also how far we still have left to go.
Popular John Wayne Movies Not Ranked Top 10
Though not ranked the highest amongst the best by viewers, the following films are still very popular.
‘Chisum’ (1970)

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