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20 Best John Wayne Movies Ranked – My Blog

Given the legacy of the actor, the best John Wayne movies rank among some of the most influential movies of all time. 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 iconic in countless roles. Whether he was playing a cowboy, a colonel, or a marshal, “The Duke” was always the hero. Wayne’s legacy continues today, even several decades since his death in 1979. Fans still love his films, and the best John Wayne movies continue to be heavily revisited.Few actors in the history of movies have reached the kind of iconic status as Wayne. He helped define a certain type of hero in movies in his era and there is still a certain influence from Wayne that can be found in modern movies. Though John Wayne western movies are a genre of their own, he showed versatility in some other projects. With a career spanning many decades, Wayne has starred in so many classics as well as some underrated projects. Even those who may not be a fan of the actor may be interested in how the best John Wayne movies have helped shape cinema in general.20Hatari! (1962)

John Wayne driving a truck in Hatari

Many fans would likely have a hard time picturing Wayne in a comedy, but the adventure movie Hatari! does have a more comedic edge than most of his more famous roles. The movie tells the story of a group of men who make a living trapping wild animals in Africa and selling them to zoos. Modern audiences might not be too keen to cheer for a protagonist like this even if Wayne brings his typical gruffness to the character. But the adventure aspects might offer enough fun to distract from the things that have aged poorly. It ranks among John Wayne’s favorites of his own movies.
19In Harm’s Way (1965)

John Wayne in InHarm's Way
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In Harm’s Way is a realistic view of American Naval Officers during Pearl Harbor and in the years after America became fully involved in World War II after the event. John Wayne stars as a disgraced Naval Captain who is removed from his command after he didn’t follow the rules of combat or orders when in pursuit of the Japanese after Pearl Harbor. Captain Torrey (Wayne) is given a second chance to redeem himself in this war epic. Though not regarded as one of Wayne’s better war movies, its stunning black-and-white look and seeing Wayne alongside Kirk Douglas is still effective.
18Big Jake (1971)
John Wayne looking intense in Big Jake
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Even as Wayne entered the final decade of his career before his death, he continued to shine in the kinds of roles fans had always enjoyed seeing him in. Big Jake was one of his final hit movies and played to those strengths. The movie follows the kidnapping of a young boy by a gang of outlaws who demand a ransom. Wayne plays the titular hero and the one man who stands a chance of rescuing the boy. The movie is held together by Wayne’s commanding performance up until the exciting climax which alone makes the movie worthwhile.
17McLintock! (1963)
John Wayne in a cowboy hat in McLintock
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McLintock is unique among Westerns, and stands out not only in terms of the best John Wayne movies but the actor’s career in general. Instead of being the usual action-oriented Western adventure, it is focused on a daily story with Wayne playing a hero who is attempting to reconcile with his wife and daughter. In the Western, Wayne plays the titular land baron who is a respected man in the lands. He uses the influence he has in an attempt to keep peace among the various rivals and enemies while also dealing with his own family issues. The box office success came at a time when Wayne was in need of a hit and migth have kept the icon’s career alive.
16The Sons Of Katie Elder (1965)
Four brothers looking in the distance in The Sons Of Katie Elder
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As big of a star as Wayne is, it is fun to see him sharing the screen with other notable actors of the time. In the Western revenge story The Sons of Katie Elder, Wayne and Dean Martin make for a fun team of brothers in the story. The movie follows four brothers who return to their family home for their father’s funeral only to find a conman is attempting to take the home from their mother. Wayne plays the eldest brother and a gunfighter. The movie holds up as a solid Western action movie with some unexpected roughness as aell as humor delivered by Wayne’s costars.
15The Horse Soldiers (1959)
John Wayne in The Horse Soldier
John Wayne and John Ford collaborated a number of times in their illustrious careers including this Western war epic set during the American Civil War. In The Horse Soldier, Colonel John Marlowe (Wayne) is a Union soldier sent on a mission to attack behind Confederate lines. Along with the various skirmishes between the Union and Confederate soldiers, there is another storyline between Colonel Marlowe and Major Henry Kendall (William Holden) as the Major is on the medical staff and is struggling to reckon with the horrors of war.
14She Wore A Yellow Ribbon (1949)
"She Wore A Yellow Ribbon" features Wayne as a Calvary officer.
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John Wayne stars in this Western movie set in the late 1800s after the end of the American Civil War, as a Calvary Captain who is tasked with safely escorting two women out of the enemy territory. Captain Brittles (Wayne) is about to retire but he goes on this one last mission to help out the commanding officer of his unit. Various troops fall for Olivia Dandridge (Joanne Dru) as Brittles tries to escort her safely and protect her as she wears a yellow ribbon signaling she’s already in a relationship. She Wore a Yellow Ribbon has been praised for the smart and engrossing script that makes it more than just an average Western.
13The Cowboys (1972)
John Wayne in The Cowboys
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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 one of his best performances. Veteran cattle rancher Wil Andersen (Wayne) embarks on a cattle drive when his crew unexpectedly quits. Needing workers, Wil enlists the help of local schoolboys and the grumpy old man grows to form a bond with them. Wayne is perfectly cast as the bitter and stony elder who grows a heart over the course of the story. It is one of the more charming entries from later in the actor’s career.
12El Dorado (1966)
JohnWayne in El Dorado
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The 1966 film El Dorado is a collaboration between Wayne and another memorable Western movie 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 fans don’t want to miss, especially to see Wayne and Mitchum sharing the screen.
11The Longest Day (1962)
Lt. Vandervoort and with a fellow soldier posing in The Longest Day
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As much as Wayne might be best remembered in the Western genre, he also appeared in a number of war movies. He was featured as one of the many cast members in the star-studded ensemble for The Longest Day. The movie explores the D-Day invasion from the Allied troops against the German military in World War II. The movie focuses on many different stories and characters taking back in the historic operation, with Wayne joined by the likes of Henry Fonda, Robert Mitchum, and Sean Connery.
10Fort Apache (1948)
John Wayne in Fort Apache
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Captain Kirby York (Wayne) is an American Civil War veteran who was in line to take command at a Union cavalry post, Fort Apache, but the job is given to another veteran Lieutenant Colonel Thursday (Henry Fonda). Lt. Col. Thursday is qualified for the position, but he is arrogant and egotistical and the soldiers at the post wanted Captain York in command. The first movie in John Ford’s so-called Cavalry Trilogy (followed by She Wore a Yellow Ribbon and Rio Grande), Fort Apache is the best of the three. It is a standout Western of the 1940s and is notable as one of the first Hollywood movies to show an authentic and sympathetic version of Native Americans.
9The Alamo (1960)
John Wayne wearing a coonskin cap in The Alamo
John Wayne seems like the obvious actor to star in a retelling of the famous heroic story of The Alamo. Set in 1836, the movie follows a group of brave and dedicated soldiers who decide to stay and defend their fortress against the larger Mexican army. Wayne takes the lead role in the ensemble as Day Crockett. While the movie might get a little lost in its patriotic sensibilities, it is still an exciting adventure movie that was nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars.
8Red River (1948)
John Wayne in Red River
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John Wayne was nearly 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.” Those who are used to watching Wayne as a hero might find it difficult to watch his behavior in this movie, but it’s a stand-out performance. The movie was nominated for an Oscar for its screenplay and was named to the National Film Registry in 1990.
7The Quiet Man (1952)
Mary Kate clinging to Sean in The Quiet Man
The 1952 comedy-drama The Quiet Man is one of the rare times John 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. Along with being nominated for Best Picture, the movie won John Ford his fourth Oscar for Best Director.
6The Shootist (1976)
John Wayne in the street in The Shootist
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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, such as 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 an appropriate bang. It is a fitting final Western for John Wayne as the genre began to evolve beyond his style.
5Rio Bravo (1959)
John Wayne and Dean Martin in Rio Bravo
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 is a fun and thrilling Western that still entertains years later and inspired other generations of filmmakers. Quentin Tarantino calls the John Wayne western a big influence on his career.
4The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)
John Wayne in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
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The 1962 film The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance has everything fans 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.
3Stagecoach (1939)
John Wayne in Stagecoach
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In the 1930s, Wayne mostly worked as an extra or had small roles in films. In 1939, he finally got his big break 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.
2True Grit (1969)
John Wayne and Kim Darby look for something in True Grit
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The 1969 film True Grit is undeniably one of the best John Wayne movies and one of the most memorable films to come 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. While the 21-century remake is excellent, True Grit stands as perhaps Wayne’s most iconic role.
1The Searchers (1956)
John Wayne The Searchers Cropped
The fact that iconic director Steven Spielberg watches this John Wayne Western before making a movie speaks to its brilliance and influence. 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, and the result is easily the best John Wayne movie.

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Rin Tin Tin

When I was very young, my grandfather kept a Rin Tin Tin figurine sitting on his desk. I wanted desperately to play with it, and even more desperately I wanted to have a German shepherd dog of my own, a dog just like the star of “The Adventures of Rin-Tin-Tin”, which debuted on television in 1954. I knew nothing about Rin Tin Tin other than that he was the perfect dog, and that he was a character on television.

When by chance I learned that Rin Tin Tin was a real dog, not just a television character—a real dog with a real life that was extraordinary—I was drawn into the story and eventually to the idea of writing this book. After digging through hundreds of pages of archives and files and photographs, I came to understand that this was not just a story about a dog, or even the many different dogs who make up the Rin Tin Tin legacy; this is a story about a beloved icon who has played a role in decades of American popular culture.

“‘He believed the dog was immortal.’ So begins Susan Orlean’s sweeping, powerfully moving story of Rin Tin Tin’s journey from orphaned puppy to movie star and international icon. From the moment in 1918 when Corporal Lee Duncan discovers Rin Tin Tin on a World War I battlefield, he recognizes something in the pup that he needs to share with the world. Rin Tin Tin’s improbable introduction to Hollywood leads to the dog’s first blockbuster film and over time, the many radio programs, movies, and television shows that follow. The canine hero’s legacy is cemented by Duncan and a small group of others who devote their lives to keeping him and his descendants alive.

“At its heart, Rin Tin Tin is a poignant exploration of the enduring bond between humans and animals. But it is also a richly textured history of twentieth-century entertainment and entrepreneurship and the changing role of dogs in the American family and society. Almost ten years in the making, Susan Orlean’s first original book since The Orchid Thief is a tour de force of history, human interest, and masterful storytelling—the ultimate must—read for anyone who loves great dogs or great yarns.”

Publishers Weekly
“Stirring … A tale of passion and dedication overcoming adversity … Even readers coming to Rin Tin Tin for the first time will find it difficult to refrain from joining Duncan in his hope that Rin Tin Tin’s legacy will ‘go on forever.’”

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“[Orlean] combines all her skills and passions in this astonishing story … A terrific dog’s tale that will make readers sit up and beg for more.”

Walter Isaacson, author of Benjamin Franklin and Einstein

“Rin Tin Tin was more than a dog. He embodied the core paradoxes of the American ideal: He was a loner who was also a faithful companion, a brave fighter who was also vulnerable. I was astonished to learn from this delightful book that he has existed for eleven generations over a century. By chronicling his amazing ups and downs, Susan Orlean has produced a hugely entertaining and unforgettable reading experience.”

Ann Patchett, author of State of Wonder and Bel Canto
“Not only does Susan Orlean give us a fascinating and big-hearted account of all the many incarnations of Rin Tin Tin, she shows us the ever-changing role of American dogs in times of war and peace. This book is for anyone who has ever had a dog or loved a dog or watched a dog on television or thought their dog could be a movie star. In short— everyone.”

Rebecca Skloot, author of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
“I adored this book. It weaves history, war, show business, humanity, wit, and grace into an incredible story about America, the human-animal bond, and the countless ways we would be lost without dogs by our sides, on our screens, and in our books. This is the story Susan Orlean was born to tell—it’s filled with amazing characters, reporting, and writing.”

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John Wayne ‘punished’ The Longest Day producer for publicly insulting him – My Blog

John Wayne was famous for his tough guy image on and off screen, mostly being known for playing cowboys and military men.By the early 1960s, Duke was in his fifties, struggling with health problems yet continuing to insist on not only doing his own stunts but also playing characters – including historical figures – he was now much older than.

This was especially the case when he was cast in the 1962 D-Day epic The Longest Day, which was released 61 years ago this week.The World War II film featured an incredible all-star cast including Henry Fonda, Robert Mitchum, Sean Connery and Richard Burton. Yet Wayne’s inclusion proved divisive.Incredibly, former President Dwight D Eisenhower almost played himself, but makeup artists couldn’t make him look as young as he did in 1944. Nevertheless, a set decorator with no acting experience with the spitting image of the Supreme Allied Commander was cast.Awkwardly, the real Ike ended up walking out of The Longest Day after just a few minutes, frustrated with all the inaccuracies. Although Eisenhower was considered too old to play his younger self, that didn’t stop Wayne from being cast as 27-year-old Lt Col Benjamin Vandervoort, who was very disappointed to find out he was being portrayed by the overweight 54-year-old Duke.Originally Charlton Heston, who was only a decade older than the real-life paratrooper, had actively sought the part. However, Wayne’s last-minute decision to take on the role blocked him and it came at a huge price to the film’s producer.The Longest Day producer Darryl F Zanuck had managed to negotiate $25,000 fees from his ensemble cast for what was mostly cameos. However, Wayne demanded $250,000 or he’d refused to appear in the movie – a request that was granted.The reason Duke “punished” the producer with this action was because he’d been quoting in an interview calling the Western legend “poor John Wayne” over 1960’s The Alamo.

That blockbuster was produced, directed and largely funded by the star himself. And Zanuck had said he didn’t think much of actors forming their own production companies, citing Wayne’s as an example. Not only was Wayne’s non-negotiable fee request on The Longest Day an act of revenge, but also was a way of him getting a quick payday after all the money he spent on The Alamo.

Aside from being three decades too old for his role in the World War II blockbuster, Duke’s contract also included a clause that made his casting even more controversial.Alongside his whopping $250,000 fee, Wayne insisted on getting separate billing on The Longest Day from the other actors. However, to his dismay, this was got around by having the other stars billed first followed by “and John Wayne”, meaning that Duke’s name appeared last on the credits.Even so, it was highly controversial even then as the Hollywood star did not serve in World War II, something he tried to redeem across his career by acting in very patriotic movies.

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Injured John Wayne struggled to breathe with oxygen mask on movie with Katharine Hepburn – My Blog

After winning the Best Actor Oscar for 1969’s True Grit, John Wayne returned for a sequel with 1975’s Rooster Cogburn – which celebrates its 48th anniversary this week – alongside Katharine Hepburn.However, Duke had serious health issues going back to when he had a cancerous lung removed a decade prior.Earlier in 1974, Wayne headed to London to shoot cop movie Brannigan, but had a severe bout of pneumonia and was diagnosed with heart problems before production began.During filming, Duke met Hepburn who, despite being just two weeks older than him, had never met the Western star let alone starred in a movie with him. She had been filming 1975’s Love Among the Ruins with Sir Laurence Olivier and despite their political differences greatly admired Wayne.The two stars agreed to make True Grit sequel Rooster Cogburn together later that year, although like Brannigan it would not be an easy production.Alongside pneumonia, Wayne had coughed so hard at one point that he damaged a valve in his heart, an issue that wouldn’t be diagnosed until 1978, a year before he died of cancer.Rooster Cogburn’s filming took place in Oregon and Duke had to rely on his oxygen mask for high altitudes, something he tried to keep hidden from the public. In fact, on another movie, he screamed at a photographer and demanded the film that captured the truth of his ailments; desperate to maintain his macho image.If this wasn’t bad enough, the 67-year-old injured himself on the Rooster Cogburn set while teaching his eight-year-old daughter to play golf. But lucky for him, his character’s eye patch covered the mark.rooster cogburn posterRooster Cogburn poster (Image: GETTY)Dealing with all these physical problems took a toll on Wayne’s patience and he would become seriously frustrated with Rooster Cogburn director Stuart Miller’s insistence on doing multiple takes. In one outburst, Duke ranted: “God damn it Stuart, there’s only so many times we can say these awful lines before they stop making any sense at all.”His co-star Hepburn, who largely respected the actor most of the time, would become bemused by his argumentative nature on set and told him at the wrap party: “I’m glad I didn’t know you when you had two lungs, you must have been a real b*****d. Losing a hip has mellowed me, but you!”

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