Connect with us

John Wayne

John Wayne’s 10 Best Movies, Ranked According to Rotten Tomatoes

John Wayne was one of Hollywood’s greatest stars and is universally recognized for his iconic roles in films such as Rio Bravo, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, and The Shootist. After his breakout role as The Ringo Kid in John Ford‘s 1939 movie, Stagecoach, the Duke became one of the most popular leading men in cinema with tough, masculine characters like Ethan Edward from The Searchers and True Grit‘s Rooster Cogburn.
There are a dozen of non-Western Wayne movies like The Quiet Man and Donovan’s Reef, but a majority of movie fans consider Wayne to be a pioneering Western star who solidified the standards of the classic genre. Out of his extensive career and exceptional filmography, including El Dorado and Sands of Iwo Jima, they are among Wayne’s highest-rated movies, according to Rotten Tomatoes.
10‘The Searchers’ (1956)

Jeffrey Hunter and John Wayne in the desert on horses in The Searchers

Image via Warner Bros

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 94%
Ethan Edwards returns home after the Civil War and learns that his brother and his family were killed by Native Americans. When Ethan receives word that his niece, Debbie (Natalie Wood), is still alive, he and his nephew (Jeffrey Hunter) set out into the dangerous wilderness to bring her back home.
RELATED:The 10 Highest Grossing Westerns Of All Time
Ford’s epic Western, The Searchers, is a signature Duke film as well as a major influence and inspiration for future filmmakers. Director David Lean watched the movie several times to prepare to film landscape scenes in his Oscar-winning movie, Lawrence of Arabia. Other notable directors like Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, and Martin Scorsese have also paid tribute to The Searchers in their work.
9‘Rio Bravo’ (1959)

John Wayne sitting and Walter Brennan standing next to him in Rio Bravo

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 96%
When Sheriff John Chance arrests the son of a wealthy ranch owner, Joe Burdette (Claude Akins), for murder, his brother (John Russell) and his men are prepared to break Joe out of jail. With the help of a brave recovering alcoholic (Dean Martin), a young cowboy (Ricky Nelson), and an elderly spitfire (Walter Brennan), Chance defends his post and fights the outlaws off long enough until reinforcements arrive.
Regarded as one of director Howard Hawks‘ finest films, Rio Bravo is a slow-burning Western noted for its extended opening scene with no dialogue. Director and avid Hawks admirer Quentin Tarantino ranks Rio Bravo as his favorite Wayne Western as well as a “hang-out” movie that went on to inspire his underrated heist movie, Jackie Brown. The story and setting of Rio Bravo were also the inspiration behind John Carpenter‘s 1976 movie Assault on Precinct 13.
8‘Stagecoach’ (1939)

John Wayne and John Carradine standing next to each other looking at someone in Stagecoach

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 100%
A group of strangers in Arizona board a stagecoach headed to New Mexico when a notorious outlaw known as the Ringo Kid escapes from prison. With a dangerous criminal on the run, U.S. Marshal Curly Wilcox (George Bancroft) accompanies the stagecoach. Along the way, he finds Ringo, but instead of finding a ruthless gunslinger, Ringo turns out to be a man worthy of a second chance when he helps the marshal protect the stagecoach on its long journey.
According to John Wayne: The Life and Legend by Scott Eyman, Wayne never aspired to be an actor, and originally, he had attended the University of Southern California on a football scholarship to study pre-law, but after a career-ending injury, he lost his scholarship and had to drop out. His coach, Howard Jones, got him a job as a prop boy and extra for a Ford production, and after playing a few small roles, Ford cast the future star in his groundbreaking Western, Stagecoach.
7‘Fort Apache’ (1948)

John Wayne standing alone looking to the side in Fort Apache

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 100%
After the Civil War, Kirby York and his men think he will replace the outgoing commander of Fort Apache, but to their surprise, his replacement is a former general and an arrogant West Point graduate, Owen Thursday (Henry Fonda). Thursday arrives at the fort with his daughter (Shirley Temple), but his ignorance towards the American Indians and desire to reclaim his former glory days cause him to clash with Kirby and his new company.
Fort Apache is another top-tier Western directed by Ford that’s widely regarded as one of the first films to portray an authentic and sympathetic view of Native Americans and their culture. The movie is also the first installment in Ford’s Cavalry Trilogy, including She Wore a Yellow Ribbon and Rio Grande, both starring Wayne.
6‘Red River’ (1948)

John Wayne and Montgomery Clift sitting next to each other on the ground looking forward in Red River

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 100%
Thomas Dunson owns a cattle ranch in Texas, and when he needs money after the Civil War, he plans to take his cattle to Missouri, where he can get a better price. With the help of his faithful ranch hand, Groot (Brennan), and his young protégé, Matt (Montgomery Clift), they lead the cattle to their destination, but the strenuous and exhausting journey starts to take a toll on them.
Red River is another Western directed by Hawks, who made a total of five movies with Wayne. While Ford directed Wayne in some of the greatest Westerns, the director was blown away by his performance in Red Riverand jokingly commented, “I didn’t know the big son-of-a-b*tch could act!” Footage from Red River was also used in Wayne’s final film, The Shootist, to establish his character’s backstory.
5‘Sands of Iwo Jima’ (1949)

John Wayne looking to the side while sitting next to a man laying down in the grass in Sands of Iwo Jima-1

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 100%
During World War II, a group of Marines stationed in the Pacific resents their commanding officer, Sergeant John Stryker, and his brutal training methods and coarse attitude. As the fighting progresses, the Marines realize Stryker has been preparing them for the terrifying reality of combat. If they want to survive one of the war’s worst battles, they must follow Stryker and his strategic battle tactics.
Sands of Iwo Jima is a historical film based on one of the bloodiest battles of World War II; the Battle of Iwo Jima. The movie features three surviving Marines of Iwo Jima, including Navy corpsman John Bradley, who was the subject of his son’s book, Flags of Our Fathers. In 2006, the book was adapted into a film of the same title and directed by another Western icon, Clint Eastwood.
4‘The Comancheros’ (1961)

John Wayne and Lee Marvin standing next to each other in The ComancherosImage via 20th Century

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 100%
Texas Ranger, Jake Cutter, is tasked with finding a gambler, Paul Regret (Stuart Whitman), who manages to escape a date with the gallows and return him to Louisiana. Cutter can track Regret down and take him into custody, but along the way, they cross paths with a group of outlaws known as The Comancheros forcing Cutter and Regret to work together to stop the lawless gunslingers.
The Comancheros is based on the 1952 novel written by Paul Wellman that was originally purchased by the director George Stevens who wanted the film to be his next project afterGiant. Stevens became interested in adapting The Diary of Ann Frank and sold The Comancheros rights to Fox. Fox originally wanted Gary Cooper and James Garner, but due to Cooper’s failing health and a conflict between Garner and Warner Bros. Studio head, Jack L. Warner, they were ruled out. Once Wayne was on board, the script was rewritten by the actor’s regular writer, James Edward Grant, who collaborated with Wayne on 12 projects.
3‘The Sons of Katie Elder’ (1965)

John Wayne and Dean Martin standing with a few men talking to a man in a horse and carriage in The Sons of Katie ElderImage via Paramount 

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 100%
Four brothers return home to attend their mother’s funeral and soon discover their father was murdered the night he gambled away the family ranch. The brothers agree to avenge their father and win back their home, but the situation quickly takes a deadly turn into serious trouble with the local sheriff and a rival family, The Hastings.
The Sons of Katie Elder reunited Wayne with Martin six years after starring together in Rio Bravo and also stars Dennis Hopper, George Kennedy, and Jeremy Slate. Before filming, Wayne had been diagnosed with lung cancer and underwent surgery to remove one of his lungs and two of his ribs. Despite the dire diagnosis and operation, the Duke insisted on performing his own stunts.
2‘El Dorado’ (1966)

James Caan standing next to John Wayne in El Dorado

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 100%
Land tycoon Bart Jason (Edward Asner) recruits a group of men to force the MacDonald family out of town to claim their land. The local sheriff, J.P. Harrah (Robert Mitchum), is too deep in a bottle to help the family, and when word about the incident reaches his friend and gunslinger, Cole Thornton, Thornton and his partner, Mississippi (James Caan) travel to El Dorado to help Harrah shape up in time to fight Jason’s group of thugs.
Film critic, Roger Ebert, gave Hawks’ El Dorado three-and-a-half out of four stars, calling it a successful Western that was effortlessly pulled off by three pros of the genre; Wayne, Mitchum, and Hawks. The movie is the second of Hawks that focuses on a sheriff defending his post against ruthless bandits, coming after Rio Bravo and before Rio Lobo, all featuring Wayne in the same similar role.
1‘The War Wagon’ (1967)

John Wayne and Kirk Douglas crouched down behind rocks in The War WagonImage via Universal

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 100%
After being shot by gunslinger Lomax (Kirk Douglas) and serving a sentence for a crime, he didn’t commit; rancher Taw Jackson is released from jail and out for revenge. Instead of hunting Lomax down, he and the gunslinger join forces to rob mining tycoon Frank Pierce (Bruce Cabot), who set Jackson up. The two plan to rob one of Pierce’s gold shipments carried by a heavily guarded stagecoach, and while they know it won’t be an easy task, the half-a-million-dollar payday makes it all worth it.
In 1966, Wayne signed a contract with Universal Studios to star in two films, The War Wagon and The Green Berets. Unlike Wayne’s other characters, he plays a villain for the first time in The War Wagon, but the movie’s considered a rare Western with humor and outstanding performances. The movie also stars Keenan Wynn, the son of character actor Ed Wynn, and Oscar nominee Bruce Dern, who is the father of actress Laura Dern.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

John Wayne

John Wayne Once Revealed the Real Reason Why He Didn’t Serve in the Military: ‘I Was America’

Actor John Wayne often defines the Western movie genre. He also stands as an American cultural icon for many folks around the country. However, Wayne didn’t serve in the military, which always haunted him throughout the rest of his life. The actor once revealed the real reason why he didn’t serve and the purpose he truly wanted to fulfill in the war efforts.

John Wayne gave excuses to keep him from serving in the military

Actor John Wayne, who refused to serve in the military, on the set of 'Cast a Giant Shadow' with his leg hanging out the side of a military vehicle.

John Wayne | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Marc Eliot’s American Titan: Searching for John Wayne explores the ins and outs of the actor’s career, personal life, and his hardships involving military service. Many celebrities, such as Jimmy Stewart, still served in the military in one way or another. However, the initial story was that Wayne couldn’t serve in the military, but begged to do so.

Eliot explained that this story was a complete fabrication. The actor’s local board called him, but he claimed to be exempt on the grounds that he’s the sole supporter of his family. However, he failed to mention that he was going through a divorce. Additionally, Wayne excused himself from military service because of an old soldier injury. He was ultimately granted an exemption “for family dependency reasons.”

Wayne supposedly wanted to join the OSS (Office of Strategic Services), which would later become the CIA. They sent him a letter urging him to sign up, but he claimed that his wife, Josephine, hid it from him.

John Wayne revealed that he wanted to serve another purpose in the military than serving in it

American Titan: Searching for John Wayne pointed to how Wayne changed his story about why he didn’t serve in the military. The actor got much more personal with Dan Ford, John Ford’s grandson. Wayne didn’t think a traditional military position would work for him but believed that he could add value to the war efforts in other ways.

“I didn’t feel I could go in as a private, I felt I could do more good going around on tours and things,” Wayne said. “I was America [to the young guys] in the front lines … they had taken their sweethearts to that Saturday matinee and held hands over a Wayne Western. So I wore a big hat and I thought it was better.”

Wayne certainly made his passion for America and the military very clear. However, even his mentor, Ford, continually picked on him for not serving in the military. Meanwhile, Ford praised Stewart for serving America, which certainly got under Wayne’s skin. It was all in favor of getting a better performance out of the actor.

The actor always regretted his decision to not serve his country

Eliot’s book explained how much of an impact having no military service had on Wayne. His third wife, Pilar, said that his decision not to serve in the military was the real reason why he became a “super-patriot for the rest of his life trying to atone for staying at home.”

Regardless of the various reasons Wayne gave for not serving in the military, he certainly didn’t like to discuss it. However, he certainly uplifted those who did serve in the military. Wayne once defended a veteran when a group of USC students against the Vietnam War harassed the young man.

Wayne also displayed where his heart was for the military in some of his motion pictures, including The Green Berets. Critics ripped the movie apart, but it was a major success at the box office.

Continue Reading

John Wayne

John Wayne’s Weird Voice Cameo in ‘Star Wars’ Sounds Nothing Like Him

John Wayne spent much of his Hollywood career playing tough-as-nails characters. Many of The Duke’s portrayals came in westerns and war movies; sci fi movies like Star Wars weren’t part of his repertoire. Wayne’s grandson, Brendan Wayne, has a role in the Star Wars universe with his work in The Mandalorian. It turns out he’s following in his grandfather’s footsteps. Wayne’s weird voice cameo in A New Hope means he was the first Wayne to travel to a galaxy far, far away.

Several John Wayne movies have perfect Rotten Tomatoes scores

Wayne earned three Academy Awards nominations in his career. He picked up a win for best actor in 1970 for playing Rooster Cogburn in True Grit.

Yet neither The Alamo, which he directed and starred in, nor True Grit earned favorable ratings on Rotten Tomatoes. Twelve Wayne movies earned 100% scores on the Tomatometer, but Sands of Iwo Jima was the only one for which he also earned an Oscar nomination.

Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope scored better than 90% with critics and fans on Rotten Tomatoes. He doesn’t show up in the credits, but Wayne has a voice cameo thanks to a sound designer who held on to audio snippets he no longer needed.

Wayne has a voice cameo in the first ‘Star Wars’ movie as Garindan — sort of

He doesn’t appear on screen, and we don’t hear his signature drawl, but John Wayne shows up in A New Hope. The Duke voices a crucial character and it was a complete accident, according to sound designer Ben Burtt.

Burtt once revealed how Wayne’s voice cameo in Star Wars happened (h/t to SlashFilm):

“I always wanted to do an insect man – we didn’t really have an insect man come along until Poggle the Lesser [from Episodes II and III]. We had that character that looked kind of like a mosquito from the first Star Wars [Garindan] that we found we needed a sound for. 

“[I] was wondering back a few months ago how I did it – because I keep notes and tapes – and I discovered it was an electronic buzzing which had come off of my synthesizer that was triggered by a human voice. And I listened to it and realized it was John Wayne – I had found some loop lines in the trash from the studio that had been thrown away. So the buzzing was triggered by some dialog like ‘All right, what are you doin’ in this town’ or something like that.”‘Star Wars’ sound designer Ben Burtt

Wayne’s voice cameo in Star Wars— looped and filtered through synths — shows up in Star Wars. He just doesn’t commandeer a stagecoach or call anyone pilgrim.

Stunt performer Sadie Eden played Garindan on screen, according to IMDb. Garindan is the character that alerts stormtroopers about Luke, Ben, C-3PO, and R2-D2 in Mos Eisley. The stormtroopers then attack the Millennium Falcon before it blasts off to Alderaan.

Like his grandfather, Brendan Wayne is part of the Star Wars universe. Unlike his grandad, this Wayne isn’t limited to weird voice cameos.

Pedro Pascal voices Din Djarin in The Mandalorian, but the younger Wayne is the person in the suit battling the mudhorn and tangling with a krayt dragon. He plays a key role on the show, and he channeled his grandfather to deliver the physical mannerisms.

At one point, Brendan Wayne resembled his grandfather too closely. During one headstrong moment, co-star Carl Weathers had to stop the scene when he started laughing at Wayne acting out the scene just like his grandfather.

John Wayne’s voice cameo in Star Wars was modified and filtered through synths. Meanwhile, grandson Brendan Wayne keeps the tradition going with his role in The Mandalorian.

Continue Reading

John Wayne

John Wayne Movies: The Duke Got Trademark Look From Director John Ford

John Wayne was unmistakable in movies. His career lasted six decades because of his indelible presence on camera. One of his trademark attributes could be credited to his frequent director, John Ford. Ford directed Wayne in 14 movies and had a relationship with him via the studios even when he wasn’t directing. It was Ford who gave Wayne his key look on film.

Paramount Home Entertainment released the Wayne/Ford classic The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance on 4K UHD on May 17. In some of the bonus features, Ford’s grandson Dan and film critic Molly Haskell discuss what Wayne brought to movies, and how Ford inspired him.

John Ford told John Wayne to create ‘an intense look’ for movies

In a John Wayne movie, the audience knew that when Wayne’s character looked intensely at the villain, he meant business. As a director, Ford knew the importance of an intense look. Cinema is a visual medium, after all. 

“My grandfather always told Duke Wayne, he says ‘When you need to convey something you need to just, give ‘em an intense look. Give ‘em an intensity. Let the audience read into that look,’” Dan Ford said. “John Wayne was a fabulous nonverbal communicator. John Wayne was a much better actor than people give him credit for.”

Critics underestimated John Wayne movies

Haskell said that critics underestimated Wayne throughout his career. Wayne became such a staple in westerns and war movies that critics assumed he was playing himself. Of course, Wayne was not actually a sheriff or veteran, though he did have his own ranch. Haskell gave Wayne credit where it’s due. 

“The idea of acting so often has been disguising yourself, playing characters who are completely alien from what is perceived as your basic personality,” Haskell said. “So an actor who seems to just be playing himself or playing a role that is close to what he is is not seen as acting at all.”

The critical tide has turned 

Haskell was happy to see critics raise their esteem for Wayne to match that of his fans. Near the end of Wayne’s career in the ‘70s, and after his death, critics could be dismissive of that singular look that Ford taught him.

“John Wayne’s one of the great movie actors of all time,” Haskell said. “In the ‘70s and ‘80s this was not a popular point of view. He was a national icon but among critics and the eastern liberal establishment he was not a favorite, partly because of his politics but mostly because he acted in westerns and westerns themselves were not taken seriously.”

As the dominant genre of Wayne’s work, westerns themselves have risen in esteem too. Especially the westerns Ford directed, with or without Wayne, now get their due. His grandson was happy to see that. 

“He had a tender, sentimental side that certainly shows in his work,” Dan Ford said. 

Continue Reading

Trending