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John Wayne

The Most Rewatchable John Wayne Movies, Ranked

John Wayne became an icon over the course of his career, particularly from his roles in war and great western movies throughout Hollywood’s Golden Age. Fans of Wayne might also know him as The Duke, which is a nickname that stuck with him since his childhood. As a young boy, Wayne’s best friend was his dog Duke, and when he befriended a local fireman, who called the dog Big Duke and Wayne Little Duke, the nickname stuck, with Wayne preferring it to his actual name, Marion.
His career skyrocketed, and now he is one of the biggest names in the western genre, becoming nearly synonymous with the American mythos of the wild west and western films in general. Wayne starred in over 165 movies, many of which became huge successes. Even though Wayne was problematic in his sociopolitical beliefs, to this day we still can’t get enough of his lovable, rogue, heroic characters throughout his filmography. His cowboy swagger is just one of many reasons we keep going back to Wayne’s film, but which of them are the most rewatchable all these decades later?
8 The Alamo (1960)

John Wayne in The Alamo

United Artists

Directed by Wayne himself and written by James Edward Grant, The Alamo was a project that Wayne decided to direct and star in way back in 1945. Based on the true story of the infamous Battle of the Alamo, Wayne starers as Davy Crockett, who assisted a group of soldiers defending themselves against Gen. Santa Anna (Richard Boone, who definitely wasn’t Mexican) in the battle of the Alamo.
We are given all the tense, action-packed fighting scenes that we love about westerns with a bit of an education too on the way many Americans perceived the Battle of the Alamo (the film, of course, is rather historically inaccurate and glorifies the American occupation, when in reality they were illegally invading and colonizing Mexico). The movie was nominated for a whopping seven Oscars, including Best Picture. The Alamo can be seen as a classic, and its fights and story never get old, so of course, we go back to it every time.
7 Chisum (1970)

ChisumWarner Bros.

Based on the Lincoln County war of 1878, and also adapted for the screen by Andrew J. Fenady, from his short story, titled Chisum and the Lincoln County War, Chisum follows John Chisum (Wayne), who owns a large ranch in Lincoln, New Mexico. It wouldn’t be the same without his sidekick and helper, Pepper. Together and with other men, including Billy the Kid, they get involved with fighting the land developer Lawrence Murphy, who has practically bought the whole town and has plans for Chisum’s ranch. Chisum is a surprisingly complex and detailed movie leading to a good ol’ western showdown, filled with historical context (and numerous real historical figures) and brilliant cinematography. Once understanding the complicated plot and massive ensemble cast, the film just gets better after each watch.
6 She Wore a Yellow Ribbon

She Wore a Yellow RibbonRKO Radio Pictures

The gorgeous 1949 American Technicolor western She Wore a Yellow Ribbon was one of the most expensive Westerns made at the time. It was part of the great John Ford’s ‘cavalry trilogy’, and Wayne gave one of his best performances, starring as Nathan Brittles. Brittles is a retiring US Cavalry Captain, set to venture on one last patrol to protect his troops from an attack, led by the Indians. As he bravely leads his men into the battle, his commanding officer, Major Mac Allshard, orders him to deliver his wife, Abby, and niece Olivia to Sutross Wells. As a tale of honor and young love, we see that despite wearing a yellow ribbon in her hair (which is a sign that her heart is promised to another man in the Cavalry), Olivia catches the eyes of two young officers who compete for her attention. Along with Wayne’s fabulous performance, the film also won an Oscar for Winston C. Hoch’s masterful Technicolor cinematography.
5 Red River (1948)

Red RiverUnited Artists

Red River, directed by Howard Hawks, tells an epic, entertaining story about the first cattle drive along the Chisholm Trail. The film follows Wayne as Thomas Dunson, who sets up a cattle ranch that quickly becomes a thriving success, though he couldn’t have done it without help from Groot and Matt Garth, who is an orphan that Dunson kindly took in when he was a young boy. Unfortunately, the Civil War left Dunson and Matt in some serious need for money, so they lead a cattle drive to Missouri for a better chance of earning some more money.
But their journey isn’t all plain sailing, as they bump into some challenges along the way. Red River is more complex than your average western shoot-em-up, essentially a sprawling and visually stunning drama about the west rather than a ‘western’ per se. The film also works wonders as a tale of (symbolic) father and son who don’t quite see eye-to-eye, which is perhaps a reason for it being so re-watchable and an absolute classic.
4 Sands of Iwo Jima (1949)

John Wayne in Sands of Iwo JimaRepublic Pictures

The 1949 war film Sands of Iwo Jima, directed by Allan Dwan, follows Wayne as Marine Sgt. John Stryker who is sick of the attitude from his men about his tough training techniques. As the war goes on, the soldiers actually begin to accept and respect Stryker’s view on war and even tolerate his hard and actually quite brutal training. They come to realize that it will be in their favor to listen to him, and they will need his training tactics in order to survive the war.
One of the earliest post-war films dramatizing the plight of American soldiers overseas, the film chronicles one of the deadliest and bloodiest events in World War 2, known as the Battle of Iwo Jima. Wayne does a brilliant job as Stryker, the hero of the story, even if he was a little harsh, in what is an exciting, action-packed movie that also shines a light on the soldiers in the true story who sacrificed their lives during the war. The Sands of Iwo Jima is a great re-watch, especially as a Memorial Day movie.
3 The Cowboys (1972)

The CowboysWarner Bros.

Based on William Dale Jennings’ 1971 novel of the same name, The Cowboys includes one of the best villains and hero death scenes we have been given in western movies, which already makes it totally re-watchable. When Wil Andersen (Wayne) asks a group of school boys for help driving his cattle to the market, they are bombarded by thieves and cattle rustlers, which ultimately leads to a dramatic western fight.
No one likes to see the hero of a story die, but we can’t deny that it’s captivating; as Wil Andersen dies, his blood is on the hands of Watts. The death of Wayne’s character is emotional and heartbreaking after he grew close to the boys that helped him, and they even began to see him as a father figure. After his death, the boys finish the trip, they carve into a gravestone ‘Beloved Husband and Father,’ making it all the more sad. No matter how many times we watch it, we are still touched by this certified tearjerker of a story, and we can’t get enough of it.
2 The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)

Wayne Stewart The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance 1962 ParamountParamount Pictures

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is perhaps one of the most well known and classic western movies in cinema. Directed by the fantastic John Ford, and starring an amazing cast (the great James Stewart, Vera Miles, Lee Marvin, and Wayne of course), the movie follows the story of Senator Stoddard who, with his wife Hallie, attends the funeral of Tom Doniphon.
We then learn of Stoddard and Doniphon’s friendship through flashbacks, as he remembers a time when Doniphon saved him against a local outlaw, Liberty Valance, and the stories and questions that unfold of their involvement as enemies of Valance. With a brilliant cast, the onscreen relationships, tension, and drama makes this movie an easy watch and a brilliant story to follow, and definitely goes down as a classic western, one of the last old-school greats of the genre.
1 True Grit (1969)

John Wayne as Rooster Cogburn in True GritParamount Pictures

Directed by Henry Hathaway, 1969’s True Grit marks the first appearance of Wayne as U.S. Marshall Rooster Cogburn, and was the first movie adaptation of Charles Portis’ 1968 novel of the same name. The story follows 14-year-old Mattie Ross, whose father has just been murdered. Distraught and after revenge, she hired Rooster Cogburn to help go on a mission to find the man responsible. Along their dangerous journey, a Texas Ranger, La Boeuf also joins in, with the hopes of catching him for a reward.
Wayne, a decade before his death, won the Oscar for Best Actor for his role in True Grit, which is arguably his most beloved, eccentric character who makes every scene more enjoyable. It has become an iconic movie, and there was even a 2010 modern remake of the classic which starred Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Hailee Steinfeld, and Josh Brolin.

John Wayne

Here Are the American Film Institute’s Top 10 Westerns of All Time

The American Film Institute decided the top 10 Westerns of all time and we’ve got the 411 on the ones that ranked. People have always loved Westerns, and we’ve listed 8 of the most popular according to AFI.

First up, Cat Ballou, the 1965 Western comedy from Elliot Silverstein. It starred Jane Fonda as Cat and Lee Marvin in a dual role as both the man who killed Cat’s father and the gunslinger who helps her get revenge. Narrated through song by Nat King Cole and Stubby Kaye, what made “Cat Ballou” so special was the female lead, which was rare for a Western.

Next, John Ford’s turning-point 1939 film, Stagecoach. It starred John Wayne and Claire Trevor. The film follows a group of interesting characters as they travel in a stagecoach together, which paved the way for the road trip trope. The passengers have to contend with the Ringo Kid, an outlaw, and the threat of Apache attack as they travel to New Mexico in the 1880s.

McCabe & Mrs. Miller, Robert Altman’s 1971 film, was a Revisionist Western piece starring Warren Beatty and Julie Christie. The film follows gambler John McCabe as he upstarts a successful brothel in a Washington town with Constance Miller’s help. The two strike up a romance, but when a mining company offers to buy his property, McCabe refuses.

No list of Westerns would be complete without Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. The 1969 film from George Roy Hill starred Paul Newman as Butch Cassidy and Robert Redford as the Sundance Kid. The two got into all sorts of trouble, fleeing from the law after train robbing. The pair escape to Bolivia, but find they must fight the urge to commit crimes.

AFI’s Top Ten Westerns: Stagecoaches, Shoot-Outs, and Searchers

Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch comes up next. The 1969 Western starred William Holden, with Ernest Borgnine, Warren Oates, and Ben Johnson as his gang. The outlaws prepare to go through with a heist, only to find out the whole thing is a setup. The film is full of gratuitous violence and bloody shootouts; sure to satisfy fans of more gory Westerns.

Up next on the list, Red River. This 1948 Howard Hawks film follows John Wayne as Thomas Dunson, who aims to drive his cattle to Missouri for a better price. Montgomery Clift stars as Matt Garth, an orphaned youth whom Thomas takes under his wing. The film was shot on a grand scale, with sweeping landscapes and plenty of cattle. This is a must-watch for those who love big Westerns.

Then, Western star Clint Eastwood took a stab at directing his own with 1992’s Unforgiven. Starring Eastwood and co-starring Gene Hackman, Morgan Freeman, and Richard Harris, the film follows Eastwood’s William Munny as he comes to town to catch a group of bandits. Harris’ English Bob comes to town as well, for the same reason, and the two outlaws clash with the local sheriff.

Additionally, the 1953 film Shane takes the American cowboy and turns him on his head; the cowboy retires to a ranch in Wyoming, but while working there falls in love with the ranch owner’s wife. He realizes that to save the ranch he has to fight the big cattle baron threatening to take the land. There’s something about watching a kid shout “Shane! Come back!” over an echoing, barren wasteland that tugs on the heartstrings.

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John Wayne

John Wayne: Which of the Duke’s Films Made the Most Money?

During his iconic Hollywood career, John Wayne made many popular films. These filmed are remembered for their drama, action, locations, scenes of heroism, and of course, for the Duke himself.

His films were usually Westerns or were about war. Wayne’s was a career that pretty much anyone hoping to make it in the movie business would envy.

Here’s an interesting question: Out of all of those popular movies, which of the Duke’s films was the most successful financially? Let’s find out.

According to, that title goes to the 1962 film, “How the West Was Won.” This film also starred James Stewart, Henry Fonda, and Gregory Peck in this movie about the expansion into the American West. It made $440 million. (The website has adjusted the earnings of each of these films. The figures presented here are the films’ domestic grosses.)

Interestingly, the second most financially successful film of Wayne’s career was also released in 1962. It was “The Longest Day” and made $382 million. This film told stories from D-Day during World War II. The cast also included Fonda, Richard Burton, Sean Connery, Eddie Albert, and Richard Beymer.

Bringing in the third-highest gross of the Duke’s career was “Reap the Wild Wind.” It was released in 1942 and made $361 million. It also starred Paulette Goddard and Ray Milland and followed the events that took place after a shipwreck in Key West.

The 1954 film “The High and the Mighty” comes in fourth place on the list of John Wayne’s highest-grossing films. It made $347 million. In fifth place is the 1955 film “The Sea Chase.” It also starred Lana Turner and “Gunsmoke” star James Arness.

List of John Wayne’s Most Financially Successful Films Also Includes One That Won Him an Oscar

The top 10 list of John Wayne’s highest-grossing films includes some of his most popular, as well as the film that won him an Academy Award.

Rounding out the top 10 highest-grossing John Wayne movies include “The Alamo” from 1960 in sixth place with $300 million. “The Sands of Iwo Jima” from 1949 comes in seventh place with almost $296 million. “Red River,” which was released in 1948 is in eighth place with almost $270 million.

The 1969 film “True Grit” is in ninth place with $262 million. It was his role as Rooster Cogburn that won John Wayne an Academy Award. The movie also starred Glen Campbell, Robert Duvall, Dennis Hopper, and Kim Darby.

Rounding out the top 10 was the Duke’s 1959 film “Rio Bravo” with almost $251 million.

Now we know which John Wayne’s movies were his biggest financial successes in the United States. So, which film came in last on that list? This title goes to the 1929 film “Words and Music.” It reportedly grossed $13.6 million.

Interestingly, the list of John Wayne’s highest-grossing films worldwide is different from the domestic list shared above. The top five films on this list, from No. 1 to No. 5, are: “How the West Was Won”; “The Alamo”; “The High and the Mighty”; “Rio Bravo”; and “The Sea Chase.”

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John Wayne

John Wayne Turned Down ‘Waco Kid’ Role in 1974’s ‘Blazing Saddles’: Here’s Why

“Blazing Saddles” fans, you almost had John Wayne playing the “Waco Kid” in Mel Brooks’ classic film. But “The Duke” said no.

Mel Brooks, who directed and co-wrote the script for “Blazing Saddles,” was asked about Wayne turning down the role in a 2016 interview with Philly Metro.

“He did,” Brooks said in confirming Wayne turned down the role. “I wanted him to play the Waco Kid, because the Duke was such a good actor. His reality is that he is the cowboy Western.

“We were in the commissary at Warners, I gave him the script and he promised he’d read it overnight,” Brooks said. “The next morning I saw him and he says that he loves it — every beat, every line — but that it’s too blue, that it would disappoint his fans. He said, though, that he would be the first one in line to see it.”

Gene Wilder Takes Over Role In ‘Blazing Saddles’

When Wayne passed on it, Brooks initially looked to actor Gig Young to play the “Waco Kid.” Young, who battled alcoholism, showed up for the first day of filming. It did not go well. He collapsed during his first scene while dealing with withdrawal symptoms.

So, who did Brooks eventually turn to for this role? It just took one phone call to Gene Wilder, who flew out to Los Angeles and started filming.

Brooks and Wilder had worked together on an earlier Brooks film, “The Producers.” Wilder actually turned down another role in the film, that of Hedley Lamarr. Comedian Harvey Korman, who made a name for himself on “The Carol Burnett Show,” eventually was cast in that role.

Cleavon Little Role Originally Set For Richard Pryor

Of course, Cleavon Little plays Sheriff Bart in the movie. It was a role that Brooks wanted to give to Richard Pryor, who was a co-writer of the movie script. Warner Bros., though, was reportedly scared off by his drug arrests.

They wouldn’t insure Pryor for the movie, so the part went to Little. Other cast members include Madeline Kahn, Slim Pickens, and former National Football League star Alex Karras.

The studio gave Brooks a $2.6 million budget for his 1974 release. As of 2012, “Blazing Saddles” had earned $119.6 million in the United States and Canada combined.

One could say that Warner Bros. earned back what it put out, and then some, from the witty, wild mind of Mel Brooks.

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