John Wayne Non-Western Movies & What They Made At The Box Office

As with our previous article on John Wayne’s top 20 box-office Western movies we’ve decided to consider only the domestic take. This time around though, we didn’t restrict the titles to those films that earned $4 million or above. We just went for the first twenty in an original list of thirty films. We also had to make a couple of assumptions on original budget just as before, this time around for “Flying Leathernecks” and “Hellfighters”.

An executive decision was taken to exclude both “Jet Pilot” and “The Greatest Story Ever Told” from this exercise. “Jet Pilot” apparently cost $9 million dollars to make and there was no way the box office take for that film would put it into the top twenty list. The latter was not included because a) JW is literally onscreen for only a few minutes and b) it was bloody awful

Again, we have two lists, one indicating the original box office domestic market takings and a comparison with the inflated box office figure. The second list shows the original budget and estimated profit (or loss) based upon budget and box office earnings.

The High and The Mighty with John Wayne

Top 20 JW Non-Westerns by Original Box Office Takings

JOHN WAYNE NON-WESTERN MOVIE YEAR ORIGINAL CURRENT
The Barbarian and the Geisha
1958
$2.5m
$86.5m
Flying Leathernecks
1951
$2.6m
$84.8m
Big Jim McLain
1952
$2.6
$84.8m
Island in the Sky
1953
$2.7m
$79.2m
Back to Bataan
1945
$2.27m
$97.6m
The Quiet Man
1952
$3.2m
$124m
They Were Expendable
1946
$3.25m
$158m
Cast a Giant Shadow
1966
$3.5m
$50.7m
Hellfighters
1968
$3.75m
$45.9m
Brannigan
1975
$3.8
$16.8m
Sands of Iwo Jima
1949
$3.9m
$188m
McQ
1974
$4.1m
$37.9m
The Conqueror
1956
$4.5m
$155m
In Harm’s Way
1965
$4.5m
$72.8m
The Sea Chase
1955
$6m
$230m
Donovan’s Reef
1963
$6.6m
$67m
Hatari!
1962
$7m
$173m
The High and the Mighty
1954
$8.5m
$234.5m
The Green Berets
1962
$21.7m
$128.7m
The Longest Day
1962
$39m
$434m

A couple of surprises here. We certainly didn’t expect to see “Donovan’s Reef” so high in the top twenty, or “The Conqueror” for that matter.

Word of mouth back in 1956 was obviously slower back then than it is now in the social media world of today.

JWs war movies have quite a healthy presence in the list, even “Cast a Giant Shadow”, in which Wayne played a ten-minute cameo role.

The top title, “The Longest Day”, was another of those huge ensemble cast road-show movies, just like “How the West Was Won”, in which JW didn’t spend that much time onscreen, so as with our previous list it’s the film in second position, in this case “The Green Berets”, that should really be classified as Wayne’s biggest box-office non-Western hit.

We note there’s almost an even split between films from the 50s and the 60s, along with a surprising three titles from the 40s.

The movie that really sticks out though is “The High and the Mighty” which ends up in third place on the list, meaning it took another fourteen years before any JW non-Western film would surpass the box-office take of that film.

Based upon the original budget of the titles from the previous list let’s look at how they fared in the profitability stakes.

The Longest Day with John Wayne

Top 20 JW Non-Westerns by Profitability

JOHN WAYNE NON-WESTERN MOVIE YEAR ORIGINAL PROFIT / LOSS
In Harm’s Way
1965
$8m
-$3.5m
Cast a Giant Shadow
1966
$5m
-$1.5m
The Conqueror
1956
$6m
-$1.5m
The Barbarian And The Geisha
1965
$3.5m
-$1m
They Were Expendable
1946
$2.9m
$.35m
Hitari!
1962
$6.5m
$0.5m
Hellfighters
1968
$3m*
$.75m
McQ
1974
$3.2m
$9m
Brannigan
1975
$2.5m
$1.3m
Flying Leathernecks
1951
$1.1m*
$1.5m
Island in the Sky
1953
$1m
$1.7m
Big Jim McLain
1952
$0.8m
$1.8m
Back to Bataan
1945
$1.25m
$2.27m
The Quiet Man
1952
$1.75m
$2.27m
Sands of Iwo Jima
1949
$1m
$2.29m
The Sea Chase
1955
$3m
$3m
Donovan’s Reef
1963
$2.6m
$4m
The High and the Mighty
1954
$1.4m
$7.1m
The Green Berets
1962
$7m
$14.7m
The Longest Day
1962
$7.75m
$35.6m

*estimated

The top three films in terms of profitability haven’t changed from the first list but see how the mighty have fallen when it comes to titles such as “In Harm’s Way”, “The Conqueror” and “The Barbarian and the Geisha”.

No surprises with the last two titles – JW made some real clunkers and then some back in the 1950s – but we wouldn’t have thought “Hatari!” would have slipped down to fifteenth position in the list as it appears to be quite a favourite with the Mostly Western readership community.

“The Quiet Man” also appears to lose out to titles such as “The Sea Chase” and “Donovan’s Reef” despite being probably Wayne’s most revered non-Western movie.

Nine of the titles in the list are war films, proving that audiences do love seeing Duke, when he’s not roaming the range, giving his all to save the free world.

Now that we’ve gone to the trouble of compiling a list of top box-office movies for both JWs Westerns and non-Western films it makes obvious sense to combine both lists and come up with the ultimate John Wayne box-office top twenty titles from his long and varied career. 

We’ve decided to just show the original box office take for the following titles alongside the profit after taking the budget of each film into account.

Other info can be gained regarding inflated box office figures and the budget in this and our previous article on JWs box-office record.

How The West Was On image

Top 20 JW Box Office Movies

JOHN WAYNE MOVIE YEAR ORIGINAL PROFIT / LOSS
El Dorado
1966
$2.5m
$1.3m
The Sea Chase
1955
$6m
$3m
The War Wagon
1967
$2.6m
$2m
Chisum
1970
$2.7m
$4m
Donovan’s Reef
1963
$6.6m
$4m
Hitari!
1962
$7m
$0.5m
Big Jake
1971
$7.5m
$2.7m
The Cowboys
1975
$7.5m
$1.5m
Rooster Cogburn
1975
$7.7m
-$2.3m
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
1962
$7.9m
$4.7m
The High and the Mighty
1954
$8.5m
$7.1m
The Shootist
1976
$8.9m
$4.4m
The Comancheros
1961
$10m
$5.74m
Rio Bravo
1959
$12.5m
$6.8m
The Sons of Katie Elder
1965
$13.3m
$6.8m
The Alamo
1960
$17.3m
$5.3m
The Green Berets
1968
$21.7m
$14.7m
True Grit
1968
$31m
$24m
The Longest Day
1962
$39m
$31.25m
How the West Was Won
1962
$50m
$35.6m

So there it is. 1962 proved to be a watershed moment for JW what with the top two titles being released in the same year.

Of course, if you’re looking for the best box office performance in movies featuring Wayne as the leading man then the top honour goes to “True Grit”.

In the meantime, for now we’ll just say vaya con dios, au revoir and adios amigos until we meet again.

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