My Ultimate Top 10 Best John Wayne Movies List

What’s your favourite 10 John Wayne Movies?  Not just westerns or war movies but your best Duke films ever.
It all started with my 10 Best John Wayne Westerns From My Childhood now a distant memory.

I’ve now reviewed over 100 John Wayne movies for this site and I thought I would have a go at listing my all time favourite ten. I hope you enjoy reading My Top 10 John Wayne Movies as much as I did revisiting these and all the others that didn’t make it to yet – there aren’t many…

…we thought it about time to revisit one of our most popular articles in which I rank my all-time favourite John Wayne movies in descending order. I’ve added a few more comments where relevant bearing in mind the original version of this article was written in 2018 and I’ve revised my ranking slightly since then.

Let us know in the comments below. But don’t be brutal this is just my own personal list.

So at number 10…

10. Sands of Iwo Jima (1949)

Republic Studios finally delivered the goods with this film when it comes to Wayne at war.

Directed by Allan Dwan who, like John Ford, had started his career in the silent era, the film depicts the savagery of the no-holds barred fighting at Iwo Jima.

Nominated for his first Academy Award, Wayne’s performance is more complex than usual, something he had started to hint at in “Red River” the year before and which reached its height in “The Searchers” a few years later.

He plays Sergeant Stryker, a veteran of Guadalcanal, who is put in charge of getting his marines in shape for battle.

The Japanese, considering that the war had been over for about 4 years prior to the film being made, are now referenced a bit more respectfully. They’re also reduced once more, however, to non-characters, the enemy the audience doesn’t get to know apart from watching them bayonet, maim and slaughter their way through the film.

Also, even if I hadn’t picked up on it in the credits, I would have guessed James Edward Grant had something to do with the script. Wayne utters the words ‘I’m going to tell you something’, in exactly the same way he addresses Linda Crystal in “The Alamo”, which of course Grant also scripted.

John Agar doesn’t really convince as the embittered son of Wayne’s previous commander, who has died at Guadalcanal.

The not-so-subtle storyline hinges on the idea that the tough Stryker will eventually bring Agar’s character around to stop thinking of him as another version of his father who was apparently somewhat of a martinet, but Agar’s acting abilities just don’t stretch that far.

Forrest Tucker, who is also in the film, might have made a better go of playing Agar’s character, but his role is mainly to initiate a fistfight with Wayne that doesn’t really get resolved until “Chisum” 20-odd years later.

Although it’s nearly half an hour before the action hits the screen it’s well worth the wait. The battle sequences, despite being interspersed with stock footage of what appears to be the real fight for Iwo Jima, are quite impressive, and more realistic than previous Wayne WWII films.

I think it could have done without the Hollywood practise of giving someone a final word just before they die, one character who has just been shot exclaiming “I’ll get a good night’s sleep tonight” before giving up the ghost.

On the other hand, it adds to the genuine shock of Wayne’s own sudden death scene because he doesn’t get the chance to say anything at all. One moment he’s telling everyone he feels good, the next thing he’s being shot in the back by one of those nasty Nippon gentlemen and dying instantly.

Stryker’s death scene is followed by a final sequence in which the flag is finally raised on Iwo Jima, a genuinely moving and fitting tribute to the real soldiers who died there.

One of the original flag-raisers, Ira Hayes, also appears in this scene. “Sands of Iwo Jima” is one of the best WWII films Wayne appeared in and, as already mentioned, the Academy thought so too by handing him his first Oscar nomination as Best Actor in the process.

In the end, he lost out to Broderick Crawford but in our humble opinion, the guy was well and truly robbed.

John Wayne in Hondo poster9. Hondo (1953)

I think I’m correct in asserting that “Hondo” is the only film John Wayne made in the short-lived 3D fad of the time.

Imagine audiences back in 1954 ducking and swerving as Duke’s fists came flying out of the screen and threatening to destroy everyone in the first row. I was struck by how much the beginning of the film mirrors the opening sequence of “Shane”.

Assuming that wasn’t intentional I’d have to say the sight of Duke marching steadfastly towards the camera as he appears from the middle of nowhere makes for a much more exciting entrance than Alan Ladd in “Shane”.

Based upon a Louis L’Amour book, “Hondo” is an unabashed cowboy and Apache film, with Wayne mouthing the good old-fashioned plain homilies of screenwriter James Edward Grant, who thinks that ‘a woman should be a good cook’ and that the leading female character, Angie, played by Geraldine Page, is a ‘homely woman’.

If you didn’t know Grant had scripted the film then you’d have got a very strong clue when Wayne launches into a whole bunch of dialogue on his dead Apache wife which sounds almost like a dry run for the ‘Republic. I like the sound of the word’ speech from “The Alamo”.

It’s also one of the most action-packed films Wayne ever made. You get an Apache / Wayne chase sequence, a hand-to-hand combat scene, a climactic cavalry / Apache battle, as well as a couple of punch ups along the way.

Duke gets into fisticuffs first off with Leo Gordon, here playing Ed Lowe, the wayward husband of Geraldine Page, who he has left alone with their young son at a ranch in the middle of nowhere.

Duke is unaware of the connection between the two until after he punches Mr. Gordon’s lights out in a fairly clichéd but short saloon fight.

Of course, Gordon doesn’t help matters much by pulling a gun on Wayne, after which Duke is morally obliged to knock him through the swinging saloon doors.

Wayne would also encounter Gordon nearly a decade later, punching him in the face in “McLintock!” at the beginning of the famous mud hole sequence. In “Hondo”, Duke abandons the Marquis of Queensbury approach and eventually shoots him dead instead.

Duke also gets to swing a punch at James ‘Matt Dillon’ Arness just to show it’s not just Leo Gordon who gets on his nerves.

There’s also a pretty good chance that a lot of kids growing up in the 1950s all learnt how not to drown just like the young boy in the film, Hondo administering a swimming lesson to Angie’s six-year-old son, Johnny, by chucking him into the water then telling him to ‘just reach out in front of you and grab a handful of water’.

Lucky the kid wasn’t deaf.

I’m making an assumption that Duke’s stand-in, Chuck Roberson, doubled for the horse-breaking scenes and the knife fight between Wayne and the Apache warrior Silva, played by Rodolfo Acosta.

If that’s the case, then it’s good to see Roberson getting his own close-up as a cavalry soldier in the battle at the end of the film.

Admittedly it’s a fairly short close-up what with Roberson getting killed a few seconds later but a nice gesture just the same.

On the whole,  a good solid Western in which Wayne turns in what has over the years become quite an iconic role for him, up there with Ethan Edwards and Sean Thornton in terms of popularity. Shame about the dead dog, though.

The Shootist with John Wayne poster

8. The Shootist (1976)

In his last film, John Wayne plays an ageing gunfighter dying of cancer, the illness that ironically killed him three years later in 1979.

It has quite an interesting and unique introductory sequence over the credit titles worth considering in a little detail. First off we are presented with assorted clips from previous JW films such as “Red River”, “Hondo”, “Rio Bravo” and “El Dorado”.

Secondly, Ron Howard’s voiceover informs us what kind of person the main character is going to be. He’s ‘not an outlaw’, and he has a creed that he lives by. ‘I won’t be wronged. I won’t be insulted. I won’t be laid a-hand on.

I don’t do these things to other people, and I require the same from them’. So there you have it. Duke as aged gunfighter J. B. Books is a stand-up guy. Who knew?

He’s also still highly capable of taking care of business when required, as indicated in the opening sequence in which Books gets the better of an outlaw who tries to rob him by turning the tables and shooting him first.

As he leaves the wounded robber to fend for himself, Books hands out some career advice along the lines of ‘Friend, you better get another line of work, this one sure don’t fit your pistol.’

A pre-directing Ron Howard of “Happy Days” fame plays Bacall’s young son, an innocent youth who wants Wayne to show him how to use a gun.

Although Bacall doesn’t get to play Wayne’s love interest in “The Shootist”, she brings a quiet dignity to her role as a widowed mother attempting to keep her son on the straight and narrow.

The late film critic Roger Ebert noted that when you witness the scenes between Wayne and Bacall they’re so authentic that ‘you forget you’re watching a movie’. I agree wholeheartedly. Bacall’s role in “The Shootist” has been underrated for too long, so time to put that right.

Throughout the movie, we get to see a parade of former Wayne co-stars strut their stuff with the big man including James Stewart, Richard Boone and John Carradine.

The Shootist” is another example of old men railing against progress and the dying of the light and ends, as expected, with a gunfight in which Wayne’s character in effect orchestrates the manner and the time of his own death, succumbing to a shotgun blast in the back from a cowardly bartender.

This was also Elmer Bernstein’s last score for a John Wayne – not his most memorable but I guess you can’t win all the time.

It’s difficult to think of a more poignant send-off to John Wayne’s acting career than “The Shootist”.

It’s probably one of the best last films ever made by a major Hollywood star and not one you can watch too often knowing that it’s Duke’s last film. If he hadn’t picked up the Oscar for “True Grit” then he would have surely nailed it with this one.

John Wayne in She Wore A Yellow Ribbon movie poster7. She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949)

If anyone has any doubts about Wayne’s acting ability, his performance as Captain Nathan Brittles in “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon” should convince otherwise.

Playing a character supposedly at least twenty years older than the actor actually was at the time, Wayne puts in one of his career-best performances as the elderly soldier called upon to perform one last mission to help negotiate peace between the warring Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes, before heading off to retirement.

This is less an action movie and more a rumination on growing old, the scene towards the end of the film when he and Chief Pony That Walks discuss going hunting, fishing and drinking reinforcing the anachronistic nature of the two characters.

For some strange reason, Wayne seemed to think when he was interviewed in 1971 for Playboy that he had been nominated for an Oscar for this film.

Unfortunately, that turns out not to be the case but he was definitely robbed, delivering a more studied and measured performance here than he did in “Sands of Iwo Jima” which was released in the same year, and for which he did actually receive his first Academy nomination.

Joanne Dru is the prevaricating love interest of both Agar and Harry ‘Dobe’ Carey Jr, settling for Agar in the end.

The love triangle sub-plot comes over a bit clunky and threatens to detract from the main story of Wayne’s impending retirement. That’s a small price to pay though when matched against JWs consummate performance.

Witness the scene where his troop presents him with a gold watch “with a sentiment on the back” and I dare anyone not to reach for the nearest handkerchief and dab the tears from their eyes.

The Oscar-winning cinematographer Winston Hoch captures the landscape of Monument Valley perfectly. Prior to “The Searchers” the location has never looked so beautiful.

Add to all of this John Ford’s peerless direction, Ben Johnson at his horse-riding monosyllabic best as a cavalry sergeant who previously served in the Confederacy,  and Victor McLaglen’s performance as the Irish sergeant also on the cusp of retiring (I’m guessing he must have re-enlisted for “Rio Grande”) and you have a perfect example of how Ford and Wayne could deliver the goods when they were both firing on all cylinders.

It’s in colour too.

John Wayne in The Alamo lobby card6. The Alamo – Director’s Cut (1960)

For a lot of the baby-boomer generation that grew up in the 1950s and early 1960s, “The Alamo” is THE definitive John Wayne film.

“The Searchers” and “Rio Bravo” may be more lauded and highly regarded but to us kids at the time there was nothing more exciting than watching JW as Davy Crockett along with his plucky defenders taking on the Mexican army and going out in a blaze of glory at the end.

According to an article on JW written way back in 1969, “This classic story had long been a pet project of Wayne’s.

In many ways it embodied his own personal patriotic ideals and after many years of preparation, it finally reached the screen as The Alamo.

Though far from faultless, the film remains an incredible achievement for a novice director.” JW put a lot of his own hard-earned money into the film, approximately one and a half million dollars according to some sources, the total budget coming in at around twelve-million dollars. 

United Artists insisted Wayne also take on the main role of Crockett, a condition for their financial participation in the project.

Most of the filming took place on a full-scale set of the Alamo which was built on Happy Shahan’s ranch near Brackettville, Texas.

Wayne put together rather an eclectic cast, particularly as regards the casting of Lithuanian-born actor Laurence Harvey as Colonel Travis, with other main roles going to Richard Widmark as Jim Bowie and Richard Boone in a cameo as Sam Houston.

Frankie Avalon brought in the teenagers, the beautiful Linda Crystal beguiled the boys as well as the men in the audience whilst Wayne made it a bit of a family affair by casting his son Patrick and young daughter Aissa in the film.

To save even further on cost, Duke also brought in his eldest son Michael, who co-produced with his dad.

“The Alamo” is always going to be in a top ten listing of the best John Wayne films ever made, even though the script by James Edward Grant comes across on occasion as more of a sermon rather than an informed retelling of a major event in the history of Texas.

Despite this, the film still has a hell of a lot going for it, in particular a superlative score by composer Dimitri Tiomkin, a standout performance from Widmark as Bowie, a spectacular final battle sequence that still enthralls sixty years on from when the film was first released, and an iconic JW death scene that still brings tears to the eyes for all of us here at Mostly Westerns.

The original directors cut, discovered back in the early 90s, is the best version to watch if you have access to it, and the book on the making of the film, “Not Thinking… Just Remembering” by John Farkis, is a must for all JW and Alamo fans.

It’s a great pity that the eventual release prints of the movie were bereft of Hank Worden’s death scene as Parson, his passing made quite touching by the actor’s distinctive sing-song delivery as he thanks Crockett for taking him along on his travels.

The 2004 remake with Billy Bob Thornton as Crockett isn’t too bad either but Wayne’s production is still the one against which all other movies on the subject of the battle of the Alamo will be forever measured.

I love this film so much I think I’m going to watch it again right now.

Stagecoach with John Wayne poster5. Stagecoach (1939)

Stagecoach is up there in the pantheon of Westerns along with “Shane”, “The Searchers”, “Red River”, “High Noon” and “The Wild Bunch” – and the bonus is that not only did it finally make John Wayne a star but it helped elevate the Western back to its deserved status as a major Hollywood genre.

It also helped that JW found himself for the first time in his career in the middle of a great ensemble cast. The nominal star of the film was, of course, Claire Trevor, playing lady-of-the-night Dallas, with Wayne in second place.

Thomas Mitchell won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role as the alcoholic Doc Boone, and the cast is rounded out with John Carradine as a cheating Southern card-sharp and Andy Devine as Buck, the stagecoach driver.

The film revolves mainly around Duke’s character, the Ringo Kid, and his determination to avenge the death of his brother at the hands of the Plummer gang.

The audience is served up with nearly 18 minutes of screen time before JW eventually appears. And what an appearance it is.

You’re not just being treated to the first sighting of the hero of the film, in this instance you’re witnessing the creation of an iconic legend of the silver screen, if that’s not too hyperbolic a statement to make.

Prior to “Stagecoach”, Wayne had languished for nearly ten years in a whole bunch of B movies churned out by poverty row studios such as Republic and Monogram after the misfire that was “The Big Trail” back in 1930.

By the time John Ford gave Duke a break in “Stagecoach” he was in his early 30s with approximately 60 films under his belt, excluding those he appeared in during the silent era.

Ringo’s presence is signaled by a shot from his Winchester rifle as he hails down the stagecoach to Lordsburg.

The first time we see Wayne / Ringo he is framed against a background of towering buttes and wild landscape, a saddle draped over his left arm as he twirls the rifle with his other hand.

It’s obviously a studio shot but the impact of Ringo’s first appearance is emphasised by the camera moving in from a mid-shot to a close up of Duke, the image going slightly out of focus for a second or two as the camera moves forward.

Ringo’s face registers both surprise and disappointment as he realises that the marshal of Tonto, Curly Wilcox, is riding shotgun.

Despite Ringo telling Curly that he “may need me and this Winchester” after pointing out Apache war smoke on the horizon, the fact is that John Wayne’s first appearance in a major Hollywood Western since “The Big Trail” entails him being relieved of his weaponry.

Wayne is still in his innocent cowboy phase – good with a gun but naïve and inexperienced when it comes to the female sex.

On the other hand, nobody watches a Wayne film for the romantic content ( “The Quiet Man” being the exception) but to see the man in action, and “Stagecoach” has more than enough of that to please even the most casual viewer.

You could argue that the whole story of the stagecoach chase and ultimate rescue by the cavalry is a mere anti-climax to the final shootout between Ringo and his brother’s killers.

On the way from Tonto to Lordsburg, the audience get everything but the kitchen sink thrown at them when it comes to the components of the Western genre.

There are corrupt bankers, Southern gentlemen gamblers, drunk doctors, smoke signals on the horizon, Indian chases, daring stunts – you name it and it’s all there up on the screen.

The showdown sequence between Ringo and the Plummer gang at the end is a classic Wayne ‘moment’ as he faces down the three men who killed his brother, before eventually winning the heart of Dallas in the final reel.

The other notable claim to fame for “Stagecoach” is that it was the first of Ford’s Westerns to be shot in and around Monument Valley, a location he would return to numerous times in the following years and one that would be forever associated with the director in the collective consciousness of fans of the genre.

The Academy Award winning soundtrack by Richard Hagen is definitely worth tracking down too if you get the chance, as it features a great collection of original “pioneer” songs such as “Shall We Gather at the River?” and “Don’t Bury Me on the Lone Prairie”.

The film may be over eighty years old but it still retains the ability to thrill and engage audiences who weren’t even a twinkle in their parent’s eye when it was first released.

It’s a great beginning to a Western partnership between Wayne and Ford that only got better as time went on, and a bona fide Hollywood classic that should be required viewing for JW fans of all ages.

Avoid the 1966 remake at all costs.

Poster of Red River starring John Wayne4. Red River (1948)

1948 was a good year for John Wayne and Westerns with audiences treated to the release in quick succession of “Red River”, “Fort Apache” and “3 Godfathers” – one Howard Hawks and two John Ford’s in 12 months.

It never really got any better than that. Dimitri Tiomkin’s thunderous marching theme (which as all Wayne fans know serves as the melody for “My Rifle, Pony and Me in Rio Bravo” – and when is someone going to release the original recording of the “Red River” soundtrack?) immediately announces that we are in the company of a classic Western from the very first frame.

In his first Western for Howard Hawks, JW plays the determined and stubborn Texas cattleman Tom Dunson, a character more in tune with the complexities of Ethan Edwards and Tom Doniphon than the straightforward and uncomplicated cowboys he had played previously.

This is the period in Wayne’s career when he starts to show real range in his acting abilities, famously prompting Ford to declare after seeing “Red River” that “I didn’t know the son-of-a-bitch could act”.

As the film progresses Dunson gets meaner and more unlikeable, and it’s a credit to Wayne that he was confident enough in his acting abilities to play such an aggressive and unpleasant individual as Dunson at this point in his career.

Montgomery Clift would not have been everyone’s first choice to co-star with Wayne as the orphaned Matt Garth who is taken under Dunson’s wing as a young boy.

Clift, however,  more than holds his own against Duke, with Garth eventually taking control of the cattle drive, whilst Wayne’s character becomes more and more embittered and ornery.

Wayne offers to sire children with Joanne Dru’s character, here playing pioneer Tess Millay, like a bull mating with a heffer.

Not surprisingly she spurns Dunson’s offer and takes up with Matt Garth instead. At one stage Dru gets pinioned to a wagon by an arrow through the shoulder but doesn’t let on to anyone. A typically stoic Hawksian woman if ever there was one.

Walter Brennan as trail cook Groot here plays a younger version of Stumpy in the later “Rio Bravo”, although he looks exactly the same in both films.

Throw in John Ireland as gunfighter Cherry Valance, stampeding cattle and wagon train massacres and you have the first real classic Western from director Howard Hawks.

The only false note in the film comes towards the end when a murderous Dunson goes gunning for Matt Garth for being instrumental in relieving Dunson as trail boss.

They engage in a vicious fistfight which is then abruptly terminated by the intervention of Joanne Dru, who scolds the two men as though they were little boys.

It just feels as though no one could come up with a more convincing ending – apparently the original ending had to be changed as it bore too close a resemblance to a previous Hawks film, “The Outlaw” – but in the scheme of things it doesn’t hurt the overall impact of the film in general and Wayne’s magnificent performance in particular.

Hawks gifted members of the cast and crew with a specially designed belt buckle that had the initials of the recipient embossed in the bottom left-hand corner.

Keen JW observers will note that he wore the buckle in a number of his Westerns up to and including “Rio Lobo”, which of course was the final film Wayne and Hawks worked on.

John Wayne as The Quiet Man poster3. The Quiet Man (1952)

“The Quiet Man” is probably the second most popular cinematic outing for the John Wayne / John Ford partnership which is why it’s been moved up two places in this all-time top ten list of JW movies.

The movie had been a cherished project of John Ford for a long time but the only way he could get the financing off the ground was to make a Western for Republic studio head Herbert Yates. Ford delivered “Rio Grande”, pairing Wayne with his future “Quiet Man” co-star Maureen O’Hara for the first time, and Yates duly delivered the money.

It’s very loosely based around a series of short stories written by Irish author Maurice Walsh and published in a book originally called “The Green Rushes”. Ford and scriptwriter Frank Nugent forged the screenplay of “The Quiet Man” from one of those short stories, and the end result turned out to be a Hollywood perennial classic that was also one of Ford’s biggest box-office hits in his more than fifty-year directing career.

On top of that, it garnered the director his fourth best directing Oscar, a feat still unbeaten by any other filmmaker.

Whilst contemporary audiences might take offence at some of the more outdated aspects of the film, particularly as regards its attitude towards women and the stereotypical nature of a lot of the supporting characters, it doesn’t detract from the power of the story nor the breath-taking beauty of the Irish country-side, the exterior sequences having been shot on location in and around the village of Cong in County Mayo.

Add to that the ‘illegally beautiful’ Maureen O’Hara and you have yourself a cinematic offering that only the most cynical viewer would not enjoy.

It’s also the closest Ford ever came to making a full-blown musical, an Irish “Brigadoon” if you like. Everyone in the film seems to want to exercise their tonsils at the drop of a hat, with renditions of Irish evergreens such as ‘The Wild Colonial Boy’, ‘Galway Bay’ and ‘The Humour is on Me Now’ scattered throughout the movie.

The film itself is a Hollywood depiction of Ireland that’s so ‘Oirish’ you half expect to see a leprechaun emerge from behind the scenery at any given moment – then Barry Fitzgerald appears and if he isn’t a leprechaun in spirit as well as demeanour then I’ll eat my green St. Patrick’s Guinness hat.

It’s not worth recounting the story of the film here as I’m assuming you’ll know the movie backwards, particularly if you’re a Ford or Wayne fan.

Suffice to say that Duke acquits himself well, his performance capturing the angst of an ex-boxer who has accidentally killed a man in the ring back in America, and just happy to live a quiet life as a quiet man in the country of his birth.

The much-anticipated fistfight between Wayne and Victor ‘Red Will’ McLaglen is as climactic as any gun-fighting face-off from any Western you’d care to name.

So watch, enjoy, and like thousands of others before you try and figure out what exactly it is that Maureen O’Hara whispers in Wayne’s ear right at the end of the film.

By the look on Duke’s face, I’m guessing it’s not something you’d say out loud in front of the kids.

Rio Bravo with John Wayne Dean Martin poster2. Rio Bravo (1959)

There are so many wonderful performances and memorable moments in this film it’s difficult to know where to start.

One thing I will say is that whenever it turns up on TV, you feel as though you’re visiting a group of old friends and you want to spend as much time with them as you possibly can.

The film is a complete delight from the minute Dean Martin steps furtively through the back door of the saloon looking for a drink right through to the end when he and Walter Brennan walk down the street with Angie Dickinson’s tights wound around Brennan’s neck.

The opening sequence grips the viewer right from the start. The slow strumming of the guitar in the background as Dude slinks into the saloon looking for his next drink. The fact there’s no dialogue right up until the moment Duke arrests Joe Burdette.

And the first full shot of Duke as John T Chance as he tries to save Dude from further degradation, kicking a spittoon away as Dude goes to retrieve a silver dollar thrown into it by villain Joe Burdette, played by Claude Akins.

It’s a superior example of classic filmmaking from one of the few directors to match John Ford in both cinematic style and mastery of film language, Howard Hawks.

The director has the confidence to throw you right into the middle of the action from the very beginning without bothering to indulge in any kind of exposition or explanation on behalf of the viewer, taking for granted that the audience is intelligent enough to understand and catch up with what is happening on screen for themselves.

Surprisingly short on action despite a running time of over 140 minutes, “Rio Bravo” has a very basic story. Chance (Wayne) and his compatriots Dude (Dean Martin), Stumpy (Walter Brennan) and Colorado (Ricky Nelson) are besieged by a group of outlaws wanting to get their friend out of jail before the marshal arrives, with the good guys known only by their nicknames.

That’s the whole plot right there in a nutshell but it’s the amazing array of aforementioned characters that beguile, on top of which you get a marvellous group of supporting actors as well to round things out including John Russell, Claude Akins and the ever-dependable Ward Bond.

Let’s not forget Angie Dickinson as card-sharp Feathers either. Despite being nearly twenty-five years younger than her leading man, there’s a palpable sexual chemistry between Dickinson and Duke that you rarely get to witness in other Wayne movies, so it comes as no surprise within the context of the story when they both end up in bed together midway through the movie.

The standout moments in the film are those that catch the audience off-guard: Chance suddenly kissing Stumpy on the forehead, the impromptu singing session in the jailhouse, Stumpy offering up an exaggerated – and possibly unscripted – impression of Chance which prompts Dean Martin to almost dissolve in a fit of giggles, Dude clumping Chance with a piece of wood when denied the opportunity to retrieve a silver dollar from a spittoon, then Chance whacking Joe Burdette in the same manner a few moments later, although you know damned well it’s Dude he’s mad at.

I could go on in a similar manner for quite a while but I know all of you are just as familiar with the film as I am so do yourselves a favour and go put the movie on right now. I promise you won’t regret it.

So number 1 on my personal list of John Wayne best ever movies…

…well you may well have guessed it and maybe totally disagree but hey, click here

Photo of author
Steve is a film scholar of note, gaining both an MA in film studies and a Ph.D. for his thesis on the silent films of John Ford. Steve, a scriptwriter and published novelist, provides much of the content you see here and is a dedicated aficionado and longtime fan of John Wayne, John Ford and Western films in general.

12 thoughts on “My Ultimate Top 10 Best John Wayne Movies List”

  1. My list includes the funnest John Wayne movies you can enjoy often

    The Horse Soldiers
    Rio Bravo
    The Undefeated.

    The Searchers and others aren’t films to see over and over and enjoy.

    • Thanks Buck. Not so sure about ‘The Horse Soldiers’ in your list and the non-inclusion of ‘The Quiet Man’ but you’ve given us a potentially good idea for an article maybe further on down the line.

  2. Love the list but I have always liked The Undefeated with Duke and Rock Hudson. Probably not good enough for the list but a very good movie.

  3. I saw an intervierw of John Wayne (forgot who the interviewer was) and he stated that IF he had to choose one, he would probably choose “The Searchers.” I think he felt that was about his best work at least at the time of that interiew!

  4. You picked the best…at # 1; But I just love, “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon” it has ethos/character that you can feel and embrace, but only hope to live up to.

  5. Good list, I agree all your choices are excellent movies. I would only add one, my personal favorite, 1966’s “El Dorado”. I avoided that film for years because I thought of it as an inferior remake of “Rio Bravo”, but several years ago my son got totally obsessed with it on Netflix and I was kind of forced to watch it over and over, and like and behold I found that I loved it! Not knocking “Rio Bravo”, still one of my all-time favorites, but I think “El Dorado” is a slightly better film. Tighter, better acting, better villains… and James Caan can actually act. Rick Nelson is one of the all-time great rock ‘n rollers, but he nearly damages the movie with his awful performance.

    Both great movies, but I really feel that “El Dorado” has been very unfairly maligned over the years. It’s a great, underrated movie.

    • Bruce, isn’t that the great thing about movies? You see one first time around then years later you revisit it and you get a whole other opinion on it. Either way it always comes down to personal preference so keep on championing “El Dorado” and you never know, you might get us to change our minds one day. Thanks for the comment and glad you liked our article on the JW / Howard Hawks movies.

    • Sorry about that. There was another page to go to – trying to add to the suspense – there was a small number 2 to hit but it should be clearer now. Thanks for your interest.


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