Wednesday, September 10, 2014

My Ten Favorite John Wayne Westerns

It's Legends of Western Cinema Week over at A Lantern in Her Hand, and I'm joining the fun with a somewhat different version of my Ten Favorites series.  I've already posted about my ten favorite westerns, so today I'm listing my ten favorite westerns that star John Wayne.  You probably know this already, but John Wayne is my absolute favorite actor, and has been since I was a preteen.  Three of these also appear on the list of my favorite westerns, I might add.

1.  The Sons of Katie Elder (1965)

Four brothers (including John Wayne and Dean Martin) reunite at their mother's funeral and work together to find out how their parents lost their ranch.  I've probably seen this more often than all the other movies on this list put together.

2.  Rio Bravo (1959)

A sheriff (John Wayne), his recovering alcoholic deputy (Dean Martin), a crippled old man (Walter Brennan), and a young gunfighter (Ricky Nelson) hold off a host of bad guys bent on springing a murderer from jail.  About as perfect as a western gets.

3.  The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)

A greenhorn lawyer (James Stewart) stands up a vicious outlaw (Lee Marvin), and what everyone believes happened during that shoot-out launches his stellar political career.  Also, he marries John Wayne's girl, which is really most unfair.  This has one of my favorite plot twists ever.   And both Wayne and Stewart turn in strong performances.

4.  North to Alaska (1960)

Gold-mining partners (John Wayne and Stewart Granger) vie for the attention of a former dance hall girl (Capucine) and fight off claim jumpers led by her slick-talking ex-boyfriend (Ernie Kovacs).  Much more comedic than the other movies on this list.  This is the first John Wayne movie I can remember seeing.

5.  Hondo (1953)

Hondo Laine (John Wayne) encounters a woman (Geraldine Page) and her young son living alone on their remote ranch right as an Indian uprising is about to start.  It's got a very sweet and unexpected love story, and also lots of action.

6.  The Searchers (1956)

Bitter, angry Ethan Edwards (John Wayne) spends years and years searching for his niece (Natalie Wood), who was kidnapped by Indians as a child.  He intends to kill her to end her shame and misery from being forced to marry an Indian.  Probably John Wayne's finest performance.  Even if you don't like westerns, you should see this once because it's a masterpiece.

7.  The War Wagon (1967)

Taw Jackson (John Wayne) gets released from an undeserved prison sentence and enlists some friends (Kirk Douglas, Howard Keel, Keenan Wynn, Robert Walker, Jr.) to help him steal a wagon full of gold from the man who sent him to prison in the first place.  Not actually a great movie, I'm sure, but I'm exceedingly fond of it.  You know me and wrongful imprisonments!

8.  Chisum (1970)

A retelling of the Lincoln County War, which pitted John Chisum (John Wayne), Pat Garrett (Glenn Corbett), and Billy "The Kid" Bonney (Geoffrey Deuel) against the owner of a rival ranch.  The second John Wayne movie I can ever remember seeing.

9.  El Dorado (1966)

Basically the same story as Rio Bravo, only this time Robert Mitchum is the recovering alcoholic, John Wayne is a gunfighter, James Caan is the youngster, and Arthur Hunnicutt is the old coot.  Both movies were directed by Howard Hawks, and Leigh Brackett wrote/co-wrote both screenplays.

10.  Tall in the Saddle (1944)

A newcomer in town (John Wayne) discovers his prospective boss has been murdered and the town is full of all kinds of trouble for him to sort out.  I've only seen this one twice, but Ella Raines impressed me so much I consider it a favorite.  Also, John Wayne is at his prime here, handsome as can be.


  1. When I was visiting my parents in July, I watched a lot of Westerns with my dad, 3 of which were John Wayne films---The Shootist (and we commented while watching it that Lauren Bacall was still alive...sniff, sniff), McLintock, and The Searchers. I hadn't seen any of them before. I quite liked The Shootist and The Searchers, but McLintock was a bit too slapstick for my taste.

    My dad raved about "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" to me, so that is on my to-watch list. I saw that it is streamable on Net Flix, so I expect to get to it one of these days soon.

    1. The Shootist makes me too sad. I've seen it once, and I really feel no desire to see it again. John Wayne playing a man dying of cancer while he himself was dying of cancer -- it's too tragically meta.

      McLintock is a little too silly for my taste too, though I do enjoy it now and then.

      The Searchers is so deep, isn't it? The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is more along those lines, though not quite so dark.

  2. My dad is a huge John Wayne fan, so I grew up watching his movies. 'The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance' was a definite favorite, as well as John Ford's Cavalry trilogy- especially 'Rio Grande'.

    1. I have to admit the only one of the Cavalry Trilogy I know well is She Wore a Yellow Ribbon because it's one of the first John Wayne movies we owned when I was a kid. I do have both of the others, and should really watch them again now. I think I would like them a lot better now than I did when I was a teen.

  3. I think the only two John Wayne films that I've seen were Sands of Iwo Jima and Rare Breed. Mainly because I have 3 brothers who are history buffs, and a grandpa with a penchant for watching the same westerns over and over and over. I actually love both of those. To me, Sands of Iwo Jima is classic WWII, and I love Maureen O'Hara in Rare Breed. She was so feisty and determined in it.

    1. Actually, John Wayne's not in The Rare Breed, that's James Stewart. But I love that movie a lot! One of my absolute favorite westerns. The whole cast is wonderful, aren't they?

      And Sands of Iwo Jima is great. Even if it does make me cry.

    2. Oh...*ahem* you're right. James Stewart, the one and only. LOL I promise, I have seen that about 10 times, but the last time was when I was about 13 or 14, so I need to watch it again.

      I think we watch Sands of Iwo Jima every other year for either D-Day or Veterans' Day.

      The main John Wayne I really want to watch is The Shepherd of the Hills. I absolutely LOVE the book, but I wonder what his interpretation of Young Matt is like because they seem very different to me.

    3. I haven't read The Shepherd of the Hills, or seen the movie, but I've heard it bears almost no resemblance to the book.

      (And yes, there are John Wayne movies I've never seen. ::gasp!::)

  4. Great list! And I love that he made so many good Westerns that I can have so many different ones on my list. Okay, only five different ones, LOL. But still. And now, I'm back in the mood for a Western!

    1. Considering the list we made a while ago and how different we were on most of the movies, I'm not surprised! What are your five others? Big Jake, of course, and probably The Horse Soldiers, unless you consider that a war movie...

    2. I did count The Horse Soldiers, LOL. Big Jake of course. The Alamo, The Comancheros, and Rio Lobo. I have a love/hate relationship with Rio Lobo, but I've seen it soooooooo many times. I love the first half, I love most of last half -- except those awful women characters who Cannot Act and nearly ruin it. But the awesome Goldsmith score, Chris Mitchum, Jorge Rivera (who I had the biggest crush on for years and years from this movie), Jack Elam, and everything else still push it onto my favorites list.

    3. Oh, and the ones we share in common are Sons of Katie Elder (of course!!), Rio Bravo, Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, North to Alaska, and El Dorado. :-D

    4. I almost put The Alamo at number 10. I waffled over that one a lot. And I do really like The Comancheros too.

      I just have a hate/hate relationship with Rio Lobo. I probably should see it again sometime to see if I still dislike it so much.

      My top 4 are just that good, aren't they? And I had probably seen El Dorado like six times before I ever saw Rio Bravo, so I still really love it. Had the hugest crush on James Caan from that movie. And then grew up and watched The Godfather and was so disappointed by him in it.

  5. I. Am. Going. To. Have. To. See. Some. Of. These!! I can't wait--they look so good! And...I just got up my review for Yellow Ribbon this morning... ;-)

    1. I would call the first six "must-sees." The last 4 are ones I love but that aren't necessarily awesome.

      I need to spend some serious time reading blogs. I keep falling farther and farther behind. Urgh.

  6. Fun list!

    I do not believe I have seen The Sons of Katie Elder, or at least I have not seen since I was a kid.

    The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Rio Bravo, Hondo, and The Searchers are all favorites of mine as well. His Oscar winning role in True Grit is another favorite of his as well.

    I am glad you did not include Stagecoach. I love old westerns, but that one just does not hold up at all.


    1. Hee! I actually really like Stagecoach, but it's not in my top ten. If you compare it to other westerns being made at the time -- to other movies in all genres, really -- it's fantastic. Rather progressive in some of its themes, like redemption of the fallen woman. And the Ringo Kid is one of the first real anti-heroes, precursor of Han Solo and such. But today, it does feel slow and predictable, though I think the latter is because much of what happens there has been done so often since.

      I should do a list of his best westerns sometime, which would be a slightly different list. Like, I don't have Red River on here because I don't love it, but it totally would belong on a list of his best westerns. Same goes for Rio Grande.

      The Sons of Katie Elder is undervalued and underknown, IMHO. It's one of his later westerns, many of which could get formulaic, but that one -- very, very good.

      However, I'm just not a fan of True Grit. I liked the new version a lot better. John Wayne was just fine in it, but most of the other actors either annoyed or disappointed me.

  7. You just made my to-watch list a whole lot longer. :-) Actually the fact is I've never seen a real John Wayne movie-- I saw him in How the West Was Won (great movie, by the way) as General Sherman, but he only had a few minutes' screen time and that wasn't really enough to give me a fair impression of what he's like. (Plus General Sherman is mean. ;-P) I was this close to watching Hondo, but we had to take it back to the library. :-(
    I really want to see The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, since I'm a big fan of Jimmy Stewart. I'm also interested in Red River, though I don't know much about it. I really haven't seen many older westerns-- most of my favorites were made in the 80s. :-)

    Great list! And thanks again so much for participating! :-)


    1. Blast it! I almost stuck "Hondo" in your box, but then I decided to send a slightly smaller box and had to leave something out, and that was it. At least you can get it from the library again!

      I'm happy to hear you're a Jimmy Stewart fan :-) He's great in "Liberty Valance." And "Shenandoah" -- so lovely. "And "Rare Breed." I'll stop now.

      But at least John Wayne's Sherman could give good pep talks! But no, not really a "John Wayne movie," exactly.

    2. Oh dear, really? Well, that's alright, I'll get it from the library again. Thanks for the thought. :-)

      I haven't always been a Jimmy Stewart fan, but recently I've really started liking him. (Like, in the last year.) I love the musical version of Shenandoah and was surprised to see that there's also a movie! Now I want to see it.

      Haha, yes, I remember the pep talk. ;-P


    3. And the worst part is, I took it to the library with all the other left-over books and movies from my yard sale this morning, so can't even just hold onto it for you. It was just a VHS copy, but still.

      I can't remember ever not being a Jimmy Stewart fan, as we grew up watching "How the West Was Won" -- it was I think the second video my parents ever owned. The first was a taped-off-TV copy of "The Sound of Music," so I know those movies Really Well. And I liked him a lot in HTWWW. And "Destry Rides Again," that is an awesome early western. He's really young in it. We got that from the library a lot when I was growing up, and "Rare Breed." So between the three of those, I was a firm fan of Jimmy Stewart long before I finally got to see "It's a Wonderful Life" when I was like 14.

      But just to warn you, "Shenandoah" is not a cheerful movie. Ends well, but not a cheerful movie. Really, really good, though.

    4. I just followed a link from "Ten Favorites" to this one because I am a huge John Wayne fan. But, did no one else call you to task for saying Henry Hathaway was the director of "El Dorado" and, by extension, "Rio Bravo" (entry #9)? Wrong H.H., girl. It was Howard Hawks who directed them. I, myself, have seen all (or parts) of "El Dorado" too many times to count. And I always thought Mitchum played a better drunk than Martin. It, despite all the other worthy contenders, is my #1 favorite Wayne movie.

      I'm hoping my next blogathon will be a John Wayne tribute, but I still need to find someone who will help me out with the banners since I still don't know how to do them... Let me know if you'd like to co-host (and take care of that part of the grunt work. LOL)

    5. Quiggy -- how weird that I never got an email notification of this comment! Anyway, haha, you're right! Wrong HH. I'll fix that.

      Depending on the timing of a John Wayne tribute blogathon, I would probably be willing to help at least make buttons, if not co-host. Did you have a time in mind for it? The obvious would be May for his birthday, but that's a ways away, of course.

    6. It makes no sense if you are going by the Wayne bio/canon, but I was thinking Dec 9-11 (simply because Dec. 11 will be my 55th BD.) If it makes it any easier we can confer by email. My email link shows up when you click on my name.


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