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100 best John Wayne movies

  • #10. The Shootist

    - Director: Don Siegel
    - IMDb user rating: 7.7
    - Runtime: 100 min

    Kicking off the top 10 is 1976’s “The Shootist,” in which a dying cowboy searches for ways to leave the world quickly without suffering. Based on a novel and directed by Don Siegel of “Dirty Harry” fame, the film would be Wayne’s last. Like the very character he portrays in “The Shootist,” Wayne was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He would die three years later.

  • #9. Red River

    - Director: Howard Hawks
    - IMDb user rating: 7.8
    - Runtime: 133 min

    Like John Ford, director Howard Hawks was a master of the Western genre. His best efforts routinely starred John Wayne. The first important collaboration between Hawks and Wayne was 1948’s “Red River,” a film about a man named Thomas Dunson (played by Wayne) whose tyrannical behavior invokes a mutiny during a cattle drive to Missouri. While it goes without saying that Wayne was no stranger to the Western genre by 1948, this film was special because it exposed a more subtle and complicated side to his cowboy persona.

  • #8. The Longest Day

    - Director: Ken Annakin
    - IMDb user rating: 7.8
    - Runtime: 178 min

    It’s D-Day from both the Allied and German perspectives in 1962’s “The Longest Day.” It took $10 million to produce the 1962 epic war film, making it the most expensive black-and-white film of its time.

  • #7. Bardelys the Magnificent

    - Director: King Vidor
    - IMDb user rating: 7.9
    - Runtime: 90 min

    At the young age of 19, Wayne (then Marion Morrison) appeared in a minor role in 1926’s “Bardelys the Magnificent.” The film takes place during the swashbuckling era and features a Casanova-type named Bardely who loves to boast about his many sexual conquests. After betting he can seduce a damsel, the wanton Lothario disguises himself as a wanted criminal.

  • #6. The Quiet Man

    - Director: John Ford
    - IMDb user rating: 7.9
    - Runtime: 129 min

    After helming “Rio Grande” for Republic Pictures, director John Ford was given the money he needed to make 1952’s “The Quiet Man.” The movie stars Wayne as retired American boxer Sean Thornton, who falls in love with a fiery maiden, played by Maureen O’Hara, after returning to the Irish village where he was born. Part of the film was shot on location in Ireland, with glorious hues of Technicolor green to show for it.

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  • #5. Stagecoach

    - Director: John Ford
    - IMDb user rating: 7.9
    - Runtime: 96 min

    Despite playing the lead role in 1930’s "The Big Trail," Wayne struggled to achieve major success in the years that followed. That all changed after John Ford’s "Stagecoach" was released in 1939. In the movie, a group of people traveling by stagecoach catch word that Geronimo and his violent clan might be headed their way. Legendary filmmaker Orson Welles reportedly watched "Stagecoach" 40 times while making "Citizen Kane." This movie was Wayne's big break; after its release, his career as an A-list movie star officially began.

  • #4. Rio Bravo

    - Director: Howard Hawks
    - IMDb user rating: 8.0
    - Runtime: 141 min

    With the help of a motley crew, a small-town sheriff (played by Wayne) keeps a powerful rancher’s brother behind bars in 1959’s “Rio Bravo.” It’s just a matter of time before the rancher comes around, aided by a mob of angry men. “Rio Bravo” is said to be a direct (and manly) rebuttal to Gary Cooper’s somewhat timid performance in “High Noon,” a 1952 film sharing a similar premise.

  • #3. The Searchers

    - Director: John Ford
    - IMDb user rating: 8.0
    - Runtime: 119 min

    More than just a John Wayne and John Ford collaboration, 1956’s “The Searchers” is widely regarded to be the greatest Western of all time. In the film, an American Civil War veteran (played by Wayne) sets out to rescue his niece after she’s kidnapped by Comanches. Wayne was so enamored with the role of Ethan Edwards that he named one his children John Ethan Wayne.

  • #2. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

    - Director: John Ford
    - IMDb user rating: 8.1
    - Runtime: 123 min

    Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better than “The Searchers,” here comes “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” which squeezes an extra .1 out of its IMDb user rating. The film tells the story of Senator Ransom Stoddard (played by James Stewart), who is celebrated in the town of Shinbone as the man who shot ruthless outlaw Liberty Valance. But when Stoddard returns to the town and recounts his tale, it’s revealed that Wayne’s character—a gunslinger named Tom Doniphon—was the true hero all along.

  • #1. Brown of Harvard

    - Director: Jack Conway
    - IMDb user rating: 8.2
    - Runtime: 85 min

    Is it fair to name an old silent movie, in which a young Wayne (then Marion Morrison) has only a small part, as #1 on Stacker’s list of John Wayne’s best films? Probably not. Nevertheless, the IMDb ratings have spoken, and 1926’s “Brown of Harvard” has taken home the gold. The film follows a rivalry between two Harvard athletes, both of whom have affections for a professor’s daughter. Representing young Wayne’s big screen debut, he appears as a Yale football player. Four years later, Wayne would play the lead role in “The Big Trail” as John Wayne.

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