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100 best John Wayne movies

  • #50. The Wings of Eagles

    - Director: John Ford
    - IMDb user rating: 6.8
    - Runtime: 110 min

    Based on actual events, 1957’s “The Wings of Eagles” tells the story of Frank W. “Spig” Wead (played by Wayne), a dedicated Navy pilot who turns to screenwriting after being paralyzed. The film divides its runtime between slapstick comedy and harrowing drama and represents one of Wayne’s lesser collaborative efforts with director John Ford.

  • #49. Rio Lobo

    - Director: Howard Hawks
    - IMDb user rating: 6.8
    - Runtime: 114 min

    “Give ‘Em Hell, John,” is the tagline for 1970’s “Rio Lobo.” In director Howard Hawks’ final film, Wayne plays an ex-Union officer named Cord McNally who hunts down a traitor after the American Civil War. McNally discovers that the traitor is living in a Texas town called Rio Lobo, and has organized a gang of outlaws. Naturally, an explosive showdown ensues.

  • #48. Seven Sinners

    - Director: Tay Garnett
    - IMDb user rating: 6.9
    - Runtime: 87 min

    In 1940’s “Seven Sinners,” the only thing powerful enough to lure Wayne’s character away from the Navy is a sultry singer named Bijou. Playing the role of Bijou is actress Marlene Dietrich, who would go on to star with Wayne in two more films.

  • #47. Trouble Along the Way

    - Director: Michael Curtiz
    - IMDb user rating: 6.9
    - Runtime: 110 min

    Sporting a rare suit and tie, Wayne plays football coach Steve Williams in 1953’s “Trouble Along the Way.” Wayne’s character in this comedy-drama struggles on and off the field, battling for the custody of his daughter while helping his team stage a major comeback. Keep your eyes peeled for an uncredited cameo from James Dean.

  • #46. Dark Command

    - Director: Raoul Walsh
    - IMDb user rating: 6.9
    - Runtime: 94 min

    Loosely based on real events, 1940’s “Dark Command” takes place in Kansas just before the Civil War. The film focuses on the rivalry between two politicians: Wayne’s character Bob Seton and Will Cantrell. However, what starts out as a political dispute grows into something far deadlier, with the two politicians eventually squaring off on the battlefield.

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  • #45. The High and the Mighty

    - Director: William A. Wellman
    - IMDb user rating: 6.9
    - Runtime: 147 min

    A plane is going down and only Wayne’s character, a washed-up co-pilot named Dan Roman, can save the day. This 1954 disaster flick filmed in CinemaScope raked in tons of money at the box office and even won an Academy Award for best original music score.

  • #44. Donovan's Reef

    - Director: John Ford
    - IMDb user rating: 6.9
    - Runtime: 109 min

    Representing the final collaboration between Wayne and director John Ford, 1963 action-comedy “Donovan’s Reef” explores themes of bigotry and American greed on an island in the South Sea. It was rumored that Ford was more irritable than usual on set, which resulted in a series of blowouts between him and various cast members, including Wayne. Ford would later make just two more feature films and documentaries before his death in 1973.

  • #43. The Comancheros

    - Director: Michael Curtiz
    - IMDb user rating: 6.9
    - Runtime: 107 min

    Hot on the heels of “Rio Bravo” came 1961’s “The Comancheros,” a film about a Texas ranger who goes undercover in order to take down a gang of arms dealers. Initially helming the adventure flick was director Michael Curtiz of “Casablanca” fame. However, Curtiz grew ill toward the end of production, prompting Wayne to take over (uncredited) directing duties.

  • #42. The War Wagon

    - Director: Burt Kennedy
    - IMDb user rating: 6.9
    - Runtime: 101 min

    1967’s “The War Wagon” sees Wayne once again teaming up with the likes of Kirk Douglas—this time to tell the story of a man on a quest for revenge. Wayne’s character Taw Jackson hatches a plot to steal back the gold and land that had been taken from him. Helping him pull it off is a former enemy Lomax (played by Douglas), who had shot Jackson five years earlier. The unlikely pair plan to rob the heavily guarded stagecoach War Wagon to transport large gold shipments.

  • #41. Chisum

    - Director: Andrew V. McLaglen
    - IMDb user rating: 6.9
    - Runtime: 111 min

    “Chisum” is based on the true story of the toughest man west of the Pecos: cattle baron John Chisum. The 1970 film features Wayne in the title role as Chisum. In the film, Chisum enlists the help of fellow gunslingers Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett while waging war over land rights. In real life, Billy the Kid would ultimately betray Chisum, which resulted in his murder by his former friend Garrett. 

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