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100 best John Wayne movies

  • #20. They Were Expendable

    - Director: John Ford
    - IMDb user rating: 7.3
    - Runtime: 135 min

    In another World War II drama starring Wayne, 1945’s “They Were Expendable” follows a squadron of PT-boat crews as they defend the Philippines against a Japanese invasion. As the action unfolds, the main characters also find themselves at odds with the U.S. Navy brass, who they believed didn’t seem to care if they lived or died.

  • #19. McLintock!

    - Director: Andrew V. McLaglen
    - IMDb user rating: 7.3
    - Runtime: 127 min

    A wealthy cattle baron faces conflicts on all sides in “McLintock!,” with Wayne playing the title role. In the 1963 film, McLintock (or GW as most folks like to call him) serves as an unofficial diplomat for various disgruntled parties, including his own wife. One look at the box art for this film shows you the film is not as serious as some other Westerns, even if it’s easily just as chauvinistic.

  • #18. In Harm's Way

    - Director: Otto Preminger
    - IMDb user rating: 7.4
    - Runtime: 165 min

    In the wake of Pearl Harbor, a disgraced Naval officer is given a second chance to prove himself in Otto Preminger’s “In Harm’s Way.” While not favored by critics (who took issue with its slow pacing), the film is nevertheless enjoyed by fans. In a later autobiography, Preminger labeled Wayne as an “ideal professional.”

  • #17. The Cowboys

    - Director: Mark Rydell
    - IMDb user rating: 7.4
    - Runtime: 134 min

    If a movie is going to call itself “The Cowboys,” that movie better include John Wayne in a leading role. Thankfully, this 1972 Western does just that. In the film, Wayne plays a rancher named Wil Anderson who embarks on a cattle drive with the help of inexperienced cowhands. Meanwhile, ruthless cattle rustlers await the right time to strike. On the heels of the film came a TV spin-off starring Robert Carradine that lasted one season.

  • #16. She Wore a Yellow Ribbon

    - Director: John Ford
    - IMDb user rating: 7.4
    - Runtime: 104 min

    “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon” features Wayne once again protecting a woman from Native tribes. The 1949 film is similar to Wayne’s previous film, “Fort Apache,” and the following film, “Rio Grande.” This film was shot in Monument Valley, in glorious Technicolor no less.

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  • #15. True Grit

    - Director: Henry Hathaway
    - IMDb user rating: 7.4
    - Runtime: 128 min

    Adapted from a novel by Charles Portis, 1969’s “True Grit” tells the story of alcoholic U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn, who agrees to help a teenage girl track down her father’s killer. This film would grant Wayne his one and only win for Best Actor at the Academy Awards. Famous filmmaking duo the Coen brothers released a 2012 remake with Jeff Bridges playing the role of Cogburn.

  • #14. Annie Laurie

    - Director: John S. Robertson
    - IMDb user rating: 7.6
    - Runtime: 90 min

    “Annie Laurie” is a silent film from 1927. If you’ve been paying attention, you already know that means it features a young Wayne (then known as Marion Morrison) as an extra. Nevertheless, with its story about a famous battle between two Scottish clans, the film is right up Wayne’s alley.

  • #13. Baby Face

    - Director: Alfred E. Green
    - IMDb user rating: 7.6
    - Runtime: 71 min

    Made in 1933, “Baby Face” follows an ambitious young woman as she sleeps her way up the corporate ladder at a big city bank. Wayne appears in a supporting role as Jimmy McCoy Jr., one of the woman’s earliest conquests.

  • #12. Fort Apache

    - Director: John Ford
    - IMDb user rating: 7.6
    - Runtime: 128 min

    “Fort Apache” is the first film in John Ford’s cavalry trilogy. The film stars Henry Fonda as a demoted Civil War general assigned to a remote outpost deep in Apache territory. Once there, he disrespects the local tribe and butts heads with his second-in-command, Captain Kirby York, an Apache expert played by Wayne.

  • #11. El Dorado

    - Director: Howard Hawks
    - IMDb user rating: 7.6
    - Runtime: 126 min

    Starring John Wayne and Robert Mitchum, 1967’s “El Dorado” finds a gunslinger (Wayne) and the alcoholic sheriff (Mitchum) teaming up to take on a thieving cattle baron. Actor James Caan appears in a supporting role. He later admitted to wearing 3-inch lifts for the part.

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