Top 10 John Wayne Western Movies

The 10 Best John Wayne Westerns—John "The Duke" Wayne is a legend in the field of masculinity and tough, no-nonsense attitudes. Also, in the field of men born with the name "Marion." Here's a list of the 10 best John Wayne westerns.

  1. "Stagecoach" The movie that finally made John Wayne a star (after many years of trying) is still one of the best John Wayne westerns. It's got a classic premise—basically, a handful of characters are on a stagecoach going from one place to another, and they run afoul of Indians, criminals, and John Wayne as a man with a plan to get some revenge on some bad guys who wronged him. Does it get any better?
  2. "Fort Apache" John Wayne has a reputation as something of a right-winger today, and in his personal life he certainly was. But his movies are sometimes a little more nuanced, especially the ones he made with director John Ford. In "Fort Apache," he's a level-headed, peace-loving military officer serving under a hawkish glory-seeking psychopath played by Henry Fonda, who incidentally was a liberal Democrat in real life.
  3. "Red River" This is one of most revered and best John Wayne westerns not directed by John Ford. Instead, it was made by Howard Hawks, as will become immediately obvious when you see the sloppy, unconvincing "happy ending" but everything up to that point is 100 percent solid gold!
  4. "She Wore A Yellow Ribbon" If you like John Wayne in black and white, then…er….you'll like him in color, as well. And the Technicolor cinematography in "She Wore A Yellow Ribbon" is some of the best around. It is kind of a lame title, but if you can get past that you can appreciate one of the best John Wayne westerns.
  5. "The Searchers" Not just one of the best John Wayne westerns, but one of the best movies of all time. John Wayne's performance as the genocidal Ethan Edwards is truly terrifying.
  6. "Rio Bravo" Sometimes you want to watch John Wayne kick ass. Other times you just want to watch him hang out with Walter Brennan and Dean Martin. "Rio Bravo" is for when you're in the latter mood. Not that there isn't a healthy portion of ass-kicking to go with all the hanging out and shooting the breeze—there is.
  7. "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" Don't worry, Liberty Valance was shot but he's gonna be OK. Just kidding, he's dead! But the story of how he was killed is one of the best John Wayne westerns he ever made. And before you get too worked up, Valance was kind of a jackass.
  8. "True Grit" John Wayne. Eye patch. Hell yes. Far removed from his days as a romantic lead, the John Wayne of "True Grit" is ornery, mean, and just plain unpleasant. Also, take a look at his character's name: Rooster Cogburn. If that's not the best character name in the history of movies we don't know what is.
  9. "Big Jake" For a little while, John Wayne was on record as being against those newfangled violent bloody westerns from people like Sergio Leone and Sam Peckinpah. Well, he must have changed his mind, because this is a tough, brutal western very much in the Peckinpah tradition. Also, remember the "I thought you were dead" running gag in "Escape From New York?" That was actually from this! Big Jake doesn't wear an eye patch though, so it's a wash.
  10. "The Shootist" John Wayne had a very long battle with cancer before he finally made it to the big Indian reservation in the sky. His last movie before buying the horse (that's an expression, right?) is a haunting final western that deals with mortality, and not just the kind that comes because of a gun. Like Wayne himself, his character in "The Shootist" is dying of cancer, but everybody in town seems to know that he's not destined to die in a bed.
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