John Wayne: Three Classic Westerns!

john wayne

” A young Cowboy”

As a film buff, I have nothing but respect and admiration for John Wayne. He was known for playing a cowboy, and a damned good one at that. He is the quintessential star of the American Western film. Clint Eastwood can be the current poster boy for country films and the Republican Party, but John Wayne is still, in my books, the original and the best. Well, even the American Film Institute has named him one of the most enduring male screen legends of all time.

Here is a list of my three personal favorite John Wayne Westerns:

Of course, a list of John Wayne’s best work would be incomplete and should start with his most recognized work – True Grit. He was so good in this that he beat the likes of Peter O’Toole, Richard Burton, and Dustin Hoffman in the 1969 Oscars for Best Actor. Before this, he was nominated by the Oscars only once, twenty years ago (that’s 1949) in Sands of Iwo Jima (Clint Eastwood directed Letters to Iwo Jima, see the pattern?) In this film, Wayned played Marshall Rooster J. Cogburn who was hired by Mattie Ross, a 14 year-old girl to help her look for the person who killed her dad. The movie also had Glen Campbell who was the Texas Ranger who formed Mattie’s team with Rooster, and Robert Duvall as Ned Pepper, the film’s antagonist. The Duke reprised the role in Rooster Cogburn, a sequel made in 1975 with Katherine Hepburn. This role also secured a nomination for Jeff bridges in the film’s 2010 remake.


Directed by long-time Wayne collaborator John Ford, many believe and consider The Ringo Kid as John Wayne’s breakout role. Even Ford himself said this is the film that catapulted the Duke to superstardom.  This 1939 film has a place in the United States National Film Registry. According to the AFI ranking of the best American Westerns of all time, Stagecoach is number 9. The film itself was recognized widely and even bagged four Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture. In the film, The Ringo Kid, a wanderer who had to walk because his horse has gone lame, meets a diverse group of strangers who were aboard a stagecoach but have to stray from their path as Apache Indians were on their path.

The Searchers

This is another John Ford-helmed movie, which is about a Civil War veteran, Ethan Edwards, who this time is tracking down his niece (reminiscent of Rooster tracking down the killer of Mattie’s dad) who was abducted by Indian. The movie is a great acting piece for Wayne, who displayed depth in showing Edward’s psychosis.  Moody and dark, this is one, if not the most underrated John Wayne performances. Well, apparently, this role meant a lot for The Duke, as he named his real-life son after the character.

If you’d like to obtain a copy of any of these 3 classics, just click on the titles above.


  1. Phyllis Boyse says:

    I like your list because I like all of John Wayne movies – even Green Berets and The Cowboys. Green Berets was not all that great a movie – my husband served in Vietnam and he said there was a lot of “not true” happenings and wondered why John chose the movie, even though it was a good movie and he was great. The Cowboys I didn’t like only because of how he was killed. But the movie was great. My absolute 3 favorites of all of them (if you can chose), 1. The Quiet Man, 2. The Searchers and 3. The High and the Mighty.

  2. trudy SCHAEFFER says:

    he was and is a man’s man good family man and parent and good all around actor serious and loved to hear him my mom mom was seriously in love with this guy. me too.

  3. Jean Larson says:

    I watched the making of “The Commancheros” filmed just out of Moab Utah. I stood behind John Wayne and watched him play cards and chess with Neimia “sp” Persoff in between shoots. It was over 100 degrees there, but I will never forget the fact that I was within inches of this great actor!!! The heat didn’t seem to bother him….he was such a dedicated man!!

  4. Jake Burson says:

    An American icon both on and off film. Who doesn’t think of John Wayne when you hear the word “American”?

  5. Bill Kruspe says:

    I am hard pressed to name a favorite, however if forced to it would be “The Quiet Man”. Not a soldier, not a cowboy. Just a man. At present I wonder what he would say about the run for President. I know he was Republican, but he was not a Republican puppet. On TV he said he was a liberal Republican. He could look at both sides of a problem and agree with the best solution even if it was from a Democrat.

  6. Donna Rae says:

    No absolute favorite, any movie with The Duke is classic ! Haven’t read any comments about “Rio Bravo” tho. Scenes with Walter Brennan are hilarious, especially hearing that cackle laugh when he & the Duke are throwing dynamite sticks at house full of outlaws. IMHO tho, Angie Dickinson was a poor choice actress in this otherwise fine movie.

  7. Susan Harness says:

    I like John Wayne and his horses. The horse known as Dollar was born to a mare named Lady Mac. He was born in 1967, apparently her grandmother was stolen from the Kings ranch in Texas. My Dad, Slim Burklow was asked that we keep the name Mac in his name so that he could be traced. He was not registered as we had only a bill of sale on the mare. She was a nice big quarter horse, sorrel with a bald face. Dad got her from someone in Wickenburg, AZ in payment for “breaking” a young horse.
    His father’s name was Rusty Blanton, I think the Rusty part is right. He came from a ranch called “Coughlins” in Peoples Valley, Arizona.
    Dollar’s original name was Rusty Mac Blanton. He belonged to my sister, Rhonda Cook. He was born at the L7 Ranch south of Tucson and north of Nogales. My sister raised him and broke him to ride. She would fly on him bareback with nothing on him, no bridle even. My Dad and sister taught him to lie down and be still.
    Daddy was working as a wrangle at Old Tucson while they were filming the “High Chapparel”, he said that every time he got in the picture they would hollar CUT.
    He also had a full sister a year later, also born at the L7 Ranch, her name was Lucky Mac Blanton because she was born on April Fools.
    Dad was part gypsy because we were always moving, when we moved to Texas where Daddy had taken a job at a feedlot. This lasted through the 1st winter and we eventually moved back to Tucson, finding that our horses had been sold for the move. Need less to say the next time we saw Rusty, (Dollar) he was being ridden by John Wayne, how exciting it was to know that he was a star.

  8. Darren says:

    I think most of John Wayne westerns what he was in, he was that best but i cant name only 3 i can name 4 they are
    1) Rio Bravo

    2) Tall in the Saddle

    3) EL Dorado

    4) The Man who shot Liberty Valance

    But speaking for my self i really don’t think John Wayne was much good in War movies i think he was much suited to Western’s ones. I mean that what i think

  9. Jacque says:

    Love John Wayne (always reminded me of my dad, same build, walk.etc) all his movies were great, all the westerns (have the collection), war movies…etc. My favorite among all that have been previously mentioned is “Hatari”! Just saying! :D

  10. Duke says:

    There are so many it is hard to just pick one. Having said that I have to go with The Searchers. Or Truegrit. Or The Cowboys. Or…

    I got to meet his family in Brooklyn, NY when they dedicated an elementry school to Duke. That was a thrill I will always remember.

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