Skip to main content

Main Area

Main

100 best John Wayne movies

  • 100 best John Wayne movies

    Before he was one of Hollywood’s most bankable and iconic Western movie stars, actor John Wayne was a USC lineman named Marion Morrison. After injuring his shoulder in a body-surfing accident, Morrison lost his football scholarship and landed a job in 1927 as a prop guy on the Fox studios lot. That gig didn’t last long, however, as it took just three years for Morrison to snag his first lead role in 1930’s “The Big Trail.” Not being fond of the name Marion Morrison, the movie’s producers instructed director Raoul Walsh to change it. John Wayne was thus born.

    In honor of The Duke himself, Stacker is ranking John Wayne’s best 100 movies. Going from lowest to highest, we ranked each movie according to its IMDb rating, focusing only on Wayne’s acting credits from his first starring role in 1930 and his breakout performance in 1939’s “Stagecoach” to his final star turn in 1976’s “The Shooter.” It’s worth noting that most of Wayne’s films don’t have too many user votes, but that’s largely because they were released in the first half of the 1900s.

    The swaggering masculinity Wayne infused into characters bled off-screen and permeated American culture for decades with a nostalgia for unencumbered male machismo. By the time Wayne appeared in John Ford's "3 Godfathers" in 1948, his caricatured persona of hardened, egoic male had firmly politicized the Western hero with shades of disgust for things like communism and liberalism. Wayne is still a hotly debated figure today. In June 2020, calls were renewed to change the name of John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California, over Wayne's 1971 interview in Playboy when he came out in favor of white supremacy, expressed no remorse over slavery or the treatment of Native Americans throughout American history, and used a homophobic slur to describe the actors in "Midnight Cowboy." 

    The controversial film star was most famous for his roles in Westerns but also starred in war dramas, took on the role of an American boxer in "The Quiet Man," and put himself on the other side of the camera as a producer and director. Wayne was nominated three times for Academy Awards, winning once for Lead Actor in 1969 when he played U.S. Marshal Reuben “Rooster” J. Cogburn in “True Grit.” He was even posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1980 by Jimmy Carter.

    Wayne was credited in at least 177 movies over the course of his career. Keep reading to see which ones crack his top 100.

    You may also like: Best Western movies from the last decade

  • #100. The Night Riders

    - Director: George Sherman
    - IMDb user rating: 6.0
    - Runtime: 56 min

    Released in 1939, this low-budget, "Poverty Row" Western stars Wayne as Stony Brooke (seriously), leader of a vigilante gang. Wayne and his co-stars battle an evil landlord who controls and taxes everything on his 13-million acre ranch. Wayne's men attack at night, earning the nickname, "Night Riders."

  • #99. Lady from Louisiana

    - Director: Bernard Vorhaus
    - IMDb user rating: 6.0
    - Runtime: 82 min

    A rare high-budget release from Wayne's employer, Republic Pictures, spared no expense in making this romance-action-comedy based in New Orleans. Wayne plays a northern lawyer sent south to investigate Louisiana's crooked lottery scheme. Naturally, he falls in love with the lottery runner's daughter en route. As Wayne's investigation leads to prosecutions, misunderstandings, and confrontations, a biblical storm hits the city, causing massive flooding.

  • #98. King of the Pecos

    - Director: Joseph Kane
    - IMDb user rating: 6.1
    - Runtime: 54 min

    Again playing the role of a lawyer, this time Wayne's character, John Clayborn, ditches the law books for a six-shooter to avenge his parents' murder. After assembling a posse, Wayne leads his men against the rich landowner who killed his parents, exacting revenge the Wild West way.

  • #97. Pals of the Saddle

    - Director: George Sherman
    - IMDb user rating: 6.1
    - Runtime: 55 min

    This is Wayne's first of eight roles as Stony Brooke in what became the "Three Mesquiteers" Western B-Movie franchise. In this clunker from 1938, Brooke and his two partners get mixed up with a beautiful government agent who implicates the trio in an international smuggling operation and a murder.

  • #96. Lady for a Night

    - Director: Leigh Jason
    - IMDb user rating: 6.1
    - Runtime: 87 min

    In this 1942 romance, Wayne's character, casino-steamboat owner Jack Morgan, falls in love with his business partner, the wannabe socialite, Jenny Blake. After Blake marries a man from the upper crust, Morgan pursues her anyway. Blake's husband ends up dead from an unintentional poisoning after which Morgan swoops in.

    You may also like: 50 of the best SNL skits

  • #95. A Man Betrayed

    - Director: John H. Auer
    - IMDb user rating: 6.1
    - Runtime: 82 min

    Playing yet another lawyer, Wayne portrays Lynn Hollister, a crusading country lawyer who takes on big-city corruption in this 1941 romance-drama. Hollister goes after the city's most-influential politician and ends up falling in love with the crooked politician's daughter along the way.

  • #94. Wyoming Outlaw

    - Director: George Sherman
    - IMDb user rating: 6.1
    - Runtime: 56 min

    Another "Three Mesquiteers" film, Wayne returns as do-gooder Stony Brooke. This time the trio takes on a crooked politician who's hellbent on seizing local ranches. Brooke and his men get involved after a teenager from one of the affected ranch families steals a steer from Brooke to feed his family.

  • #93. Winds of the Wasteland

    - Director: Mack V. Wright
    - IMDb user rating: 6.1
    - Runtime: 54 min

    In 1936’s “Winds of the Wasteland,” two former Pony Express riders (one played by Wayne) race against a stagecoach driver for a lucrative government subsidy. As this is no ordinary race, the unethical stagecoach driver resorts to extreme measures—including gunfire and explosives—to bamboozle his way to the top.

  • #92. Dakota

    - Director: Joseph Kane
    - IMDb user rating: 6.1
    - Runtime: 82 min

    Playing a professional gambler named John Devlin, Wayne finds himself in the middle of a deadly dispute between local farmers and greedy landowners. This standard Western from 1945 was directed by Joseph Kane, who churned out many films every year for Republic Pictures throughout the '30s and '40s.

  • #91. Reunion in France

    - Director: Jules Dassin
    - IMDb user rating: 6.1
    - Runtime: 104 min

    Wayne stars opposite screen legend Joan Crawford in 1942’s “Reunion in France,” about a Frenchwoman who hides an American pilot from the Nazis during World War II. It was rumored that Crawford tried to seduce Wayne behind the scenes but was rebuffed by the married actor.

    You may also like: Famous authors who only wrote one novel

2018 All rights reserved.