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100 best John Wayne movies

  • 100 best John Wayne movies
    1/ Universal Pictures

    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.

    John Wayne’s unabashedly masculine personality might seem a little antiquated these days, but his substantial portfolio nevertheless persists as the stuff of legend. Wayne was credited in at least 177 movies over the course of his career. That’s not to mention his oft-overlooked (and frequently uncredited) credits as a producer and director. Suffice to say, the man kept a formidable work ethic from one decade to the next that resulted in not just some of Hollywood’s most classic Westerns, but some of its best films, period.

    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. 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. Without further ado, we present John Wayne’s best 100 films. Take ‘er easy there, pilgrim!

    You may also like: Best black and white films of all time

  • #100. The Night Riders
    2/ Republic Pictures

    #100. The Night Riders

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

    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
    3/ Republic Pictures

    #99. Lady from Louisiana

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

    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
    4/ Republic Pictures

    #98. King of the Pecos

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

    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
    5/ Republic Pictures

    #97. Pals of the Saddle

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

    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
    6/ Republic Pictures

    #96. Lady for a Night

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

    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.

  • #95. A Man Betrayed
    7/ Republic Pictures

    #95. A Man Betrayed

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

    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
    8/ Republic Pictures

    #94. Wyoming Outlaw

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

    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
    9/ Republic Pictures

    #93. Winds of the Wasteland

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

    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
    10/ Republic Pictures

    #92. Dakota

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

    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
    11/ Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)

    #91. Reunion in France

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

    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.

  • #90. Legend of the Lost
    12/ Batjac Productions

    #90. Legend of the Lost

    - Director: Henry Hathaway
    - Runtime: 109 min.
    - IMDb user rating: 6.1

    Two men and a beautiful lady embark on a journey across the Sahara desert in 1957’s “Legend of the Lost” to arrive at the ruins of a lost city. Wayne was cast in the role of a French legionnaire for the film, but that didn’t stop him from showing up on set in an American cowboy outfit.

  • #89. Brannigan
    13/ Wellborn

    #89. Brannigan

    - Director: Douglas Hickox
    - Runtime: 111 min.
    - IMDb user rating: 6.1

    In 1975’s “Brannigan,” Wayne plays Jim Brannigan, a Chicago police lieutenant who risks his life escorting a notorious American crime boss from Britain to the United States. While not a Western per se, the film does borrow a number of thematic conventions from the Western genre. It can therefore be assumed that Wayne felt right at home while on set.

  • #88. Conflict
    14/ Universal Pictures

    #88. Conflict

    - Director: David Howard
    - Runtime: 60 min.
    - IMDb user rating: 6.2

    “Conflict” was a 1936 release based on a novel by Jack London. In the film, Wayne plays boxer Pat Glendon, who plans to throw a big fight until he experiences a last-minute change of heart. The film was made as Wayne’s reputation as an actor was on the rise, but it would take three more years before he earned his place as one of Hollywood’s biggest stars.

  • #87. Idol of the Crowds
    15/ Universal Pictures

    #87. Idol of the Crowds

    - Director: Arthur Lubin
    - Runtime: 60 min.
    - IMDb user rating: 6.2

    Just a year after the release of “Conflict” came the similarly premised “Idol of the Crowds.” Wayne plays Johnny Hanson, a hockey player trying to raise enough money to expand his chicken farm. Hanson finds himself being targeted by vicious gangsters after refusing to throw an important championship game.

  • #86. Texas Cyclone
    16/ Columbia Pictures Corporation

    #86. Texas Cyclone

    - Director: D. Ross Lederman
    - Runtime: 63 min.
    - IMDb user rating: 6.2

    Wayne plays a supporting role in 1932’s “Texas Cyclone,” as Steve Pickett who follows a man named Pecos Grant. After riding into a strange town, Grant ends up being confused with a presumed-dead man who had many enemies. “Texas Cyclone” features one of Hollywood’s most iconic lines: “This town ain’t big enough to hold the two of us.”

  • #85. Circus World
    17/ Samuel Bronston Productions

    #85. Circus World

    - Director: Henry Hathaway
    - Runtime: 135 min.
    - IMDb user rating: 6.2

    "Circus World" was one of six films Wayne and directory Henry Hathaway worked on together over the course of their respective careers. The film is about an American circus proprietor who encounters all sorts of problems when he decides to take his Wild West Show to Europe.

  • #84. McQ
    18/ Batjac Productions // Wikicommons

    #84. McQ

    - Director: John Sturges
    - Runtime: 111 min.
    - IMDb user rating: 6.2

    In the spirit of films like “Bullitt” and “Dirty Harry” came 1974’s “McQ,” in which Wayne plays a police lieutenant investigating the murder of his close friend. The movie was made when Wayne was arguably past his prime, evidenced by his memorably lackluster performance. But as some of his other 1970s films would go to show, Wayne wasn’t down for the count just yet.

  • #83. Sea Spoilers
    19/ Universal Pictures

    #83. Sea Spoilers

    - Director: Frank R. Strayer
    - Runtime: 63 min.
    - IMDb user rating: 6.3

    Wayne playing a Coast Guard commander in this 1936 film. The commander's bravery and intelligence are put to the test after a group of seal poachers kidnap his girlfriend. The low-budget action motion picture was the first film Wayne made for Universal Studios while under contract in the 1930s.

  • #82. Santa Fe Stampede
    20/ Republic Pictures

    #82. Santa Fe Stampede

    - Director: George Sherman
    - Runtime: 55 min.
    - IMDb user rating: 6.3

    From 1936 to 1943, Republic Pictures released 51 B-movie Westerns featuring “The Three Mesquiteers,” a trio of cowboys modeled after Alexandre Dumas’ classic swashbucklers. Wayne would appear as one of the Mesquiteers in eight of those films, including 1938’s “Sante Fe Stampede.” In this installment (the third to feature the trio that included Wayne), Wayne’s fellow Mesquiteers work to clear his name after he is falsely accused of murder.

  • #81. Three Faces West
    21/ Republic Pictures

    #81. Three Faces West

    - Director: Bernard Vorhaus
    - Runtime: 79 min.
    - IMDb user rating: 6.3

    A year after becoming box office gold in 1939’s “Stagecoach,” Wayne appeared in 1940’s “Three Faces West.” In the film, a surgeon and his daughter flee the Nazis and end up in North Dakota, where a new problem awaits in the form of threatening Dust Bowl winds. To escape the winds, Wayne’s character John Phillips leads the pair and others on a migration to Oregon. Wayne’s character gets romantically entangled with the surgeon’s daughter while on their journey to safety.

  • #80. Tycoon
    22/ RKO Radio Pictures

    #80. Tycoon

    - Director: Richard Wallace
    - Runtime: 128 min.
    - IMDb user rating: 6.3

    With a title like “Tycoon,” one might wonder if Wayne throws on a business suit and heads to Wall Street for this 1947 flick. On the contrary, the movie sees Wayne playing a rugged engineer named Johnny Munroe who is tasked with building a railroad tunnel in South America, where he encounters danger and romance.

  • #79. The Great K & A Train Robbery
    23/ Lew Seiler Productions

    #79. The Great K & A Train Robbery

    - Director: Lewis Seiler
    - Runtime: 53 min.
    - IMDb user rating: 6.4

    Every actor has to start somewhere; for Wayne, that meant working as an uncredited extra in silent movies like “The Great K & A Train Robbery.” In the film, a man goes undercover to stop train robberies, presumably passing by a young Wayne (then Marion Morrison) at some point.

  • #78. Central Airport
    24/ First National Pictures

    #78. Central Airport

    - Director: William A. Wellman
    - Runtime: 72 min.
    - IMDb user rating: 6.4

    Wayne stars as a co-pilot in this 1933 film that centers on two aviator brothers competing for the same girl. Wayne might have been a small-time player in this film, but later he would have an actual airport in Orange County, Calif. named after him.

  • #77. In Old California
    25/ Republic Pictures

    #77. In Old California

    - Director: William C. McGann
    - Runtime: 88 min.
    - IMDb user rating: 6.4

    Set during the California Gold Rush, a pharmacist named Tom Craig (played by Wayne) is set against a crooked politician. The 1942 motion picture is one of just a few films where Wayne can be seen with a 7.5" Peacemaker strapped to the side of his leg. That’s not to say Wayne was a stranger to Colt Peacemakers—just that they were usually a little shorter.

  • #76. Flame of Barbary Coast
    26/ Republic Pictures

    #76. Flame of Barbary Coast

    - Director: Joseph Kane
    - Runtime: 91 min.
    - IMDb user rating: 6.4

    The heat is on and the stakes are high in "Flame of Barbary Coast." This 1945 film is about a gambler who loses everything, gains everything, and loses everything again in his pursuit of a beautiful blonde siren. Set in 1906 San Francisco, "Flame of Barbary Coast" culminates with a historic earthquake.

  • #75. Allegheny Uprising
    27/ RKO Radio Pictures

    #75. Allegheny Uprising

    - Director: William A. Seiter
    - Runtime: 81 min.
    - IMDb user rating: 6.4

    Made in the same year as "Stagecoach," 1939’s “Allegheny Uprising” takes place in pre-Revolutionary War America and features Wayne’s character struggling to stop British colonialists from selling alcohol and firearms to Native American tribes. Wayne would later describe the film as an "awful stinker,” saying that his character was “rather dull.”

  • #74. Blood Alley
    28/ Warner Bros.

    #74. Blood Alley

    - Director: William A. Wellman
    - Runtime: 110 min.
    - IMDb user rating: 6.4

    In 1955’s “Blood Alley,” Wayne plays an American merchant captain who gets locked up in a Chinese prison after his ship is seized. With the help of local villagers, Wayne’s character plots his escape. The film also stars icon Lauren Bacall.

  • #73. Cast a Giant Shadow
    29/ Batjac Productions

    #73. Cast a Giant Shadow

    - Director: Melville Shavelson
    - Runtime: 146 min.
    - IMDb user rating: 6.4

    In 1966’s “Cast a Giant Shadow,” Wayne stars in a supporting role alongside fellow A-list alpha males Kirk Douglas and Frank Sinatra. The film features an American Army officer helping Jews in Palestine form an army before the battle for statehood begins.

  • #72. Flying Leathernecks
    30/ RKO Radio Pictures

    #72. Flying Leathernecks

    - Director: Nicholas Ray
    - Runtime: 102 min.
    - IMDb user rating: 6.4

    Produced by noted aviator Howard Hughes, 1951’s “Flying Leathernecks” follows a squadron of Marine flyers as they do battle in World War II. “Flying Leathernecks” was one among many World War II movies starring Wayne, although he was famously deferred from the draft on numerous occasions.

  • #71. The Train Robbers
    31/ Batjac Productions

    #71. The Train Robbers

    - Director: Burt Kennedy
    - Runtime: 92 min.
    - IMDb user rating: 6.4

    Wayne stars as a gunslinger hired by a widow to track down stolen gold in this 1973 classic. Rife with Western genre conventions, Wayne's son, Michael, produced the film. Ann-Margret co-stars as the widow.

  • #70. The Sea Chase
    32/ Warner Bros.

    #70. The Sea Chase

    - Director: John Farrow
    - Runtime: 117 min.
    - IMDb user rating: 6.5

    1955’s “The Sea Chase” once again plunges Wayne into the midst of World War II, this time as a German freighter captain. The film—based on a true story—follows Wayne’s character as he out-maneuvers Allied warships on the open seas. Starring as the romantic lead is screen legend Lana Turner, who was so openly unhappy during the shoot she got fired by director John Farrow. The actress returned to the set only after Wayne intervened.

  • #69. The Fighting Kentuckian
    33/ John Wayne Productions

    #69. The Fighting Kentuckian

    - Director: George Waggner
    - Runtime: 100 min.
    - IMDb user rating: 6.5

    In “The Fighting Kentuckian,” French settlers square off with a greedy land-grabber in 1818 Alabama. Wayne’s character, John Breen, helps the French settlers get their way. The movie also stars actor Oliver Hardy of the comedic duo “Laurel and Hardy.” “The Fighting Kentuckian” marks a rare occasion where one member of the “Laurel and Hardy” duo appears in a film without the other.

  • #68. Cahill U.S. Marshal
    34/ Warner Bros.

    #68. Cahill U.S. Marshal

    - Director: Andrew V. McLaglen
    - Runtime: 103 min.
    - IMDb user rating: 6.5

    An aging, no-nonsense U.S. Marshal encounters the ultimate dilemma when his two sons become bank robbers in “Cahill U.S. Marshal.” Released in 1973, the film stars Wayne in the title role. Helping move the somewhat plodding Western along is a noteworthy score by Elmer Bernstein, which didn’t see an official release until 2013.

  • #67. Hangman's House
    35/ Fox Film Corporation

    #67. Hangman's House

    - Director: John Ford
    - Runtime: 80 min.
    - IMDb user rating: 6.6

    Blink and you might miss Wayne in 1928’s “Hangman’s House,” in which he plays a spectator during a steeplechase scene. The film centers on an Irish exile who risks his life by returning to his homeland. Ford and Wayne would later forge one of Hollywood’s most enduring and rewarding collaborations.

  • #66. Noah's Ark
    36/ Warner Bros.

    #66. Noah's Ark

    - Director: Michael Curtiz
    - Runtime: 135 min.
    - IMDb user rating: 6.6

    Chronicling two parallel stories, 1928’s “Noah’s Ark” depicts both the epic biblical flood and also a tale of romance set during World War II. It was made when Wayne (then Morrison) was still working in a Hollywood props department and acting as an extra in various films. Consequently, you might have to watch this film numerous times before you can spot him during the flood scene that involved hundreds of other extras.

  • #65. In Old Oklahoma
    37/ Republic Pictures

    #65. In Old Oklahoma

    - Director: Albert S. Rogell
    - Runtime: 102 min.
    - IMDb user rating: 6.6

    After playing a pharmacist in 1942’s “In Old California,” Wayne tackled another cowboy role in 1943’s “In Old Oklahoma.” The film sees Wayne squaring off against a greedy oilman over oil lease rights on Native land. Meanwhile, a local schoolteacher becomes the object of both men’s desires.

  • #64. Without Reservations
    38/ RKO Radio Pictures

    #64. Without Reservations

    - Director: Mervyn LeRoy
    - Runtime: 107 min.
    - IMDb user rating: 6.6

    With over 150 films under his belt, it was inevitable that Wayne would appear in at least a few romantic comedies. Wayne plays a Marine named Rusty who won’t stop criticizing a specific book while talking to the girl of his dreams. As it turns out, that very same girl is the book’s author.

  • #63. The Fighting Seabees
    39/ Republic Pictures

    #63. The Fighting Seabees

    - Director: Edward Ludwig
    - Runtime: 100 min.
    - IMDb user rating: 6.6

    Another John Wayne film set in World War II, 1944’s “The Flying Seabees” involves the U.S. Navy hiring a new Construction Battalion (aka a CB or SeaBee), with members who are expected to build and fight. During the shoot, action servicemen were on the set—and some had a few bones to pick with Wayne over his draft deferments.

  • #62. Hellfighters
    40/ Universal Pictures

    #62. Hellfighters

    - Director: Andrew V. McLaglen
    - Runtime: 121 min.
    - IMDb user rating: 6.6

    "Hellfighters" is a 1968 film chronicling the lives of oil well firefighters, but digs deeper to explore the crumbling marriage of Wayne’s character Chance Buckman. Wayne's co-star, Katharine Ross, had numerous arguments with Wayne behind the scenes over his support of the Vietnam War.

  • #61. The Greatest Story Ever Told
    41/ George Stevens Productions

    #61. The Greatest Story Ever Told

    - Director: George Stevens
    - Runtime: 225 min.
    - IMDb user rating: 6.6

    Wayne was just one among a number of stars to appear in “The Greatest Story Ever Told.” The film is about the life and times of Jesus Christ. Made for over $20 million, the film opened to negative reviews and little fanfare, making it the biggest flop of its time.

  • #60. The Life of Jimmy Dolan
    42/ Warner Bros.

    #60. The Life of Jimmy Dolan

    - Director: Archie Mayo
    - Runtime: 88 min.
    - IMDb user rating: 6.7

    In “The Life of Jimmy Dolan,” a prizefighter goes on the lam after possibly killing a reporter. Released in 1933, the film features Wayne in a supporting role and stars Mickey Rooney as a disabled child. It was later remade as “They Made Me a Criminal.”

  • #59. A Lady Takes a Chance
    43/ Frank Ross Productions

    #59. A Lady Takes a Chance

    - Director: William A. Seiter
    - Runtime: 86 min.
    - IMDb user rating: 6.7

    Blending the comedy, romance, and Western genres to somewhat mediocre effect is 1943’s “A Lady Takes a Chance,” in which a city girl falls for a handsome cowboy. Naturally, Wayne plays the cowboy whose name happens to be Duke.

  • #58. Pittsburgh
    44/ Charles K. Feldman Group,

    #58. Pittsburgh

    - Director: Lewis Seiler
    - Runtime: 92 min.
    - IMDb user rating: 6.7

    In 1942’s “Pittsburgh,” a steel magnate named Charles “Pittsburgh” Markham sacrifices friends and loved ones in his ruthless pursuit for success, only to discover it’s lonely at the top. The film reunites Wayne with Marlene Dietrich and Randolph Scott—the three had just starred together in 1942’s “The Spoilers.”

  • #57. Wake of the Red Witch
    45/ Republic Pictures

    #57. Wake of the Red Witch

    - Director: Edward Ludwig
    - Runtime: 106 min.
    - IMDb user rating: 6.7

    1948’s “Wake of the Red Witch” follows the manly Captain Ralls (John Wayne), skipper of the Red Witch, as he embarks on a series of South Pacific adventures in the 1860s. Based on a novel by Garland Roark, the film has Ralls crossing paths with a ruthless rival captain, a horde of savage natives, and a giant octopus.

  • #56. Operation Pacific
    46/ Warner Bros.

    #56. Operation Pacific

    - Director: George Waggner
    - Runtime: 111 min.
    - IMDb user rating: 6.7

    In “Operation Pacific,” John Wayne plays a submarine officer who tries to win a war under the sea while also trying to win back his ex-wife on shore. The film saw Wayne re-teaming with director George Waggner for the fifth time. In spite of their history, the director and actor frequently butted heads during the shoot, according to co-star Patricia Neal.

  • #55. Back to Bataan
    47/ RKO Radio Pictures

    #55. Back to Bataan

    - Director: Edward Dmytryk
    - Runtime: 95 min.
    - IMDb user rating: 6.7

    In this World War II-based film, Wayne’s character, Col. Joseph Madden, helps lead Filipino guerrilla fighters against Japanese invaders. Wayne would later express regret over making the film, referring to the director as a “Commie” who duped him into the role.

  • #54. The Undefeated
    48/ Twentieth Century Fox

    #54. The Undefeated

    - Director: Andrew V. McLaglen
    - Runtime: 119 min.
    - IMDb user rating: 6.7

    Starring Wayne alongside fellow A-lister Rock Hudson, “The Undefeated” takes place in Mexico right after the Civil War. In the 1969 film, an ex-Confederate colonel and ex-Union colonel must team up in a fight against Mexican revolutionaries. Wayne fractured two ribs and dislocated his shoulder during shooting, neither of which stopped him from finishing the job.

  • #53. The Spoilers
    49/ Universal Pictures

    #53. The Spoilers

    - Director: Ray Enright
    - Runtime: 87 min.
    - IMDb user rating: 6.8

    Set during the Nome Gold Rush in 1898 Alaska, 1942’s “The Spoilers” pits two miners against a greedy commissioner over the rights to a claim. This film was a remake of three previous versions and was remade again in 1955.

  • #52. Reap the Wild Wind
    50/ Paramount Pictures

    #52. Reap the Wild Wind

    - Director: Cecil B. DeMille
    - Runtime: 123 min.
    - IMDb user rating: 6.8

    The same year he made “The Spoilers,” Wayne starred in “Reap the Wild Wind” from director Cecil B. DeMille. Based on a serialized story from the Saturday Evening Post, the film centers on an ill-fated love triangle between a female ship salvager and two rival sea captains. Making things even more dangerous is a vicious hurricane and a deadly 50-foot squid. Wayne was initially reluctant to work for DeMille, but the two men reportedly became good friends after their rocky start.

  • #51. Flying Tigers
    51/ Republic Pictures

    #51. Flying Tigers

    - Director: David Miller
    - Runtime: 102 min.
    - IMDb user rating: 6.8

    “Flying Tigers” features Wayne playing the role of one Capt. Jim Gordon, who commands a mercenary outfit of fighter pilots. After an arrogant hot-shot joins the team, Gordon finds himself amid two battles: one for his country and the other for his integrity. This World War II propaganda film from 1942 was nominated for three Academy Awards, including Best Special Effects.

  • #50. The Wings of Eagles
    52/ Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)

    #50. The Wings of Eagles

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

    Based on actual events, 1957’s “The Wings of Eagles” tells the story of Frank W. “Spig” Read (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
    53/ Cinema Center Films

    #49. Rio Lobo

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

    “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
    54/ Universal Pictures

    #48. Seven Sinners

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

    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
    55/ Warner Bros.

    #47. Trouble Along the Way

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

    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
    56/ Republic Pictures

    #46. Dark Command

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

    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.

  • #45. The High and the Mighty
    57/ Warner Bros.

    #45. The High and the Mighty

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

    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
    58/ John Ford Productions

    #44. Donovan's Reef

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

    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 passing away in 1973.

  • #43. The Comancheros
    59/ Twentieth Century Fox

    #43. The Comancheros

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

    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
    60/ Universal Picture

    #42. The War Wagon

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

    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
    61/ Warner Bros

    #41. Chisum

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

    “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. Scandalous!

  • #40. Rooster Cogburn
    62/ Universal Pictures

    #40. Rooster Cogburn

    - Director: Stuart Millar
    - Runtime: 108 min.
    - IMDb user rating: 6.9

    Reprising the role that won him an Oscar in 1969’s “True Grit,” Wayne plays Rooster Cogburn in this 1975 film of the same name. Starring opposite Wayne is actress Katherine Hepburn as a woman named Eula Goodnight. After Eula’s village is raided by a group of thugs, she and Cogburn make it their mission to dish out some good old-fashioned southern justice.

  • #39. The Alamo
    63/ Batjac Productions

    #39. The Alamo

    - Director: John Wayne
    - Runtime: 162 min.
    - IMDb user rating: 6.9

    John Wayne’s directorial debut, 1960’s “The Alamo,” retells the historic 1836 battle where 156 Texan soldiers square off against a Mexican army of 7,000. Wayne had reportedly wanted to make the film since 1945. However, it would take more than a decade before he got his chance. In addition to directing and producing “The Alamo,” Wayne naturally stars in the lead role as Col. Davy Crockett.

  • #38. The Drop Kick
    64/ First National Pictures

    #38. The Drop Kick

    - Director: Millard Webb
    - Runtime: 62 min.
    - IMDb user rating: 7.0

    His previous experience of playing football for the University of Southern California made Wayne (then known as Marion Morrison) a perfect extra in 1927’s “The Drop Kick,” a silent film about a college footballer who gets embroiled in a local scandal. Fun fact: Wayne’s football scholarship (before he was injured) covered his entire tuition, a whopping $280.

  • #37. Island in the Sky
    65/ Warner Bros.

    #37. Island in the Sky

    - Director: William A. Wellman
    - Runtime: 109 min.
    - IMDb user rating: 7.0

    Long before movies like “Alive” or “The Grey,” there was “Island in the Sky.” The 1953 film is about a man who crash lands his plane in a frozen wasteland. While stranded, Wayne’s character struggles to keep his men alive while awaiting rescue. Playing an uncredited role in the film is Fess Parker who would later star in the “Davy Crockett” series. Wayne himself played Crockett in “The Alamo.”

  • #36. Angel and the Badman
    66/ John Wayne Productions

    #36. Angel and the Badman

    - Director: James Edward Grant
    - Runtime: 100 min.
    - IMDb user rating: 7.0

    Wayne plays a ruthless gunslinger who starts questioning his violent ways in 1947’s “Angel and the Badman.” Prompting his change of heart is a Quaker girl named Penelope Worth, who nurses Wayne’s character back to health after an injury. This was the first film to see Wayne taking on the role of producer, albeit an uncredited one at the time.

  • #35. North to Alaska
    67/ Twentieth Century Fox

    #35. North to Alaska

    - Director: Henry Hathaway
    - Runtime: 122 min.
    - IMDb user rating: 7.0

    After striking gold in Alaska, a man named George sends his partner Sam (Wayne) back to Seattle to retrieve George’s girlfriend in this 1960 film. Upon discovering that his friend’s old sweetheart is married, Sam returns with another girl to take her place. If you look closely during the final fight scene, you’ll notice that Wayne’s toupee gets knocked off. Fun fact: In 1948 Wayne started regularly wearing a wig.

  • #34. Four Sons
    68/ Fox Film Corporation

    #34. Four Sons

    - Director: John Ford
    - Runtime: 100 min.
    - IMDb user rating: 7.1

    Directed by John Ford, 1928’s “Four Sons” features an uncredited appearance from Wayne (then Marion Morrison) as a police officer. The film chronicles the lives and hardships of a Bavarian widow and her four sons, three of whom go to war for Germany during World War I while the fourth moves to America. Later, the mother is shunned in her own village after America enters the war because her son who moved away was perceived as an enemy. The movie was remade under the same name in 1940, with the remake being set during World War II instead of World War I.

  • #33. The Shepherd of the Hills
    69/ Paramount Pictures

    #33. The Shepherd of the Hills

    - Director: Henry Hathaway
    - Runtime: 98 min.
    - IMDb user rating: 7.1

    In 1941’s “The Shepherd of the Hills,” a moonshiner’s plan to murder the father he never knew is disrupted when a gentle stranger rolls into town. It turns out that there’s more to the stranger than meets the eye. The movie finds Wayne in top form as the Ozark Mountain moonshiner, cursed with the task of seeking vengeance.

  • #32. Tall in the Saddle
    70/ RKO Radio Pictures

    #32. Tall in the Saddle

    - Director: Edwin L. Marin
    - Runtime: 87 min.
    - IMDb user rating: 7.1

    A misogynistic cowhand rolls into town to find his employer dead and the locals hostile in 1944’s “Tall in the Saddle.” Bolstered by strong performances and swift pacing, this film stands a cut above the average Western—even if it is rife with genre conventions.

  • #31. The Long Voyage Home
    71/ Argosy Picture

    #31. The Long Voyage Home

    - Director: John Ford
    - Runtime: 105 min.
    - IMDb user rating: 7.1

    Based on four one-act plays by Eugene O’Neill, “The Long Voyage Home” depicts life aboard the British steamer SS Glencairn as the crewmen embark on perilous journeys across the high seas. Dealing with themes of depression, loneliness, and mortality, the film delivers copious amounts of somber drama, punctuated by the occasional fist fights and betrayal. It was nominated for six Academy Awards.

  • #30. Hondo
    72/ Warner Bros.

    #30. Hondo

    - Director: John Farrow
    - Runtime: 83 min.
    - IMDb user rating: 7.1

    Not only was 1953’s “Hondo” filmed in stunning Warnercolor, but it was shot and released in 3-D. The movie, based on a story by Louis L’Amour, centers on a half-breed Army scout named Hondo Lane (played by Wayne) who protects a woman and her son from warring Apaches. The movie was the second-highest-grossing 3D movie of the 1950s, bested only by “House of Wax.”

  • #29. How the West Was Won
    73/ Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)

    #29. How the West Was Won

    - Director: John Ford/ Henry Hathaway/ George Marshall/ Richard Thorpe
    - Runtime: 164 min.
    - IMDb user rating: 7.1

    Broken into four segments (each one helmed by a different director), 1962’s “How the West Was Won” chronicles the Prescott family saga over the course of many decades. The film depicts a range of historic events like the Civil War, the Gold Rush, and the building of the railroads. Wayne wasn’t the only star in “How the West Was Won.” The movie touts an impressive range of A-list celebrities, including James Stewart, Debbie Reynolds, Henry Fonda, and Gregory Peck.

  • #28. The Big Trail
    74/ Fox Film Corporation

    #28. The Big Trail

    - Director: Raoul Walsh
    - Runtime: 125 min.
    - IMDb user rating: 7.2

    Wayne, then known as Marion Morrison, was working as a props boy and movie extra until he landed his first major role in “The Big Trail.” He adopted the name “John Wayne” by the time shooting was done. In the film, Wayne’s character leads a wagon train from the Mississippi River to the West Coast. Along the way, he encounters all sorts of threats and disasters (and even some romance).

  • #27. 3 Godfathers
    75/ Argosy Pictures

    #27. 3 Godfathers

    - Director: John Ford
    - Runtime: 106 min.
    - IMDb user rating: 7.2

    While on the run from authorities, three outlaws pick up a newborn baby whom they vow to protect at all costs.“3 Godfathers,” which sees Wayne starring alongside actors Pedro Armendáriz and Harry Carey Jr., was released in 1948. Director John Ford was reportedly very hard on Carey Jr. during the shoot, once even throwing a rock at his head.

  • #26. The Horse Soldiers
    76/ Mirisch Corporatio

    #26. The Horse Soldiers

    - Director: John Ford
    - Runtime: 120 min.
    - IMDb user rating: 7.2

    Like a high-stakes game of Capture the Flag, 1959’s “The Horse Soldiers” follows a Union outfit as it crosses Confederate lines to destroy enemy railroads. As one might expect, the film demanded lots of horse riding and some dangerous stunt work. Sadly, stuntman Freddie Kennedy suffered a fatal injury after falling off a horse during the shoot.

  • #25. Sands of Iwo Jima
    77/ Republic Pictures

    #25. Sands of Iwo Jima

    - Director: Allan Dwan
    - Runtime: 100 min.
    - IMDb user rating: 7.2

    Eschewing over-glamorized heroics in favor of gritty realism and complex characterization, 1949’s “Sands of Iwo Jima” presented John Wayne in a new light. In the film, Wayne plays Sgt. John M. Stryker, an uncompromising and mean-spirited leader who made tremendous sacrifices while performing patriotic duties. Stryker goes hard on his squad, not just because of his personal struggles, but because he knows that weakness can result in death on the battlefield. It’s only after the squad is called into action on the island of Iwo Jima that Stryker’s men see the wisdom of his ways. To prepare for the film, the young male cast underwent three days of intense military training by the toughest drill instructor the director could find.

  • #24. Big Jake
    78/ Cinema Center Films

    #24. Big Jake

    - Director: George Sherman
    - Runtime: 110 min.
    - IMDb user rating: 7.2

    Proving he still had plenty of vigor left in him by 1971, John Wayne headlined “Big Jake.” The film is about a cowboy who sets out to rescue his grandson from kidnappers. Wayne’s biological son Patrick played the son in the film while Wayne's other (much younger) son Ethan played his grandson. Another son, Michael, produced the movie.

  • #23. Hatari!
    79/ Malabar

    #23. Hatari!

    - Director: Howard Hawks
    - Runtime: 157 min.
    - IMDb user rating: 7.2

    From director Howard Hawks came 1962’s “Hatari!” in which a group of men make a living by capturing African wildlife and selling it to zoos. Throwing a wrench in the operation is the arrival of a female photographer, who eventually becomes part of the gang. Filmed on location in Tanganyika, the film has Wayne and his team chasing down all sorts of real-life wild animals, often at the expense of a discernible narrative.

  • #22. Rio Grande
    80/ Republic Pictures

    #22. Rio Grande

    - Director: John Ford
    - Runtime: 105 min.
    - IMDb user rating: 7.2

    Director John Ford was rumored to have two conditions before agreeing to make 1950’s “Rio Grande” for Republic Pictures: that Republic Pictures secure financing for a different film ("The Quiet Man"); and that the company allow Ford to cast Wayne in the lead role. It was the second condition that caused a problem, as Republic Pictures executive Herbert Yates and Wayne were no longer on speaking terms. Wayne was thus forced to do something he probably loathed: apologize. Once the conditions were met, Ford and Wayne churned out this film about a cavalry officer who battles Apaches during the Civil War in record time.

  • #21. The Sons of Katie Elder
    81/ Wallis-Hazen

    #21. The Sons of Katie Elder

    - Director: Henry Hathaway
    - Runtime: 122 min.
    - IMDb user rating: 7.2

    When a mother dies in 1965’s “The Sons of Katie Elder” and her four sons come home to pay their respects, they find themselves mired in a land dispute. To make matters worse, the four sons are then framed for the murder of a local sheriff. Will they prove their innocence and get their revenge? As if you need to ask. While filming, Wayne was battling cancer for the first time. Of course, that didn’t stop him from performing his own stunts.

  • #20. They Were Expendable
    82/ Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)

    #20. They Were Expendable

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

    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!
    83/ Batjac Productions

    #19. McLintock!

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

    A wealthy cattle baron faces conflicts on all sides in “McLintock!,” with Wayne playing the title role. In the1963 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
    84/ Otto Preminger Films

    #18. In Harm's Way

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

    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
    85/ Warner Bros.

    #17. The Cowboys

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

    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
    86/ Argosy Pictures

    #16. She Wore a Yellow Ribbon

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

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

  • #15. True Grit
    87/ Wallis-Hazen

    #15. True Grit

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

    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
    88/ Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)

    #14. Annie Laurie

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

    “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 sounds right up Wayne’s alley.

  • #13. Baby Face
    89/ Warner Bros.

    #13. Baby Face

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

    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
    90/ Argosy Pictures

    #12. Fort Apache

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

    “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
    91/ Paramount Pictures

    #11. El Dorado

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

    Starring John Wayne and Robert Mitchum, 1967’s “El Dorado” finds a gunslinger (Wayne) and 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 three-inch lifts for the part.

  • #10. The Shootist
    92/ Paramount Pictures

    #10. The Shootist

    - Director: Don Siegel
    - Runtime: 100 min.
    - IMDb user rating: 7.7

    Kicking off the top 10 is 1976’s “The Shootist,” in which a dying cowboy searches for ways to leave the world quickly without suffering. Based on a novel and directed by Don Siegel of “Dirty Harry” fame, the film would be Wayne’s last. Like the very character he portrays in “The Shootist,” Wayne was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He would die three years later.

  • #9. Red River
    93/ Monterey Productions

    #9. Red River

    - Director: Howard Hawks
    - Runtime: 133 min.
    - IMDb user rating: 7.8

    Like John Ford, director Howard Hawks was a master of the Western genre. His best efforts routinely starred John Wayne. The first important collaboration between Hawks and Wayne was 1948’s “Red River,” a film about a man named Thomas Dunson (played by Wayne) whose tyrannical behavior invokes a mutiny during a cattle drive to Missouri. While it goes without saying that Wayne was no stranger to the Western genre by 1948, this film was special because it exposed a more subtle and complicated side to his cowboy persona.

  • #8. The Longest Day
    94/ Darryl F. Zanuck Productions

    #8. The Longest Day

    - Director: Ken Annakin
    - Runtime: 178 min.
    - IMDb user rating: 7.8

    It’s D-Day from both the Allied and German perspectives in 1962’s “The Longest Day.” It took $10 million to produce the 1962 epic war film, making it the most expensive black-and-white film of its time.

  • #7. Bardelys the Magnificent
    95/ Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)

    #7. Bardelys the Magnificent

    - Director: King Vidor
    - Runtime: 90 min.
    - IMDb user rating: 7.9

    At the young age of 19, Wayne (then Marion Morrison) appeared in a minor role in 1926’s “Bardelys the Magnificent.” The film takes place during the swashbuckling era and features a Casanova-type named Bardely who loves to boast about his many sexual conquests. After betting he can seduce a damsel, the wanton Lothario disguises himself as a wanted criminal.

  • #6. The Quiet Man
    96/ Republic Pictures

    #6. The Quiet Man

    - Director: John Ford
    - Runtime: 129 min.
    - IMDb user rating: 7.9

    After helming “Rio Grande” for Republic Pictures, director John Ford was given the money he needed to make 1952’s “The Quiet Man.” The movie stars Wayne as retired American boxer Sean Thornton, who falls in love with a fiery maiden, played by Maureen O’Hara, after returning to the Irish village where he was born. Part of the film was shot on location in Ireland, with glorious hues of Technicolor green to show for it.

  • #5. Stagecoach
    97/ Twentieth Century Fox

    #5. Stagecoach

    - Director: John Ford
    - Runtime: 96 min.
    - IMDb user rating: 7.9

    Despite playing the lead role in 1930’s "The Big Trail," Wayne struggled to achieve major success in the years that followed. That all changed after John Ford’s "Stagecoach" was released in 1939. In the movie, a group of people traveling by stagecoach catch word that Geronimo and his violent clan might be headed their way. Legendary filmmaker Orson Welles reportedly watched "Stagecoach" 40 times while making "Citizen Kane." This movie was Wayne's big break; after its release, his career as an A-list movie star officially began.

  • #4. Rio Bravo
    98/ Warner Bros.

    #4. Rio Bravo

    - Director: Howard Hawks
    - Runtime: 141 min.
    - IMDb user rating: 8.0

    With the help of a motley crew, a small-town sheriff (played by Wayne) keeps a powerful rancher’s brother behind bars in 1959’s “Rio Bravo.” It’s just a matter of time before the rancher comes around, aided by a mob of angry men. “Rio Bravo” is said to be a direct (and manly) rebuttal to Gary Cooper’s somewhat timid performance in “High Noon,” a 1952 film sharing a similar premise.

  • #3. The Searchers
    99/ C.V. Whitney Pictures

    #3. The Searchers

    - Director: John Ford
    - Runtime: 119 min.
    - IMDb user rating: 8.0

    More than just a John Wayne and John Ford collaboration, 1956’s “The Searchers” is widely regarded to be the greatest Western of all time. In the film, an American Civil War veteran (played by Wayne) sets out to rescue his niece after she’s kidnapped by Comanches. Wayne was so enamored with the role of Ethan Edwards that he named one his children John Ethan Wayne.

  • #2. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
    100/ Paramount Pictures

    #2. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

    - Director: John Ford
    - Runtime: 123 min.
    - IMDb user rating: 8.1

    Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better than “The Searchers,” here comes “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” which squeezes an extra .1 out of its IMDb user rating. The film tells the story of Senator Ransom Stoddard (played by James Stewart), who is celebrated in the town of Shinbone as the man who shot ruthless outlaw Liberty Valance. But when Stoddard returns to the town and recounts his tale, it’s revealed that Wayne’s character—a gunslinger named Tom Doniphon—was the true hero all along.

  • #1. Brown of Harvard
    101/ Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)

    #1. Brown of Harvard

    - Director: Jack Conway
    - Runtime: 85 min.
    - IMDb user rating: 8.2

    Is it fair to name an old silent movie, in which a young Wayne (then Marion Morrison) has only a small part, as #1 on Stacker’s list of John Wayne’s best films? Probably not. Nevertheless, the IMDb ratings have spoken, and 1926’s “Brown of Harvard” has taken home the gold. The film follows a rivalry between two Harvard athletes, both of whom have affections for a professor’s daughter. Representing young Wayne’s big screen debut, he appears as a Yale football player. Four years later, Wayne would play the lead role in “The Big Trail” as John Wayne.

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