The Best John Wayne Movies Of All Time

List Rules
Vote for your favorite John Wayne movies, regardless of critic reviews or how big the role was.

The Hollywood mold of the stoic, tough-as-nails cowboy is the mold of John Wayne. (Then again, many would argue that one of his successors, Clint Eastwood, soon supplanted him as the definitive Western icon.) He defined the classical on-screen Western, largely through his collaborations with director John Ford - starting with the 1939 classic Stagecoach and likely reaching its creative peak with 1956's The Searchers, a film that challenged the image of the West - and of Wayne as on-screen hero - cultivated by their earlier Westerns together.

However, Wayne's career began far before his work with Ford - starting out late in the silent era with bit parts as football players in the likes of Brown of Harvard and The Drop Kick - and extended far beyond, including his Oscar-winning role in 1969's True Grit and its 1975 sequel, Rooster Cogburn. He also maintained a fruitful collaboration with another legendary Hollywood filmmaker, Howard Hawks, who directed him in five movies, including Red River and Rio Bravo.

But what is the greatest John Wayne movie of all-time? Is it his achingly romantic Irish drama The Quiet Man, the complex morality play The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (in which he shared the screen with fellow legends Jimmy Stewart and Lee Marvin), or one of his many war epics like In Harm's Way or Sands of Iwo Jima? This list includes them all - and your votes will decide which ones rise to the top and which are more expendable.

John Ford and Cecil B. DeMille both worked with John Wayne over the years, as have plenty of other well-known directors. John Wayne was in some really popular films, and is right up there with stars like Charlton Heston and Jackie Gleason in terms of fame and success.

Ranked by
  • Rio Grande
    1
    John Wayne, Maureen O'Hara, Ben Johnson
    2,013 votes
    • Released: 1950
    • Directed by: John Ford

    Character: Lt. Col. Kirby Yorke

    Lieutenant Colonel Kirby Yorke (John Wayne) heads a cavalry post on the Texas side of the Rio Grande, defending settlers against Apaches launching raids from the Mexican side of the river. When ...more
  • The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
    2
    James Stewart, John Wayne, Vera Miles
    2,994 votes
    • Released: 1962
    • Directed by: John Ford

    Character: Tom Doniphon

    Questions arise when Senator Stoddard (James Stewart) attends the funeral of a local man named Tom Doniphon (John Wayne) in a small Western town. Flashing back, we learn Doniphon saved Stoddard, then ...more

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  • She Wore a Yellow Ribbon
    3
    John Wayne, Joanne Dru, John Agar
    2,433 votes
    • Released: 1949
    • Directed by: John Ford

    Character: Capt. Nathan Brittles

    The last job of Calvary Captain Nathan Brittles (John Wayne) before retirement is to soothe relations with the Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians after Custer's last stand. At the same time, he must ...more

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  • Red River
    4
    John Wayne, Montgomery Clift, Walter Brennan
    2,364 votes
    • Released: 1948
    • Directed by: Howard Hawks

    Character: Thomas Dunson

    Headstrong Thomas Dunson (John Wayne) starts a thriving Texas cattle ranch with the help of his faithful trail hand, Groot (Walter Brennan), and his protégé, Matt Garth (Montgomery Clift), an orphan ...more