Top 10 John Wayne Movies: The Definitive List

top 10 John Wayne movies

John Wayne is a legend. The Duke, as he was affectionately known by his fans, has starred in dozens of movies that have garnered accolades and awards from all over the world. As John Wayne’s centennial anniversary approaches (he was born on May 26th 1907), it seems fitting to take an opportunity to celebrate his incredible career with a top 10 list of some of my favorite John Wayne movies.


  1. The Quiet Man

The Quiet Man is the perfect movie to kick off this top ten list. The story follows John Wayne’s character Sean Thornton who returns to Ireland after years away and falls in love with a fiery lass named Mary Kate Danaher (played by Maureen O’Hara). But there just happens to be another guy that she loves, too! That sets up some of Hollywood’s most intense drama as Sean tries his best not only to win her heart but also defend her honor from an evil man.


– This film was nominated for three Academy Awards including Best Picture and won two: Best Director and Best Cinematography. It grossed $11 million at the box office on its release although it cost about $400 thousand making it one expensive movie of that time


  1. Stagecoach

– This is the second John Wayne film on our top ten list. It was released in 1939 and since then has gone down as one of the most iconic Westerns ever made, with its release sparking off a trend for more “adult” Western films.

– With Stagecoach you get to see John Wayne become a bank robber called Dallas who escapes from prison only to be captured by an Indian tribe before they trade him back to white men

– The movie grossed $500 thousand at the box office and cost just over $550 thousand making it a profitable venture all around the globe.


  1. Red River

– This is the third John Wayne film on our top ten list and was released in 1948. It tells the story of a cattle drive from Texas to Kansas


– The movie did really well at the box office grossing $850 thousand against its budget of only $500 thousand, making it one of his most successful films ever


– Red River gave us a classic Western with incredible performances by John Wayne alongside Montgomery Clift who played James Eastland. In addition, you can see Walter Brennan playing both Rufus Hannassey and Pete Nolan as he kind of just plays himself!


Facts:  d $11 million at the box office on its release although it cost about $400 thousand making it one expensive movie of that time. But it was worth it.


  1. True Grit

This film is about a 14-year-old girl who hires an aging marshal to help her hunt down the man that killed her father. The movie was remade in 2010 but we’re going to go with the original John Wayne version because it’s just so damn good!


In 1969, True Grit received 11 Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Actor for John Wayne, which made him one of only three actors to ever win two Oscars for acting. This also marked his final big screen performance before he passed away less than six months later on June 11th from stomach cancer at age 72. One thing you should know about this awards shows though. That’s why It deserved to be on our list.

  1. Fort Apache

– Released in 1948, this film features John Wayne as a cavalry officer who is sent to put down an Apache uprising.


In the process, he ignores his orders and helps fight off a renegade band of Apaches led by Cochise (played brilliantly by Pedro Armendáriz). The conflict eventually escalates into another war with Mexico when Fort Apache falls under attack. Despite its heavy themes, there are plenty of light moments too – including on horseback where we see some genuine chemistry between Wayne and Maureen O’Hara.


The battle scenes are intense – but what really makes it memorable is that it’s one man against so many odds: “Forty-thousand mad Indians”. It holds up better than you might think he would.


  1. She Wore a Yellow Ribbon

The film follows the fortunes of Captain Nathan Brittles (John Wayne) as he leads his company on a three-year tour of duty.


Along the way, they meet Apache warriors and soldiers from Fort Grant who is in pursuit of an escaping band of Apaches. The story culminates with the dramatic Battle at Agua Caliente against General Manuelito’s tribe. She Wore A Yellow Ribbon is one of John Ford’s most personal films – packed with reflections about life and love before death finally catches up to him too.


It’s beautifully shot by cinematographer Jack Cardiff; it has some terrific characters, including O’Hara as Lady Ann; plus there’s plenty of galloping horses for any John Ford fans to enjoy also. Pure fun.


  1. The Searchers

The Searchers is the archetypal Ford Western.


It begins with a wagon train fleeing from their homestead, headed for what they hope will be safe in the town of Tawanka. The group soon realizes that it’s not just Indians who are after them – there also bandits on horseback looking to steal their belongings and wreak havoc when possible. So John Wayne plays hero Ethan Edwards as he makes his way back to take care of business.


This would mark one of several films where director John Ford involves Native Americans more centrally than most other Hollywood directors at the time; here old Chief Scar (Henry Brandon) offers guidance and wisdom while demonstrating an uncanny ability to show up right when needed most.


  1. Rio Grande

John Wayne is a Union colonel tasked with aiding settlers who have been terrorized by Kiowa Indians. He soon realizes that the only way to stop their vicious raids is to relocate them on top of Rio Grande, where they will be safe and able to prosper in peace. But it’s not as easy as he first thought – for one thing, his wife (Maureen O’Hara) has fallen in love with him again now that she sees what an effective leader he can be; but there are also plenty of other people out there who don’t want this plan to succeed…


  1. The Shootist

Wayne plays a legendary Old West gunfighter who became too old to be effective in his profession, but he still can’t resist the challenge of taking on one last desperado. Of course, he is there to show everybody how you can do it even in old age.


  1. Rio Bravo

Nobody is safe in this town where the sheriff (Wayne) and his deputies are outnumbered, but that doesn’t stop them from doing their duty to protect it. A lot of great action scenes and Wayne’s best performance.


The Duke is still one of the biggest box offices draws in history and remains a cultural icon to this day. His legacy will live on forever thanks, in part, to his timeless western movies which are not only entertaining but educational as well. We’ve compiled an exhaustive list of John Wayne films that should be at the top of your must-watch list if you love classic Hollywood cinema. If you haven’t seen any or all of these classics yet, then we highly recommend that you get started right away! What movie would make it into your own personal Top 10?

Related posts

Does away luggage have lifetime warranty?


Can you drink out of unglazed pottery?


What comes in the 10 dollar box at McDonald’s?