Marion Robert Morrison, more commonly known as John Wayne or ‘The Duke,’ left a lasting imprint on American cinema. His career spanned five decades, during which time he starred in 179 films and delivered countless illustrious performances.

He rose to fame with his starring role as Ringo Kid in the 1939 classic ‘Stagecoach,’ and would go on to play characters like Ethan Edwards in Ford’s 1956 ‘The Searchers’ – cementing his place in American film history.

In this blog post, we’ll be taking a look at some of the best John Wayne movies, which capture the actor’s undeniable talent and unforgotten legacy. From westerns like ‘True Grit’ (1969) to war films like ‘The Longest Day’ (1962), Wayne left an indelible mark on our collective culture.

The Highest-Rated John Wayne Films on IMDb

  1. ‘The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance’ (1962) – 8.1/10
  2. ‘Rio Bravo’ (1959) – 8/10
  3. ‘The Searchers’ (1956) – 7.9/10
  4. ‘Stagecoach’ (1939) – 7.8/10
  5. ‘Red River’ (1948) – 7.8/10
  6. ‘The Longest Day’ (1962) – 7.7/10
  7. ‘The Quiet Man’ (1952) – 7.7/10
  8. ‘The Shootist’ (1976) – 7.6/10
  9. ‘El Dorado’ (1966) – 7.5/10
  10. ‘Baby Face’ (1933) – 7.5/10

The Most Popular John Wayne Movies According to IMDb

  1. ‘The Longest Day’ (1962) – 344
  2. ‘The Quiet Man’ (1952) – 367
  3. ‘Chisum’ (1970) – 1,999
  4. ‘Rio Bravo’ (1959) – 2,355
  5. ‘The Searchers’ (1956) – 2,872
  6. ‘The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance’ (1962) – 2,963
  7. ‘El Dorado’ (1966) – 3,372
  8. ‘McLintock!’ (1963) – 3,664
  9. ‘Stagecoach’ (1939) – 3,905
  10. ‘True Grit’ (1969) – 4,016

1 ‘The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance’ (1962)

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)

Director: John Ford
Stars: James Stewart, John Wayne, Vera Miles, Lee Marvin

IMDb: 8.1/10 | Metascore: 94 | Popularity: 2,963

John Ford’s 1962 classic western ‘The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance’ is a timeless masterpiece. Featuring performances from James Stewart and John Wayne, the film follows Ransom Stoddard (Stewart) as he arrives in the town of Shinbone, Arizona in pursuit of justice.

He quickly meets Tom Doniphon (Wayne), the local lawman, and together they take on notorious outlaw Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin). In a climactic showdown against all odds, the two succeed in defeating Liberty but at what cost?

The movie thoughtfully explores themes of justice and friendship that are still relevant today. Stewart’s and Wayne’s performances are legendary while the movie’s cinematography and score create an unforgettable viewing experience – one that will stay with audiences for generations to come.

2 ‘Rio Bravo’ (1959)

Rio Bravo (1959)

Director: Howard Hawks
Stars: John Wayne, Dean Martin, Ricky Nelson, Angie Dickinson

IMDb: 8.0/10 | Metascore: 94 | Popularity: 2,355

‘Rio Bravo’ is an iconic Western classic by director Howard Hawks, starring John Wayne, Dean Martin, Ricky Nelson, and more. This beloved film follows the epic tale of Sheriff John T. Chance as he arrests a powerful rancher’s brother for murder and defends against his gang until a U.S. Marshal arrives with help from unlikely allies; a cripple, drunkard, and young gunfighter.

Despite its small budget of $1 million, ‘Rio Bravo’ went on to make over five times that at the box office. Its popularity has only grown throughout the years due to its talented cast (John Wayne delivering a powerful performance), memorable characters, and suspenseful plot arc. It remains one of the most unforgettable classics in Western cinema history.

3 ‘The Searchers’ (1956)

The Searchers (1956)

Director: John Ford
Stars: John Wayne, Jeffrey Hunter, Vera Miles, Ward Bond

IMDb: 7.9/10 | Metascore: 94 | Popularity: 2,872

John Wayne‘s timeless performance in John Ford’s 1956 classic “The Searchers” is widely regarded as one of the best westerns ever made. Based on Alan Le May‘s 1954 novel, the film follows Ethan Edwards, a middle-aged Civil War veteran consumed by his desire to find his abducted niece (Natalie Wood). Along with his adopted nephew Martin (Jeffrey Hunter), Ethan embarks on a quest fraught with danger and emotion.

With its complex characters and examination of darker themes, “The Searchers” was both a critical and commercial success upon release and has only grown in popularity over time.

4 ‘Stagecoach’ (1939)

Stagecoach (1939)

Director: John Ford
Stars: John Wayne, Claire Trevor, Andy Devine, John Carradine, Thomas Mitchell

IMDb: 7.8/10 | Metascore: 93 | Popularity: 3,905

This classic Western film directed by John Ford follows a group of travelers as they make their way from Tonto, Arizona to Lordsburg, New Mexico in a stagecoach. Along the way, they encounter Native Americans and outlaws that challenge them to band together for survival.

Starring John Wayne and Claire Trevor, ‘Stagecoach’ is an enduring cinematic masterpiece with its gripping action sequences and rich characters. The themes of courage in the face of adversity have made this movie timeless while it continues to capture viewers’ hearts after over 80 years since its release.

5 ‘Red River’ (1948)

Red River (1948)

Directors: Howard Hawks, Arthur Rosson
Stars: John Wayne, Montgomery Clift, Joanne Dru, Walter Brennan

IMDb: 7.8/10 | Metascore: 96

A classic Western film from 1948, ‘Red River’ has stood the test of time and still captivates audiences today. Directed by Howard Hawks and starring John Wayne, Montgomery Clift, Walter Brennan, Joanne Dru, and Coleen Gray in supporting roles, the movie follows the story of a Texas rancher and his adopted adult son as they embark on their first cattle drive from Texas to Kansas along the Chisholm Trail.

As tensions rise between them over managing the cattle drive, viewers are treated to thrilling action sequences amidst stunning cinematography and an emotional score. Along with its memorable characters and gripping drama throughout, ‘Red River’ remains one of cinema’s greatest Westerns ever made.

6 ‘The Longest Day’ (1962)

The Longest Day (1962)

Directors: Ken Annakin, Andrew Marton, Gerd Oswald, Bernhard Wicki, Darryl F. Zanuck
Stars: John Wayne, Robert Ryan, Richard Burton, Henry Fonda

IMDb: 7.7/10 | Metascore: 75 | Popularity: 344

An epic war movie, ‘The Longest Day’ is about the Allied invasion of Normandy on D-Day during World War II. Directed by Ken Annakin, Andrew Marton, and Bernhard Wicki, this film features a star-studded cast of John Wayne, Robert Ryan, and Henry Fonda. The story follows several characters from different countries as they fight for the liberation of France in one of the most important battles in history. Through precision camera work and clear storytelling, it conveys a powerful message about courage and sacrifice while still staying true to its historical accuracy.

‘The Longest Day’ showcases a variety of technical skills that are essential for any successful war movie. It uses dramatic music to emphasize key moments while also relying on voiceover narration to explain complex events or describe emotional scenes with clarity.

7 ‘The Quiet Man’ (1952)

The Quiet Man (1952)

Director: John Ford
Stars: John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara, Barry Fitzgerald, Ward Bond

IMDb: 7.7/10 | Metascore: 85 | Popularity: 367

Returning to his hometown in Ireland, Sean Thornton is a former American boxer looking to reclaim the family farm. He meets Mary Kate Danaher and falls in love with her fiery spirit despite the disapproval of their community. Directed by John Ford, ‘The Quiet Man’ follows their journey as they strive for happiness together.

This classic romantic drama stars Maureen O’Hara and John Wayne, both delivering powerful performances that have stood the test of time.

8 ‘The Shootist’ (1976)

The Shootist (1976)

Director: Don Siegel
Stars: John Wayne, Lauren Bacall, Ron Howard, James Stewart

IMDb: 7.6/10 | Metascore: 77

Directed by the legendary Don Siegel, ‘The Shootist’ is a critically acclaimed 1976 Western film based on Glendon Swarthout‘s novel. The movie stars John Wayne in his final acting role before he passed away three years later; it also features Lauren Bacall, Ron Howard, and James Stewart with a screenplay written by Miles Hood Swarthout and Scott Hale.

J.B Books (John Wayne) is a renowned gunfighter struggling to accept his looming death as he is diagnosed with cancer and chooses to spend his remaining time in seclusion at a boarding house managed by Lauren Bacall‘s character–a widow who rents him one room. Despite Book’s wishes for peace during these last days, conflict arises when young gunslingers challenge the greatness of Books’ reputation as the best shooter.

9 ‘El Dorado’ (1966)

El Dorado (1966)

Director: Howard Hawks
Stars: John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, James Caan, Charlene Holt

IMDb: 7.5/10 | Metascore: 85 | Popularity: 3,372

Sheriff J.P. Harrah (Robert Mitchum) embarks on a journey to bring justice to a small town in California and meets up with an old acquaintance, Cole Thornton, who helps him take on a powerful rancher and his gang of criminals. This classic Western movie features action-packed fights, thrilling horse chases, and gun-slinging showdowns – all held together by John Wayne‘s authoritative presence and Robert Mitchum‘s charming charisma.

With its tightly written plot and well-paced tension throughout, ‘El Dorado’ is an unforgettable movie experience that stands the test of time as one of the greats of the Western genre.

10 ‘Baby Face’ (1933)

Baby Face (1933)

Director: Alfred E. Green
Stars: Barbara Stanwyck, George Brent, Donald Cook, Alphonse Ethier

IMDb: 7.5/10

Barbara Stanwyck stars in this classic pre-Code Hollywood drama as Lily Powers, a young woman determined to succeed despite her difficult circumstances. She uses her beauty and wit to seek revenge on the men who have wronged her, learning valuable lessons about power and manipulation along the way.

Despite its age and John Wayne‘s minor role, ‘Baby Face’ remains an iconic piece of cinema today due to its strong female lead, bold themes, and powerful performance from Stanwyck. It is also an important reminder of how far we have come since 1933 when it comes to gender inequality in America – but also how far we still have left to go.

Popular John Wayne Movies Not Ranked Top 10

Though not ranked the highest amongst the best by viewers, the following films are still very popular.

‘Chisum’ (1970)

Director: Andrew V. McLaglen
Stars: John Wayne, Forrest Tucker, Christopher George, Ben Johnson

IMDb: 6.8 | Popularity: 1,999

John Wayne stars in this classic western film set in Lincoln County, New Mexico during the 1870s. As influential rancher John Chisum, he must stand up to powerful businessman Lawrence Murphy who is determined to take control of the county. He rallies support from allies like Billy the Kid and Sheriff Brady while also dealing with his own internal struggles.

With a strong focus on themes such as loyalty, justice, courage, and perseverance ‘Chisum’ stands out as one of the great western films of all time thanks to its stunning cinematography of Monument Valley, Utah, and excellent performances by its cast.

‘McLintock!’ (1963)

Director: Andrew V. McLaglen
Stars: John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara, Patrick Wayne, Stefanie Powers

IMDb: 7.1/10 | Metascore: 62 | Popularity: 3,664

John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara star in this classic American Western. The movie follows the story of George McLintock, a cattle baron whose wife Katherine returns to him after two years apart. As they attempt to reunite, their daughter Becky gets caught up in the chaos, leading to plenty of comedic moments throughout.

Monument Valley is showcased beautifully with sweeping shots while both Wayne and O’Hara bring charm and ferocity when needed. Chill Wills plays Drago, an eccentric ranch hand who provides great comic relief.

‘True Grit’ (1969)

Director: Henry Hathaway
Stars: John Wayne, Kim Darby, Glen Campbell, Jeremy Slate

IMDb: 7.4/10 | Metascore: 83 | Popularity: 4,016

U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn, brilliantly portrayed by John Wayne in this timeless classic, is hired by Mattie Ross (Kim Darby), a young girl determined to find her father’s murderer Tom Chaney (Jeff Corey). Accompanied by Texas Ranger La Boeuf (Glen Campbell), they go on an arduous journey into Indian territory in pursuit of their target. The all-star ensemble featuring Robert Duvall, Dennis Hopper, Jeff Corey, and Strother Martin lends an impressive performance to the movie that has become a cinematic masterpiece within the Western genre.

The captivating mix of adventure, humor, and poignancy makes ‘True Grit’ an unforgettable movie with John Wayne delivering an iconic performance as Rooster Cogburn – based on honest Deputy U.S. Marshal Heck Thomas who brought down some of history’s most notorious outlaws ever seen.

Honorable Mention John Wayne Movies

More John Ford-directed films dominate our honorable mention list below, which includes 2 movies from John Ford’s cavalry trilogy.

‘Fort Apache’ (1948)

Director: John Ford
Stars: John Wayne, Henry Fonda, Shirley Temple, Pedro Armendáriz

IMDb: 7.4

John Wayne and Henry Fonda star in this timeless classic from 1948, which opened the doors to two sequels. Set against a backdrop of a Rio Grande outpost guarded against Apache raiders by cavalryman Captain Kirby York (Wayne), “Fort Apache” is more than just an action-packed Western – its captivating story explores themes of loyalty, honor, and duty with exceptional production values.

‘She Wore A Yellow Ribbon’ (1949)

Director: John Ford
Stars: John Wayne, Joanne Dru, John Agar, Ben Johnson

IMDb: 7.2/10 | Metascore: 87

John Ford‘s 1949 Technicolor Western, “She Wore A Yellow Ribbon,” starring John Wayne, is a captivating story set in the post-Civil War era. Wayne plays a cavalry captain tasked with conveying two women out of hostile territory safely. Not only was it an undeniable triumph at the box office – earning twice its budget in receipts – but critics have since hailed it as an iconic classic and timeless masterpiece of the genre. Its title even draws on one of America’s most popular military songs from this era, further reinforcing its legacy today.

The film stands out for its stunning use of Technicolor cinematography and incredible acting performances from stars like Wayne who helped make Westerns such a beloved movie style for generations to come.

‘They Were Expendable’ (1945)

Directors: John Ford, Robert Montgomery
Stars: Robert Montgomery, John Wayne, Donna Reed, Jack Holt

IMDb: 7.1/10 | Metascore: 86

In John Ford’s 1945 war film, a group of brave sailors takes their two Motor Torpedo Boats on a daring mission to defend their base in the Philippines during World War II. Robert Montgomery stars as PT boat commander Lt. John Brickley, and John Wayne as Lt. Rusty Ryan with his loyal crew, who face seemingly impossible odds with courage and loyalty.

Intense action sequences showcase thrilling naval battles, while more intimate moments between characters illustrate the strong bonds formed by shared danger. All performances are excellent, particularly that of Wayne’s Ryan; he is determined to uphold his duty no matter what fate awaits him or his troops.

‘3 Godfathers’ (1948)

Director: John Ford
Stars: John Wayne, Pedro Armendáriz, Harry Carey Jr., Ward Bond

IMDb: 7.1 | Metascore: 82

John Wayne and Harry Carey, Jr. deliver standout performances as Robert and William, respectively. They bring depth and nuance to their characters that belie the simplicity of the story’s plotting. Pedro Armendáriz brings a gravity to his role—and an emotional resonance—which is often missing in Westerns of this era.

Ford’s camera captures all three actors at their best: Wayne’s weary determination, Carey Jr.’s determined earnestness, and Armendáriz’s stoic strength make for a poignant trio of outlaws on an unforgettable journey with unexpected consequences. From the dusty mesas of Monument Valley to the wistful finale, ‘3 Godfathers’ is a film for all ages.

‘The Sons Of Katie Elder’ (1965)

Director: Henry Hathaway
Stars: John Wayne, Dean Martin, Martha Hyer, Michael Anderson Jr.

IMDb: 7.1/10 | Metascore: 72

Starring John Wayne and Dean Martin in prominent roles, “The Sons of Katie Elder” is a 1965 American Western film directed by Henry Hathaway and filmed primarily in Mexico. The movie follows the story of four brothers who return home for their father’s funeral, only to uncover a conman trying to seize their family home from their mother. With engaging themes of revenge, Wayne and Martin deliver an exceptional performance as they portray brothers fighting to protect their family’s legacy.

The remarkable on-screen chemistry between Wayne and Martin is refreshing while its supporting cast adds depth to the story with strong performances that keep audiences engaged throughout the film culminating in an exciting finale.

‘Sands Of Iwo Jima’ (1949)

Director: Allan Dwan
Stars: John Wayne, John Agar, Adele Mara, Forrest Tucker

IMDb: 7.0 | Metascore: 75

In 1949, an epic war film was released that followed the story of a platoon of United States Marines as they prepared for and fought during the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II. Featuring John Wayne, John Agar, Adele Mara, and Forrest Tucker in supporting performances, this timeless classic was co-written by Harry Brown and James Edward Grant before being brought to life on the screen by director Allan Dwan. It received multiple Academy Award nominations such as Best Actor (John Wayne), Best Film Editing, Best Sound Recording (Daniel J. Bloomberg), and Best Writing – Motion Picture Story.

John Wayne gave an outstanding performance in this riveting cinematic tale that pays homage to all those who sacrificed their lives at Iwo Jima. His portrayal earned him his first nomination for an Academy Award for best actor.

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Senior Editor, BuddyTV