All-Time Best John Wayne “The Duke” Movies


There are a few people who doubt that the “The Duke” was a real top actor. Regardless, all of those doubters would stand corrected after we are done with this article, as today, we will be listing the best John Wayne movies that shaped the unhinged legacy of this box office star.

He had this charisma and aura that these new-age “actors” can only desire to have. If you have seen some of the best John Wayne western movies, you certainly can’t say that John Wayne didn’t dominate in almost every scene he was in.

There are a lot of John Wayne westerns that are worth a watch or two, but today, we have taken a near-impossible task to rank the top 10 top John Wayne movies.

Stagecoach (1939)

This movie, directed by John Ford, was surely the movie that turned the tide in favor of John Wayne. John Ford did his absolute best to get Wayne’s best performance to date. He reportedly yelled at the actor calling him wooden-like, and that he could not even walk properly, among other such things.

Wayne being a terrific actor got riled up and delivered an iconic performance to shut ford’s mouth up, and it was exactly what Ford needed. The movie revolves around things like class, snobbery, and interaction.

They Were Expendable (1945)

There have been only a few cinematic partnerships as fruitful and iconic as that of Ford and Wayne. Both of these men started their journey together as stuntmen and went through several ups and downs in their own relationship.

Regardless, this is another one of the classic these two made together. Unlike most John Wayne movies, this movie was not a western.

The premise revolves around crews’ lives on sea and land during America’s defeat against the Philippines on a Patrol Torpedo Boat during the Second World War.

Red River (1948)

John Wayne was a magnificent actor as he could play both a bad guy and a good guy with brilliance. He played a baddie in this 1948 movie. John played the role of Tom Dunson, part of a massive cattle drive, which would do almost anything, including murder, to get their way.

Wayne plays this role with such precision that if “Red River” becomes the first movie of John Wayne that you end up seeing, you would have a hard time imagining John as a protagonist in any other movie.

Fort Apache (1948)

This was yet another movie that featured the iconic partnership between John Ford and Wayne. “Fort Apache” was the first movie in Ford’s Cavalry trilogy (so-called), which followed “She Wore A Yellow Ribbon” and “Rio Granade.”

Although Wayne’s performances in the rest of the two movies were great, his work in “Fort Apache” was simply magnificent. He played the role of a guy who is tough but also frustrated as his commander, played by Henry Fonda, did not appraise his work.

The Quiet Man (1952)

This is a completely different type of film from the rest of John Wayne’s westerns. In this, Wayne played the role of a retired Irish-American boxer who, in his prime, killed a dude in the ring and is struggling to get past this terrifying incident.

Moreover, he is looking to reclaim his place of birth in Ireland, and cruising Mary Kate Danaher, portrayed by Maureen O’Hara, is the woman of his dreams.

The Searchers (1956)

When we say that the duo of John Ford and John Mayor was iconic, we are not only saying that in vain, as these two guys made some of the best John Wayne western movies.

One of them was the 1956’s “The Searchers”, which wasn’t really received with the same amount of love as some other movies, but John Wayne’s performance in this movie was astonishing and made up for any flaws critics may point at. John plays a racist veteran with the Confederacy, who is looking for his kidnapped niece.

Rio Bravo (1959)

If you ever doubt the consistency and versatility of the Duke, this movie would be a reason for you to change your opinion. In possibly one of his lightest movies, John plays a sheriff in charge of a criminal who has ties with a dangerous gang.

The members are just outside of the station and would do anything to get their mate out. The movie also stars Dean Martin as a drunkard, Angie Dickinson as a flirt, and Ricky Nelson as a sharpshooter. It is a fun movie and surely one of the best John Wayne movies.

The Alamo (1960)

In “The Alamo,” John Wayne plays the iconic role of Davy Crockett in the middle of the demanding battle of the Texas revolution. In the movie, the “Texians” end up being highly outnumbered and lose brutally to the Mexican forces.

This creates an atmosphere of panic in the field. It is one of the few movies where our heroes do not come out on top.

True Grit (1969)

John Wayne won his only Oscar for his fantastic performance in “True Grit”. John Wayne infamously did not think he deserved to win over Richard Button. But we know that Wayne underestimated himself as he did pull off a truly iconic performance and deserved the Oscar.

The Shootist (1976)

This was the last movie of the iconic actor’s carrier, which ended just a few years after this movie due to his unfortunate demise. In this movie, he played an aging gunfighter who is dying of cancer and is looking to live out the rest of his life with some dignity. The reason why this movie was so close to the hearts of Wayne’s fans is that the story resembles a bit too much to Wayne’s real life.

Despite being the best western movie actor, John Wayne was a proper, brilliant actor.

Final Words

John Wayne also called “The Duke”, starred in over 150 movies in his carrier and became the best western movie star during this era. He has so many great movies that listing some as the best John Wayne movies is a task that is easier said than done.

We have picked the absolute fan favorites for this list while also not completely overlooking the critic’s consensus. Even after his demise, his legacy is very much alive and well through his movies.

If you are a fan of “The Duke” and feel like there should be some additions and alternations to this list, feel free to use the comments section to drop your recommendations.



  1. Sands of Iwo Jima, Searchers and THE QUIET MAN (greatly overlooked)……ALSO Angel and the Badman……Duke just deserves much more credit than he’s ever received…..


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