Before he was one of Hollywood’s most bankable and iconic Western movie stars, actor John Wayne was a USC lineman named Marion Morrison. Morrison lost his football scholarship due to a shoulder injury from a body-surfing accident, 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.
In honor of The Duke himself, Stacker ranked John Wayne’s best 100 movies. From lowest to highest, each movie is ranked according to its IMDb rating. We focus on Wayne’s acting credits from his first starring role in 1930 and his breakout performance in 1939’s “Stagecoach” to his final star turn in 1976’s “The Shooter.” 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.
The swaggering masculinity Wayne infused into characters bled off-screen and permeated American culture for decades with nostalgia for unencumbered male machismo. By the time Wayne appeared in John Ford's "3 Godfathers" in 1948, his caricatured persona of the hardened, egoic male had firmly politicized the Western hero with shades of disgust for things like communism and liberalism. Wayne is still a hotly debated figure today. In June 2020, calls were renewed to change the name of John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California, over Wayne's 1971 interview in Playboy when he came out in favor of white supremacy, expressed no remorse over slavery or the treatment of Native Americans throughout American history, and used a homophobic slur to describe the actors in "Midnight Cowboy."
The controversial film star was most famous for his roles in Westerns, but also starred in war dramas, took on the role of an American boxer in "The Quiet Man," and put himself on the other side of the camera as a producer and director. Wayne was nominated three times for Academy Awards, winning once for lead actor in 1969 when he played U.S. Marshal Reuben “Rooster” J. Cogburn in “True Grit.” He was even posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1980 by Jimmy Carter.
Wayne was credited in at least 177 movies over the course of his career. Keep reading to see which ones crack his top 100.
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