9 John Wayne Movies Were Considered ‘Significant’ by the Library of Congress – My Blog
Actor John Wayne starred in a wide assortment of movies primarily rooted in the Western and war genres. He had a signature walk and a slow, booming voice that commanded moviegoers’ attention. However, only nine of Wayne’s movies were selected for the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” They select 25 film each year for this high honor. However, the Wayne films that made the cut aren’t all the obvious picks.‘The Big Trail’ (1930)
Raoul Walsh’s The Big Trail follows Breck Coleman (Wayne), as he leads an adventure with hundreds of settlers seeking to travel from the Mississippi River out West for greater opportunities. However, there are many potentially fatal dangers along the way.
The 1930 feature marked the actor’s first leading role, although it was as a major box-office flop . However, it was only the beginning of the movies that Wayne would make for the rest of his career.‘Baby Face’ (1933)
Alfred E. Green’s Baby Face tells the story of Lily Powers (Barbara Stanwyck), who has become accustomed to the sexual exploitation of men. She finally decides to change the power dynamic, taking advantage of the powerful, yet clueless men at the big city bank where she works. She plans to make her way to the very top of the corporate ladder.
Wayne appeared briefly in Baby Face as one of Lily’s lovers, making this one of the smaller roles in the movies on this list.‘Stagecoach’ (1939)
John Ford’s Stagecoach is about an unlikely group traveling on a stagecoach toward New Mexico in the 1880s. Along the way, they come across escaped outlaw named Ringo Kid (Wayne) and the looming threat of an Apache attack in the Wild West.
All of Wayne’s movies come back to the 1939 classic, which ultimately launched the actor into stardom. This collaboration with Ford proved that he could carry a film, even when he’s amongst an ensemble cast.‘Red River’ (1948)
Howard Hawks’ Red River takes Thomas Dunson (Wayne) on a cattle drive journey to Missouri in search of a better price. However, Thomas’ increasingly tyrannical behavior creates undeniable tension and frustration along the way. His adopted son, Matt Garth (Montgomery Clift), takes matters into his own hands and leads a mutiny.
The iconic fistfight between Wayne and Clift made Red River one of the Western star’s most memorable movies. Additionally, it showed another side of the actor’s talents.‘The Quiet Man’ (1952)
Ford’s The Quiet Man sees a retired boxer named Sean Thornton (Wayne) returning to his birthplace in a small Irish village in the 1920s. He falls in love with the quick-to-anger Mary Kate Danaher (Maureen O’Hara), but her brother, Will (Victor McLaglen), doesn’t approve.
The Quiet Man marked one of the rare occasions where Wayne made a movie outside of the Western and war genres, and it proved successful.‘The Searchers’ (1956)
Ford’s The Searchers follows Ethan Edwards (Wayne), an American Civil War veteran, who will need to set out on a journey to save his niece from Comanches after they killed the rest o fhis brother’s family on their Texas farm.
The Searchers remains one of Wayne and Ford’s most widely celebrated movies of their careers. It’s also hailed as one of the greatest Western films ever made.‘Rio Bravo’ (1959)
Hawks’ Rio Bravo is a dramatic Western that centers around a small-town sheriff named John T. Chance (Wayne) in the American West. He must work with an unlikely group of allies to hold a criminal in jail for his crimes. However, his brother is a dangerous local bad guy who is willing to do anything to free him.
After Wayne turned down the chance to star in High Noon , he wanted Rio Bravo to act as his response to the film that he called “un-American.”‘The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance’ (1962)
Ford’s The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance jumps back in time after a senator named Ransom Stoddard (James Stewart) returns to a small Western town for the funeral of Tom Doniphon (Wayne). The important politician shares his memory of how the unlikely pair grew rather close.
This Western classic became iconic for many reasons, including Wayne’s repeated use of the word “pilgrim.”‘How the West Was Won’ (1962)
Ford, Henry Hathaway, and George Marshall’s How the West Was Won is a family saga that covers many years of the West’s developments in the 19th century. The segments explore the Gold Rush, the Civil War, and the building of the railroads.
Wayne starred as William Tecumseh Sherman in Ford’s Civil War segment. The overall film went down as one of Hollywood’s greatest epics, winning three Academy Awards for Best Writing, Sound, and Film Editing.