Plot: In this film, one of his nearly 150 total lead roles, John Wayne portrays Ethan Edwards, a man who returns from the Civil War with great plans. This promising future is cut short by a Comanche tribe attack, during which his niece is kidnapped. He and his nephew set out to find the girl, and while on a years-long search, Edwards begins to hate the Indians. When they finally find the Comanches and his niece, they face new problems upon realizing she has assimilated into the tribe.
Perks: Westerns based solely on shootouts and showdowns have an appeal of their own, but John Ford's adaptation tackled deeper issues of racism, individuality and American identity. Ford even dared to portray John Wayne as an anti-hero! (We couldn’t possibly call The Duke a villain.) The Searchers has been noted as inspiration for directors George Lucas, Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg. Musician Buddy Holly derived his hit song, "That'll Be the Day," from Wayne’s oft-spoken phrase of the film.