One Of John Wayne’s Best Performances Came In His Final Ever Western Movie That Reunited Him With James Stewart


John Wayne is considered one of the greatest Western stars of all time, yet his final Western movie with James Stewart was arguably one of his best works. Wayne, also known as “the Duke,” starred in 179 films and television series throughout his 50-year career. Though Wayne was best known for Westerns and war movies, like True Grit and The Sands of Iwo Jima, he acted in a variety of different projects that ranged in genre. Although the concept of a movie star has changed over the years, Wayne remains an unforgettable name in Hollywood.

Considering how long his career was, it is incredibly difficult to rank John Wayne’s best movies. Wayne appeared in his first-ever movie in 1926 and acted consistently until 1977. One way to make the comparisons easier is by ranking his projects by genre. Wayne certainly has a handful of films that are considered his best war movies or his best Westerns. In fact, one of his best Westerns is a particularly monumental film. Not only did it reunite Wayne with a former colleague, but it was his last Western ever.

The Shootist Was John Wayne’s Final Ever Western – What It’s About

J.B. Books Decides To Go Out In Style

In many ways, it is appropriate that one of John Wayne’s greatest performances was in The Shootist. It follows a cowboy at the end of his life. More specifically, the 1976 Western tells the story of J.B. Books, an aging cowboy who has a reputation for violence, having committed over thirty killings. However, when Books is diagnosed with cancer, he travels to Nevada to wait out his end. Unfortunately, due to his renown, he is followed by criminals with suspicious intents. Therefore, Books decides to take matters into his own hands and end his life on a high note.

Aside from being Wayne’s last-ever Western, The Shootist is notable because James Stewart also starred in it. Though Wayne and Stewart only collaborated a handful of times throughout their careers, when they did work together, it was a significant occasion. Like Wayne, Stewart was a very important namein Hollywood. He became a symbol of the ideal American lead at the time and starred in 80 films during his decades-long career. Therefore, putting him alongside Wayne made The Shootist incredibly notable. In the movie, Stewart played the helpful physician, Dr. E.W. “Doc” Hostetler.

Why John Wayne’s Performance In The Shootist Is One Of His Best

The Shootist Reflects On John Wayne & His Career

Though John Wayne gave many amazing performances, The Shootist is one of his best. This is because The Shootist parallels John Wayne’s life and career. While making the film, Wayne was an actor at the end of his career with a powerful reputation behind him, which mirrored the character’s journey. Books wanted his life to end with a great, bloody adventure, while Wayne got to conclude his career on a high note. Wayne often embodied his on-screen characters, but The Shootist takes it to the next level.
While Wayne gave rousing performances in movies like True Grit, there is a sense that these characters are not quite realistic.

There are countless John Wayne movies that critics and audiences consider to be his best, but The Shootist has something they do not: honesty. While Wayne gave rousing performances in movies like True Grit, there is a sense that these characters are not quite realistic. It is too dramatic, and too movie-like. However, The Shootist does not suffer from that problem. In that movie, Wayne’s J.B. Books is more nuanced and more dynamic. J.B. Books was a dying man who had nothing to lose, which allowed the actor to give a more vulnerable performance.

Which Other Westerns John Wayne Made With James Stewart & How They Compare

Wayne & Stewart Made Amazing Movies

Aside from The Shootist, John Wayne and James Stewart made two other movies together. Their first collaboration came in the first half of 1962 in an ensemble film called How the West Was Won. This three-hour Western brought together John Wayne and James Stewart, along with some of Hollywood’s biggest stars, into one epic film following generations of a single Western family. Though Wayne and Stewart both appeared in this movie, their characters never interacted.

That same year, the actors worked on a second movie together called The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. Arguably, this movie sees the most of Wayne and Stewart together. The film follows the complicated and dangerous friendship between a Senator and a local man who stands up to an evil outlaw named Liberty Valance. Both How the West Was Won and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance saw great success, and like The Shootist, have gone down as some of John Wayne’s best performances.