The Searchers (John Ford, 1956)

Is this the most famous western ever made? I don’t know but it seems to be held in high regard by everyone in the bussiness and it is as well many fan’s favorite. I’ve seen the movie several times and I’m always bit disappointed at the end.

It has superb locations and camerawork and I love Wayne’s acting here who delivers memorable lines with hate and passion. There are also quite few off screen disturbing scenes. However the movie is also filled with lighthearted moments and characters that don’t fit too well imo that make it look almost like two movies in a one. You get as well a blue eyed indian that is somewhat a 50s relict and some scenes look very much studio like and I’m not really sure if they were shot in a studio or they just look like that. With some cut it could get more mean and nasty. Maybe that was the reason why they added some comedy sidekicks?

All in all an important flick for the genre development, good fun but I expected more of it. 4/5

I do not think The Searchers is the most famous Western ever made … High Noon, Shane, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre and The Good The Bad and The Ugly, among others, are all probably more well known by the general public. It is, however, probably the one with the most accolades and respect.

Frankly, I find it hard to fathom why The Searchers is so universally acclaimed.

When it became apparent that the Covid pandemic would force me into watching a lot of TV this year, I decided to make a project out of watching the top 100 Westerns of all time (which has expanded to a far greater number because of differences of opinion among different rankers). I have watched around 75 Westerns since March, including 35 of the 40 that appear on at least 4 of the 5 top 100 lists I used as sources. Of those 35 Westerns, I have given 28 a rating of at least 4 out of 5 stars.

I rated The Searchers 1 1/2 stars out of 5, the lowest of any Western I have seen - only three other films that I have watched have received a score that low, and none lower. Here is the comment I entered about The Searchers in the spreadsheet I am using to keep track of my watching: “Frankly, it’s awful. All of the worst of John Ford’s impulses. Ridiculous plotting, terrible acting, annoying characters, cliched storylines … it does not even do the cliches endemic to a bad movie well. The only thing that saves it at all is the Monument Valley cinematography and a few scenes that are visually interesting (such as the army crossing a freezing cold river). It is a mystery why it is thought well of.”

I gave 5 stars to two of Ford’s Westerns (Stagecoach and Rio Grande) and 4s to several more, so this is not an anti-Ford opinion, just an anti-The Searchers one.