10. 'The Searchers' (1956)
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Arguably the finest Western that John Ford, master of the genre, ever made,
"The Searchers" towers like a Monument Valley butte in our native cinema; its
magnificent shadow extends over complex American morality plays to come, from
Ford's own "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" to "The Wild Bunch" and "Taxi
Driver." In "Red River," Howard Hawks directed a surprisingly dark and
conflicted John Wayne to one of the actor's best
performances. Ford upped the ante: As Ethan Edwards, Wayne embodies the
archetypal American isolato, in whose volatile character D.H. Lawrence saw the
divided soul of America.
Find: Watch clips from 'The Searchers'
I love that Ford imbues his cracking-good Western adventure with so much of
our checkered history, simultaneously celebrating and deconstructing his
Texicans' brave claim to a new Eden — already the home of red-skinned Adams and
Eves. In a nation just riven by a war between brothers, Ethan Edwards
externalizes killer impulses and lays them on an Indian Cain (aptly named Scar),
the Comanche who steals the little girl Ethan yearned to father. But nothing
here is simple: by bringing "son" and "daughter" home, Ford's hero becomes a
father of his country, from which he — tainted by guilt — is eternally exiled.
In the eloquent landscape that is John Ford's American West, "The Searchers"'
iconic final image speaks volumes. — Kathleen Murphy What's
your favorite movie? Tell us on our MSN Movies Facebook and
(Harry Carey, Jr., Jeffrey Hunter, John Wayne in "The
Searchers"/Courtesy Everett Collection)