The Searchers - great film?

We just watched the John Wayne movie, The Searchers. I’ve long heard that it is a “classic.”

I don’t see it. The scenery is great - but that’s about it. John Wayne is just himself, the acting and dialogue are laughable, and then there’s the blue eyed Chief Scar.

I look on line and see critics and directors claiming this movie’s greatness, but I just don’t get it. Can any of you help me out?

I think you’d have to embrace the stereotypes of the time in which the movie was made to fully accept its greatness.

I did not enjoy it when I saw it a year or two ago. I mean, it was fine, but hardly incredible. I agree the images are powerful and holy cow, what a landscape.

A few moments here or there, but I did not love it.

For comparison, I saw Citizen Kane a long time ago and honestly, it’s incredible and deserves its acclaim.

I thought he played kind of against type as a mean asshole. Not a huge stretch, but still a change of pace.

I liked it as a story of obsession along the lines of Moby-Dick.

The Searchers is a great movie with it’s biggest flaw being the stupid romantic subplot that is completely unnecessary. The Searchers came out almost 70 years ago and the way movies are made have changed a great deal when it comes to dialogue, pacing, and acting styles. The acting especially can seem a bit hammy or silly.

When I watched The Godfather for the first time in 2005, I had a moment where I thought, “What’s the big deal?” But I had seen the movie parodied my entire life, I basically knew the story before I saw it, and I had seen many movies that were influenced by it. I wasn’t watching it with the eyes of someone who saw it in 1972.

The Searchers is a great movie with a compelling story, good acting, good dialogue, and it’s well shot. If you didn’t like it, I’m not going to try to convince you it was good. But it was a very influential movie and consistently makes it into the top 10 list of great westerns.

I’ve always disliked it. It’s not because it’s old, or some such easily dismissed critique of my critique, I just don’t like the basic premise. I honestly don’t see why it always gets ranked so high.

And I LIKE John Wayne movies. Even Brannigan! :slight_smile:

This. Great movie but hard to see if you are unable to appreciate movies in the context of their time. Some aren’t able to do that and it’s fine. You aren’t being paid to be a movie critic (I assume) and how you enjoy movies is how you enjoy them.

I watched the movie with my daughter when she was about 20. She loved it. For one of the few times in his career John Wayne isn’t playing John Wayne. One of the reasons why it is so good. I recognize that John Ford movies might be tough for modern audiences. The the acting and dialogue are stiff compared to modern movies. I happen to love John Ford movies. On my personal list I like Fort Apache and Mister Roberts more.

I gotta watch it again; just to see where the horizons are.

I read somewhere the movie 2003s ‘The Missing’ with Tommie Lee Jones and Cate Blanchette was based on the same book as ‘The Searchers’.

I Googled it and couldn’t find any confirmation of that.
‘The Missing’ is a great movie. I never understood why is wasn’t more well known.
Or maybe I just missed it.

I never liked the Searchers. It’s a bit silly in places.

Terrible acting ruined a potentially great movie.

I’ve always found John Ford in general, and the Searchers in particular, to be wildly overrated. The guy knew how to photograph scenery impressively, but the plotting and the pacing leaves a lot to be desired. Bored me stiff. I get more profundity and entertainment from watching an anthill for two hours.

I guess I am in the category of old who can’t. So much of the acting is over-the-top melodramatic - the young men flinging themselves about, the rescued white women, Festus’ haw-hawing… And in the context of THIS time - the portrayal of the Indians, the abuse of the horses, the Mexican stereotypes… Then there’s my favorite - actors “pushing” the bullets out of their guns. The comic scenes with the Indian “wife” and the wedding fight. I guess the greatness happened in between all of that! :smiley:

A lot of the favorable reviews were from well into the 2000s.

It has been pointed out elsewhere that Wayne could not realistically use a firearm, as opposed to Lee Marvin, for example.

They do not hold their hands steady when shooting, but move their wrists forward when pulling the trigger - in a manner guaranteed to miss whatever you were aiming at.

I’ve never been a big John Wayne fan - always thought him horribly wooden, and famous more as an icon of a certain type of film and the cowboy mystique, than for his acting ability. But my wife and I had really been looking forward to watching this - so we were not intentionally hate-watching it. (Turned out I HAD seen it before, I vaguely remembered Scar, Mose…)

People up thread call it a “great” film - as tho stating that makes it so. I don’t see the great acting and directing. Take the scene when JW comes riding up after finding the dead bodies, flings himself on the ground and starts stabbing the ground. What is great about that? And what is the explanation for his wanting to shoot Natalie Wood in one scene, then just deciding not to. How is that set up or explained, other than the turning of a switch. And the continuity errors. Horses die then disappear, they ride up a hill in monument valley and come down the other side in completely different terrain in California. Folk consistently stand on top of the most exposed area when supposedly being stealthy. …

We got several other westerns from the library covering all eras - including Unforgiven. Will see how others hold up.

Well, it IS pretty…

The film is a favorite of the “film school brats” generation. Scorsese, Milium, Schrader,.Lucas…it came along at a certain time for all of them, and they all read into it/took from it shots and themes that they’d carry over into their own films. I’m no westerns expert (my tastes on that front lean more towards Peckinpah than Ford) but I gather it’s one of the few films that takes on (in a ham-handed fifties way, but whatever) the underlying racism of the western expansion and the fallout from the civil war. Wayne’s character is explicitly racist towards the Natives, and was also a Confederate soldier, but has to confront his attitudes at the climax if he’s going to rescue his niece, which may seem shallow plot-wise now, but at the time wasn’t the norm.

As for the acting, I believe it was about Wayne’s performance in this film that made John Ford exclaim, “I never knew the bastard could act!”

Further to the film school brats stuff, the film was directly quoted and some might say even remade, with some of the iconic films of the 70s and 80s. This came up in a discussion at film school and always stuck with me:

The Searchers, absolutely bare-bones summary: A soldier representing an old order comes home from out in the desert, then sets out to rescue a young girl who’s been abducted by “savages,” after they destroy the family home. At the climax he disguises himself as an Indian to get behind enemy lines and save the girl who views her abductors as family.

Star Wars: Leia is the kidnapped girl. The shot of Luke’s Tattooine farm (out in the desert) after the Stormtroopers have laid waste to it is shot-by shot a reproduction of the scene where the homestead has been massacred after Luke has been lured away. Luke and Han disguise themselves as Stormtroopers (Indians) to infiltrate the Death Star. And so on.

Taxi Driver: Travis Bickle, after coming home from a war in which he was on the losing side, bigoted toward the Blacks in the city, sets out to “rescue” a girl from her pimp, who’s got long hair like an “Indian.” Travis shaves his hair into a mohawk (disguises himself as an Indian) to infiltrate the brothel (the enemy camp) and save the girl who views her pimp as family.

Hardcore: Jake Van Dorn’s daughter runs away while on a trip to L.A. (read: is abducted by savages) and Jake sets out to rescue her, disguising himself as a porn producer (“savage” to his religious mind) and aligns himself with a porn star (comparable to Wayne teaming up with the “half-breed” from his brother’s farm) to infiltrate the porn community and save the girl who sees her pimp as family.

Paris, Texas: Travis comes home out of the desert, then sets out to “rescue” his wife who’s disappeared into a big city where she’s working in the sex industry; he disguises himself as a patron of the sex club…you get the picture. This one isn’t as violent as the others, at least onscreen, but it’s revealed that she ran away because of Travis’s mania years earlier. Wenders also quoted the final shot of The Searchers at the end of Kings of the Road, with the shot of the protagonist walking away from camera, framed by a closing door.

Anyway, it seems thin, but watch one or two of them in a row sometime and it’s rather striking.

Like the “Ole and Lena” characters, I mean carictures?

The fact that Ford filmed what seems to be every movie in Monument Valley, no matter where it was set, is annoying, though of course, not uncommon (see True Grit, et al).

Like “The Quiet Man?” :stuck_out_tongue:

I like “The Searchers” just fine, but it is far from my favorite Ford or Wayne film. That would probably be “She Wore A Yellow Ribbon” or “The Quiet Man.”

I thought it was too long and boring. Haven’t watched it since then, which was decades ago.

OK, it was important and influential, but why number one? As Dinsdale points out, it is jerky and discontinuous. And, why are we watching it? Is Ethan redeemed by his quest? What’s the take away? It’s definitely not great story telling.

I saw it in 1956 at the USAF base theater. I wanted my twenty five cents back.

In the company of Shane, Soldier Blue, A Man Called Horse, Lonesome Dove, True-Grit and She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, The Searchers just doesn’t stand out.