Thursday, March 21, 2013

304. The Searchers

The Searchers
Directed by John Ford

This is one of my favorite films of all time.  I even wrote a paper on it in my first year of college.  We were supposed to pick a film dealing with race or class relations.  While most people picked Grease or West Side Story (some ballsy kid even picked Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets) I chose this classic.  Of course, no one in my class had ever heard of this movie and kept referring to it as The Seekers.  Sigh.

But this movie should be watched by everyone at least once.  This is by far the best western I have ever seen.

John Wayne plays Ethan, who is a Confederate soldier home from the war.  He visits his brother's home, and it is quite clear early on that he is in love with his sister in law, Martha.  Ethan then goes out to help a neighbor find his cattle and when he returns, he finds that the Comanche tribe has killed his brother's family and kidnapped his two daughters.  Ethan begins a quest that lasts for years to find his nieces, though his intentions may not be as noble as they appear.

Wow, where to begin.  I almost prefer writing reviews on movies I hate; it seems easier than trying to explain all the wonderful things about this film is a paragraph.

First, we have John Ford, so, of course, the scenery shots are beautiful and iconic.  As far as acting goes, I am not a huge fan of Natalie Wood and I know a lot of people think John Wayne is wooden.  However, I think John Wayne is great in this film.  Maybe it is because he plays a racist, cold, and emotionally detached hero and that is really just how he is in real life.

All westerns are pretty racist against Native Americans; that is just an unfortunate guarantee.  However, this film at least starts to move in the right direction.  For starters, one of the main heroes in this film, Martin is part Cherokee.  For another thing….I am totally moving into spoiler territory.  You will be able to figure it out yourself.

Damn, have I really written that much already?  I should wrap it up.  The questions posed in this film are great; I guarantee this is a movie that you will be thinking about for a long time afterwards.  An absolute must see.

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

Voted the Greatest Western of all time by Entertainment Weekly.

John Wayne named his son Ethan in tribute to this film.

Ward Bond would walk around his motel room naked with the windows open in hopes of attracting Vera Miles.  He should really watch the Seinfeld episode about Good Naked vs. Bad Naked.

AFI's #12 greatest movie of all time.

Inspiration for Buddy Holly's song "That'll Be The Day".

Inspired by real events.


  1. We totally agree on this one. You know right from the opening shot that this will be great. The story that at first seem so simple has layers underneath that only reveal themselves gradually. Awesome.

    1. Yeah I think Ethan is such a fascinating character. Okay, definitely rewatching this one soon.

  2. I was a bit confused by the Indian they find under a rock. For some reason he's waiting for them there or resting or something. We know this because when they lift the rock up he's taking deep breaths and wriggling around in a relaxed kind of way.

    Except the other characters start describing him as dead. It turns out he was just an incompetent extra. Or possibly one just gasping at the rush of sand dust flying around. Either way, it's amazing that no one ordered a retake.

    Very good film. I've been waiting years to see this and had unrealistically high expectations which took me a little bit to get over. Maybe the dead Indian brought me back down to earth and allowed me to just enjoy it thereon.