The Great Train Robbery: Where Westerns Began

A great film tra­di­tion – the West­ern – start­ed with The Great Train Rob­bery in 1903. Edwin S. Porter’s 10 minute film com­bined west­ern themes with inno­v­a­tive cin­e­mat­ic tech­niques (nar­ra­tive sto­ry­telling, par­al­lel edit­ing, minor cam­era move­ment, loca­tion shoot­ing, etc.). And the film took its inspi­ra­tion from an event that became the stuff of leg­end: Butch Cas­sidy’s 1900 train heist, which end­ed with Cas­sidy blow­ing open a safe and escap­ing with $5,000 in cash.

Porter’s land­mark film helped spark Amer­i­ca’s love affair with West­ern films. Thou­sands of West­erns flood­ed cin­e­mas through­out the silent era — films like Bron­cho Bil­ly and The Greas­er (1914)Sky High (1922), and West of Hot Dog (1924). And though the West­ern fad­ed briefly with the advent of sound film (cir­ca 1927), the genre staged a major come­back with the release of Stage­coach (1939), a John Ford film that turned John Wayne into one of Hol­ly­wood’s endur­ing stars. And yes, we have cat­a­logued 25 free John Wayne Films right here. To find oth­er free West­erns, vis­it this YouTube chan­nel.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

A Trip to the Moon: Where Sci Fi Movies Began

John Wayne: 26 Free Western Films Online


32 years after his death, John Wayne (né Mar­i­on Mor­ri­son) remains a tremen­dous­ly pop­u­lar movie star. Accord­ing to a Har­ris Poll tak­en ear­li­er this month (Jan­u­ary 2011), Amer­i­cans still rank The Duke as their third most favorite actor, putting him right behind John­ny Depp and Den­zel Wash­ing­ton. No doubt about it, the leg­end of John Wayne con­tin­ues to grow. And hap­pi­ly you can find a gold mine of John Wayne West­ern films online – all free. Today, we have pulled togeth­er a list of 25 films that span five decades of work, mov­ing from the 1930s to the 1970s. You can find them all oth­er­wise list­ed in our col­lec­tion of Free Movies Online.

  • Angel and the Bad­man Free — A black and white West­ern star­ring John Wayne and Gail Rus­sell. Con­sid­ered a rad­i­cal depar­ture from the West­ern genre at the time. Find Inter­net Archive ver­sion here. (1947)
  • Blue Steel – Free – John Wayne plays a U.S. Mar­shal try­ing to cap­ture the Pol­ka Dot Ban­dit. Some con­sid­er it the best of the John Wayne Lone Star films. (1934)
  • Born to the WestFree — Can Dare Rudd prove he is respon­si­ble enough to win the heart of Judy and also out­wit the crooked saloon own­er? Stars John Wayne, Mar­sha Hunt and John Mack Brown.
  • Fron­tier Hori­zon - Free — The Three Mes­que­teers try to pre­vent whole­sale slaugh­ter in this fine Repub­lic West­ern. Stars John Wayne, Ray “Crash” Cor­ri­g­an, and Ray­mond Hat­ton. (1939)
  • Hell­town — Free — Orig­i­nal­ly called “Born to the West,” this John Wayne West­ern was based on a nov­el by Zane Grey, an impor­tant author of West­ern nov­els. (1937)
  • McLin­tock! — Free — Com­e­dy West­ern star­ring John Wayne and Mau­reen O’Hara. Loose­ly based on Shakespeare’s The Tam­ing of the Shrew. (1963)
  • ‘Neath the Ari­zona Skies — Free — John Wayne plays a cow­boy pro­tect­ing an oil-land heiress. (1934)
  • Par­adise Canyon — Free — Fea­tures Wayne as “gov­ern­ment agent John Wyatt who search­es for a coun­ter­feit ring oper­at­ing on the Mexican/Arizona bor­der.” (1935)
  • Rain­bow Val­leyFree — John Mar­tin (John Wayne) is a “gov­ern­ment agent work­ing under cov­er. Lead­ing cit­i­zen Mor­gan calls in gun­man Butch Galt (Buf­fa­lo Bill Jr.) who blows Mar­t­in’s cov­er.” Find the YouTube ver­sion here. (1935)
  • Randy Rides Alone – Free – Jailed for mur­ders he didn’t com­mit, Randy Bow­ers (John Wayne) escapes only to stum­ble into the den of the real mur­der­ers. Enter­tain­ing ear­ly Wayne West­ern. (1934)
  • Rid­ers of Des­tiny -FreeJohn Wayne por­trays Sin­gin’ Sandy Saun­ders and has a rep­u­ta­tion as the most noto­ri­ous gun­man since Bil­ly the Kid. Wayne was the first singing cow­boy, but his singing was dubbed, and it was the last time he “sang” in a West­ern. (1933)
  • Sage­brush Trail — Free — John Wayne plays John Brant who escapes from jail after being wrong­ly accused of mur­der. Fea­tures great stage­coach chase. (1933)
  • Texas Ter­ror — Free – A young John Wayne in a roman­tic West­ern. (1935)
  • The Dawn Rid­er Free — John Wayne plays John Mason, a man aveng­ing his father’s mur­der. A West­ern direct­ed by Robert Brad­bury. (1935)
  • The Desert Trail Free — Ear­ly West­ern with John Wayne. Accord­ing to West­ern­Clip­pings, not Wayne’s finest hour. (1935)
  • The Law­less Fron­tier Free – B West­ern star­ring John Wayne and direct­ed by Robert Brad­bury. (1934)
  • The Lucky Tex­an Free — Jer­ry Mason (played by John Wayne) and Jake Ben­son become part­ners and strike it rich with a gold mine. (1934)
  • The Man From Utah Free – The Mar­shal sends John West­on (John Wayne) to a “rodeo to see if he can find out who is killing the rodeo rid­ers who are about to win prize mon­ey.” (1934)
  • The Range FeudFree — Clint Turn­er is arrest­ed for the mur­der of his girl­friend Judy’s father, a rival ranch­er who was an ene­my of his own father. Stars John Wayne and Buck Jones. (1931)
  • The Star Pack­er Free – “A gang work­ing for ‘The Shad­ow’ is ter­ror­iz­ing the town. John Tra­vers (John Wayne) decides to take on the job of sher­iff and do some­thing about it.” (1934)
  • The Trail Beyond — Free – West­ern star­ring John Wayne, Noah Beery, Sr., and Noah Beery, Jr. (1934)
  • Two Fist­ed Law - Free — After Rob Rus­sell steals Tim Clark’s ranch, Clark starts prospect­ing for sil­ver. Stars John Wayne and Tim McCoy. (1932)
  • War of the Wild­cats Free – John Wayne stars in a West­ern also released under the title In Old Okla­homa. One of Wayne’s bet­ter post-Stage­coach per­for­mances. (1943)
  • West of the Divide – Free – A young John Wayne in a B West­ern. (1934)
  • Winds of the Waste­landFree — The arrival of the tele­graph put Pony Express rid­ers like John Blair (John Wayne) and his pal Smoky (Lane Chan­dler) out of work they try to start a stage­coach route through a ghost town. A rival stage­coach com­pa­ny tries to stop them. (1936)

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.