Cinema’s poet of the Wild West, John Ford already had countless westerns (among over 100 films) under his belt before reteaming with regular star John Wayne for this disturbing story of racism, obsession and revenge.
Intending to kill his kidnapped niece (Natalie Wood) when he finds her, assuming her long since defiled by her Comanche kidnappers, morally complex Ethan Edwards is the role that convinced many that Wayne could truly act. Ford sets the hulking actor against the awe-inspiringly rugged terrain of Arizona’s Monument Valley and, in the iconic final shot, frames him within the doorway of a homestead, standing outside on the cusp of a civilisation where he can never fit in. It is one of the medium’s most unforgettable images of isolation.
“The iconic image of Ethan Edwards framed in the doorway, the expanse of the West stretching behind him, is as lyrical as it is telling. A relic of the past, he cannot cross over the threshold into the civilised world. He has helped to preserve a world he cannot be a part of any longer. Racist and unyielding, Ethan is not likeable and his redemption seems impossible. But Ford holds audiences in his visual and narrative thrall to the very end so that when the door shuts on Ethan, it's hard not to think about those who get left behind when the world moves on.” Domino Renee Perez
“Still mesmerising and full of mystery.” Christian Viviani
“Perhaps the first, and greatest, revisionist western.” Jon Towlson
“I cannot imagine American cinema without John Ford who, among other things, created and defined the western. This is the supreme masterpiece of the genre, forever compelling and moving, superb in every department, including John Wayne’s greatest performance and arguably the most memorable final shot in all of cinema.” Angie Errigo
“In The Searchers, Ford not only achieves the pinnacle of the western – the most influential and exemplary movie genre in history, to which no other director contributed nearly as many canonical texts – but also inscribes within the film an astonishing critique of his own life’s work up until that point. A grand, brutal and fearless work.” James Schamus
“It has me the moment the door opens. Infuriatingly flawed, but beautiful.” Tom Ryan
“The essence of the American Myth in one film.” Andreas Kilb
“The Searchers is a true Fordian tour de force on the ethical and political conceptions and misconceptions of his own films. It is also an anticipatory model of the modern American epic.” Eduardo Stupía
“John Ford’s Homeric milestone about the loneliness of men and the inability to settle down.” Milan Pavlovic
“Its redface casting and other representational archaisms may rankle contemporary sensibilities, but this stirring, stunningly visualised western saga remains a profoundly ambivalent exploration of both the noblest and darkest impulses that lie at the heart of American history and consciousness.” Martin Rubin