• Searchers
  • Searchers


4.9 16
Director: John Ford

Cast: John Ford, John Wayne, Jeffrey Hunter, Vera Miles


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If John Ford is the greatest Western director, The Searchers is arguably his greatest film, at once a grand outdoor spectacle like such Ford classics as She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949) and Rio Grande (1950) and a film about one man's troubling moral codes, a big-screen adventure…  See more details below


If John Ford is the greatest Western director, The Searchers is arguably his greatest film, at once a grand outdoor spectacle like such Ford classics as She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949) and Rio Grande (1950) and a film about one man's troubling moral codes, a big-screen adventure of the 1950s that anticipated the complex themes and characters that would dominate the 1970s. John Wayne plays Ethan Edwards, a former Confederate soldier who returns to his brother Aaron's frontier cabin three years after the end of the Civil War. Ethan still has his rebel uniform and weapons, a large stash of Yankee gold, and no explanations as to where he's been since Lee's surrender. A loner not comfortable in the bosom of his family, Ethan also harbors a bitter hatred of Indians (though he knows their lore and language well) and trusts no one but himself. Ethan and Martin Pawley (Jeffrey Hunter), Aaron's adopted son, join a makeshift band of Texas Rangers fending off an assault by renegade Comanches. Before they can run off the Indians, several homes are attacked, and Ethan returns to discover his brother and sister-in-law dead and their two daughters kidnapped. While they soon learn that one of the girls is dead, the other, Debbie, is still alive, and with obsessive determination, Ethan and Martin spend the next five years in a relentless search for Debbie -- and for Scar (Henry Brandon), the fearsome Comanche chief who abducted her. But while Martin wants to save his sister and bring her home, Ethan seems primarily motivated by his hatred of the Comanches; it's hard to say if he wants to rescue Debbie or murder the girl who has lived with Indians too long to be considered "white." John Wayne gives perhaps his finest performance in a role that predated screen antiheroes of the 1970s; by the film's conclusion, his single-minded obsession seems less like heroism and more like madness. Wayne bravely refuses to soft-pedal Ethan's ugly side, and the result is a remarkable portrait of a man incapable of answering to anyone but himself, who ultimately has more in common with his despised Indians than with his more "civilized" brethren. Natalie Wood is striking in her brief role as the 16-year-old Debbie, lost between two worlds, and Winton C. Hoch's Technicolor photography captures Monument Valley's savage beauty with subtle grace. The Searchers paved the way for such revisionist Westerns as The Wild Bunch (1969) and McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971), and its influence on movies from Taxi Driver (1976) to Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) and Star Wars (1977) testifies to its lasting importance.

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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Ben Wolf
Critic Dave Kehr wrote of The Searchers: "We may still be waiting for the Great American Novel, but John Ford gave us the Great American Film in 1956." He was right. John Wayne, in his favorite role, gives a magnificent, nuanced performance as the unrelenting tracker Ethan Edwards. The tale of this Confederate veteran's obsessive search for his youngest niece, kidnapped years ago by the Indian chief who killed her family, manages to function both as a dark, brooding western about racism and as straight-ahead entertainment filled with humorous moments and breathtaking action. The film inspired countless American directors, from Bogdanovich to Scorsese. And through his truly democratic staging, placing everyone in equally important parts of the frame regardless of box office stature, Ford delineates all the contradictory aspects of our national character. Set against the overwhelming Monument Valley landscape, the humanity of the characters, with all their merits and flaws, expresses deep emotional truths in what has been called the most beautiful movie ever made.
All Movie Guide - Lucia Bozzola
Described by the director as a "psychological epic", The Searchers (1956) is John Ford's most revered Western, for its visual richness and profoundly ambiguous critique of the genre's (and America's) racism. Ford pushed John Wayne's archetypal Westerner into the realm of antiheroism, as Ethan's five-year quest to rescue his niece from Comanche chief Scar mutates into killing her when he discovers her living placidly as Scar's bride. While Ethan's lethal racism signals his insanity, Wayne's charismatic presence and Ethan's desire to salvage the family unit of "civilized" settlers carries its own sheen of Western heroism. Still, the famous final image of Ethan's departure into the desert reveals that "civilization" has no place for such an uncompromising figure. Shot on location in Colorado and Monument Valley, Ford's vividly arid Technicolor vistas render Ethan a man of the magnificent and punishing landscape, unable to reconcile his inner savagery with domestic constraints. Greeted in America as just another quality Ford oater, the film was first reclaimed by French critics for the unresolved tensions and evocative style of Ford's narrative, elevating it to the status of cinematic art. With U.S. cinephiles following suit, The Searchers deeply influenced the 1970s "film school" generation (Martin Scorsese and Paul Schrader transformed it into Taxi Driver in 1976) and has since taken its place among the greatest Westerns ever made.

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Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Warner Home Video
Region Code:
[Wide Screen]
Sales rank:

Special Features

Closed Caption; New Digital transfer from restored VistaVision picture and Audio elements; New featurette the Searchers: An Appreciation; A Turning of the Earth: John Ford, John Wayne and the Searchers, 1998 documentary narrated by John Milius; Introduction by John Wayne's son and the Searchers co-star Patrick Wayne commentary by director/John Ford biographer Peter Bogdanovich; Vintage behind the cameras segments from the Warner Bros. presents TV series; Theatrical trailer; Languages: English & Français; Subtitles: English, Français & Español (Feature Film Only)

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
John Wayne Ethan Edwards
Jeffrey Hunter Martin Pawley
Vera Miles Laurie Jorgensen
Ward Bond Capt. Reverend Clayton
Natalie Wood Debbie Edwards, older
John Milius Narrated
John Qualen Lars Jorgensen
Hank Worden Mose Harper
Olive Carey Mrs. Jorgensen
Henry Brandon Chief Scar
Ken Curtis Charlie McCony
Harry Carey Brad Jorgensen
Antonio Moreno Emilio Figueroa
Lana Wood Debbie Edwards, younger
Walter Coy Aaron Edwards
Dorothy Jordan Martha Edwards
Pippa Scott Lucy Edwards
Patrick Wayne Lieutenant Greenhill
Beulah Archuletta Look
Shooting Star Actor
Ruth Clifford Deranged woman at fort
Cliff Lyons Col. Greenhill
Peter Mamakos Jerem Futterman
Mae Marsh Woman at fort
Jack Pennick Private
Chuck Roberson Man at wedding
Bill Steele Nesby
Chief Thundercloud Comanche chief
Nacho Galindo Mexican bartender
Robert Lyden Ben Edwards
Danny Borzage Accordionist at Funeral

Technical Credits
John Ford Director
James Basevi Art Director
C. Frank Beetson Costumes/Costume Designer
Frank Beetson Costumes/Costume Designer
George Brown Special Effects
Merian C. Cooper Executive Producer
Patrick Ford Associate Producer
Victor A. Gangelin Set Decoration/Design
Winton Hoch Cinematographer,Screenwriter
Frank Hotaling Art Director
Hugh McDowell Sound/Sound Designer
Jack Murray Editor
Frank S. Nugent Screenwriter
Webb Overlander Makeup
Ann Peck Costumes/Costume Designer
Wingate Smith Asst. Director
Max Steiner Score Composer
C.V. Whitney Producer
Howard Wilson Sound/Sound Designer

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Scene Index

Disc #1 -- The Searchers - The Movie
1. Credits [1:27]
2. Ethan Returns Home [1:38]
3. Aaron, Martha, Debbie and Lucy [1:16]
4. Martin Pauley [4:37]
5. Capt. Rev. Sam Johnson [2:51]
6. One Oath at a Time [1:14]
7. Martha's Reverie and Farewell [1:13]
8. Search for Cattle [:57]
9. Riders on the Rim [:33]
10. A Murder Raid [:40]
11. Mose's Indian Dance [:51]
12. Terror at Dusk [3:00]
13. Shadow of Chief Scar [:39]
14. Terrible Discovery [2:18]
15. "Put an Amen to It!" [1:47]
16. The Search Begins [3:19]
17. "That'll Be the Day." [1:18]
18. Surrounded By Hostiles [4:05]
19. Battle at the River [6:23]
20. "Don't Ever Ask Me More!" [2:07]
21. A Blizzard and a Lost Trail [1:30]
22. Return to the Jorgensens [4:01]
23. A Letter for Ethan [1:16]
24. Laurie and Martin [1:30]
25. Futterman's Trading Post [3:13]
26. Ambush in the Night [1:31]
27. Charlie Brings a Letter [3:47]
28. An Indian Bride [4:12]
29. Scar's Trail [3:48]
30. Buffalo County [1:34]
31. A Little Girl and a Doll [4:07]
32. Reunited With Mose [4:27]
33. Information About Debbie [:35]
34. Meeting With Scar [2:49]
35. Debbie Found [2:45]
36. Surprise Attack [3:55]
37. Last Will and Testament [1:58]
38. A Wedding [2:29]
39. A Fair Fight [5:50]
40. News of Scar [5:08]
41. Martin's Rescue Attempt [4:54]
42. Attacking Scar's Camp [3:15]
43. "Let's Go Home, Debbie." [4:05]
44. A Man Alone [1:35]

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The Searchers 4.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
You don't have to be a fan of Westerns or John Wayne to enjoy this great film. There is not a wasted line or scene in this movie. From the great look of the American West, John Fords immense vision and direction, to outstanding and believable performances and dialogue, this is truely a great film. Right from the start, the acting and writting leaves you with an impression that the characters had a previous and eventful life together, not one created out of the Holleywood blue. John Wayne's portrayal is stark and by far his best. He does not hesitate to imbue his character as faulted, racist and vengefull. But every performance in this movie is perfect. The West is portrayed as a hard, challenging world, and it's inhabitants are a mix of young and old, experienced, naive, native and immigrant. Each scene is a work of visual art. If ever a film deserved to be re-released on the big screen, this is it. This is a must have movie for any true fan of American film.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This movie deals in it external form about the search of Debbie, a girl kidnapped by the Indians after the assassination of his parents and brothers. Much of these action occurs in impressive landscapes, but the plot are superbly carried over all by two figures. The main one is Ethan Edwards, the uncle of Debbie, accompanied shortly by Brad Jorgensen, the fiancé of his sister Lucy, but who has soon to be killed driven to despair by Lucy's terrible murder. The other is the adopted nephew of Ethan, Martin Pawley, a half-indian. But these external pursuit goes parallel to another interior one, because these searchers are going to change themselves in the course of the same. Martin suffers the most complete evolution, because he passes from being inexpert and childish to a mature person. But in the case of Ethan, I think his search doesn¿t finish with the movie, but possibly it began before, continues during it all and probably it never ends or we don¿t know in what. Ethan is a complex personage. At the beginning he¿s shown as an experienced tough man, a loser officer of the American Civil War and another battles in Mexico and more. But he hides another face, asocial and with uncontrollable violence. He seems have to yield his love Martha to his brother Aaron when gone to the war, an neither shows affection by money or material possessions. Truly we don¿t know what Ethan prosecutes really in the search, if to save Lucy, or to kill her for having been converted into an Indian, or if he¿s perhaps in search of himself or what. Martin gets to understand the problem with Ethan: he values his knowledge and great ability for fighting, but fears his dark side not far of madness, so he decides he has to continue in the search and simultaneously to take care of his uncle. Curiously, Scar, the Comanche chief author of the crimes seems to share some characteristics of Ethan. The seekers fulfill his aim in finding Lucy though it takes them several years and a lot of penalties, but significantly, at the end Ethan remains alone and outdoors. The others don¿t need him anymore while his personal search hasn¿t finished. Superb film, so, if you are a searcher of good cinema I¿m afraid you have a task as hard as in the screen because today it¿s practically impossible to find movies as good as this.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I believe in my heart that this was not only John Wayne's best picture he ever made, but I believe it is the best western ever made. I am here to tell you I have seen allot of them and this takes it all.
Guest More than 1 year ago
One of the best westerns ever filmed ~~ John Wayne at his best. Superb story set against a Texas frontier backdrop complete with a colorful cast of characters. The story ~~ a 'search' for a child kidnaped by Indians ~~ is told with feeling and a reverence for the Old West.This is a movie to savor; superbly crafted by everyone involved. And, best of all ~~~ 'Duke' gives a performance that towers in western film lore. If you aren't familiar with 'The Searchers', saddle up & join them. You won't regret it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is my favorite John Wayne movie and my favorite Western.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
You don't have to say more than the title. This is the second best western that was ever made. Get it. See it and enjoy.
0817 More than 1 year ago
In the words of the Duke his best movie, enough said.