Any short list of the all-time greatest Westerns is bound to include this 1948 Howard Hawks classic about an epic cattle drive.
Red River features one of John Wayne's greatest performances. Like his Ethan Edwards in John Ford's 1956 masterpiece The Searchers, the Duke plays an isolated and unsympathetic man who is possessed by bitterness. Wayne is Texas rancher Tom Dunson, who adopts a young boy orphaned in an Indian massacre. That boy, Matthew Garth (played as an adult by Montgomery Clift in his screen debut), becomes Dunson's assistant and heir apparent--until Dunson's temper gets out of control during a long cattle drive and Matt intervenes to stop him. From that moment on, Dunson swears he will kill Matt. Red River has everything a great Western ought to have: a sweeping sense of history, spectacular landscapes, stampedes, gunfights, Indian attacks, and, of course, Walter Brennan as Dunson's crusty old cook and comic sidekick, Nadine Groot.
As a special bonus, the film also features the legendary Harry Carey (upon whom Wayne would base some of his gestures in The Searchers) and his son Harry Carey Jr., who became a fixture in Ford and Hawks Westerns. Red River is essential for anyone who loves Westerns, or movies in general. This one's a real beaut.