Geoffrey O’ Brien regards The Searchers as ‘The Movie of the Century’

John Ford’s The Searchers has often been named Greatest American Western of all time by the American Film Institute in 2008, but in 1998, Geoffrey O’ Brien published an article on why he regards the 1956 film starring John Wayne as the greatest movie of the century.

The poet, historian, author and critic O’Brien wrote about how The Searchers is unlike any other western: “It wasn’t about the deed to the mine, or the coming of the railroad, or the first great cattle drive, or a hotheaded young gunslinger out to make a name for himself… No recourse was had to the comforting rituals of the genre, those depredations and confrontations that recur with a lulling predictability.”

O’Brien sums up the timelessness of the film, stating, “it looks both ways in time, embodying all the traditional virtues of storytelling and technical command, yet expanding established limits to suggest a world of possibilities beyond what Hollywood had permitted itself.” He calls it “an extraordinarily generous and exploratory piece of work.”

Published by the American Heritage Magazine, the article may be read in full here:

Article © American Heritage Magazine, November 1998.  All rights reserved.