Johnny Guitar - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Johnny Guitar Reviews

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Super Reviewer
October 16, 2015
The first 45 minutes are perfect, with impeccable performances (Crawford at her best) and exceptional dialogue, but then the film starts to lose steam and drag in a few moments, while Vienna's peaceful (passive, that would be) motivations become a bit exasperating.
Super Reviewer
October 24, 2011
It's quite a weird western with Joan Crawford filling the John Wayne shoes, glossy romantic scenes which could be thrown into a Douglas Sirk film and all painted with dramatic red strokes - from the sunsets, to a dramatic fire to Crawford's iconic lips. And it all ends in a rootin' tootin' gun shooting between its two female leads - a sort of Western version of a women's catfight. Peppered with great dialogue and a performance by Mercedes McCambridge which leaves no doubt why she was chosen to play the demon in "The Exorcist", there's little not to love.
Super Reviewer
½ September 5, 2010
I hate westerns, so I rated it lower because of that, but it is a different kind of western than normal. The story is sort of boring, but the characters aren't is another way of putting it. Anyway, it's interesting.
Mr Awesome
Super Reviewer
February 22, 2010
Joan Crawford is Vienna, a frontier woman you don't want to mess with, but her arch nemesis, the maniacally evil Emma Small (Mercedes McCambridge) is one terrifying broad. The movie may be titled "Johnny Guitar", but it's all about the women duking it out, in a sort of pseudo-feminist western (the men are all but dominated by the women). The film opens strongly, with a confrontation in Vienna's casino/bar. It seems the stage coach was robbed and Emma's brother was killed (they bring his body right into the casino and lay it down on the craps table). Emma blames Vienna's club and the men who frequent it, especially "the Dancin' Kid" (Scott Brady). In reality, Emma is in love with the Dancin' Kid and is jealous of his relationship with Vienna (who it's suggested, is sort of a fallen woman). She has another reason to hate Vienna; as the new railroad is being built, more and more outsiders will come to town, spreading their indecency and immorality. She thinks Vienna is the vanguard in an onslaught that will bring about her cherished town's destruction. She forms a posse and seeks to lynch Vienna, the Dancin' Kid and his cohorts. The Dancin' Kid claims he and his pardners are mining silver in a hidden mine, but they're being run out of town anyway. The Kid decides if they're going to be accused of being criminals, they may as well be criminals and they go and rob the bank. Vienna happens to be in the bank at the same time, closing her account. One thing leads to another, and it's Vienna who's accused of aiding the outlaws. In the midst of all this is Johnny Guitar, once Vienna's lover and now just a wandering minstrel. Vienna sends for Johnny to come and perform in her saloon, but really she wants to use him for protection, for you see Johnny is a former gunslinger, and one of the fastest and best gunmen in the west. The plot details don't mean a whole lot, as this is all just an excuse to see Crawford and McCambridge go at it, tooth and nail. All in all, it's good, 1950s, campy fun.
Super Reviewer
March 1, 2007
Johnny Guitar is a decent western that even with the presence of horses, guns and cowboys didn't feel like a western. Nicholas Ray's direction is decent enough and it started off great, but about an hour in it just kind of went dead behind the eyes. I understand Joan Crawford and Mercedes McCambridge hated each others guts and it took a toll on Ray. Despite my not really caring after awhile, the cast makes the movie and if you don't want to dropkick McCambridge off the top of the Grand Canyon you're not alive. Worth the watch but don't trample any puppies to see it.
Super Reviewer
August 3, 2008
campy and highly melodramatic but very entertaining. strong parallels to the mccarthy hearings. and there can't be too many westerns of this era with a shootout between two women! i couldn't help seeing stanwyck in joan's part but the ott performances are a big part of the fun :)
Super Reviewer
½ July 11, 2007
Solid Western Melodrama. Sterling Hayden is awesome as usual
Super Reviewer
½ September 25, 2007
More than just the camp classic it's held up to be. A truly great and under-valued master-piece. A great western that touches on feminism, masculinity, gender, sexuality, lynch-mob mentality and is still supreme entertainment.
The big climactic stand off with McCambridge and Crawford makes me breathless!
Super Reviewer
March 29, 2007
Super Reviewer
April 18, 2013
Ray's Johnny Guitar is like no other western that I have ever seen. Joan Crawford is incredible as the toughest lady gun in the west. There are numerous ways to consider this film - as an outsider's perspective, as a subtle romance, as subversive..and it works in any way that you view it.
Super Reviewer
½ June 21, 2013
Its not really a western . . . at least not in the traditional sense of the genre, which would explain why it lacked an audience in its day. Nicholas Ray crafted a sort of half social commentary half sexual thriller. Its a film that's constantly surprising you with its unpredictable narrative, visual brilliance, and Crawford's inspired performance.
Super Reviewer
April 25, 2008
As kinky as it gets in the 50s. Almost seems like a Western as directed by Sam Fuller. Full of symbolism, great performances and direction.
Super Reviewer
½ September 20, 2011
This definitely seemed quite different than the other westerns that we've seen thus far in my western class. The role of women is interestingly managed here - you won't find a damsel in distress around these parts. And the overall entertainment value of this movie is pretty high. It did feel a little campy at times, but in the kind of way that probably has made it more enjoyable over time. I can almost sense that it had a fair amount of influence on Tarantino's Kill Bill movies. Maybe that's just me, but it has more of that edge than, say, a standard "classic" western like Shane.
Super Reviewer
December 25, 2009
This Nicholas Ray film would appear to be a standard Republic western at first sight, but it has become a staple of film school analysis because it has a number of subversive elements in its subtext. There?s an obvious anti-McCarthy allegory to the story with its sympathy toward people that are being persecuted by the elite of a town that tries to turn the gang against each other. There are also feminist elements to the film with Joan Crawford playing a very strong female protagonist and Mercedes McCambridge playing an equally strong female villain. This is definitely a step above its peers, but there are elements of cheese left over from its modest origins and it also has kind of a weak middle act between its strong beginning and stronger finish.
Super Reviewer
August 29, 2008
A feminist western with the gender roles reversed. The title character is almost forgettable compared with Crawford and McCambridge and the bitter rivalry between them.

The story itself is rather second rate, but the characters and the glorious overacting make this cult classic worth seeing.
½ November 24, 2011
Good, interesting western. Joan Crawford's character is pretty well written, and she does a pretty good job, though I feel a different actress could have been a better choice. The namesake of the film is probably the most boring role, and it is kind of sad he is given the name of the film.
September 14, 2008
If you crave high art and out there camp, Nicholas Ray's bizarre and marvelous Johnny Guitar is the film for you. Joan Crawford is all kinds of awesome as a gun-toting saloon owner under fire by a narrow-minded lynch mob led by a hard-ass Mercedes McCambridge. Sterling Hayden plays the title character, but he takes a backseat to the pistol-packing ladies in this frontier town teeming with Freudian underpinnings. The color son screen pop, but the performances pop even more.
½ June 18, 2009
The appeal of this film escapes me. I have watched it numerous times thinking perhaps that I was missing something, I have determined I just don't like it. The idea of Joan Crawford in a western amuses me though, why would she be cast in this role? It is overacted, Crawford in particular is way over the top delivers a poor and campy performance. The costume design can be a bit much at times. It is competently made, but the dialogue is hardly convincing or believable. It?s certainly one of the strangest westerns ever made. It makes me wonder if director Nicholas Ray was actually serious when making it, or if he created a campy western intentionally.
½ October 31, 2008
Johnny decides that the last name "Guitar" is way cooler than his real last name. Much if not all of the audience disagrees. Joan Crawford wears pants, a direct challenge to Katherine Hepburn's manhood (she's not in this film, the whole pants thing was merely a byproduct of paranoia wrought by McCarthy-ism and a sign of solidarity against the Ku Klux Klan.) Lynch mobs burn things, people are hanged, Johnny plays his guitar once or twice, and the movie ends.
August 14, 2008
I don't really know why this movie has such a decent reputation. Yes, the plot is unusual and Sterling Hayden is fine in the male lead but the problem I had in the movie was the role played by Joan Crawford. Her part just wasn't believable and actually made me laugh. This is because it just isn't consistent--one minute she acts like Ma Kettle on crack, the next a female version of Edward G. Robinson and the next she seems to be in an unconvincing clinch with a man. I wonder if the movie were done nowadays with differing sensibilities that the movie would have been made much differently--with Vienna (Crawford) being cast as a lesbian. As I watched her in the movie, I just kept thinking that maybe that was exactly what the writers had in mind but were afraid to broach the subject in the 1950s. In fact, they seemed to almost "tack on" the romance with Hayden precisely because they were worried that the average viewer might just think she was gay.
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