Rio Bravo

Critics Consensus

Rio Bravo finds director Howard Hawks -- and his stellar ensemble cast -- working at peak performance, and the end result is a towering classic of the Western genre.

100%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 40

91%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 23,830
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Movie Info

Set in Texas during the late 1860s, Rio Bravo is a story of men (and women) and a town under siege. Presidio County Sheriff John T. Chance (John Wayne) is holding Joe Burdette (Claude Akins), a worthless, drunken thug, for the murder of an unarmed man in a fight in a saloon -- the problem is that Joe is the brother of wealthy land baron Nathan Burdette (John Russell), who owns a big chunk of the county and can buy all the hired guns he doesn't already have working for him. Burdette's men cut the town off to prevent Chance from getting Joe into more secure surroundings, and then the hired guns come in, waiting around for their chance to break him out of jail. Chance has to wait for the United States marshal to show up, in six days, his only help from Stumpy (Walter Brennan), a toothless, cantankerous old deputy with a bad leg who guards the jail, and Dude (Dean Martin), his former deputy, who's spent the last two years stumbling around in a drunken stupor over a woman that left him. Chance's friend, trail boss Pat Wheeler (Ward Bond), arrives at the outset of the siege and tries to help, offering the services of himself and his drovers as deputies, which Chance turns down, saying they're not professionals and would be too worried about their families to be good at anything except being targets for Burdette's men; but Chance does try to enlist the services of Wheeler's newest employee, a callow-looking young gunman named Colorado Ryan (Ricky Nelson), who politely turns him down, saying he prefers to mind his own business. In the midst of all of this tension, Feathers (Angie Dickinson), a dance hall entertainer, arrives in town and nearly gets locked up by Chance for cheating at cards, until he finds out that he was wrong and that she's not guilty -- this starts a verbal duel between the two of them that grows more sexually intense as the movie progresses and she finds herself in the middle of Chance's fight. Wheeler is murdered by one of Burgette's hired guns who is, in turn, killed by Dude in an intense confrontation in a saloon. Colorado throws in with Chance after his boss is killed and picks up some of the slack left by Dude, who isn't quite over his need for a drink or the shakes that come with trying to stop. Chance and Burdette keep raising the ante on each other, Chance, Dude, and Colorado killing enough of the rancher's men that he's got to double what he's paying to make it worth the risk, and the undertaker (Joseph Shimada) gets plenty of business from Burdette before the two sides arrive at a stalemate -- Burdette is holding Dude and will release him in exchange for Joe. This leads to the final, bloody confrontation between Chance and Burdette, where the wagons brought to town by the murdered Wheeler play an unexpected and essential role in tipping the balance. ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi

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Cast

John Wayne
as Sheriff John T. Chance
Dean Martin
as Dude ('Borachón')
Ricky Nelson
as Colorado Ryan
Ward Bond
as Pat Wheeler
John Russell
as Nathan Burdette
Claude Akins
as Joe Burdette
Bob Steele
as Matt Harris
Bing Russell
as Cowboy murdered in saloon
Myron Healey
as Burdette Henchman in Saloon
Eugene Iglesias
as 1st Burdette man in shootout
Fred Graham
as 2nd Burdette man in shootout
Tom Monroe
as Henchman
Riley Hill
as Messenger
Bob Terhune
as Charlie the Bartender
Joseph Shimada
as Burt, Funeral Director
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Critic Reviews for Rio Bravo

All Critics (40) | Top Critics (8)

  • The movie is simultaneously an apogee of the classic Western style, with its principled violence in defense of just law, and an eccentrically hyperbolic work of modernism, which yokes both bumptious erotic comedy and soul-searing rawness to the mission.

    Apr 23, 2013 | Full Review…
  • To watch Rio Bravo is to see a master craftsman at work. The film is seamless. There is not a shot that is wrong. It is uncommonly absorbing, and the 141-minute running time flows past like running water.

    Apr 23, 2013 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…
  • Wayne, of course, walks off with the show -- not by doing anything in particular, but simply by being what he is: at 51, still one of the most believable he-men in Hollywood.

    Apr 27, 2009 | Full Review…
    TIME Magazine
    Top Critic
  • Rio Bravo is a big, brawling western.

    May 13, 2008 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Variety
    Top Critic
  • Howard Hawks's finest western (1959), and perhaps his finest film.

    May 13, 2008 | Full Review…
  • Despite its slickness, virility, occasional humor and, if it may be repeated, authentic professional approach, it is well-made but awfully familiar fare.

    Mar 25, 2006 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Rio Bravo

  • Nov 19, 2016
    Excellent. One of the best westerns out there. The team of Martin in Wayne is just fantastic. Check this out!
    Stephen S Super Reviewer
  • Jun 21, 2014
    It's Dean Martin, Ricky Nelson and, of course, the most dynamite musician of all, Mr. John Wayne, pilgrims. This is a weird cast line-up for a western, which could have just stuck with the singer theme, but seriously, what, were they just supposed to not involve John Wayne in this western? As long as this film is, Wayne would had to have showed up eventually, which is where "High Noon" really blew it when it was trying to get Wayne in the lead role... which was probably a little more compelling because Gary Cooper didn't play the same John Wayne role that you couldn't get rid of in the western film industry of '50s. ...No, I'm kidding; there's no getting tired of that good old-fashioned John Wayne charm, especially when it combines with that good old-fashioned Dean Martin charm. Wow, this sounds like one seriously charismatic duo, as well it should be, because two-and-a-half hours might just be a little too long for John Wayne, or at least that's probably what they thought back in 1959, a little bit before Wayne decided to really challenge that theory. Well, folks, this film is at least less overlong and exhausting than "The Alamo" and "The [u]Longest[/u] Day", which is probably why it's so endearing, you know, outside of that good old-fashioned John Wayne and Dean Martin Charm. With that said, while this film isn't exactly two-and-a-half hours wasted, if it isn't Wayne's voice, then something ought to try your patience. It's debatable just how refreshing the film is in certain places, but it's even harder to deny the film's still often devolving to conventions, with little to say that's new in the unraveling of a story that makes matters worse by taking from melodramatic roots. As with many westerns of this nature, melodramatics play an instrumental role in driving a very Hollywood narrative, and that's fine, but for only so long, before it becomes a touch too obvious that the near-overwrought histrionic plotting seems to be attempting to compensate for natural shortcomings. This is a less adventurous and more intimate Hollywood western that has plenty of intrigue on paper, but also has plenty of natural shortcomings and minimalisms which probably shouldn't be crafted into something of a pseudo-epic. At just shy of two-and-a-half hours, the film tends to seriously outstay its welcome, meandering along with expendable material, as well as potentially dismissible material that seems to be forcibly clung onto the narrative, usually as those aforementioned histrionics. All of this dramatic bloating and structural dragging aren't especially severe issues, but they're recurrent throughout a questionably hefty runtime, and that tires your patience about as much as the times in which, of all things, storytelling falls flat, not just with the thin spells to characterization or anything like that, but with certain thin spells to direction that are near-blanding, and all too often distancing in their sense of stylistic laziness. There's something vacant about this film, and that's a shame, because this film could have done a lot with its length, rather than laze through it, with too much familiarity, bloating and thinness to truly thrive. Still, no matter how much potential goes betrayed, it is still done enough justice to make a pretty decent, and even well-produced western. The production value of this particular, light-scale western is a little too subtle to be especially outstanding, but it is there, orchestrated by art director Leo K. Kuter in a tight fashion that is distinguished enough to draw you into the environment and draw this world about as, if not more colorfully than Jules Furthman's and Leigh Brackett's script. Well, perhaps the art direction does a more consistent job of selling the film, as the screenplay is formulaic, melodramatic and, of course, overblown, but it is still nonetheless clever, with some humor and memorable characterization, in addition to biting dramatic highlights that rally shine a light on the story concept's potential, no matter how limited. The 142-minute runtime wouldn't be as unreasonable as it very much is if the story concept was meaty enough to be more worthy of meaty ambition, which is still not unreasonable itself, as there is still a potential to this intriguing and sometimes colorful portrait on a sheriff's struggles on a path to fulfill justice, and the script, no matter how flawed, does more justice to such potential than Howard Hawks' direction. Hawks seems to understand the limitations of this drama, and therefore feels flat in enough ways for momentum to be retarded to the point of losing reward value, but when Hawks wakes up, momentum is restored, at least enough to entertain, with some effective highlights in genuine tension that actually use the cold storytelling effectively in establishing a certain quiet intrigue. Make no mistake, more than anything, the directorial highlights beget entertainment value that is still pretty limited in the long run, but it's not the only highlight, of which there are enough spread out throughout the near-two-and-a-half-hour runtime for the final product to border on rewarding, at least on the back of what is arguably the most consistently strong aspect. The acting is pretty decent, maybe even solid, for what it is, and while there isn't much to do here, whether it be Angie Dickinson as an intriguingly mysterious woman, or Walter Brennan as the colorfully chatty old deputy, or Dean Martin as a more frustrated and flawed man of justice, or John Wayne as a more soberly engaging, yet also flawed man of justice, there is deliverance across the board, as well as chemistry. Although the film boasts the length of an epic, it's about its characters, and their interactions, and no matter how flat the storytelling is, the performances have heart, of which there is still enough in other areas of filmmaking to make the final product endearing, even though it could have been more. All in all, there's little that's new and plenty that's melodramatic in the draggy and often lazy-feeling telling of a story of only so much meat, thus, the final product falls as underwhelming, but not so deeply that production value, writing highlights, direction highlights and across-the-board enjoyable performances fail to drive Howard Hawks' "Rio Bravo" as a plenty entertaining, if plenty flawed western classic. 2.75/5 - Decent
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • Mar 06, 2014
    The John Wayne/Angie Dickinson romance is entirely unbelievable, but just about everything else is a fine example of Hawks' singular talent for directing. Also, I was surprised Martin had the chops to pull off this complex of a performance.
    Alec B Super Reviewer
  • May 16, 2013
    "Rio Bravo" has John Wayne, Dean Martin and Howard Hawks all at the top of their game, resulting in one of the best Westerns to emerge from Hollywood's Golden Age. The humor is great, the action is exciting and Hawks' direction is light and appealing. Also, Walter Brennan is hilariously idiosyncratic in his supporting role. Stumpy will go down as one of cinema's most memorable characters.
    Stephen E Super Reviewer

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