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Rio Bravo (1959)

Not Rated  |   |  Comedy, Drama, Western  |  4 April 1959 (USA)
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Ratings: 8.1/10 from 40,495 users  
Reviews: 183 user | 66 critic

A small-town sheriff in the American West enlists the help of a cripple, a drunk, and a young gunfighter in his efforts to hold in jail the brother of the local bad guy.



(screenplay), (screenplay), 1 more credit »
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Won 1 Golden Globe. Another 1 win & 4 nominations. See more awards »



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Complete credited cast:
Carlos Robante (as Pedro Gonzalez-Gonzalez)
Jake (Stage Driver) (scenes deleted)
Harold (scenes deleted)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Sheb Wooley ...
Cowboy (scenes deleted)


The sheriff of a small town in southwest Texas must keep custody of a murderer whose brother, a powerful rancher, is trying to help him escape. After a friend is killed trying to muster support for him, he and his deputies - a disgraced drunk and a cantankerous old cripple - must find a way to hold out against the rancher's hired guns until the marshal arrives. In the meantime, matters are complicated by the presence of a young gunslinger - and a mysterious beauty who just came in on the last stagecoach. Written by scgary66

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


You've seen nothing like 'em together... and in the heat and hate of Rio Bravo nothing can tear 'em apart! See more »


Comedy | Drama | Western


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

4 April 1959 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Howard Hawks' Rio Bravo  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$5,750,000 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound Recording)



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


This was Howard Hawks' first film in four years. After the critical and box office failure of Land of the Pharaohs (1955), Hawks took a break from directing and lived in Europe. See more »


When Chance goes into Feathers' room after learning she was standing guard outside his room all night, her hair is alternately frayed and neatly styled. See more »


[first lines]
John T. Chance: Joe, you're under arrest.
See more »


Referenced in The Sopranos: Pie-o-My (2002) See more »


Music and Lyrics by Unknown
Performed by Ricky Nelson and Walter Brennan
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Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Western Tai Chi
6 February 2005 | by (New York City) – See all my reviews

When Joe Burdette (Claude Akins) murders a man on a whim, Sheriff John T. Chance (John Wayne) arrests him and puts him in small Texas town's jail. The problem is that the U.S. Marshall is a week away from taking Burdette off his hands, and Burdette's brother, Nathan (John Russell), won't see his brother put away. Complicating the situation even further, Burdette is rich enough to hire a score of thugs, and the only support that Chance has is from a drunk, Dude (Dean Martin), and an elderly crippled man, Stumpy (Walter Brennan).

Rio Bravo is a sprawling pressure cooker. For anyone not used to the pacing of older films, this is not the best place to begin. Uninitiated audiences are likely to find it boring--the plot is relatively simple, and they would likely have a difficult time remaining with Rio Bravo for its 2 hour and 21 minute running time. It's best to wait until one is acclimated to this kind of pacing, so as not to spoil the experience. The film is well worth it.

John Wayne was an enthralling paradox, and maybe no film better demonstrates why than Rio Bravo. He had almost delicate "pretty boy" looks and a graceful gait that were an odd contrast to his hulking height and status as the "action hero" of his day. He speaks little, and doesn't need to, although he is the star and thus the center of attention. He tends to have an odd smirk on his face. Wayne's performance here interestingly parallels the pacing and tenor of the film--that's not something that one sees very often, or at least it's not something that's very easy to make conspicuous.

And he's not the only charismatic cast member. Dean Martin, Ricky Nelson, Walter Brennan and Angie Dickinson are equally captivating. Even when the full blow-out action sequence begins (and that's not until about two hours into the film, although there are a few great shorter action scenes before that), the focus here is still on the interrelationships between these characters, with Brennan the continually funny comic foil, Nelson the suave, skilled youngster, Martin the complex and troubled but likable complement to Wayne, and Dickinson as the sexy, forward and clever love interest.

Director Howard Hawks seems to do everything right. He guides cinematographer Russell Harlan in capturing subtly beautiful scenery--like the mountains in the distance over the tops of some buildings, and a great sunrise shot--and asks for an atmospheric score (such as the repeated playing of Malaguena by a band in the background) that shows that plot points weren't the only element of the film that influenced John Carpenter (who partially based his Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) on this film). But most intriguing is probably Hawks' staging/blocking. You could easily make a study of just that aspect of the film. The characters are always placed in interesting places in the frame, and they're constantly moving in interesting ways throughout the small collection of buildings and streets that make up the town. There is almost a kind of performance art aspect to it. Wayne, for instance, repeatedly touches base at the jail, then picks up his rifle, circles around to the hotel and back, almost as if he's doing some kind of western Tai Chi.

Rio Bravo is nothing if not understated, and as such, it may take some adjustments from modern, especially younger, viewers. But it's a gem of a film, and worth watching and studying.

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