87 user 46 critic

The Cowboys (1972)

3:12 | Trailer

Watch Now

From $3.99 on Prime Video

Rancher Wil Andersen is forced to hire inexperienced boys as cowhands in order to get his herd to market on time but the rough drive is full of dangers and a gang of cattle rustlers is trailing them.


Mark Rydell


William Dale Jennings (novel), Irving Ravetch (screenplay) | 2 more credits »
4,576 ( 884)
1 win. See more awards »



Learn more

More Like This 

Chisum (1970)
Biography | Western
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  

Cattle baron John Chisum joins forces with Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett to fight the Lincoln County land war.

Director: Andrew V. McLaglen
Stars: John Wayne, Forrest Tucker, Christopher George
Drama | Western
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  

A tough Marshal has a difficult task when his two sons join a gang and rob a bank.

Director: Andrew V. McLaglen
Stars: John Wayne, George Kennedy, Gary Grimes
Big Jake (1971)
Certificate: GP Western
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

In 1909, when John Fain's gang kidnaps Jacob McCandles' grandson and holds him for ransom, Big Jake sets out to rescue the boy.

Directors: George Sherman, John Wayne
Stars: John Wayne, Richard Boone, Maureen O'Hara
Comedy | Romance | Western
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  

A gunhand named Lane is hired by a widow, Mrs. Lowe, to find gold stolen by her husband so that she may return it and start fresh.

Director: Burt Kennedy
Stars: John Wayne, Ann-Margret, Rod Taylor
Adventure | Drama | Western
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  

Marshal Rooster Cogburn unwillingly teams up with Eula Goodnight to track down the killers of her father.

Director: Stuart Millar
Stars: John Wayne, Katharine Hepburn, Anthony Zerbe
Rio Lobo (1970)
Adventure | Romance | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  

After the Civil War, Cord McNally searches for the traitor whose treachery caused the defeat of McNally's unit and the loss of a close friend.

Director: Howard Hawks
Stars: John Wayne, Jorge Rivero, Jennifer O'Neill
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

Ranch owner Katie Elder's four sons determine to avenge the murder of their father and the swindling of their mother.

Director: Henry Hathaway
Stars: John Wayne, Dean Martin, Martha Hyer
The Shootist (1976)
Drama | Romance | Western
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

A dying gunfighter spends his last days looking for a way to die with a minimum of pain and a maximum of dignity.

Director: Don Siegel
Stars: John Wayne, Lauren Bacall, Ron Howard
True Grit (1969)
Adventure | Drama | Western
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

A drunken, hard-nosed U.S. Marshal and a Texas Ranger help a stubborn teenager track down her father's murderer in Indian territory.

Director: Henry Hathaway
Stars: John Wayne, Kim Darby, Glen Campbell
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  

After the Civil War, ex-Confederate soldiers heading for a new life in Mexico run into ex-Union cavalrymen selling horses to the Mexican government but they must join forces to fight off Mexican bandits and revolutionaries.

Director: Andrew V. McLaglen
Stars: John Wayne, Rock Hudson, Antonio Aguilar
McLintock! (1963)
Certificate: Passed Comedy | Romance | Western
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

Wealthy rancher G.W. McLintock uses his power and influence in the territory to keep the peace between farmers, ranchers, land-grabbers, Indians and corrupt government officials.

Director: Andrew V. McLaglen
Stars: John Wayne, Maureen O'Hara, Patrick Wayne
The War Wagon (1967)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  

The story of a man who was shot, robbed and imprisoned who returns to steal a large gold shipment from the man who wronged him. The gold is transported in an armored stage coach, the War Wagon.

Director: Burt Kennedy
Stars: John Wayne, Kirk Douglas, Howard Keel


Cast overview, first billed only:
John Wayne ... Wil Andersen
Roscoe Lee Browne ... Jebediah Nightlinger
Bruce Dern ... Long Hair
Colleen Dewhurst ... Kate
Alfred Barker Jr. Alfred Barker Jr. ... Fats - Cowboy
Nicolas Beauvy Nicolas Beauvy ... Dan - Cowboy
Steve Benedict Steve Benedict ... Steve - Cowboy
Robert Carradine ... Slim Honeycutt - Cowboy
Norman Howell ... Weedy - Cowboy (as Norman Howell Jr.)
Stephen R. Hudis ... Charlie Schwartz - Cowboy (as Stephen Hudis)
Sean Kelly Sean Kelly ... Stuttering Bob - Cowboy
A Martinez ... Cimarron - Cowboy
Clay O'Brien ... Hardy Fimps - Cowboy
Sam O'Brien Sam O'Brien ... Jimmy Phillips - Cowboy
Mike Pyeatt Mike Pyeatt ... Homer Weems - Cowboy


When his cattle drivers abandon him for the gold fields, rancher Wil Andersen is forced to take on a collection of young boys as his drivers in order to get his herd to market in time to avoid financial disaster. The boys learn to do a man's job under Andersen's tutelage; however, neither Andersen nor the boys know that a gang of cattle thieves is stalking them. Written by Jim Beaver <jumblejim@prodigy.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


All they wanted was their chance to be men...and he gave it to them. See more »


GP | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »





English | Spanish

Release Date:

13 January 1972 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Cowboys See more »

Filming Locations:

Durango, Colorado, USA See more »


Box Office


$6,000,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (35 mm prints)| 70 mm 6-Track (70 mm prints)| 4-Track Stereo (some 35 mm prints)


Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.20 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


As Wil Anderson is berating one of the boys for not yelling loudly enough while Slim is drowning, he says "Tryin' don't get it done." This echos John Waynes line, "Tryin' don't get it done, Dude" to Dean Martin's character in Rio Bravo (1959). See more »


When Cimarron breaks Crazy Alice, he is holding the rein in his left hand in the long shots, and in the close up shots it's in his right hand. See more »


Wil Andersen: Now I don't hold jail against you, but I hate a liar.
See more »

Alternate Versions

When the film was originally released in the UK it carried a 'AA' rating, preventing an under-14 year old audience from seeing the movie. When the distributors asked the UK censor if this could be changed he suggested removing the scene with the wagon full of prostitutes, thus deleting Colleen Dewhurst's entire role in the film, and in doing so the film was re-certified with an 'A' rating (suitable for all). Additionally cuts were made to tone down some of the more violent scenes including the fight between Wil and Long Hair, the shooting of Wil, and a man being dragged by his horse. Later cinema showings and all video versions restored the Colleen Dewhurst scene but retained the violence cuts (totalling 1 min 30 secs). For the upgraded 12-rated 2005 DVD the film was passed fully uncut. See more »


Remade as The Cowboys See more »


Guitar Concerto in D, 2nd movement (Largo)
Written by Antonio Vivaldi
Played by Slim and also heard during a scene of the drive
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

Above average , enjoyable western with a great cast and awesome John Wayne as a tough cattle rancher
26 January 2017 | by ma-cortesSee all my reviews

Wayne stars an upright cattle rancher , Wil Andersen ; when his cattle drivers abandon him for the gold fields , he is forced to hire 11 school boys (Sean Kelly , Clay O'Brien , A. Martínez , Robert Carradine film debut , among others) whose ages ranging from 9 to 17 to help him drive his cattle 400 miles to market . As the pre-teenaged boys in New Mexico Territory fight off grownup cattle rustlers under the tutelage of rancher Wil (John Wayne who strides the flick like a dinosaur) and his helper Jebediah Nightlinger (Roscoe Lee Browne) . As they are recruited to work for the cattle rancher , all they wanted was their chance to be men and he gave it to them . But they are pursued and finally attacked by a group of rustlers led by Long Hair (Bruce Dern). With Wil Andersen and ranch-hand Mr. Nightlinger as father figures , as they wet-nursing an entire crew of sub-teenagers on a cattle drive , as the boys learn to become men through hard work , discipline and the usual Western battles with robbers .

Nice and agreeable western with a great cast and a sensational John Wayne against his nemesis magnificently played by Bruce Dern in one of his meatiest roles as the villain . Top-notch Western packs clever plot , thrills , family feeling , slightly stylized action , shoot'em up , and turns out to be pretty entertaining ; in spite of the over-sentimentality inherent in this project produced/directed by Mark Rydell . Besides , it contains good feeling as friendship , faithfulness , companionship , and enjoyable father-adopted sons relationship . And the results make extremely amusing and thundering entertainment . Furthermore , an anti-racism subtext on Roscoe Lee Browne role was written into the script in response to ongoing criticism of John Wayne , it makes this one of Wayne's better Westerns . Wayne's image still remained impervious during the seventies surviving through an overlong career . Wayne unmistakeably a legendary figure of the West and by that time he would go playing good Westerns , as he triumphantly survived his own era with titles as ¨True grit¨ in which he won an Academy Award ,¨Big Jake¨, ¨Train robbers¨ , ¨Rooster Cogburn¨ , his last film ¨The Shootist¨, and ,of course , this ¨The cowboys ¨ . In some ways is a companion movie to posterior ¨Cahill , United States Marshal¨ also involved John with kiddies . The screenplay is plain and simple , with a conventional plot , but ultimately gets overcome . Gorgeous outdoors with decent production design , shot on location in Castle Rock , Durango Colorado , Chama , Galisteo , New Mexico , Sonoita , Elgin , Arizona , and Empire Ranch , Arizona . Colorful and spectacular cinematography in Panavision by Robert L. Surtees . Rousing and emotive musical score by John Williams in his ordinary style . And you'll love both the lightning unexpected finale and the performance of Roscoe Lee Browne as Wayne's friend and food supplier . It inspired the TV series with similar cast as Robert Carradine , A Martínez , Sean Kelly , Clay O'Brien and Moses Gunn as Jebediah Nightlinger .

This well-paced film was compellingly directed by Mark Rydell . Pic contains Rydell's usual themes as familiar feeling , a little bit of charming humor , friendship and and sense of comradeship among people . Mark does the human touch and full of insight that accompanied him during most of his films and the story develops pleasantly in large frames with an interesting plot and fully adjusted to the requirements of the action . Mark Rydell directed a lot of films as ¨Even Money , ¨Crime of the century¨ , ¨Intersection¨, ¨For the boys¨ , ¨Harry and Walter go to N.Y.¨, ¨Cinderella Liberty¨ and ¨The ¨Reivers¨, though his winning years were the 70s and 80s with successes as ¨The rose¨(79) , ¨On Golden pond¨ (81) , ¨The river¨(84) and this ¨The cowboys¨ .

3 of 3 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 87 user reviews »

Contribute to This Page

Stream Popular Action and Adventure Titles With Prime Video

Explore popular action and adventure titles available to stream with Prime Video.

Start your free trial

Recently Viewed