It wasn't nominated for any Academy Awards. It was scarcely taken seriously by the critics on its release, and it's never made into the American Film Institute's top 100. But Howard Hawks's "Rio Bravo," which had its premiere half a century ago this month, may be the most popular cult film ever made.
The phrase "cult favorite" conjures up images of wobbly hand-held camera shots and little-known actors. But "Rio Bravo" was shot in glorious Technicolor and starred perhaps the most popular star in movie history. Most cult films are too hip to be popular, and most big hits are too popular to be hip. But "Rio Bravo" is that rarest of films -- both popular and hip.
French director Jean-Luc Godard called "Rio Bravo" "a work of extraordinary psychological insight and aesthetic perception." British film critic Robin Wood wrote, "If I were asked to choose a film that would justify the existence of Hollywood, I think it would be 'Rio Bravo.'" Quentin Tarantino, whose "Pulp Fiction" was also both popular and hip, told an audience at a 2007 Cannes screening of "Rio Bravo" that he always tested a new girlfriend "by taking her to see 'Rio Bravo' -- and she'd better like it!"
John Wayne. He's all that.