In a recent interview, George Lucas has stated the following:

I said, ‘Yeah, he should be John Wayne.’ And when you’re John Wayne, you don’t shoot people [first] — you let them have the first shot.

John Wayne has been in a LARGE number of movies, I have a very hard time believing he has never shot first. Therefore my question is thus:

Has John Wayne ever shot someone first?

I'm not going to add any qualifiers except that it must be a shot at another being - warning shots do not count. I would prefer a Western Era film, but I'll take a War Movie as well. Punches DO count (I am not a John Wayne expert but I believe there was a scene in the movie McClintock(?) that pretty much fits this bill) as we are going to the (ahem) 'mythological reality' of the situation which has more to do with intent/character of the person then with the actual physical action being portrayed.

Not that I want there to be, but I am sure that somewhere out there evidence must exist that proves Lucas wrong.

  • In McClintock he shoots a grouse that was "coming right for him" but I don't recall him shooting anyone. He mostly just punches them.
    – user7812
    Dec 2, 2015 at 19:48
  • 1
    @Richard Yeah I was using that to explain why 'punches count' because Lucas is clearly speaking about John Wayne's character traits as they are portrayed on film as to why Solo is like him.
    – Mark
    Dec 2, 2015 at 19:49
  • @Richard OMG!! A grouse "coming right for him" ROFL!! Dec 3, 2015 at 17:31

2 Answers 2


The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

This is a truly great movie that I would recommend to anyone. Depending on your definition of "shot first" this movie might be on topic.

John Wayne shoots a bad guy from the shadows, and everyone thinks Jimmy Stewart's character killed the villain. The villain shot Jimmy Stewart a couple of times before John Wayne acted, so John Wayne was saving/defending Jimmy Stewart. He did it in secrecy though and the villain never saw John Wayne.

As you can see this more of a "dry gulch" or assassination than a pure "shoot first" like when Indiana Jones brought a gun to a sword fight.

The Sons of Katie Elder

Here is another good movie, but it isn't in the same class as The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. This movie features a scene where John Wayne walks up on a villain drowning a guy and whacks him in the face with a stick. This is a similar thing where John Wayne defends someone else who is in danger without warning. Later in the movie there is a scene where the brothers are fighting. I don't recall if John Wayne starts that fight or if Bud does.

Big Jake?

Here is another one where he whacks a guy with a stick before giving the guy a chance to respond. He isn't saving anyone from immediate bodily harm either.

I'm sure I could go on, but the point is clear. John Wayne will attack a person without warning if he feels that is needed.


In Big Jake (1971) THE FILM for which he would have deserved an Academy Award more than for True Grit (1968), Duke guns down a gunfighter while taking a shower, before the guy has a chance to pull the trigger to kill him. The killer (Roy Jenson) didn't see it come as his target was taking a shower with his longjohns and his Greener.

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  • This is almost EXACTLY what happens in Star Wars! Perfect answer.
    – Mark
    Apr 9, 2018 at 12:52
  • I guess that iconic scene inspired George Lucas like the gimmick "I thought you were dead", repeated many times to John Wayne during the course of the movie, inspired John Carpenter for Escape from New York. Apr 9, 2018 at 13:42
  • Except that Lucas said the opposite - Han Solo would never shoot first like John Wayne would never shoot first. Except you proved here that he did, when someone was holding a gun on him (exactly as Greedo was in ANH).
    – Mark
    Apr 9, 2018 at 17:35
  • Yeah and later during the suspenseful climax, it's again Duke Wayne who opens fire on the bad guy holding his granson at gun point. Apr 9, 2018 at 18:15
  • I mean, considering the Falcon as Solo's grandson is not that much of a stretch, so that's a pretty good comparison too.
    – Mark
    Apr 9, 2018 at 18:22

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