Johnny Guitar

Watch Johnny Guitar

"Gun-Queen of the Arizona Frontier! And her kind of men!"
  • NR
  • 1954
  • 1 hr 50 min
  • 7.6  (19,226)
  • 83

Johnny Guitar is a 1954 Western film directed by Nicholas Ray, starring Joan Crawford, Sterling Hayden, and Mercedes McCambridge. The film is a symbolic and psychological interpretation of the western genre and explores themes of gender, power, and identity. Set in the 1880s, the film opens with a group of people gathered at a saloon in the middle of nowhere, waiting for the arrival of a stagecoach. Among them is Vienna (Joan Crawford), the owner of the saloon and a former lover of the local bad boy, the Dancin’ Kid (Scott Brady). The town’s wealthy and influential businessman, Emma Small (Mercedes McCambridge), opposes Vienna’s presence in the town and harbors a deep hatred towards her, suspecting her to be in cahoots with the Dancin’ Kid.

Just as the stagecoach arrives, a gang led by the Dancin’ Kid attacks it, killing the passengers and robbing them of a hefty sum of money. Vienna is accused of being part of the gang and is taken into custody along with the Dancin’ Kid and his men. Emma Small insists on a kangaroo court to try them, and tensions between Vienna and Emma escalate.

Sterling Hayden plays Johnny Guitar, a former lover and accomplice of Vienna who returns to town after several years of absence. Johnny is a strong, silent type who takes a neutral stance in the ongoing conflict between Vienna and Emma. In fact, he seems to have little interest in either of them and instead finds himself drawn to a young woman who works for Emma.

As the tension in the town rises to a boiling point, Vienna begins to take charge of her own destiny and stand up to Emma Small’s tyranny. With the help of Johnny Guitar, she fights back against the forces that seek to destroy her and her livelihood, culminating in a dramatic and explosive finale.

Johnny Guitar stands out as a unique and unconventional western film, subverting many of the genre’s tropes and cliches. While there are shootouts and horseback chases, the film is more concerned with the psychology of its characters and the power struggles between them. The film’s standout performances by Crawford, Hayden, and McCambridge elevate it beyond a simple genre exercise and into the realm of high art.

At its heart, Johnny Guitar is a fiercely feminist film that challenges the patriarchal norms of the western film genre. Vienna is a complex and multifaceted character who refuses to be intimidated by the men around her, and Crawford’s performance is a tour-de-force of raw emotion and steely resolve. The film’s ending, which sees Vienna and Emma Small locked in a fierce battle of wills, is a testament to the power and strength of women in a man's world.

Johnny Guitar received mixed reviews upon its initial release but has since become a cult classic and a beloved film among cinephiles. Its themes of gender and power are as relevant today as they were in 1954, and the film’s exploration of these issues through the lens of the western genre make it a groundbreaking work of cinema.

Johnny Guitar is a 1954 drama with a runtime of 1 hour and 50 minutes. It has received mostly positive reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 7.6 and a MetaScore of 83.

Johnny Guitar
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  • Release Date
  • MPAA Rating
  • Runtime
    1 hr 50 min
  • Language
  • IMDB Rating
    7.6  (19,226)
  • Metascore