John Wayne was one of the greats of the golden age of Hollywood, appearing in 179 movies in a career that spanned decades. His first performances were in the silent films of the 1920s and his career continued right into the 1970s and until his death in 1979. 

His first leading role came in The Big Trail in 1930, and from then on, John Wayne never played a bit part again starring in 142 motion pictures as the leading man or principle character. With so many movies under his belt, one would expect multiple Oscar awards from such a long and illustrious career. Surprisingly this never happened.

So for which film did John Wayne win his only Oscar? The answer is that it was True Grit. This critically acclaimed film starred Wayne as US marshal Rooster Cogburn , a drunken one eyed marshal who became an unlikely hero when he helped a young girl avenge the murder of her father.  If you haven’t seen it, this is a great movie that well deserves a viewing. 

True Grit was directed by Henry Hathaway and released in 1970. It was nominated for the 42nd Academy Awards and was a popular nomination. Surprisingly John Wayne, the star of so many blockbuster movies had never previously won an award.  But True Grit with its interesting portrayal of a tough character with a conscience certainly deserved it. 

Wayne reprised the role in Rooster Cogburn (1975) playing opposite Katharine Hepburn and although this film was enjoyable it did not win any awards second time around. 

So for which film did John Wayne win his only Oscar is a difficult question for many movie buffs.  The Searchers (1956) is now considered the best western ever made but did not win any awards for John Ford the director or stars at the time.  Other Westerns such as Stage Coach (1939), Red River (1948) and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) are still well known films but did not win any awards

John Wayne specialised in westerns but he was also a star of war films and any movie that required a tough macho hard man in the leading role. However he was not a one dimensional as an actor as is often claimed. His final role was in a movie called The Shootist (1976) where he played an aging hitman struggling with cancer. The story line reflected John Wayne’s real life as he was to die from cancer just three years later.

So for which film did John Wayne win his only Oscar is a fairly academic question. Even now, decades after his death, his name lives on in movie history and he is still a well-known star. And just because he never won an Oscar more than once, does not take away the fact that John Wayne is still one of the best known Hollywood icons in the world.