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->''"Injun will chase a thing until he thinks he's chased it enough, then he quits. Same way when he runs. Seems like he never learns there's such a thing as a critter that will just keep comin' on. So we'll find 'em in the end, I promise you. We'll find 'em. Just as sure as the turnin' of the Earth."''
-->-- '''Ethan Edwards'''

''The Searchers'' is a 1956 {{Western}} film directed by Creator/JohnFord, starring Creator/JohnWayne, Jeffrey Hunter, and [[SceneryPorn Monument Valley, Utah]]. It's widely regarded as one of the greatest films ever.

Three years after the end of UsefulNotes/TheAmericanCivilWar, Ethan Edwards (Wayne) rides back to his brother's family homestead in Texas. Ethan is wearing the jacket of a Confederate, and he's reticent about what he did after war, or where he obtained the money he's carrying. He intends to settle down, and to exchange [[{{Subtext}} long]] [[StarCrossedLovers glances]] with his sister-in-law Martha (Dorothy Jordan), but fate has other plans in store for him.

When Ethan rides out with the Texas Rangers to apprehend some cattle rustlers, a Comanche war party attacks the homestead, kidnapping young Debbie (NatalieWood) and murdering the rest of the family. Ethan sets off in pursuit, accompanied by his nephew-by-adoption Martin Pawley (Hunter).

The search drags on for years. Martin decides that he wants to start going steady with his childhood friend Laurie Jorgenson (Vera Miles); naturally, the fact that he won't give up the search for his sister complicates the relationship. Meanwhile, Ethan and Martin find that they don't quite see eye-to-eye on the nature of their real mission: Martin wants to rescue his sister; Ethan wants to kill some Comanche. And as far as Ethan's concerned, if Debbie's been married to one of those "bucks", she's no better than a Comanche...

''The Searchers'' is proof that the [[{{Deconstruction}} Revisionist Western]] didn't begin with Creator/SergioLeone: This was one of the first films to examine the racism underpinning the frontier Indian conflicts.

This film is also a subversion of Creator/JohnWayne's usual persona: rather than a gruff but ultimately kind-hearted cowboy, Ethan Edwards is a conflicted AntiHero with a genuine nasty streak, a man who desecrates Comanche corpses on the off-chance that it will hurt them in the afterlife, and who enjoys firing on retreating enemies a ''little'' too much. Between unfulfilled love and fighting on the losing side of the Civil War, he's become so jaded that he seeks solace in abandoning his humanity -- but finds in the end that he can't do it. Wayne's performance as this character is widely considered the best of his career.

The film is widely influential and highly regarded: the American Film Institute ranked it #12 on their 2007 list of the 100 greatest movies; and #1 on their 2008 list of the ten greatest westerns. If you name [[Creator/MartinScorsese any]] [[Creator/StevenSpielberg famous]] [[Creator/GeorgeLucas director]] born in 1940s (not that there [[Creator/JossWhedon aren't]] [[Creator/QuentinTarantino others]]), they almost certainly have an {{Homage}} to this film somewhere in one (if not more) of theirs.

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!!This film provides examples of:
* AbhorrentAdmirer: "Look", the plain, portly Comanche woman that Martin accidentally marries.
* AccidentalMarriage: Martin Pawley thinks he's buying a blanket from some Indians. Turns out he's married one of them instead, "Look". Ethan Edwards thinks its hilarious. He is also rather nicer to the unexpected bride than her 'husband' despite the fact she's a Comanche.
* AdoptTheDog: Ethan Allen says that, when he finds his niece, he's going to do her a favor and put a bullet in her brain for having lived with the Comanches for so long. When he finally does catch up with her, he takes her up in his arms and says, "Let's go home."
* UsefulNotes/TheAmericanCivilWar: Part of the back story. Ethan Edwards, Reverend Clayton and a number of other characters have served in the Confederate army, Ethan slipping out to avoid surrendering, and the Texans in the film tend to look upon the U.S. Cavalry soldiers as Yankees.
* AnnoyingLaugh: HAWH HAWH HAWH!
* AntiHero: We'll give you one guess.
* ArchEnemy: Ethan Edwards and Scar. [[spoiler:Subverted as the duel between them never materializes and Scar is killed in a random manner by Martin Pawley. Ethan on coming across the body does however scalp it]].
* ArtisticLicenseGeography: The great state of Texas with its fairly distinct landscape is contained in the fairly small Monument Valley, Utah, where Ethan Edwards and Martin spend years circling the same valley over and over again.
* AsLongAsItSoundsForeign: Make that "as long as it sounds Indian." Except for Chief Scar, the Comanches are played by Navajo actors who wear Navajo clothing, dance Navajo dances, and speak the Navajo language (which is not even close to Comanche). RealLife Navajo viewers often laugh at the film because the dialogue often includes BilingualBonus making fun of the casting.
* AtLeastIAdmitIt: Of all the white characters, Ethan Edwards is the most openly racist but as the movie goes on, it turns out that nearly all of them unquestioningly share his views even if they never voice it, even the sympathetic Laurie Jorgensen (who is in love with the part-Cherokee Martin).
* {{Badass}}: Ethan Edwards is a piece of work but he's a Badass, as is Scar and Martin Pawley as well.
* BadassBoast:
--> '''Martin Pawley''': I hope you die!
--> '''Ethan Edwards''': [[CatchPhrase That'll be the day]].
* BarredFromTheAfterlife: A group chasing an Comanche war party finds the grave of a dead Comanche. One man angrily smashes him with a rock but Ethan pulls out his gun and shoots out the corpse's eyes. When asked by a Texas Ranger/Preacher what good that did, Ethan answers that by what the preacher believes, nothing, but the Indians believe that if he has no eyes he can't enter the afterlife and just has to wander "between the winds".
* BelligerentSexualTension: Between Martin and Laurie.
* BigDamnHeroes: Averted. Ethan ''knows'' the rangers can't make it in time to stop the raid on the homestead. He stops to water and rest his horse, visibly worried about what is going to happen to his family. The rest of the rangers ride off, hoping they can make it back in time to save everyone. They don't.
* BilingualBonus: Quite a bit, with both Comanche and Spanish. For instance, Marty at first does not realize that Chief Cicatriz = Chief Scar.
** Mocked in dialogue to hilarious effect.
* BittersweetEnding: Debbie is safe and Martin and Laurie are presumed to live HappilyEverAfter, but according to Wayne biographer Gary Wills, the reason Ethan stays outside the closing door at the end of the movie is not because he feels more at home in the wilderness, but because he knows the primal rage that has sustained him all his life and yet has driven him to madness and alienation will never leave. Realizing that he's reached a dead end psychologically, Ethan decides to go off into the desert to die.
* BookEnds: The film [[OpenDoorOpening opens]] and [[DoorClosesEnding closes]] with a door.
* BrickJoke: Before the battle, Reverend Clayton has to keep telling Greenhill to be careful where he swings his sword. After it's over, Clayton is having a wound on his rear treated, and the doctor asks if it was an arrow or a bullet. Clayton just says "No" while glaring at Greenhill.
* {{Brownface}}: Scar was played by Henry Brandon, a blue-eyed German. The Comanche extras are played by actual Navajo from Monument Valley, Utah (and they speak Navajo instead of Comanche, much to [[TheyJustDidntCare the confused amusement of Comanche moviegoers]]).
* TheCallKnowsWhereYouLive: The raided homestead.
* TheCaptivityNarrative: A modern subversion. The plot motor is whether John Wayne's bitter protagonist will [[AdoptTheDog rescue]] or [[KickTheDog shoot]] his Indian-kidnapped niece once he finally finds her, for the fear that she has been assimilated and tainted by evil savages.
* CavalryOfficer: Pat Wayne as the green Lieutenant Greenhill.
* CatchPhrase: Ethan's "That'll be the day."
** With a dose of MemeticMutation: it directly inspired Buddy Holly's song of the same name, for example. This also happens to be the first song John, Paul and George of some British rock band you might have heard of ever recorded.
* ChekhovsGun: Lieutenant Greenhill's sabre. See BrickJoke.
* CloudCuckoolander[=/=]TheFool: Mose Harper. Though it's hinted he might not be quite as out there as he [[ObfuscatingStupidity appears to be]].
* CrypticBackgroundReference: Whatever happened to Ethan during the war.
* DarkerAndEdgier: Arguably this is Wayne's bleakest role: it's easy to forget Edwards is a bitter, angry racist and borderline [[TheSociopath sociopath]].
* DeathOfTheHypotenuse: Poor, poor Look.
* DeadpanSnarker: Ethan. But then, this is Creator/JohnWayne we're talking about.
** Scar has his moment of snark, too. See IronicEcho, below.
* DefiledForever: The PoliticallyIncorrectVillain hates all Indians, whether violent or not ([[HalfBreedDiscrimination including his part-Cherokee adopted nephew]]) and thinks that any white female who is raped by an Indian man (in this case, his younger niece) [[StakingTheLovedOne must die]] after being "defiled." There are even some UnfortunateImplications that the other family members of the niece and possibly even the niece herself - would want it that way.
* DeliberateValuesDissonance: The racism endemic in white Texan society in the 1860s and 1870s, where someone being 1/8th Cherokee was still a big deal, is not airbrushed out - even Laurie, one of the most sympathetic characters of the movie, is affected by it.
** That and Laurie telling Martin that Debbie isn't worthy saving after so many years of being a Comanche ''prisoner'' (possibly even forced to have children), and that her own mother would ''want'' Ethan to kill the girl.
* {{Determinator}}: Both Ethan and Martin. Ethan spends ''years'' searching for Debbie after everyone else has lost hope. Martin follows him faithfully through all of it.
--> '''Ethan Edwards''': We'll find her, as sure as '''the turning of the earth'''.
* DeterminedHomesteadersWife: Mrs. Jorgensen, especially in her rousing speech of how this country (which her husband just blamed for the death of his son) will become a good place to live, even if it may take their bones in the ground to achieve it.
--> '''Mrs. Jorgensen''': It just so happens we be Texicans. Texican is nothin' but a human man way out on a limb, this year and next. Maybe for a hundred more. But I don't think it'll be forever. Some day, this country's gonna be a fine good place to be. Maybe it needs our bones in the ground before that time can come.
* DontCallMeSir: Or Uncle Ethan. Or Methuselah.
* DoorClosesEnding: At the end a happy family reunion occurs inside a house, but Ethan realizes there is NoPlaceForMeThere and wanders off to the background desert. Ethan is left literally out of the picture as the door of the house closes and "The End" appears.
* DueToTheDead: Ethan desecrates a Comanche corpse to drive home the point that he's not a nice guy.
* EiffelTowerEffect: The fairly distinct landscape of Monument Valley is seen all over the South.
* EmpathyDollShot: Debbie's doll that Ethan finds in the backyard after the raid.
* EveryoneCallsHimBarkeep: Look. Her real name is Wild Goose Flying in the Night Sky.
* EyeScream: Ethan shoots out the eyes of a Comanche corpse, just on the off chance that the Comanche religion is correct about people being unable to enter paradise without eyes.
* TheFool: Mose Harper. Indeed, some film critics describe him as a kind of archetypical "holy fool".
--> '''Mose Harper''' (in the middle of a gunfight): For that which we are about to receive, I thank thee O lord!
* FreezeFrameBonus: Blink and you'll miss it, but the tombstone (of Ethan's mother) that Debbie hides next to reveals the source of Ethan's glaring hatred for Comanches. The marker reads: "Here lies Mary Jane Edwards killed by Comanches May 12, 1852. A good wife and mother in her 41st year."
* FreudianExcuse: Chief Scar, whose son was killed by whites.
* GoingNative: [[spoiler: Debbie assimilates into Comanche life in order to survive. This is the thing Ethan fears most, and considers killing her.]]
* GoodShepherd: Rev. Capt. Samuel Johnston Clayton.
* GoryDiscretionShot:
** We don't see the bodies of the family. Ethan stops Martin from going inside. He hits the hysterical boy to keep him from going inside and tells Mose "Don't let him go in there, Mose. It won't do him any good."
** Most notably when the film doesn't show Lucy's corpse. Ethan initially tried to lie and avoid telling her beau what happened:
--> '''Ethan Edwards''': What do you want? Draw you a picture? Don't ask, as long as you live.
* GrayAndGreyMorality: One of the grayest westerns of the "classic era" in terms of dealing with the psychology and cultural attitudes in the Frontier in a way that is highly accurate and free of sentiment.
* TheGunslinger: Ethan demonstrates his gun slinging skills at one point.
* HalfBreedDiscrimination: Edwards shows quite a bit of this toward Martin Pawley, who is one-eighth Cherokee.
* HappilyAdopted: Martin has lived with the Edwards family since he was young. They have always treated him with love and accepted him as one of their own. He calls them Aunt and Uncle and considers Debbie to be his little sister.
* HollywoodDarkness: Not very convincing at all, since they're supposed to be way out in the middle of nowhere in the American West, and yet the sky is dark-to-medium blue.
* HopeSpot: Brad discovers a group holding what appears to be Lucy and urges both Ethan and Marty to launch a rescue. Ethan grimly reveals he discovered Lucy's corpse earlier, and it's likely an Indian wearing her dress. [[RoaringRampageOfRevenge Brad doesn't take this news well]].
* IndirectKiss: Martha's tender handling of Ethan's coat is an example of this trope that does not even need to involve her lips.
* IronicEcho: Early in the movie the dog barks a warning as the Comanche raiders sneak up on the Edwards family farm. Near the end, another dog barks out as the rangers close in on the Comanche camp, but Chief Scar does not heed the warning. There is also this:
--> '''Ethan Edwards:''' You speak pretty good American. Someone teach you?
--> ''(later)''
--> '''Scar:''' You speak good Comanche. Someone teach you?
* IWillFindYou: Ethan and Marty, looking for Debbie.
* IWillWaitForYou: Laurie Jorgensen does this for Marty. At first you can even say that "absence makes the heart grow fonder" - contrast her subdued goodbye to Martin when he first sets out after the funeral (they just shake hands) to her exuberant and (by 1870s standards) almost indecent welcome when he and Ethan first return to the Jorgensen homestead a couple of years later.
** This was implied to have been HistoryRepeats for Ethan and Martha. Ethan was away too long and eventually Martha had to SettleForSibling.
* {{Jerkass}} / JerkassFacade: Ethan is genuinely a Jerkass, but he can't quite abandon his humanity like he wants to.
* KickTheDog: When Ethan fires wildly into a buffalo herd, howling, "They won't feed any Comanche ''this'' winter!" Try not to cringe.
** Scar chucks a rock at a dog that won't shut up.
* TheLancer: Marty.
* LetsFightLikeGentlemen: Subverted repeatedly in the fistfight between Marty and Charlie. Which begins with a cute ritual of laying down a piece of wood and spitting over it.
* LivingMacGuffin: Debbie. The whole plot involves finding her.
* LongingLook: A couple of very long exchanged glances are the audience's only clue of Ethan and Martha's feelings for each other.
* {{UsefulNotes/Mexico}}: Ethan has the cross of a Mexican order with him when he returns home ca. 1868; this becomes [[SignatureItemClue important when he gives it to Debbie]] as a present. One can conclude that after the end of the Civil War he spent some time south of the border, fighting either for or against the ill-fated Emperor Maximilian (who was executed in 1867).
* MixedAncestry: Martin Pawley is 1/8th Cherokee. Ethan mocks him for this, but ultimately comes to regard him as a son regardless.
* {{Motif}}: That particular blocking (the sun-drenched desert framed by the shadows of rocks or a building's interior) appears in the first and final scenes, and many times in between.
** Also the way Ethan lifts Debbie into the air in their first scene together, echoed when he lifts her in the climactic/cathartic scene near the end.
* MoodWhiplash: Especially in the 1950s, it must have been quite jarring for the audience to transition from laughing at the apparent comic-relief character Look to seeing her fear when Ethan and Marty put her under harsh questioning where Scar might be to her discovery as one of the victims of the cavalry massacre.
* MusicOfNote: The Music/MaxSteiner score.
* NakedPeopleAreFunny: The scene with Martin in the bath and Laurie.
* NiceHat: Reverend Clayton is very fond of his top hat. When getting ready to gallop the horses to escape the Comanche ambush, he makes sure to tie it down with a handkerchief. When he's yelling at Greenhill, he almost throws it down in the dirt, an stops himself at the last moment.
* NobodyHereButUsBirds: Ethan does a bird whistle when observing the Comanche camp before the FinalBattle.
* NoPlaceForMeThere: Ethan at the end, as he realizes he is no longer welcome with the family he saved.
* NoRespectGuy: Martin, who is being kicked around or laughed at by Ethan most of the time. Though [[spoiler:in the end Ethan warms over to him and leaves everything to him]].
* NobleBigot: Ethan is bigoted toward ''both'' Comanches and Feds.
* NotSoDifferent: Ethan and Scar.
* ObfuscatingStupidity: Okay, so Mose Harper is already kind of a little....not there. But he pretends to be even ''crazier'' in order to escape from his Comanche captors, even eating grass like Nebuchadnezzar.
* ObligatoryWarCrimeScene: They stumble across some of this done by the Comanches early in the film as well as a random Indian woman killed by the cavalry later in the movie. The general point is that on both sides, some HumansAreBastards.
** The second scene foreshadows a similar one in ''Film/LittleBigMan'', featuring the same unit, the 7th Cavalry, and their regimental tune, "Garry Owen".
* OhCrap: Lucy Edwards screams her head off when she realizes the Comanche are about to attack.
* OpenDoorOpening: The film opens with the camera moving through an opening doorway into a panoramic view of the desert. A [[{{Bookends}} matching scene]] of a [[DoorClosesEnding closing door ends the film]].
* PoliceAreUseless: Inverted. When U. S. Cavalry Lieutenant Greenhill tells Texas Ranger Reverend Clayton that their company can't be ready to raid the Comanche camp tomorrow, Clayton just tells him to stay out of their way.
* PoliticallyIncorrectHero: Ethan hates Indians, and he's not shy about expressing it.
* ReturningWarVet: Ethan is a Confederate vet who returns to west Texas in 1868.
* RoaringRampageOfRevenge: Rather brutally averted with Brad. He goes charging off to avenge Lucy and promptly gets gunned down off screen.
* SacredHospitality: Martin asks why Scar didn't kill them while they were in the camp. Ethan muses that it was probably hospitality.
* SaveTheDayTurnAway: After spending years searching for his niece and saving her from the Indian tribe that kidnapped her, protagonist Ethan Edwards lingers in the doorway of his family's house and then leaves, rather than join his family in the house to celebrate the girl's return. Even the shot composition illustrates that Ethan's dark AntiHero tendencies (not to mention the undercurrent of racism that drove his quest) won't allow him to live a normal, happy life.
* SceneryPorn: Did we mention that this was filmed in Monument Valley?
* ScrewTheMoneyIHaveRules: Twice.
** Figueroa returning the money Ethan gave him after he realizes why Ethan wanted to speak to Scar, because he does not want blood money. Not that he didn't know from the get-go that they were planning to kill Scar, but because it appeared that he had unwittingly led the white men to their deaths.
** A little later Martin refuses to become Ethan's heir because his new will cuts out Ethan's surviving blood-relative, Debbie.
* SeekingTheMissingFindingTheDead: Ethan and Martin ride out to find Martin's two sisters, but they soon find the older sister's body.
* ShellShockedVeteran: Ethan Edwards fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War (and its implied he worked as a mercenary in Mexico after the war), its possible that one reason for his crustiness is that he hasn't entirely recovered from war and service.
* ShoutOut: Ethan's gesture in the final scene, gripping his dangling arm, was an imitation of and a tribute to early Western star Harry Carey, whose son, Harry Carey, Jr., worked with Wayne on a number of films, including this one (he plays Brad, and his mother Olive Carey plays Brad and Laurie's mother).
* SignatureItemClue: Ethan gives Debbie his medal at the beginning and years later sees it around the neck of the man believed to have kidnapped her. Debbie reappears soon afterward.
* SleepingDummy: Ethan prepares one at his camp to fool Futterman.
* SpiritualSuccessor: ''Film/TwoRodeTogether'', which is basically ''The Searchers'' revisited as a black comedy. Henry Brandon even plays a Scar-like Indian chief.
* StakingTheLovedOne: Debbie Edwards's own family expect her uncle to kill her after they learn she's been indoctrinated by the Comanches who kidnapped her into becoming their squaw - and they have hardly any regrets, because after all Debbie is now the enemy.
* StandardSnippet: Some of the tunes that John Ford used in many of his films make a reappearance:
** The ballad "Lorena", a favourite of the Confederate Army, for emotional scenes involving Ethan, his sister-in-law Martha, and Debbie.
** "The Bonnie Blue Flag", a Confederate theme tune, is briefly heard at the beginning, as Ethan returns from the Civil War.
** "Yes, We'll Gather by the River", John Ford's favourite hymn, is performed both at the funeral and at the wedding.
** "The Yellow Rose of Texas" is played at the dance before the wedding ceremony.
* StarCrossedLovers: Ethan and Martha. It's purely {{subtext}} in the film, but [[WordOfGod according to a John Wayne interview]], John Ford hinted many times that Ethan may have been the father of Lucy and Debbie. There are many meaningful glances between the two, he kisses her a little ''too'' tenderly on the forehead, and when he returns to find the homestead burning, it's not his brother's name or anyone else he calls out - it's ''Martha.''
* StillWearingTheOldColors: Ethan is first seen wearing a Confederate Army jacket years after the war ended.
* StockholmSyndrome: It gets a little confusing, because at first Debbie says "These are my people" - but then, when her stepbrother sneaks into the Comanche camp to rescue her, she is happy to see him and wants to leave immediately.
* SuicideAttack: [[spoiler: When Brad finds out what happened to Lucy, he charges into the Comanche camp, fully knowing it's a trap.]] Martin tries to stop him, but Ethan knows it's no good. A few shots are heard, and the scene cuts to the next morning when Ethan and Martin continue on, alone.
* ThisIsAWorkOfFiction: Disclaimer during opening credits.
* TokenMinority: Martin Pawley, who is an octoroon (one-eighth) Cherokee.
* TragicBigot: While Ethan Edwards is basically a {{Jerkass}} to everyone, he gains a little sympathy over his hatred of Comanches since a group of them killed his family and took his niece to live as one of them.
* UnresolvedSexualTension: One of the many things in this film is famous for is the completely silent interactions between Ethan and his sister-in-law, which most people interpret as an unspoken form of this trope.
* UnscrupulousHero: Ethan is one of these. He seems quite burnt out by it at the end of the film, however.
* [[CaliforniaDoubling Utah Doubling]]: Monument Valley is not in Texas! But who cares, it's Monument Valley!
* VeryLooselyBasedOnATrueStory: ''The Searchers'' is loosely based on the story of Cynthia Ann Parker, who was kidnapped by a Comanche war party at the age of nine after they massacred her family's settlement. She spent the next 24 years living among the Comanche and almost completely forgot her previous life, marrying a Comanche chieftain and starting a family. She was "rescued" by a band of Texas Rangers at the age of 34, but refused to adjust to life in white society. She escaped and returned to the Comanches at least once, only to be "rescued" again before she fell into a state of depression and died of influenza in 1871.
* VictoriousChildhoodFriend: Or unlucky, considering how long she has to wait-Laurie Jorgensen. When Martin suggests they start "going steady", she pointedly tells him they have been going steady since they were three years old and it was about time he found out about it.
* WeddingSmashers: Martin finally comes home just as Laurie is getting married to someone else. Fisticuffs ensue.
* WillTalkForAPrice: Futterman would talk to Ethan only for money.
* YouAreWhatYouHate: For a racist hatemonger, Ethan Edwards knows a great deal about Comanche rituals and culture, he's far better informed about native tribes and their habits than the part-Cherokee Martin (who was raised among the Settlers). This is {{Lampshaded}} by Scar who notes that Ethan speaks "good Comanche".
* YouHaveWaitedLongEnough: Laurie almost marries someone else, but given that Marty only sent her one letter in about five years that is understandable.
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