YMMV / The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

  • Alternate Character Interpretation: Tom Doniphon was a coward. He shot Valance in secret and claimed credit in private, not to ease Stoddard's conscience over killing Valance, but to saddle him with a lifetime of guilt. Stoddard was the one who actually put his life on the line.
    • Rance Stoddard. Did he really come to mourn an old friend to whom he owed much, or is he merely fulfilling an obligation to his wife? Note how he makes no offer to pay for a better coffin or funeral for Tom.
  • Family-Unfriendly Aesop:
    • Our need for heroes seem to outweigh our need for the truth.
    • While Ransom achieved great things for his adopted state - getting statehood, representing in Congress, working as Governor, bringing the roads, schools and gardens to the desert as Peabody envisioned - it still all happened based on a lie.
  • Ho Yay: Valance's sidekick Floyd seems to toady up to Liberty a little too much...
  • Memetic Mutation: This film is the reason that any John Wayne impression will inevitably include the word "Pilgrim."
    • Also, "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend."
  • Misaimed Fandom: The quote about "print the legend" is often seen by moviegoers and critics as John Ford's defense of the "noble lie". However film historians note that this isn't Ford's intentions, since Ford in Liberty Valance showed the "making of the legend" and the consequences, lies and evasions that go into it and what it measn for Ransom to live that lie. As Peter Bogdanovich said, "Ford always printed the truth".
  • Moral Event Horizon: Liberty Valance enters the film with a nasty reputation and violent history, and gets worse as the movie progresses. It's his beating of Peabody to within an inch of the editor's life that riles up Ransom enough to get him to call the gunman out for a duel.
  • Retroactive Recognition: One of Liberty's gang is Lee Van Cleef.
  • Vindicated by History: Contemporary critics treated Liberty Valance as, basically, just another John Wayne movie, though it did well at the box office. Over the years it's become recognized as one of Ford and Wayne's best films.