"When I'm getting serious about a girl, I show her Rio Bravo and she better fucking like it."
Classic John Wayne Western, released 1959.
Director Howard Hawks was disgusted by the way sheriffs had been portrayed in some Westerns, particularly in High Noon, where the sheriff was reduced to begging the townspeople for assistance. Rio Bravo was a direct response to this, a strong sheriff character, with few allies, battling a large gang. The end result turned out to be in the same league as High Noon, as they are considered to be two of the best Westerns of all time.
Plot: Sheriff John T. Chance arrests the brother of a Burdette, a criminal leader, for the murder of an unarmed man. In a town full of Burdette's lackeys, Chance must keep Burdette's brother locked in the jail cell, waiting out the days until the state comes to intervene. He's not completely alone in his quest, as his crippled friend Stumpy guarding the cell, his alcoholic friend Dude, in the process of sobering up, and Colorado Ryan, a new kid on the block, are all aiding him to keep the criminal locked up. Chance's background motivation is a romance with Feathers (Angie Dickenson), which isn't really too interesting.
Dean Martin's character Dude really makes this movie shine. While he used to fight on the right side of the law, the best shot in town, heartbreak turned him into the town drunkard. One of the movie's most potent scenes is the opening, which, with zero dialogue, manages to assign the character roles to all of the lead actors, and more importantly shows the degree of Dude's alcoholism. Shamefully, Dude reaches towards the spittoon, as donation money for his drink has just been tossed in.
The story was remade twice by Hawks, as El Dorado and Rio Lobo, and by John Carpenter as Assault on Precinct 13.