[[caption-width-right:300:Not your typical Western protagonists.]]

''[=McCabe=] & Mrs. Miller'' is a 1971 [[TheWestern Western]] film directed by Creator/RobertAltman. Altman himself called it an "anti-Western", as it ignored or outright [[SubvertedTrope subverted]] a number of the usual genre conventions. The film at heart is intended as a more realistic portrayal of life in the [[TheWildWest Old West]]; something which one reviewer remarked would be like what a documentary filmaker might make if he traveled back in time to the era and filmed people going about their daily lives.

Starting with being set in the relatively wooded northwestern United States as opposed to the orange deserts of the southwest as most westerns are; professional gambler John [=McCabe=] (Creator/WarrenBeatty) turns up in the tiny town of Presbyterian Church (named after its only substantial building) one day at the start of the twentieth century, and quickly has the entire town under his thumb. He establishes a brothel with three prostitutes purchased from the nearby town of Bearpaw. Not long afterwards, opium-addicted brothel madam Constance Miller (Julie Christie) turns up in town herself and convinces [=McCabe=] that she can do a better job running the brothel than he can, and that she will share the increased profits with him if he lets her do so. He accepts. The two flourish, but then a pair of agents from the Harrison Shaughnessy mining company in Bearpaw arrive seeking to buyout [=McCabe=]'s business. He refuses, trying to drive the price up, but they lose patience and leave town. Miller warns him that the company has a reputation for sending assassins to kill those who won't sell. Sure enough, three gunslingers arrive shortly after.

The film seeks to defy as many of the genre's clichés as possible, being one of the most notable [[{{Deconstruction}} "revisionist Westerns"]]. Life in town is portrayed as dirty and unadventurous, and [=McCabe=] eventually becomes just an obstacle to be shot out of the way by a company wanting to buy property for cheap, with the movie making clear what happens when "little businesses" cross the path of big ones, as well as the role of small middle-of-nowhere frontier towns in society's bigger picture. As mentioned above, it replaces the classic sunny desert setting with a bleak snow-filled landscape and drives the point home with a soundtrack by none other than Music/LeonardCohen. Needless to say, it is gloomy and cynical, but considered by many to be one of the finest movies of TheSeventies.
!!This film provides examples of:

* BigEgoHiddenDepths: While outwardly and when amongst company a blustery, bigger-than-life type of guy, in private [=McCabe=] [[ThinkingOutLoud talks to himself]], saying what he wishes he could say to Mrs. Miller, about the kind of person he really is.
-->'''[=McCabe=]''': I got poetry in me!
* BitchInSheepsClothing: Sheehan, the saloon keeper, seems affable and down-to-earth at first but we quickly see he's a cowardly backstabber.
%%* BlackAndGrayMorality
* CatchPhrase: "If a frog had wings, he wouldn't bump his ass so much, follow me?" and "All you've cost me is money and pain... pain, pain, pain..."
* CrapsackWorld: Altman's vision of TheWildWest is one of loneliness and greed. Happiness is fleeting and tragedy looms around the corner.
* ADateWithRosiePalms: "I'm payin' you boys 15 cents an hour after you've been in them goddamn mines all day so's you'll have something to do at night besides go home and play with Mary Five Fingers!"
* {{Deconstruction}}: Of Westerns.
* DistinctionWithoutADifference: Butler isn't here to kill anybody. He's just here to hunt bear. (Guess who wears a big, shaggy bear coat?)
* DownerEnding: [=McCabe=] dies, cold, quiet and alone, whilst the rest of Presbyterian Church attends to other business. Things aren't exactly peachy for Miller, either.[[note]]Interestingly, the novel's ending is slightly less bleak. [=McCabe=] dies in Mrs. Miller's arms, and she avenges his death by killing Sheehan[[/note]]
* DrinkOrder: To the disgust of several, [=McCabe=] will have his usual whiskey with a raw egg in it.
* FauxAffablyEvil: Butler. Sure, he's an amoral killer, but he's so well-spoken!
* ForTheEvulz: The youngest assassin offers to help a kid with his gun, and then as soon as he reaches for it, draws his own and shoots him. Why? Because he was embarrassed for failing in shooting practice.
* FormerlyFat: Possibly. [=McCabe=]'s reputation asserts his former nickname was Pudgy [=McCabe=]. A townsperson notes "[[CaptainObvious He doesn't look so fat]]".
* TheGhost: [=McCabe=] is hounded by rumors that he killed Bill Roundtree, but no one's quite sure who Bill Roundtree was. Butler later taunts [=McCabe=] by (falsely) claiming "my best friend's best friend was Bill Roundtree."
* TheGunslinger: There's a story circulating that John [=McCabe=] is one ("Pudgy [=McCabe=]"), and that he shot someone called Bill Roundtree. At first it seems like its untrue, but many people interpret [=McCabe=]'s actions in the final scene to be a subtle confirmation of the story.
* TheHeroDies: [=McCabe=] himself at the end.
* HookerWithAHeartOfGold: One of many subverted tropes. Miller and the prostitutes are out for themselves, and themselves only. While it seems like Miller might care for [=McCabe=] a bit more than she lets on, in the end she abandons him.
** And in the context of the film, she is ''justified'' since John made a dumb decision out of DelusionsOfEloquence and pissed off powerful people who could endanger not only [=McCabe=] but her and the prostitutes.
** As she explains herself to Shelley Duvall's character, a mail order bride whose husband was murdered in a petty fight, women in the west are at the mercy of stupid, alcoholic and AxCrazy men and it pays more to work as a prostitute than as a wife and mother, which is a major TakeThat to patriarchal macho society.
* InstantDeathBullet: Averted. After John shoots him, one assassin manages to shoot back twice (and hit him both times) before dying. Another manages to stagger quite a way through the snow before keeling over, and [=McCabe=] himself takes several minutes to die. The only one who dies instantly was shot in the forehead.
* InTheBack: [=McCabe=] takes out two of the assassins by shooting them in the back, and is himself mortally wounded from a rifle shot as he retreats up a hillside.
* LaserGuidedKarma: The blonde punk kills the unarmed Keith Carradine character in cold blood after catching him off guard just for kicks. In the film's climax, [=McCabe=] kills the blonde punk by shooting him in the back, catching him off guard. May count as a KarmicDeath. To make the parallel clear, the film shows each of them floating face-down in water after their respective shootings.
* MailOrderBride: Bart Coyle's wife, Ida.
* MysteriousPast: Upon [=McCabe=]'s arrival in Presbyterian Church, several townspeople speculate as to who he was and his possible reputation as a gunslinger. By the film's end we've only been given a few clues that they were correct, and these ambiguous at best.
* NameAndName
* PopStarComposer: Music/LeonardCohen lent some of his songs to this movie, including "The Stranger Song" and "Sisters of Mercy".
* PyrrhicVillainy: [[spoiler:Butler mortally wounds [=McCabe=] but leaves him alive long enough to get mortally wounded himself.]]
* ShootTheShaggyDog: Not only is [=McCabe=]'s death lonely and sad, but it's ultimately pointless and for a dubious cause. Did we mention this is a {{Deconstruction}} of [[TheWildWest The Western]]?
* SliceOfLife
* SnowMeansDeath: There is a blanket of snow on the ground on the morning of the climactic shootout, and it continues to snow throughout the long scene.
* SoundtrackDissonance:
** The gentle, slightly mournful, "Sisters of Mercy" plays over some of the more distressing scenes.
** A music box version of "Silent Night" plays when [[spoiler:Bart Coyle gets beaten to death, forcing Ida to start working for Mrs. Miller.]]
* TwilightOfTheOldWest: A tombstone confirms that the film is set in 1902, well after what most would consider the classic "Wild West" era.
* YoungGun: One of the assassins hired to kill [=McCabe=].