Film: A Million Ways to Die in the West

A Million Ways to Die in the West is the second full-length theatrical comedy film from Family Guy creator Seth Mac Farlane, after Ted.

The film takes place in Arizona, 1882, where literally Anyone Can Die (even by a splinter). This tale of the west is about Albert (MacFarlane), a sheep herder whose girlfriend (Amanda Seyfried) left him after he chickens out of a duel, but when notorious outlaw (Liam Neeson) arrives in town looking for trouble, the outlaw's runaway wife (Charlize Theron) teaches Albert how to shoot and prove he's got what it takes. The film also stars Sarah Silverman, Giovanni Ribisi, and Neil Patrick Harris.

The film is produced by Media Rights Capital, Fuzzy Door Productions and Bluegrass Films, and was released by Universal Pictures on May 30, 2014. A tie-in novel written by MacFarlane is now available.

This films contains examples of...

  • Abusive Parents: Albert's parents. They don't even care when he was born.
  • The Ace: Foy has money, status, and is a great shot, which are things in which Albert is extremely lacking. He also has a glorious, glorious mustache. Again, Albert lacks this.
  • Action Girl: Anna
  • Aluminium Christmas Trees: There was really a song written in 1864 by Stephen Foster called "If You've Only Got a Moustache".
  • Amusement Park of Doom: "People die at the fair."
  • Anachronism Stew: Basically, what we have here are stereotypically feckless Gen-X Man Children whining about their everyday problems...in the Old West!
    • And in a lesser example, the shooting gallery at the fair has runaway slaves as targets, in a movie that takes place after the American Civil War.
  • Author Tract: It's a Seth Mac Farlane movie. You're going to find something in it that feels a bit preachy.
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: The Native American language is made up of nonsense, such as "Fine" being said as Mila Kunis and "Shit" being said as Zsa Zsa.
  • Ass Shove: Anna puts a flower in Clinch's ass after knocking him out.
  • Badass Mustache: Foy.
  • Badass Preacher and Dark Shepherd: Mentioned, the priest killed a man and then killed that man's son so he couldn't get revenge later. He then did a sermon about it.
  • Bar Brawl: There's one just before Albert meets Anna, caused by Lewis when he shot a man for making him spill his drink. Albert and Edward stay out of the worst of it by pretending to fight amongst themselves, with Edward accidentally hitting him in the face for real.
  • Betty and Veronica: Louise is a kind of girl next door to Albert and Anna is more world-wise.
    • From Louise's perspective, hard working but poor farmer Albert is a Betty to the dapper, moneyed Foy's Veronica. Though this could be seen as a classic Rich Suitor, Poor Suitor situation too.
  • Big Bad: Clinch
  • Birds of a Feather: Part of what makes Albert and Anna so attracted to each other is their strong hatred of the West.
  • Black Comedy
  • Blasting It out of Their Hands: Clinch does it to Albert.
  • Bloody Hilarious
  • Born in the Wrong Century: Albert.
  • Boyfriend Bluff: Variation. Albert and his new friend try to get the woman that left him jealous, leading up to:
  • Brick Joke: While listing off his complaints about the West, Albert hypothesizes that doctors will treat the wound on his face by having a blue jay peck it. During a montage significantly later in the film, Albert's hypothesis is proven to be true.
    • When Albert shows Edward and Ruth the corpse of the mayor on the street, wolves drag him off. The next day, when Anna and Albert meet and she plays fetch with Plugger, he retrieves the chewed off leg of the Mayor.
    • While at the fair, Albert remark that "People die at the fair." The shooting gallery Albert and Anna go to has a very offensive theme (directed towards blacks). At the end of that fair scene, a drink salesman gets gored by a bull, causing Albert and Anna to bleakly remark once again that "People die at the fair." The very last scene of the movie has Jamie Foxx reprising his role as Django shooting the proprietor running the shooting gallery, remarking "People die at the fair." before cutting to the credits.
  • Butt Monkey: Albert.
  • California Doubling: Arizona is played by New Mexico.
  • The Cameo: Doc Brown is found in a barn where he hides the DeLorean from Albert. Also keep a look out for Bill Maher, Ewan McGregor, Ryan Reynolds, Patrick Stewart (as the voice of a sheep.), Gilbert Gottfried as an Abraham Lincoln impersonator, and Jamie Foxx as Django.
  • Canine Companion: After Clinch offs its owner, Anna adopts Plugger, which drives the point further home that she's a cool gal.
  • Character Filibuster: Albert, shockingly, has quite a few of these.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The Diamondback Rattlesnake.
  • Crapsack World: Albert views the west as this. He's not unjustified in thinking so, either.
  • Dark Is Evil: Clinch dresses entirely in black and even has a black horse.
  • Dastardly Whiplash: Downplayed with Foy, who has the attire and the attitude but is The Rival.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Albert.
  • Death by Adaptation: Albert's mother, who is killed early on in the novel by a random cougar attack. As one passing mention is made of her grave, she's also implied to have been killed (possibly by the same occurrence) in the film, but this is never elaborated upon.
  • Deconstructive Parody: The movie seeks to tear down the over-romanticized view people have of the wild West, mainly by showing how dangerous and unsanitary it could be.
  • Disc One Final Boss: Foy. Only after he's dealt with does it become obvious that Clinch is the real Big Bad.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Albert at first. Also, Edward.
  • Don't Explain the Joke: At the end of his duel with Foy, Albert makes a joke to Louise about her having a hairy vagina before marching off. Then he comes back and awkwardly explains his joke (Foy giving Louise cunnilingus) in case the people around didn't get it. A spectator says he gets it.
  • The Dragon: Lewis to Clinch.
  • Epic Fail: Albert tries shooting at a row of bottles to practice shooting, but he can't seem to knock them down even at point-blank range.
  • Establishing Character Moment: In Clinch's first scene, he decides to rob a prospector, then kills him because the man didn't hand over his gold nugget fast enough. In the same scene, Anna decides to adopt the prospector's dog, showing that although she's traveling with a band of criminals, she's not one of them.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Lewis may be evil, but he won't kill a man on his sex night.
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: Pretty much stated word for word regarding the era of the Old West.
    Albert: Everything out here that's not you wants to kill you.
  • Expy: Clinch Leatherwood, only evil.
  • Gold Digger: Louise. It says so on the freakin' poster.
  • Good Bad Girl: Ruth. Also Anna.
  • Guile Hero: Albert Stark may be a lousy shot, but he is clever enough to reason with people to try and settle any disagreements as well. When it's clear that Clinch can't be reasoned with, he fills a hollow bullet with rattlesnake venom, knowing that while he may not be able to fatally shoot Clinch Leatherwood in a duel, he can get close enough to wound him and stall for time long enough for the poison to take effect.
  • Hero of Another Story: Doc Brown.
  • Hilariously Abusive Childhood: If the Tooth Fairy 'lesson' is any indication.
  • Historical-Domain Character: Abraham Lincoln pops up for a cameo in the film, played by Gilbert Gottfried of all people.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Ruth truly loves Edward and is a good friend to Albert and Anna.
  • Hypocrisy Nod: In one scene, Edward pressures Ruth to sleep with him, but she refuses, saying they're both Christians and should wait until marriage. Then:
    Cowboy: Ruth, let's fuck!
    Ruth: Coming!
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Inverted with Albert, who has trouble shooting a bottle an inch away from his gun.
  • Indecisive Parody: This review paints the film as such—there are moments that seem more appropriate for a legitimately dramatic Western, and others (especially the Vulgar Humor) that scream "parody". At times, the two elements seem a bit incompatible.
  • Insane Troll Logic: The chief decides to trust Albert simply because he speaks their language, though the fact he mentions this aloud lampshades this.
  • Intercontinuity Crossover: Doc Brown travels back to the time of this story at one point and Django appears in the stinger.
  • Irony: Albert gives Anna a photograph of a man smiling; they then remark that it takes 30 seconds for a picture to be taken and that he had to smile for 30 sustained seconds. They say that they have never been happy for 30 seconds ever; they are laughing and smiling the entire 2+ minutes of the scene.
  • Knight of Cerebus: Clinch Leatherwood. He's never played for laughs sans one quick sight gag, and even then, that just enrages him beyond his already normal rage.
  • Laxative Prank: Anna does this to Foy, causing him to borrow a guy's hat to take a shit in right in the middle of a gunfight. Twice.
  • List Song: "A Million Ways To Die" by Alan Jackson lists a few ways to die in the West.
  • Loser Protagonist: Albert. He's considered a coward, has parents who barely notice him, can't shoot, and has a job considered shitty by everyone (even he can't do it right).
  • A Man Is Not a Virgin: Unless that man is Edward.
  • Man on Fire: While taking the portraits of a family, the flash powder explodes, setting the photographer and the parents of the family on fire.
  • Mentor Ship: Albert and Anna, who teaches him how to be a good shot.
  • Missing Trailer Scene: The bit with the doctor that accidentally killed his patient and the bit where Albert is in a hot air balloon over a burning forest is not in the film.
  • New Media Are Evil: Parodied. Albert and Edward see a child playing with a stick and a hoop, and claim it's destructive to their developing attention spans.
  • Nice Hat: This is the wild west. Though it does take a turn to the gross by the end of the film.
  • No OSHA Compliance: Actually justified by the time frame.
  • Old Man Marrying a Child: Anna says she was 9 when she married Clinch and had sex with him within a year. It's not stated how much older Clinch is than her, but the fact that he was already an accomplished murderer at the time, plus Albert's Squicked reaction at the whole thing, implies he was already an adult.
    • Considering the actors' ages (Theron is 39, Neeson is 62), this is almost definitely the case.
  • Pet the Dog: Louise proves that, while she may be somewhat smug and prefer money to integrity, she's not exactly bad when she tries her best to talk Foy out of killing Albert in the duel even though Albert himself was the challenger.
    • Also a more literal 'pet the dog' moment when Anna adopts the dead prospector's dog in the beginning.
  • Poisoned Weapons: Albert laced his bullets with rattlesnake venom.
  • Politically Correct History: Inverted. MacFarlane cooks up Politically Incorrect History by taking everything that was bad about the West and making it worse!
  • Quirky Town
  • Reaction Shot: The closest you'll get to a Gory Discretion Shot in this show. Seth MacFarlane's Jaw Drop is an art form in itself.
  • Reality Ensues: Despite having a good teacher, a week is not nearly long enough to make Albert Stark a good enough shot to beat anyone in a duel, especially Clinch Leatherwood. However, he doesn't really need to be, as he is smart enough to dose his bullets with snake venom, and stall long enough in the final duel to poison Clinch to death.
  • Rescue Introduction: Albert meets Anna when he saves her from a falling rail in the Bar Brawl scene. Since the romance takes a while to kick in, it's not really an example of Rescue Romance.
  • Ridiculous Future Inflation: Inverted: When Foy wages a dollar on the shooting match, townspeople don't believe he even has that much money, until he takes it out and shows them.
    "Take your hat off, boy, that's a dollar bill!"
  • Rule of Cool: Doc Brown's presence with the DeLorean. He did travel back to the Old West in Back to the Future Part III, but it was to California in 1885.
  • Running Gag: The sheep on the roof.
  • Scenery Porn: Absolutely gorgeous vistas of the American southwest, notably Monument Valley, enhanced by the thrilling classic-movie-Western-style soundtrack.
  • Shared Universe: With Back to the Future and Django Unchained, though purely through Rule of Funny.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Sleeps with Everyone but You: Ruth is a prostitute who has sex with 10 guys on a slow day, but won't sleep with her boyfriend Edward because she's a Christian and wants to wait for marriage. She does eventually change her mind when it seems like they might soon get killed by Clinch.
  • Smug Snake: Foy.
  • Snake Oil Salesman: One tries to sell Albert and Anna a bottle of patent medicine at the Fair, only to have the two of them tear his claims to shreds by reading the ingredients. Then he gets gored by a runaway bull.
  • Spiritual Successor: To Blazing Saddles, and possibly The Hallelujah Trail.
  • Take That: Quite a few, mostly at the Old West itself and its ways, like hardcore Christianity and the like.
  • Talking Is a Free Action: Averted and parodied; Albert manages to poison Clinch without him realizing, then keeps talking to distract Clinch long enough for the poison to take effect. Once Clinch collapses, Albert explains what he did, only to be informed that Clinch died from the venom before he had a chance to hear the explanation. Albert is clearly disappointed.
  • Technically a Smile: Albert and Anna think the Texan must be insane.
  • Title Drop: Done by Albert to Clinch during his Badass Boast speech after he clips him with a bullet laced with rattlesnake venom.
  • Toilet Humour: The whole laxative incident where Foy gets a serious case of diarrhea, and right before facing Albert in a duel, he steals two cowboy's hats (who don't really seem to care, even if one resists a little) and proceeds to do his business in them in front of the whole town. And then the film actually cuts to the hat ITSELF, showing us how it's filled with...
    • Later, as Albert is hiding from Clinch, a sheep pees on him. The sheep's wiener is shown in all its "glory".
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Albert's rivaling love interests - Anna and Louise.
  • Training Montage: Albert does one in preparation for his duel with Foy.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Albert points out that the Mayor has been lying dead in the middle of the town for several days and no one is doing anything about it, be it investigate the cause of death, bury him, or appoint a replacement. This also applies, much less pointedly, to the many deaths that occur throughout the film, with people staring in horror/interest for a few seconds and then carrying on like any other day.
    (Wolves come in and drag Mayor off)
    Albert: (being sarcastic) Oh, there are the wolves, dragging our mayor off to prove my point! Bye, Mr. Mayor! Have fun being wolf shit!
  • Vulgar Humor: Oh yes. It has sex jokes, prostitute jokes, potty humor, anatomy humor, religious jokes, sudden violent deaths, racial humor, and hypocritical humor.
  • The Voiceless: Albert's mother.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: So about the guy Albert owes money to in the first scene who gives him two days to come up with the cash. He's never seen again, although in a later scene where Edwards says that Albert hasn't left his house in over a week, Albert does mention that he did leave to pay the rancher off.
  • Where Da White Women At?: Django drops this joke after the credits.
  • Wimp Fight: Alfred and Edward invoke this trope during a Bar Fight, to avoid actually fighting anyone. Though Edward messes up and actually hits him. Alfred complains that was not in rehearsal.
  • Why Don't You Just Kill Him?: Obviously, after Anna bashed Clinch's head with a rock to knock him out, she could have easily taken it further and killed him while he was unconscious, thereby avoiding the whole climax.
  • Your Head A Splode: In the scene where a big block of ice is being unloaded, the ropes tear and a worker gets his head smashed.