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Film: The Outlaw Josey Wales

Set during the aftermath of the American Civil War, The Outlaw Josey Wales follows a man whose whole family was killed, leading him to join a group of Confederate guerrillas to track down the killers. After eventually being sold out, however, he is on the run from bounty hunters and Yankee soldiers (including the group who killed his family). Along the way, while racking up a prodigious body count, Wales meets a group of people whom he reluctantly allows to join him. Hilarity Ensues. And by "hilarity," we mean "murder." This is a Clint Eastwood movie, after all.

Based on the novel Gone to Texas: The Rebel Outlaw Josey Wales, by Forrest Carter. The original printing of the book was less than one hundred copies, but one of those copies was sent to Eastwood...


The Outlaw Josey Wales provides examples of:

  • Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: Two fantastic examples in Wales' confrontations with Ten Bears and Fletcher. (From the latter: "We all died a little in that damned war.")
  • American Civil War: Specifically the carnage in Missouri, where the guerrilla fighting was so vicious by both sides that it was practically a civil war within the Civil War itself.
  • Antihero: Wales himself is a Type 3
  • Artistic License - History: The character of Lone Watie (implied to be a relative of Civil War general Stand Watie). He claims that the Cherokee declared war on the Union because of their sufferings on the Trail of Tears. The Cherokee Nation was actually split among Union/Confederate lines due to preexisting factional warfare; the Confederate-allied Watie faction was in favor of removal to Oklahoma, and many of them had voluntarily relocated there years before the forced removal of the rest.
  • Author Tract: The portrayal of the Union soldiers in the film make it quite apparent that this film and the book it was based on were written by a Southern apologist.
    • Interestingly, although the author of the original book (Asa Earl Carter, writing under the pseudonym Forrest Carter) was both an active segregationist and a member of an independent Klan group, he was actually fairly even-handed in the novel. The Union massacre of surrendering guerrillas, for instance, was an invention of the film. In the book, Carter wrote the Union soldiers as simply accepting the surrender as agreed. Also in the book, the Redlegs were also guerillas (but pro-Union) rather than Union regulars.
  • Bad Ass: Well, the lead is played by Clint Eastwood.
  • Badass Beard / Beard of Sorrow: Josey grows one during the war.
  • Badass Grandpa: Lone Watie
  • Blood Oath: Josey and Ten Bears take a blood oath to seal the "words of iron" peace treaty between the Comanches and Josey's friends at the Turner Ranch and Santo Rio. It is strongly implied, though unstated, that this also makes Josey and Ten Bears Blood Brothers.
  • Bounty Hunter:
    "A man's got to do something for a living these days."
    "Dyin' ain't much of a living, boy."
  • Catchphrase: "I reckon so."
  • Click Hello: This is done twice. First, when Clint Eastwood pulls a "click hello" on Chief Dan George; and later, when Dan George returns the favor, an Indian girl Eastwood freed pulls her own "click hello" on Chief Dan George (again):
    Lone Watie (Chief Dan George): I'm gettin' better at sneaking up on you like this. Only an Indian can do something like this.
    Josey Wales (Eastwood): That's what I figured.
    Lone Watie: You figured?
    Wales: Only an Indian could do something like that.
    [Lone Watie hears a gun cock behind him; turns and sees Moonlight]
  • Due to the Dead: Defied by Josey when two bounty hunters nearly capture him. Josey says "to Hell with them," spits tobacco juice on one and leaves their corpses to be eaten by buzzards.
  • Exact Words
    "You promised me those men would be decently treated."
    "They were decently treated. They were decently fed, decently clothed, and then they were decently shot. Those men are common outlaws, nothing more." This from a US Senator allied to the Redlegs, themselves murderous (but pro-Union) guerrillas.
  • The Film of the Book: Based on a little-known book by Forrest Carter...
    • Which was the pen-name for Asa Carter, infamous segregationist who wrote stuff like the "Segregation Now" speech during The Sixties...
      • And this film (and the novel its based on) still surprises people for its remarkably sympathetic portrayal of Native Americans.
  • Final Battle: Josey and his band's showdown with the Redlegs.
  • Freudian Excuse: The death of Wales' family pretty much gives him a reason to go on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
  • Gatling Good: The US troops used a Gatling mounted on the back of a wagon to kill all the bushwhackers that had just surrendered to them and turned their own guns in
  • Guns Akimbo: Josey
  • The Gunslinger: Well, duh.
  • Hand Cannon: Josey's pair of Walker Colts.
  • Hey, It's That Guy!: One of Wales's many victims is Uncle Leo, here playing a bounty hunter.
  • Hitchhiker Heroes: The film is a good example of the Antihero version.
  • I Surrender, Suckers: Happens twice, once with a couple of amateur bounty hunters (Josey gets help from a wounded buddy with a Hidden Weapon) and again with two particularly stupid mountain men (whom Josey defeats with a road agent's spin).
  • Karma Houdini: The outpost owner who scams Natives and beats Little Moonlight
  • Kick the Dog:
    • When Abe and Lige find Josey and the kid, Lige kicks the wounded (and apparently fevered) kid to shut him up.
    • The two mountain men are interrupted while attempting to rape Little Moonlight.
    • The Comancheros are first seen in the immediate aftermath of attacking the Kansas settlers, killing the men and attempting to rape the girl.
    • And of course, at the very beginning, the Senator's Union soldiers murder all the surrendering guerrillas. Oddly enough, this extra bit of villainy was not in the original novel, which was itself written by the man who came up with the "Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever" speech.
    • A more literal comical Running Gag version is Josey spitting on the "mangy hound."
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: Most of the enemies that Josey kills get at least one kick in immediately before he shoots them.
  • Leitmotif: The Rose of Alabama keeps popping up after the kid sings a bit of it.
  • Magnetic Hero: Josey, he even lampshades it:
    "I suppose that mangy hound's got no place else to go, either."
  • May-December Romance: Lone Watie and Little Moonlight.
  • Names to Run Away From Really Fast: "Name's Anderson. Bloody Bill's what they call me."
  • One-Man Army: Josey at first. It's even the film's Tag Line.
  • Perma Stubble: Josey Wales himself. Eastwood always has some of this in his Westerns but this movie has it at its thickest, straddling the line between Perma Stubble and a Badass Beard. Its probably there to make his scar stand out more.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: The Comancheros' leader stops them gang raping a young woman since it would radically decrease the price they could trade her for. He suggests they rape the old woman instead, since she isn't worth much, but none of them seem to take him up on this.
  • Pre Ass Kicking One Liner: "You gonna pull those pistols or whistle Dixie?"
  • Present Company Excluded: The old woman and Lone Watie do this back and forth at one another when preparing to be attacked by either indians or soldiers, edging into Vitriolic Best Buds.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil
  • Rated M for Manly
    "I had to come back."
    "I know."
  • Reconstruction: The film is essentially an old-style "sagebrush" western incorporating the violence and moral ambiguity of "spaghetti westerns."
  • Real-Life Relative: Clint's son Kyle Eastwood played Josey's son.
  • Retired Badass: Josey attempts to become one of these.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: why Josey signs up with Bloody Bill's troops at the start of the war when the Redlegs killed his wife and son. Subverted by Terill and a reluctant Fletcher who pursue the fleeing Josey Wales fearing the outlaw would continue his rampage after the war's end (when Wales seems more interested in just fleeing to Texas, and is more annoyed by the bounty hunters and soldiers he has to keep killing to survive).
  • Shoot the Rope: This is how Clint Eastwood sends his pursuers downriver.
  • Snake Oil Salesman: One shows up as a Butt Monkey.
  • Spiteful Spit: Clint Eastwood does this on anything that moves.
    • It doesn't always scare away the ones he's spitting on.
  • Wag the Director: In a weird way, the Trope Maker. Early in filming, Clint Eastwood decided that he could do a better job than the original director, Philip Kaufman, was doing. He therefore arranged for Kaufman to be fired and took over the directorial duties himself. This disgusted the Director's Guild of America enough that they created a new rule stating that whenever a film's director is fired, their replacement has to be someone with no previous connections to the film. This is why, nowadays, actors are forced to Wag the Director rather than just outright firing them and directing themselves. More commonly they just hire someone willing to take orders.
  • War Is Hell
  • The Western: While it's mostly an anti-war movie, it's based in the Western theater of the Civil War and contains many of the tropes - Indians, gunmen, settlers, cavalry - found in standard Wild West films. It might rightly be called a "Pre-Western".

Open RangeIndex of Film WesternsThe Ox Bow Incident
The OutsidersCreator/Warner Bros. Pacific Rim
WoodstockUsefulNotes/National Film RegistryThe Deer Hunter
No Deposit No ReturnFilms of the 1970sRobin and Marian

alternative title(s): The Outlaw Josey Wales
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