William Munny has a gun in his hands. This is bad for anyone who isn't William Munny... actually, no, it's bad for him, too.
"It's a hell of a thing, killing a man. Take away all he's got... all he's ever gonna have."
A Western from 1992, written by David Peoples
, produced and directed by and starring Clint Eastwood
In the town of Big Whiskey, normal people are trying to lead quiet lives. Cowboys are trying to make a living. Sheriff Little Bill Daggett (Gene Hackman
) is trying to build a house and keep a heavy-handed order. The girls of the town's brothel are just trying to get by. But when two cowboys cut up one of the brothel's girls, who goes by the name of Delilah Fitzgerald (Anna Levine), the prostitutes are not satisfied with Little Bill's justice and put out a $1,000 bounty on the heads of both cowboys, Quick Mike and Davey Bunting.
William Munny (Eastwood) is a Retired Gunfighter
. Formerly a notorious cold-blooded killer, Munny was persuaded to give up his murderous ways
by his late wife Claudia and became a farmer, living in peace with their two children. However, he is drawn back into a life of killing when Gunfighter Wannabe
the Schofield Kid (Jaimz Woolvett) offers to split the reward on the bounty, and Munny accepts to alleviate his family's financial difficulties. Together with his old partner Ned Logan (Morgan Freeman
), Munny and the Kid set off on one last job, and in the process run foul of Little Bill. In the ensuing hostilities, the ruthless demon that laid dormant within Munny is unleashed with a vengeance.
A Japanese Foreign Remake
starring Ken Watanabe
was released in September of 2013.
Provides Examples Of:
- The Alcoholic: Munny used to be one; he was drunk during his most famous exploits.
- Animals Hate Him: When he cannot mount his own horse, William Munny claims that his horse is taking revenge on him because he was mean with all the animals in his past. See Badass Boast to know how much Munny had mistreated and killed animals.
- The Atoner: Munny honestly attempts to live a life that would be pleasing to his departed wife, never touching alcohol and even forbidding his children from cussing. But his dire financial situation pushes him back into his gunslinging ways, and he goes over the edge completely after Ned's death.
- Badass: William Munny. He walks into a bar full of armed men intent on killing him, alone, kills five of them, and walks out unharmed.
- Badass Boast: "Alright, I'm comin' out. Any man I see out there, I'm gonna kill em! Any sumbitch takes a shot at me, I'm not only gonna kill him, I'm gonna kill his wife, all his friends, (and) burn his damn house down!"
- Badass Grandpa: While not technically a grandfather, William Munny is more than old enough to be one.
- DEFINITELY Little Bill, who's even older than Munny. Just watch him when he stares down the barrel of Munny's shotgun and calmly tells his men to kill Munny after he's dead. No matter what you think of him, the man has INCREDIBLE balls.
- Band of Brothels: When one of theirs is maimed by a bad john, the working girls pool their resources and put a bounty on the wrongdoers' heads, kicking off the action.
- Being Evil Sucks: Since it's not necessarily obvious: The Schofield Kid has this one pretty bad right before the final showdown Where It All Began.
- Being Good Sucks: Kind of. It's noticeable that during his period of trying to be good, Munny is an unsuccessful pig farmer eking out a wretched existence, is wracked by guilt, and comes across as kind of pathetic (note how often he falls off his horse, his beating by Little Bill). After returning to his old ways, he becomes a scarily effective gunfighter and the epilogue indicates he became financially successful. Not to mention that things don't turn out well for Ned after he admits he's lost his stomach for killing and tries to return home.
- Bittersweet Ending: Munny goes back to his old ways and Ned is murdered, but Munny avenges him. And with the money he earns from the bounty on the two cowboys, he's able to move on and make a better life for himself—rumored to be San Francisco, where he prospered in dry goods.
Closing narration: ...And there was nothing on the marker to explain to Mrs. Feathers why her only daughter had married a known thief and murderer, a man of notoriously vicious and intemperate disposition.
- Black Best Friend: Ned Logan.
- Black Guy Dies First: Ned is beaten to death by Little Bill, even though he wasn't the one who fired the fatal shot at cowboy Davey.
- Bleed 'em and Weep: The Schofield Kid provides a rare male example after killing Quick Mike.
- Blind Without 'Em: The Schofield Kid, though he never owned any spectacles to begin with.
- Bounty Hunter: Will Munny, Ned Logan, and The Schofield Kid.
- Break the Haughty: English Bob has his gun dismantled, is beaten savagely, and is abandoned by his trusted scribe Beauchamp. It's supposed to illustrate the near-boundless cruelty of Sheriff Little Bill, but considering many of the stories Bob told Beauchamp were HEAVILY exaggerated, if not outright fabricated, and considering Bob did little to ingratiate himself to his American hosts beforehand (mocking Americans for having a president for a leader instead of a monarch, for example), his mistreatment landed him much closer to this trope for many viewers.
- Bring My Brown Pants: The writer wets himself when English Bob is confronted by Little Bill and his men for bringing a gun into town.
- Camping a Crapper: How Schofield Kid killed the second cowboy.
- The Can Kicked Him: The Schofield Kid kills one of the wanted men while he's sitting in an outhouse.
- Celibate Hero: Will Munny stays faithful to his dead wife.
- Chinese Laborer: Apparently, English Bob earned a living killing them for the railroads.
- Chekhov's Gun: Little Bill explains to Beauchamp, at length, about how proper aim trumps speed in a real gunfight. Illustrated bloodily during the movie's climactic gunfight: Munny systematically guns down the men surrounding him while standing still in a cramped bar due to the fact that everyone's so freaked out by his ruthless execution of the owner and Bill.
- Though Munny mentions that it has as much to do with pure luck as anything else.
- Combat Pragmatist: Every single gunslinger in the film.
- Darker and Edgier: Of the Western. Even compared to the Sergio Leone's Spaghetti Western films, this film is Darker and Edgier.
- Dead Guy on Display: Done with Ned. Munny is angry and ready to kill by this point, but seeing Ned's body out in the open like that visibly enrages him further. Truth in Television-towns often put the unidentified dead out on display as well, in hopes that someone would identify them/claim the bodies.
- Death Is Such an Odd Thing: The Schofield Kid feels that way after his first kill.
It don't seem real... how he ain't gonna never breathe again, ever... how he's dead. And the other one too. All on account of pulling a trigger.
- Deconstruction: Of Western movies. Munny himself is a Deconstructed Character Archetype of the kinds of characters Clint Eastwood played in the 60s and 70s.
- One aspect of this is how the movie shows Munny dealing with his re-submersion into the violent, dangerous environment he left behind before he became a family man. He doesn't become a more heroic figure, rising to the occasion. Instead, he degrades, with his layers of civility being stripped away until at the end, he's the cold-blooded killer he once was.
- Eastwood’s trademark squint was subject to this too: the Schofield Kid is almost constantly squinting, but it’s just because of his poor eyesight and doesn’t look Badass in the least.
- The final showdown deconstructs Conservation of Ninjutsu. Will kills almost all Little Bill's deputies because none of them has a killer instinct despite their numbers.
- Deliberate Values Dissonance: A major part of the film's goal of de-romanticizing the West: racism (whether against Englishmen, "Chinamen" or "injuns") is rampant, prostitutes are seen as the scum of the earth (Skinny refers to the cut-up prostitute as "damaged property") and an exchange of goods is seen as acceptable punishment for slicing them up. Unfortunately, all of this period-appropriate realism makes the fact that Ned's skin color is not even remarked upon, never mind serving as a plot point, extremely jarring. This was heavily criticized by the film's detractors (Ned was presumably not written with Morgan Freeman in mind).
- Dime Novel: W.W. Beauchamp writes these. One example is "The Duke of Death", about English Bob. Little Bill insists on calling it "The Duck of Death".
- Dirty Coward: Little Bill repeatedly accuses Munny of being one, expressing disgust at his past atrocities, even though he himself seems to prefer administering rough justice to old men who have already been disarmed and surrounded by deputies.
- Disproportionate Retribution: Davey, the second of the two cowboys whose actions started the plot, attempted to stop his friend from hurting Delilah and when the two of them came to pay compensation to Skinny he attempted to give her a pony as part of a personal apology to her, which the other whores refused to accept out of anger. The whores put a price on his head anyway and he's killed by the protagonists. With a slow gutshot. After they break his leg by shooting his horse out from under him.
- The whole movie is about this: Quick Mike's cutting up of Delilah for laughing at his small penis. Little Bill's refusal to punish him significantly, instead forcing the cowboys to pay horses to the saloon owner. The whores' putting out bounties on the cowboys, little realizing what kind of bounty hunters that would attract. Little Bill beating the crap out of English Bob, not just as a warning to bounty hunters but for personal reasons. The whores refusing Davey's direct apology and gift to Delilah, leaving the bounty on him for Munny to shoot him. Little Bill torturing poor Ned to death, with the saloon keeper displaying the corpse like a trophy. And the final shootout...
Little Bill: I don't... deserve to die like this! I was building a house...
Will Munny: Deserve's got nothing to do with it…
- English Bob himself killed Two-Gun Corcoran purely for sleeping with a woman he had his eye on.
- Dramatic Thunder: On Will's appearance in the bar, and after his ultimatum to the entire town of Big Whiskey.
- Drunken Master: Munny was drunk during most of his famous exploits. He drinks a bottle of whiskey before the salon shootout, where he's much more effective then he was previously in the movie.
- Dying Truce: William Munny shoots and mortally wounds the cowboy Davey Bunting. Davey becomes thirsty and begs one of his friends to bring him water. His friends are reluctant to do so due to fear of being shot themselves. Munny calls out to them to give Davey some water and promises not to shoot them. One of them believes him and goes to Davey with a canteen.
- Even Anti-Heroes Have Standards: After killing the men at the saloon, when a writer asks him who he chose first, (in an effort to romanticize the brutal events that Munny committed) Munny replies only by threatening him with death. All the players in the movie were eager to justify their Disproportionate Retribution but Munny: he knows that he did evil things once and he’s doing evil things now, and that for that he will go to hell. He will not try to hide that from himself or anyone else.
- Evil Counterpart: English Bob to Will Munny, except he's just a vicious coward who was trying to cash in on his reputation.
- An argument could be made that, in as much as 'good' and 'evil' are meaningful concepts in this movie, Will Munny is the Evil Counterpart to English Bob. Consider the way both of them end their time in the town; English Bob is kicked out in disgrace with his reputation in tatters, exposed as a coward and for all his ineffectual ranting and raving about how he'll return and make them all pay he's basically a joke. Will Munny leaves of his own accord with a room full of bodies behind him, and when he promises that he'll come back and make them all pay if they give him cause to return, there's probably not a person in the town who doubts his sincerity or ability to make good on his threats. Which one's the evil one again?
- Faux Affably Evil: When he's not doling out Disproportionate Retribution, Little Bill can be fun to hang around with. He even takes on the writer English Bob brought into town, who is more fascinated with Bill's tales.
- Face Death with Dignity:
- Little Bill, staring down Will Munny's gun.
- Subverted all to hell with every other death. None of them die cleanly or quickly.
- Famous Last Words: "I'll see you in Hell, William Munny!" ("Yeah..." *shoots him*)
- Gag Penis: As Little Bill tells Beauchamp, English Bob once killed a man who was nicknamed "Two-Gun Corcoran", though he carried only one gun.
- Good Scars, Evil Scars: Averted. Delilah, who's as "good" as anybody is in this movie, has some really nasty-looking facial scars, even though her beauty is still there if you look past them.
- Gossip Evolution: When the Schofield Kid tells Munny about the attack, he says that the cowboys had cut out Delilah's eyes and cut off her ears, neither of which was true. When Munny tells Ned about it, he adds that they cut off her fingers and her breasts.
- Grey and Gray Morality: Barring Little Bill for some, none of the main characters are truly heroic or villainous.
- Grievous Bottley Harm: Subverted. Munny attempts it, fails, and he gets his ass kicked for trying.
- The Gunfighter Wannabe: The Schofield Kid.
- Gun Porn: Most westerns depict everyone carrying a Winchester rifle, a Colt Peacemaker, or a double-barreled shotgun (largely due to the use of the five-in-one blank round in movie production). Unforgiven features a very wide selection of old-west firearms, and several are identified by name.
- The Gunslinger: If they're not a whore, they're a gunslinger. Or a writer.
- "What, letters and such?"
- Hiding The Handicap: Downplayed, The Schofield Kid tries his best to hide the fact that he has bad eyesight. It doesn't stop Ned from figuring it out real quick.
- Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Delilah seems to emphasize the "heart of gold" aspect, being portrayed as the sweetest and most innocent of the working girls. Deconstructed with Strawberry Alice, the caring big sister of the group. While she does look after Delilah when she's hurt, she's also eager for revenge and shows no remorse for getting it.
- Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Discussed, and ultimately Deconstructed. The deputies in the final showdown panic, blaze away at Munny and hit exactly zip. Munny, on the other hand, keeps a cool head and rations out a bullet for each one.
- That said, at the start of the film Munny is a horrible shot, missing a tin can with all six shots at close range. This leads him to bring a shotgun along just in case. It's only after he discovers that Ned is dead, that he gets his old focus back.
- Munny also apparently works best while drunk. He drinks a bottle of whisky (his first in the movie) before entering Skinny's for the showdown.
- This is Truth in Television: Revolvers of the time were notoriously inaccurate, even at close range. So as Little Bill says, accuracy trumps speed, and in fact shooting faster would likely make it less accurate, not more. Plus, Munny admits he's "always been lucky in killin' folks."
- Insistent Terminology: Little Bill's insistence on referring to English Bob as the Duck (of Death) rather than the Duke.
- Little Bill and his deputies repeatedly refer to bounty hunters as "assassins" as a kind of insult.
- Instant Death Bullet: Subverted-Munny shoots one of the targets in the gut, and he dies slowly and painfully. A few of his victims after the final shootout can be seen slowly writhing on the floor in obvious agony. Little Bill doesn't die from the first shot either.
- It's Personal
- Karma Houdini: Somewhat downplayed. While Will doesn't get any retribution at the end for his crimes, they were all either implied or justified in some way since he's given a Sympathetic P.O.V. throughout the film.
- And he knows he's going to pay for it in Hell anyway.
"We all got it coming, kid."
- Kill 'em All: William Munny's solution to everything.
- Love Redeems: Well, almost. Munny did change his ways for his wife, but eventually reverted to his old ways after she died.
- Mass "Oh, Crap!": Everyone in Skinny's bar when they see Will Munny walk in.
- Messianic Archetype: His late wife Claudia was – is – this for William Munny… in all the extension he can be saved.
- Miles Gloriosus: The Schofield Kid. English Bob is shown to be an excellent pistol marksman (shooting birds in flight from a moving train with a pistol is no mean feat), but he has no stomach for actual fighting.
- Morality Chain: Munny's deceased wife.
- The Munchausen: English Bob, who tells grand stories about his exploits, only for it to be revealed he's a coward and any truth to the stories has been heavily embellished. Averted with Little Bill and Munny. Bill is every bit as Bad Ass as his own stories suggest, and Munny's past actions were actually worse than the stories themselves, and he promptly tells off Beauchamp when the writer tries to cozy up to him as well (whereas both Bob and Bill enjoyed the audience).
- Nobody Poops: Averted, fatally.
- No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Little Bill is extremely fond of them.
- Noodle Incident: Will and Ned often talk about their past exploits and their former gang.
- Subverted a bit in that Munny was drunk most of the time and doesn't remember all the details either.
- Not So Different: Part of the point of the movie is that the forces of law and order and the forces of criminality and villainy in the Old West often weren't as different as later mythologizing have made them out to be.
- Off The Wagon: Munny has quit drinking, but he drinks a bottle of whisky before the final showdown.
- Oh, Crap: First by Little Bill when Munny confronts him in the saloon, then by Munny as his weapon misfires.
- The Schofield Kid gets one when he hears that he's the only friend Will has.
- One Last Job: Gone horribly, horribly wrong.
- One Steve Limit: Averted; although it's easy to overlook, both the protagonist and the antagonist have the same first name.
- Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: An in-universe version; English Bob, who normally speaks with a plummy upper-crust accent, slips into Cockney when suddenly confronted by Little Bill and his posse. Apparently he's pretending to be an upper-class gent when he's really from the gutter (an early indication is when he says "I thought you was dead" before correcting himself to the more "correct" "you were".)
- Oscar Bait
- Parental Neglect: Munny leaves his two young children to fend for themselves while he risks his life to collect the bounty.
- Persona Non Grata: After beating and jailing English Bob, Little Bill sends him off on a wagon going out of town with a warning never to return.
Little Bill: I suppose you know, Bob, if I ever see you again I'm just going to start shooting and figure it was self-defense.
- Pet the Dog: By the end, the entire film feels like one of these.
- After shooting a man, who is lying in agony begging for a drink of water, Will Munny shouts out to the man's friends to "Give him a drink of water for Christ's sake! We ain't gonna shoot!" This might also be a Mercy Kill, since when you have a wound in the guts, a drink of water will end your misery rather fast.
- Platonic Prostitution: Just for Munny, though. His partners readily take "advances".
- Posthumous Character: The Lost Lenore—Claudia Munny was dead before the beginning, but Munny will talk about her whenever he has any chance. At the end of the movie we know how much her character influenced him and the whole story.
- Psycho for Hire: Rather downplayed. Munny is brought onto the job mostly for his reputation as one, but doesn't do much to live up to it. Even when Bill tortures Ned to death, he isn't overly sadistic in his revenge (ruthless, but not sadistic).
- Pre-Mortem One-Liner: Averted when Munny kills Little Bill. Little Bill says "I'll See You in Hell, William Munny," and instead of dashing off a clever retort, Munny simply replies "Yeah..."
- Punctuated Pounding: Little Bill gives one to English Bob and later one to Munny.
- Quick Draw: Mostly subverted; the ones who draw and start blazing away without taking time to properly aim end up dead while a slower, but more accurate, gunfighter shoots them. Lampshaded by Little Bill when he's talking to the writer.
Little Bill: Look here. *draws quickly but not overly fast* That's about as fast as I can draw and aim and hit anything more than ten feet away. Unless it's a barn.
- Quick Nip
- A Real Man Is a Killer: The whole point of the film is to point out that you'd have to be pretty cold-blooded or crazy to work as a gunfighter.
- An alternate point (which the Schofield Kid seems to get) is that killing someone costs the killer almost as much as the victim.
- Reconstruction: while the movie is primarily a Deconstruction the final fight scene is more or less played straight and Munny isn't portrayed as in the wrong. Word of God says that the movie wasn't so much violence is bad as it is violence is complex and only applicable in certain situations.
- Something of a Broken Aesop in that case: While Little Bill went too far in killing Ned and is repeatedly portrayed as a sadist who takes pleasure in doling out his version of justice, he believed the man he killed had murdered the babyfaced and relatively innocent—but still guilt-ridden—Davey in cold blood just for a quick pay-off. Munny convinced Ned to come along and help him commit a couple of contract killings despite the latter's misgivings; who's really responsible for getting him killed?
- Redemption Failure: Munny is a former badman, who tried to make a go at being a farmer. When his farm fails he decides to take just one more job and for a time goes back to his old ways. (Although it's hinted at at the end that he eventually returned to a mundane life once more.)
- Little Bill, too. By his own admission he is a bad man, but he's trying to make a go of it by being a sheriff. He just happens to piss off the wrong assassin.
- Red Light District: Well, there's a brothel. It does turn up a lot in the film, though.
- Reformed, but Rejected: Ned's wife Sally doesn't trust Will.
- Reliably Unreliable Guns:
- Misfiring guns feature prominently in both the backstory and the climax, which is more appropriate for the time period, in which lower quality guns and ammo were more common. The rainy night of the climax might also have played a factor.
- Little Bill, when telling W.W. Beauchamp the real story about how English Bob killed Two-Gun Corcoran, explains that Corcoran's Walker Colt exploded on him, allowing Bob to get the drop on him. This was a problem that Walker Colts really had.
- Retired Monster: There's a reason why Will Munny is Unforgiven. He doesn't seem to really regret his previous life all that much, except when it comes to his deceased wife. But then Munny got pissed at what they did to Ned.
- Little Bill describes both English Bob and himself as bad men, implying he thinks they both are this
- Retired Gunfighter: Both Will Munny and Ned Logan were retired and had families, until the Kid convinced them to come.
- Scenery Porn
- Shrouded in Myth:
- William Munny. Funnily enough, it seems that the real facts about Will Munny's exploits are more fantastical than the urban legends.
- English Bob is a subversion. While he does seem to have some genuine skills (shooting a bird in flight from a moving train with a pistol is pretty damn impressive), it seems likely that most of his exploits are padded.
- Subverted also when The Schofield Kid is babbling about his kill. "He reached for his gun and I shot him." In truth the dead man had his hands raised, and his gun was well out of reach.
- Which is probably how most of the myths come around. What the kid said was true but he was semi-coherent and missed the middle part (the dead man reached for his gun, his gun moved out of reach as the door opened, he tried raising his hands instead and the kid shot him with his hands raised). There's also probably a bit of selective rewriting of history going on in the process, since given the mood the Kid is in he would probably rather remember (and have others remember) that he shot a man who was preparing to shoot him rather than that he shot an unarmed and entirely defenseless man.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Mostly to the cynicism side.
- Saloon Owner: Skinny decides to put Ned's corpse on display (or was told to by Little Bill), prompting Munny to blow him down with a shotgun and deliver one of the best lines of his career: "He should've armed himself, if he's gonna decorate his saloon with my friend."
- A Taste of the Lash: Little Bill captures Ned and wants information, immediately breaking out the whip. Ned does not survive.
- Teeny Weenie: The tragic events of the movie begin when Delilah is attacked by Quick Mike because she laughed at his small penis.
- The Bad Guy Wins: From the perspective of the townsfolk, a merciless killer for hire has strolled into their saloon, slaughtered an unarmed man in cold blood, murdered deputies, and their sheriff, and rode away scot free.
- The Trope Kid: The Schofield Kid.
- They Fight Crime: By killin' folks.
- Throw Away Guns: Clyde, one Little Bill's deputies, carries three guns for this reason. He has only one arm and would be unable to reload in a fight.
- Unreliable Narrator: In keeping with the overall Deconstruction of the Western, a running theme throughout the movie is that many of the characters are either actively trying to rewrite their pasts in order to make them seem better than they were, or have hazy recollections of them to begin with. These fraudulent and flawed recollections then go on to become myths of the west.
- Unusual Euphemism: "Billiards."
- Villain-by-Proxy Fallacy: The working girls put out a $1,000 bounty on the heads of two cowboys, Quick Mike and Davey Bunting. While this is understandable in Mike's case (he cut up one of the prostitutes pretty badly), Davey's only crime is his poor choice of friends.
- Villainy Discretion Shot: Judging from the details given on their backstories, English Bob, Munny, and Ned did some pretty horrific things in the past. Part of the reason Munny and Ned can remain sympathetic is that those things are only described, not shown.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist:
- Little Bill genuinely believes that what he does is for the greater good. He probably enjoys it a bit more than he should, though.
- The Schofield Kid, arguably: he continually asserts that the two cowboys "had it coming", even while bawling his eyes out from guilt. Munny replies that "We all have it coming, kid".
- The Western
- What Does She See in Him?: Will Munny and his wife. As the opening narration says: "She was a comely young woman and not without prospects. Therefore it was heartbreaking to her mother that she would enter into marriage with William Munny, a known thief and murderer, a man of notoriously vicious and intemperate disposition."
- "What Now?" Ending: The fate of the town of Big Whiskey is left up in the air after Will massacres Little Bill and his deputies.
- What Measure Is a Mook?: Little Bill's deputies get a lot of screen time talking about random stuff, showing they are just a bunch of OK guys just doing their jobs.
- "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: Will took the kids and left for San Francisco where he prospered in selling dry goods.
- A World Half Full: This tale seems to be told in a Crapsack World... until we realize that Claudia has been dead for years and she still has influence over Munny... it could be said that this is her tale... how she still manages to be the only light in the The Western darkness.
- Would Hit a Girl / Would Hurt a Child: Munny admits that he killed women and children.
- Wrong Genre Savvy: The writer who follows Little Bill Daggett around seems to think he's in a simple white hats versus black hats world...whereas it's more akin to a World Half Empty.
- Arguably nearly everyone in the movie other than Munny and Little Bill, for the same reason mixed with a lot of ugly truth about reality of actually living in a 1960's Western.