It's the end of the movie and The Drifter has to be moving on
. There are other people in trouble, other wrongs to right, other paths to follow. He saddles up his horse and rides west into the setting sun. The townspeople look on as his figure, silhouetted against the orange disk, disappears into the horizon. The music
swells and "The End
Riding into the sunset is a tried (some would say "tired") and true ending to a show. Primarily a western
trope associated with cowboys, but not exclusively a western trope. The setting sun is symbolic of the end of the story.
Very often, heroes are known for riding into the sunrise
as well. Possibly as a symbol for a new beginning or fresh start on life after their adventure is over. Also possibly to show that the script writers realize
that setting off into the wilderness at sunset is not the brightest idea — what's he gonna do? Go two miles out of town and then make camp for the night? Of course, the sunset is somewhat cooler
, so a little Artistic License
is allowed. In fact, the sunset is so expected that using the more pragmatic sunrise in a Western might be jarring
. Besides, riding into the sunset means you're riding West.
Compare Against the Setting Sun
, Partly Cloudy with a Chance of Death
(for a darker ending), Watching the Sunset
Contrast Outrun the Fireball
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Anime and Manga
- At the end of the Johto saga in Pokémon, Misty rides off into the sunset on her freshly repaired bike, with her Togepi in the basket.
- This kind of scenes were plenty in the Mazinger saga:
- Mazinger Z: Many episodes ended up with the main characters -in their robots standing against the sunset still inside their robots or driving their Humongous Mechas back to the Institute.
- One specific episode ended up with Kouji using Mazinger's hand to -carefully- pick Sayaka and she calmly sitting on the behemot's hand and happily talking to Kouji as Sun set after them.
- Another episode ended up with Kouji (inside Mazinger-Z) holding Sayaka (inside Aphrodite-A) bridal style and walking together into the sunset.
- The Great Mazinger vs UFO Robo Grendizer ended up with Kouji and Duke gazing at the sunset together after the battle. Kouji even commented on it being a beautiful sunset.
- Science Ninja Team Gatchaman: Most episodes of this classic anime — and its various dubs — ends with the God-Phoenix flying off into the sunset, or the team standing around looking at a sunset.
- In Saiyuki the group often ends the episodes driving towards the sunset because they are travelling west to India. They commented on it once in-universe:
Goku: [looking at the sunset] It's more beautiful than a meat bun!
Sha Gojyo: That's quite an endorsement.
Cho Hakkai: Come to think of it, we're always heading towards the setting sun, aren't we?
- In Bleach at the end of the Fullbringer Arc Moe Shishigawara carries Tsukishima on his back into the sunrise.
- Usavich seasons 1, 2, 4 and 5 end with protagonists riding toward horizon in a stolen car. In season 3 it's instead a prison van with the season's villain.
- Subverted in Golgo 13. Duke Togo is hired to kill a Distaff Counterpart, who it's revealed he met three years ago and had a relationship with. Knowing that Togo has the contract on her, she expects to be killed on meeting him again, but he just sleeps with her and leaves the next day. Realising she's been given a break, she decides to retire from the assassination business, but as she pilots a speedboat into the sunset Duke puts a bullet through her head with a single long distance shot.
- Every single adventure of Lucky Luke ends this way. In the metastory "Where the sunset is" the Dalton brothers try to avoid capture by keeping away from civilization and hiding out in the wilderness. All to no avail as the place they choose to hang out turns out to be Luke's "riding into the sunset" place. Apparently sunset is a place, not a time.
- The end of ElfQuest (TOS) #7: see here. Two Wolfrider elves, appropriately enough, riding wolves into the sunset. It's worth noting that since Wolfriders are generally nocturnal, sunset is an appropriate time for them to set out.
- At the end of Preacher, Jesse reveals he never wanted to be a preacher as a kid. His girlfriend asks him what he wanted to be. "Girl, can't you guess?" he says, as they ride on a horse towards the sunset.
- Issue #1 of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic (IDW), last panel. Parodied since the riders are their own mounts.
Films — Animated
Films — Live-Action
- Parodied in Where's Wally? In Hollywood, which has a rider crashing through a painted backdrop of a setting sun.
- The end of Kitty and the Dead Man's Hand. Which doesn't make a lot of sense since the car's a rental, their luggage is back at the hotel, they're going the wrong way to get home, and it can't be much later than noon. But hey, it's the thought that counts...
- One of the "Star Trek" novels, in which the plot revolves around colonists' ambitious project to set their tidally-locked planet rotating, ends with Kirk ordering an odd departure course. When questioned, he explains: "Considering all the work we've done to create a sunset, it's only fitting that we fly off into it."
- Star Trek: The Next Generation had an episode with a Western in the holodeck, and at the end the starship flew off towards a star whose lower half is obscured by the planet.
- Red Dwarf ended its Western-themed episode, "Gunmen of the Apocalypse", with Starbug doing the same (a star, not a supernova).
- Subverted in Supernatural. At the end of "Hollywood Babylon", Sam and Dean walk away silhouetted against a stunning sunset as Herb Alpert's "Green Peppers" plays. The sunset is then wheeled away and revealed to be a backdrop, with the real sunset behind it.
- Parodied in Friends: Joey gets a gig giving free aftershave samples out when a rival, dressed as a cowboy starts to invade his turf. In the end, we see Joey (who by this stage is selling the same cowboy-branded aftershave) walking with the girl towards a wall-painting of a sunset.
- The entire episode is a parody of Western tropes, with Joey as the good cowboy and his rival as the bad cowboy, complete with colour-coded outfits.
- The director Kevin Bright also talks about this in the commentary for the Grand Finale, saying he wanted to end with the gang going off into the sunset together. (It's actually a hallway but the sentiment is certainly there).
- The fourth season of 24 ended with Jack Bauer walking away into the sunrise with the intent of starting a new life. Of course, he comes back for the next season.
- In an episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus a customer is talking to a clerk about purchasing an ending to the episode:
Clerk: Walking into the sunset?
Customer: What's that one?
Clerk: You know, two lone figures silhouetted against the dying rays of the setting sun, the music swells and lovely... (music covers dialog)
Clerk: Pity, I rather like that one.
- Variation in Battlestar Galactica: the eponymous ship and the remaining ships of the civilian fleet fly into the sun, while the Original Series' theme music plays.
- Only Fools and Horses: The ending of "Time On Our Hands", which John Sullivan wanted to be the last-ever episode, before it was renewed for another set of Christmas episodes; the idea was that during this sequence, Del, Rodney and Albert would be replaced by cartoon versions of themselves.
- Lampshaded in (another show called) Legend. The writer-turned-cowboy hero and his inventor buddy are looking at the sunset. The buddy asks "Shouldn't you be riding off into that?" The hero says "Yeah. It's a device of the genre. They have to end that way."
- Hollyoaks had fun with this trope by giving the couple Jon Paul and Craig a riding off into the sunset ending - by having them kiss in front of a holiday poster bearing a sunset before getting on a train together.
- Deathlands Homeward Bound. Ryan Cawdor turns down the chance to rule the barony from which he was outlawed years before, and his True Companions drive off into the sunset Forbidden Zone in their Sec Wag.
- Veronica Mars has a symbolic variation. Veronica walks away into the rain, signifiying the consequences of the series finale being rather crappy (her Dad's facing charges that could land him serious jail time for protecting her, and their primary opponent for her Dad's old job as Sheriff is a corrupt puppet of the mafia). As the camera pans out, we get the impression that Veronica is upset not only because she inadvertently got her Dad in trouble, but because she knows she'll never change her ways.
- The Goodies episode spoofing movies has The End words catching on our heroes clothes, carrying them off across a classic movie sunset (and yes, one of the movies genres being spoofed was The Western).
- The very last issue of ZX Spectrum magazine Your Sinclair had this for the back cover. Two cowboys riding off into the sunset, guns aloft, with the Your Sinclair logo at the bottom, and beneath it five small words: "Our work here is done."
- Gary Larson's The Far Side:
- Someone gets dragged back into a saloon all burnt up because "the damn fool tried to ride off into the sunset."
- Another has a cowboy is riding off into a cardboard-stand/cutout of a sunset, whilst various people wave. The caption reads 'The embarrassment of riding into a fake sunset'.
- Hero Rides Away, a freelancer Charm from Exalted, allows you to regain power and create gratitude among the villagers you just saved by, well, riding off in some dramatic fashion, like having your horse rear up against the sunset or departing at the height of a thunderstorm. Of course, there's nothing preventing you from using this in the frozen North or verdant East rather than the dessicated South, meaning you can be a cowboy-movie hero while riding a simhatanote on a glacier.
- The fourth act of The Girl Of The Golden West shows the sun beginning to rise on the Girl and her lover, who are leaving the West behind to start a new life.
- Fallout and Fallout2 begin their ending cinematics with footage of the player character walking off into the desert.
- The opening of Sunset Riders, to the surprise of absolutely nobody.
- The Bad Ending of Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards is a Warpstar Into The Sky.
- In Kirby's Dream Land, as well as in "Spring Breeze" in Kirby Super Star, the credits play as a giant Kirby is floating with King Dedede's castle towards the sunset.
- Also in Kirby Super Star/Ultra, after Kirby escapes from the sinking Halberd on a Wheelie Bike, he is shown riding off into the sunset.
- A riding into the sunrise variant occurs in the ending of Metal Gear Solid in which Snake and another character (either Meryl or Otacon) ride a snowmobile in the direction of the Alaskan sun.
- Ben, the protagonist of Full Throttle, rumbles off on his bike into a beautiful sunset.
- The last campaign of Left 4 Dead, "Blood Harvest," ends with the survivors getting into a military APC, which then drives off into the sunrise.
- Mass Effect 1 ends with the Normandy flying away from the camera into the sunrise of an unknown gas giant.
- Mass Effect 2 ends similarly, though the Normandy is flying towards a gaseous orange nebula this time.
- Mass Effect 3 drives the point home in the Extended Cut. After the Normandy crashes on an unknown planet, the team repairs it and flies into the sunset.
- Max Payne 3 ends on one of these, with the title character walking off into the sunset of a beach in Bahia, Brazil.
- Red Dead Redemption despite being a game based on Westerns has a bit of fun with both subverting and playing this trope straight. Since John Marston dies at Ross's hands at the end of the game he doesn't have the tried and true riding off into the sunset happy ending where we know his adventuring days will continue, the game doesn't even get a proper credits scene after this takes place. In fact at John's grave his son Jack is moping around in depressingly sad rain while an achievement/trophy pops up lampshading the traditional ending to a Western called "Into The Sunset." It is eventually played straight when Jack gets revenge for his father's death and kills Ross and then walks off into the setting sun as the Red Dead Redemption logo blares across the screen allowing the credits to the roll, conclusively ending the story.
- Happens twice in the Monkey Island series: once at the end of The Curse of Monkey Island, when the newlywed Guybrush and Elaine ride the Sea Cucumber off into the sunset, with his mutinied crew waving them goodbye; and once near the end of Tales of Monkey Island, when the newly-reborn Guybrush, Elaine and Winslow ride the Screaming Narwhal off into the beautiful sunrise.
- At the end of the Heroes of Might and Magic III: Shadow of Death main campaign the four good heroes part way as they ride into the sunrise.
- The ending of Snatcher.
- Every Time Crisis game ends with the protagonists riding into the sunset, usually by helicopter.
- Out of This World has Buddy and Lester ride a dragon into the sunset.
- Girl Genius mocks the trope with Agatha's fashion-clank and the Weasel Queen running off into the sunset to go open a fashion house in Paris. Here.
- In Dead Winter, Black Monday Blues walks into the sunset at the end of chapter 1.
- Parodied in Wally and Osborne: since the titular duo live in Antarctica, the sun won't set in five months.
- The Nintendo Power tribute strip in Brawl in the Family ends with Howard and Nester walking off into the sunset, arguing all the while.
- Fittingly, the final episode of the Mega Man cartoon had Mega Man flying into the sunset on Rush.
- Parodied in King of the Hill, after Hank and Bobby came in second at a shooting competition, they walk to the sunset, until they realize they parked the car elsewhere.
- The final episode has them grilling into the sunset with their brand new grills as father and son, holding a barbeque for the whole neighborhood.
- In the My Little Pony episode Crunch the Rockdog, a story that Paradise is reading ends this way. Then Wind Whistler questions why anyone would start off on a journey at the end of the day.
- Kim Possible: Slightly different in The Grand Finale: Kim and her partner/boyfriend Ron jump into her supercar, kiss, and fly off into the full moon.
- Similar to the Kim Possible example, at the end of the Grand Finale of Danny Phantom, after the long awaited Relationship Upgrade between Danny and Sam, the two fly away to see what the future holds for them.
- Parodied in The Simpsons when Bart helped a retired TV cowboy become a real hero. He rides back into his house then comes out and discards a sack of garbage.
- Parodied at the end of one episode of Recess: Gus, after wining a game of dodgeball in the most awesome manner possible, ends the episode walking into a sunset that wasn't there before. Hector then yells, "Safety Man, where're you going? School isn't over yet!"
- Avatar: The Last Airbender:
- The end of Rocky and Bullwinkle boxtop story arc shows the title duo ride off the sunset being heroes.
- Parodied in the G.I. Joe episode "Battle for the Train of Gold". Gung-Ho tries to ride off into the sunset on horse only for said horse to buck him off. Gung-Ho then decides to ride off into the sunset behind the wheel of a jeep.
- In Ben 10: Alien Force, at the end of one episode featuring Professor Paradox, when the heroes leave the are, they ride off into the sunrise.
- Seemingly played straight at the very end of Beavis And Butthead Do America, where B&B walk down the street into the sunset after finally locating their beloved TV set. Subverted just before the fade out when Butthead tells Beavis that he will most likely die a virgin because "You're too much of a Butt Monkey."
- Chuck Jones' Merrie Melodies short "The Dover Boys at Pimento University". Dainty Dora Standpipe sashays off into the sunset (with the occasional bunny hop) with a very strange man.
- In The Looney Tunes Show episode "That's My Baby", Daffy did this as Tina stared after him. (He had just announced that he wanted to start a family with her, but suddenly derailed what he was saying into a speech about frozen yogurt, and continued to talk as he walked off...kind of spoiled the moment a bit.)
- That the Lone Ranger keeps doing this annoys the citizens in Thank You Masked Man, as he takes off before they can properly thank and reward him for his heroics around town.
- In the "Garfield and Friends" episode "Newsworthy Wade", the ending shows Wade and the host who interviewed him on "Seven Minutes" walking into the sunset, and seconds later, a chicken who kept interrupting the show makes a statement about how every cartoon these days ends with people walking into the sunset or laughing.
- At the end of the first episode of Bounty Hamster, Cassie ends up with her feet bound and tied to her inept Bounty Hunter Marion, so the two of them have to hop off into the sunset instead.
- In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic S4 E12 "Pinkie Pride"", Cheese Sandwich leaves Ponyville this way. Since he's a pony, like nearly everypony else in the show, he just walks.
- In New York City, there was some dispute going on with the United Nations, which has its headquarters there. Some NYC official made a snarky remark about how if the UN didn't like it in NYC they should leave and he'd be happy to come down to the docks and wave as they "sailed off into the sunset". Annoying literalists then noted that if you sail off into the sunset from NYC you end up in New Jersey. Then again, that might have been the point.
- There was an incident in early 2011 where two British teenage camping groups were sharing their campsite. They were both camping in a field next to a dense forest. The group from Hove entered the woods in the late morning and didn't return until late evening. They had wandered off into the sunset because it was pretty.