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Played By: Alan Ladd
- Beware the Nice Ones: Shane is a good man who gets involved with the struggle to help the homesteaders out of the goodness of his heart. He's also a badass enough gunslinger to effortlessly gun down Rufus Ryker and Jack Wilson practically at once.
- Broken Ace: Dependent on your point of view, he either kept riding at the end and just ignored Joey, or died at the end and couldn't hear Joey any longer.
- But Now I Must Go: One of the most famous examples of the trope in film. With Rufus Ryker and Wilson dead, and the homesteaders safe, Shane decides to leave the valley so that there will be no more guns there, just like Marian Starrett wished. He ignores Joey's pleas for him to come back and rides off into the distance. Of course, another interpretation is that the gunshot he took from Morgan Ryker mortally wounded him, and he left to hide his impending death.
- Call to Agriculture: Attempts to restart his life as a homesteader's assistant at the beginning of the film. As he eventually realizes though, you can't go back from a killing.
- Combat Pragmatist: Ends his fight with Joe by pistol-whipping him.
- The Determinator: Every time Joe seemingly beats him down, Shane finds his second wind and continues to hold him off.
- The Gunslinger: Shane is an accomplished gunslinger, but he's not exactly happy about it.
- The Hero: Although he could count as The Lancer to Starrett; both feature qualities of each, and the roles can arguably traded as the movie progresses.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Depending on how you interpret the ending, Shane either died as a result of his wound, or realized that gunslingers have no place in a small town any longer and left.
- Knight Errant: He fits the typical mold of the western hero who drifts into town, helps the locals with their problems, and then moves on once the job is done.
- Made of Iron: He's up against five different men and suffers some nasty blows, yet still manages to fight them to a standstill.
- Pint-Sized Powerhouse: Despite being lithe and short,note he is a terrific fighter who can physically beat almost any man by himself. He even manages to fight Joe Starrett, who is much bigger than he is, to a standstill.
- The Quiet One: Even though he doesn't say much, his actions and facial expressions communicate a lot.
- Retired Badass: Shane at least considers himself retired, but is forced to spring back into action to protect Joe and the homesteaders.
- Supporting Protagonist: Although Shane is the titular character and engages in the final battle against the Ryker brothers and Wilson, it is Joe Starrett who is leading the homesteaders, while Shane is a gunslinger attempting to help him in his time of need. In addition, much of the story is told from Joey's Point of View.
- Uncertain Doom: It's ambiguous whether the gunshot he got from Morgan Ryker was a mortal wound and that he was just lying to Joey about him being alright.
Played By: Van Heflin
- Bash Brothers: He and Shane fight off five different men by themselves.
- The Big Guy: Compared to Shane's Pint-Sized Powerhouse, Joe relies on his brute strength during fights.
- Determined Homesteader: The whole conflict of the film stems from his refusal to give up his home to the Ryker brothers. His resolve is deep enough that the other homesteaders follow his lead.
- The Hero / The Lancer: See Shane's entry.
- The Leader: Of the other homesteaders.
Played By: Jean Arthur
- Determined Homesteader's Wife: She provides moral support to Joe throughout the film.
- UST: It's implied that she and Shane may have some romantic feelings for each other, but she loves her husband and nothing ever comes of it.
Played By: Brandon De Wilde
- Adaptational Name Change: He was originally called "Bob" in the book.
- Hero Worship: From the second Joey meets him, he practically worships the ground Shane works on. Not least of which because he's enthralled by Shane's gunsling skills.
- Intergenerational Friendship: He tries to start this with Shane.
- Morality Pet: He acts as one to Shane.
Played By: Emile Meyer
- Adaptational Name Change: He is based on Luke Fletcher from the novel.
- Age Lift: Even though his age was never really specified, Luke Fletcher was described as more of a middle-aged man, while Rufus Ryker appears to be older than that.note
- Big Bad: He's the main villain of the movie, being the one trying to drive the homesteaders off their land for his own benefit.
- Cattle Baron: He's a literal cattle baron who wants to seize the land of the local homesteaders so his herd can have free reign.
- Decomposite Character: Even though he inherited most of Fletcher's role, his brother Morgan is also slightly based on Fletcher too (considering that Fletcher had no brother). Morgan notably takes Fletcher's death scene from the book, though his role is mostly based on Fletcher's enforcer of the same name, making Morgan double as a Composite Character.
- Entitled Bastard: He believes that because he, and similar men from his generation, helped settle the land the homesteaders live on, that he's entitled to have all of it.
- Evil Old Folks: An old man willing to stoop to murder to get what he wants.
- Jerkass Has a Point: Sort of, Ryker is correct over the dispute that he was one of the first to arrive on the land, but doesn't have the right to use violence to keep the homesteaders away.
- Motive Rant: Much like Fletcher, he is largely driven by the potential profit of the beef contract. Unlike Fletcher however, he is given more depth after he rants to Joe Starrett about everything he went through to cultivate this land since he was a young man, and that he deserves a certain level of entitlement for his sacrifices.
- Pragmatic Villainy: While his enforcer, Jack Wilson, seems to revel in bloodshed, Ryker is at least pragmatic enough to rely on bribery, negotiation, intimidation and unethical but non-lethal tactics first. But that's only to avoid bringing the law down on him.
- Retired Badass: In his younger years, he successfully fought of several Cheyenne from this land, despite being outnumbered. Nowadays, he can still scrap somewhat, throwing some nasty punches at Shane.
- Siblings in Crime: He and his brother, Morgan, work together to scare off the homesteaders.
- We Can Rule Together: When Shane proves how tough he is by roughing up one of his men, Ryker offers him the chance to come work for him instead.
Played By: Jack Palance
- Adaptation Name Change: Wilson's first name in the novel was Stark instead of Jack.
- Ax-Crazy: "Prove it."
- Blood Knight: Wilson doesn't get a chance to fight often in the movie, but his words and body language make it clear that he's always itching for a fight.
- The Dragon: Ryker hires him halfway into the movie and he quickly becomes the deadliest threat to the heroes.
- The Dreaded: While his exact past is never delved into, everyone who knows about Wilson is terrified of him.
- Evil Counterpart: To Shane. Both are gunslingers with an implied long history of violence, but while Shane wants to put that life behind him and is working to defend the homesteaders, Wilson revels in bloodshed and is working to drive them off their land.
- Evil Is Bigger: At 6'4", Wilson stands almost a foot taller than the 5'6" Shane.
- Guns Akimbo: Wilson carries two pistols, though he never uses both at once.
- Hired Guns: He's an unscrupulous gunslinger for hire.
- Kick the Dog: He provokes Stonewall into a duel, but even though Wilson draws first and his opponent ends up hesitating before he can aim his gun, Wilson murders him anyway.
- Psycho for Hire: Though his exact past is never revealed, it's implied he's left quite a few bodies in his wake, especially given the fear that people who know his reputation hold for him. He's a gun for hire, but unlike his pragmatic boss, Wilson takes obvious joy in killing.
- The Quiet One: Wilson doesn't talk that much, but when he does it's always foreboding.
Played By: Ben Johnson
- Age Lift: Chris was a young man in the book, while Chris in the film looks to be closer to his mid-thirties.
- Even Evil Has Standards: While he serves Ryker in intimidating the local homesteaders off their land, when Ryker plans to murder Joe Starrett at a supposedly peaceful meeting, he turns on his boss and warns Shane.
- HeelFace Turn: He realizes that Ryker is pushing it too far after Torrey's death and warns Shane about Ryker's plan to kill murder Joe Starrett at their arranged meeting.
- Hired Guns: He's another one of Ryker's hired muscle, but he's more of a bully than a monster and ultimately does have some standards.
- Jerkass: He's this at first to Shane, insulting him from the get-go without Shane even speaking to him.
Frank 'Stonewall' Torrey
Frank "Stonewall" Torrey
Played By: Elisha Cook, Jr.
- The Alcoholic: Implied to be this, since he orders a bottle of whiskey every time he goes into Grafton's and is constantly mentioned or seen with a bottle in his hand.
- Berserk Button: Telling him to back down when he wants to help out.
- Bullying the Dragon: Does this twice to Wilson, the first time in Grafton's when he comes in to get a drink, and the second which is in reverse, with Wilson bullying him first.
- Butt-Monkey: He is routinely mocked by everyone for being a former Confederate. Ultimately, he becomes the only homesteader to die, though this is Played for Drama.
- Death by Adaptation: Ernie Wright was killed in the book, while Torrey survived.
- Decomposite Character=/=Composite Character: Both he and Ernie Wright are based on Ernie Wright from the book, with Torrey inheriting his temper and death scene. He's also a composite character for being based on Frank Torrey from the book.
- Hair-Trigger Temper: Draws on Wilson after he insults him as a Southerner. It doesn't end well for him.
- Sacrificial Lion: His death is what causes Starrett and the other homesteaders to band together and take action against Ryker, as well as Shane springing into action to defend Starrett.
- Still Fighting the Civil War: Torrey is nicknamed "Stonewall", and his "Yankee" friend with the harmonica likes to antagonize him about the South, as demonstrated when he plays "Marching through Georgia" at the homesteader's meeting. Torrey mentions that he'd been a soldier and fought in battles, and in the end, it's Wilson calling Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee "trash" that is Torrey's Berserk Button.
- Tempting Fate: When he tries to stand up to Wilson and gets a bullet planted in his chest as a result.