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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.
- 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.
- 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 wounded and that he was just lying to Joey about him being alright.
Played By: Jean Arthur
- 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
Played By: Emile Meyer
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Siblings in Crime: He and his brother, Morgan, was working 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
- 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.
- 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.