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Mattalyn (Mattie) Ross
Kim Darby (1969), Hallie Steinfeld and Elizabeth Marvel (2010)
- Adorably Precocious Child: Seems very mature for her age, particularly in the remake.
- An Arm and a Leg: She has her arm amputated after it's bitten by a snake in the 2010 film.
- Badass in Distress: She has to be rescued several times. Then again, she's only fourteen.
- Boyish Short Hair: In the original film.
- The Determinator: She won't stop until Chaney is captured or dead.
- Girlish Pigtails: In the 2010 film.
- Guile Heroine
- Hand Cannon: Has her father's Colt Dragoon, which is already a pretty big pistol.Rooster Cogburn: Why, by God, girl, that's a Colt's Dragoon! You're no bigger than a corn nubbin, what're you doing with all this pistol?
Mattie Ross: It belonged to my father, he carried it bravely in the war, and I intend to kill Tom Chaney with it if the law fails to do so.
Rooster Cogburn: Well, this'll sure get the job done if you can find a fence post to rest it on while you take aim.
- In the 1969 film, it's actually a Colt Walker with a changed cartridge...the 2010 version on the other hand is an authentic Dragoon.
- Little Miss Bad Ass
- Little Miss Snarker
- Reality Ensues: In the 2010 film. Living your life so focused on vengeance and so insistent on getting involved in things women didn't generally get involved with at the time, like guns and business, helps to isolate Mattie from her peers; she never marries and is generally thought of as an odd woman.
- You Killed My Father: Her whole motivation for her journey.
Reuben J. "Rooster" Cogburn
John Wayne (1969), Jeff Bridges (2010)
- Badass Long Coat
- Badass Beard: Bridges' Rooster has one.
- Berserk Button: Don't mention his weight or his eye unless you're ready to fill your hands.
- Eyepatch of Power: Wayne's Rooster has one over his left eye and Bridges' has one over his right eye.
- Handicapped Badass
- Knight in Sour Armour
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Appears at first to be this lazy, rude alcoholic who's past his prime. But once Mattie really gets to know him she realizes how noble, selfless, brave and true he is.
- Papa Wolf: To Mattie.
Glen Campbell (1969), Matt Damon (2010)
- Fake Ultimate Hero
- Improbable Aiming Skills: His Sharps Carbine has a ridiculously long range and he kills Lucky Ned from the edge of its effective range.
- Jerkass: Initially.
- Took a Level in Kindness
- What Happened to the Mouse?: In-universe. After the Chaney incident, Mattie never hears from him again, though she states in her closing narration that she'd like to know what became of him.
Jeff Corey (1969), Josh Brolin (2010)
- The Alcoholic: Mattie refers to him as a "whiskey drinker".
- Smarter Than You Look: Subverted. LaBoeuf claims Chaney is much more cunning than he lets on but in reality Chaney only escapes because of LaBoeuf's incompetence.
"Lucky" Ned Pepper
Robert Duvall (1969), Barry Pepper (2010)
- Affably Evil: Seems rather impressed with Mattie's bold-faced shooting of Chaney and has a chat with her over the fire about how embarrassing it is for a rifle to misfire. Of course, he's still holding her hostage.
- Big Bad
- Pragmatic Villainy: Orders that Mattie not be harmed, not because he particularly cares about her, but because she's a valuable hostage and killing her would not benefit him in any way.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Insists that no harm come to Mattie no matter what Chaney's grudge with her is, albeit mostly because of her value as a hostage.