Follow TV Tropes


Film / A Million Ways to Die in the West

Go To

A Million Ways to Die in the West is the second full-length theatrical comedy film from Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane, after Ted.

The film takes place in Arizona, 1882, where literally Anyone Can Die from anything (even by a splinter). This tale of the west is about Albert (played by MacFarlane himself), a sheep herder whose girlfriend (Amanda Seyfried) left him after he chickens out of a duel, but when notorious outlaw (Liam Neeson) arrives in town looking for trouble, the outlaw's runaway wife (Charlize Theron) teaches Albert how to shoot and prove he's got what it takes. The film also stars Sarah Silverman, Giovanni Ribisi, and Neil Patrick Harris.

The film was produced by Media Rights Capital, Fuzzy Door Productions (the same production company behind MacFarlane's animated shows), and Bluegrass Films, and released by Universal Pictures on May 30, 2014. A tie-in novel written by MacFarlane is now available.

"A Million Ways to Trope in the West":

  • Abusive Parents: Albert's parents. They didn't even care when he was born.
  • The Ace: Foy has money, status, and is a great shot, which are things in which Albert is extremely lacking. He also has a glorious, glorious mustache. Again, Albert lacks this.
  • Action Girl: Anna
  • Actor Allusion:
  • Amusement Park of Doom: "People die at the fair."
  • Amusingly Awful Aim: Stark is so bad at shooting that he is unable to hit a beer bottle even when standing close enough to just swat it off the fence in frustration after wasting all of his ammo. He eventually becomes just good enough at the climax to hit Clinch Leatherwood (or being more specific, just nick him in the arm), but knowing that he'll never be any good he decided to lace his bullets with rattlesnake venom.
  • Anachronism Stew: Basically, what we have here are stereotypically feckless Gen-X Man Children whining about their everyday the Old West!
    • And in a lesser example, the shooting gallery at the fair has runaway slaves as targets, in a movie that takes place after the American Civil War.
  • A-Team Firing: Albert has trouble shooting a bottle an inch away from his gun.
  • Author Tract: It's a Seth MacFarlane movie. You're going to find something in it that feels a bit preachy.
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: The Native American language is made up of nonsense, such as "Fine" being said as Mila Kunis and "Shit" being said as Zsa Zsa.
  • Ass Shove: Anna puts a flower in Clinch's ass after knocking him out.
  • Badass Preacher and Dark Shepherd: Mentioned, the priest killed a man and then killed that man's son so he couldn't get revenge later. He then did a sermon about it, extolling the virtues of "seeing things through."
  • Bar Brawl: There's one just before Albert meets Anna, caused by Lewis when he shot a man for making him spill his drink. Albert and Edward stay out of the worst of it by pretending to fight amongst themselves, with Edward accidentally hitting him in the face for real.
  • Betty and Veronica: Louise is a kind of girl next door to Albert and Anna is more world-wise.
    • From Louise's perspective, hard working but poor farmer Albert is a Betty to the dapper, moneyed Foy's Veronica. Though this could be seen as a classic Rich Suitor, Poor Suitor situation too.
  • Big Bad: Clinch
  • Birds of a Feather: Part of what makes Albert and Anna so attracted to each other is their strong hatred of the West.
  • Black Comedy
  • Blasting It Out of Their Hands: Clinch does it to Albert.
  • Bloody Hilarious
  • Born in the Wrong Century: Albert. He'd probably feel a little bit more comfortable living in the Twentieth or Twenty-First Centuries (or at least he'd have less lethal things to whine about).
  • Boyfriend Bluff: Variation. Albert and his new friend try to get the woman that left him jealous, leading up to:
  • Brick Joke: While listing off his complaints about the West, Albert hypothesizes that doctors will treat the wound on his face by having a blue jay peck it. During a montage significantly later in the film, Albert's hypothesis is proven to be true (to pick the glass out).
    • When Albert shows Edward and Ruth the corpse of the mayor on the street, wolves drag him off. The next day, when Anna and Albert meet and she plays fetch with Plugger, he retrieves the chewed off leg of the Mayor.
    • Even in the Wild West, Doc Brown claims the Delorean is a weather experiment...
    • While at the fair, Albert remark that "People die at the fair." The shooting gallery Albert and Anna go to has a very offensive theme (directed towards blacks). At the end of that fair scene, a drink salesman gets gored by a bull, causing Albert and Anna to bleakly remark once again that "People die at the fair." The very last scene of the movie has Jamie Foxx reprising his role as Django shooting the proprietor running the shooting gallery, remarking "People die at the fair." before cutting to the credits.
  • Butt-Monkey: Albert.
  • The Cameo: Doc Brown is found in a barn where he hides the DeLorean from Albert. Also keep a look out for Bill Maher, Ewan McGregor, Ryan Reynolds, Patrick Stewart (as the voice of a sheep), Gilbert Gottfried as an Abraham Lincoln impersonator, and Jamie Foxx as Django. Wes Studi appears as a Native American because of course he does. Alex Borstein also shows up as the extremely confused madame of the local whorehouse, but most won't recognize her because she isn't speaking like Lois Griffin.
  • Canine Companion: After Clinch offs its owner, Anna adopts Plugger, which drives the point further home that she's a cool gal.
  • Character Filibuster: Albert, shockingly, has quite a few of these.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The Diamondback Rattlesnake.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Despite having a good teacher, a week is not nearly long enough to make Albert Stark a good enough shot to beat anyone in a duel, especially Clinch Leatherwood. However, he doesn't really need to be, as he is smart enough to dose his bullets with snake venom, and stall long enough in the final duel to poison Clinch to death.
  • Crapsack World: Albert views the west as this. He's not unjustified in thinking so, either.
  • Dark Is Evil: Clinch dresses entirely in black and even has a black horse.
  • Dastardly Whiplash: Downplayed with Foy, who has the attire and the attitude but is The Rival.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Albert.
  • Death by Adaptation: Albert's mother, who is killed early on in the novel by a random cougar attack. As one passing mention is made of her grave, she's also implied to have been killed in the film, but this is never elaborated upon. However, in the unrated version, it's revealed that she died from a splinter, and her funeral is shown.
  • Death World: Well, it's not like the title of the film comes from nowhere...
  • Deconstructive Parody: The movie seeks to tear down the over-romanticized view people have of the wild West, mainly by showing how dangerous and unsanitary it could be.
  • Dirty Coward: Whenever Clinch gets into a gunfight, he tells his opponent "We shoot on three," then proceeds to shoot on two.
  • Disc-One Final Boss: Foy. Only after he's dealt with does it become obvious that Clinch is the real Big Bad.
  • Distress Ball: Anna is a crack shot, but for some reason seems to completely lose her ability to use firearms when Clinch comes to town looking for her.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Albert at first. Also, Edward.
  • Don't Explain the Joke: At the end of his duel with Foy, Albert makes a joke to Louise about her having a hairy vagina before marching off. Then he comes back and awkwardly explains his joke (Foy giving Louise cunnilingus) in case the people around didn't get it. A spectator says he gets it.
  • The Dragon: Lewis to Clinch.
  • The Dreaded: Everybody fears Clinch Leatherwood as he's the most vicious gunfighter in the territory.
  • Epic Fail: Albert tries shooting at a row of bottles to practice shooting, but he can't seem to knock them down even at point-blank range.
  • Establishing Character Moment: In Clinch's first scene, he decides to rob a prospector, then kills him because the man didn't hand over his gold nugget fast enough. In the same scene, Anna decides to adopt the prospector's dog, showing that although she's traveling with a band of criminals, she's not one of them.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Lewis may be evil, but he won't kill a man on his sex night.
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: Pretty much stated word for word regarding the era of the Old West.
    Albert: Everything out here that's not you wants to kill you.
  • Expy: Clinch Leatherwood is basically an evil version of Clint Eastwood.
  • Fair-Weather Ex: Louise breaks up with Albert at the start of the film over Albert not wanting to duel a man (considered the best shot in town) and wanting to resolve the dispute peacefully. After Albert kills the feared and deadliest outlaw Clinch Leatherwood, Louise tries to get back with Albert but is promptly rejected.
  • Fake a Fight: Parodied. During a barfight, the main character and his friend stand aside and just roll their hands toward each other while loudly proclaiming that they're already fighting each other in order to avoid being actually hit during the barfight. Their plan goes wrong when one of them does hit the other by accident.
  • Family-Values Villain: Clinch justifies his cold-blooded murder of the prospector near the beginning because he lied about having gold.
  • Gold Digger: Louise. It says so on the freakin' poster.
  • Good Bad Girl: Ruth. Also Anna.
  • Guile Hero: Albert Stark may be a lousy shot, but he is clever enough to reason with people to try and settle any disagreements as well. When it's clear that Clinch can't be reasoned with, he fills a hollow bullet with rattlesnake venom, knowing that while he may not be able to fatally shoot Clinch Leatherwood in a duel, he can get close enough to wound him and stall for time long enough for the poison to take effect.
  • Growling Gut: Anna tricks Foy into drinking a glass of scotch with laxatives. When he invites Louise to stay at his place, his stomach grumbles and goes to the bathroom. The next day, when he's about to face-off with Albert, Foy's stomach grumbles again, and uses a guy's hat to crap in it.
  • Hero of Another Story: Doc Brown.
  • Hilariously Abusive Childhood: Albert, if the Tooth Fairy "lesson" is any indication.
  • Historical Domain Character: Abraham Lincoln pops up for a cameo in the film, played by Gilbert Gottfried of all people (although Albert surmises that he's really an imposter, due to his unpleasant demeanour).
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Ruth truly loves Edward and is a good friend to Albert and Anna.
  • Hypocrisy Nod: In one scene, Edward pressures Ruth to sleep with him, but she refuses, saying they're both Christians and should wait until marriage. Then:
    Cowboy: Ruth, let's fuck!
    Ruth: Coming!
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Anna regularly pulls off insane shooting feats with weapons that weren't exactly known for their accuracy. Too bad she loses these skills whenever the Rule of Drama calls for it.
  • Indecisive Parody: This review paints the film as such—there are moments that seem more appropriate for a legitimately dramatic Western, and others (especially the Vulgar Humor) that scream "parody". At times, the two elements seem a bit incompatible.
  • Insane Troll Logic: The chief decides to trust Albert simply because he speaks their language, though the fact he mentions this aloud lampshades this.
  • Intercontinuity Crossover: Doc Brown travels back to the time of this story at one point and Django appears in the stinger.
  • Irony: Albert gives Anna a photograph of a man smiling; they then remark that it takes 30 seconds for a picture to be taken and that he had to smile for 30 sustained seconds. They say that they have never been happy for 30 seconds ever; they are laughing and smiling the entire 2+ minutes of the scene.
  • It's Not You, It's Me: Louise invokes this during her breakup with Albert, telling him she's not looking to date anyone at the moment, and that she has to "go home and work on myself." Her relationship with Foy soon after shows this was Blatant Lies.
  • Jerkass: Foy never misses an opportunity to insult and belittle Albert. He even performs an impromptu musical number at the town dance for the sole purpose of mocking Albert.
  • Knight of Cerebus: Clinch Leatherwood. He's never played for laughs sans one quick sight gag, and even then, that just enrages him beyond his already normal rage.
  • Laxative Prank: Anna does this to Foy, causing him to borrow a guy's hat to take a shit in right in the middle of a gunfight. Twice.
  • Leitmotif: Alan Silvestri's Back to the Future theme briefly plays during Doc Brown's cameo.
  • List Song: "A Million Ways To Die" by Alan Jackson lists a few ways to die in the West.
  • Loser Protagonist: Albert. He's considered a coward, has parents who barely notice him, can't shoot, and has a job considered shitty by everyone (and he can't even do it right).
  • Man on Fire: While taking the portraits of a family, the flash powder explodes, setting the photographer and the parents of the family on fire.
  • Meaningful Echo: When Louise tries to get back together with Albert after he kills Clinch, he throws her earlier "I need to go home and work on myself" line right back at her.
  • New Media Are Evil: Parodied. Albert and Edward see a child playing with a stick and a hoop, and claim it's destructive to their developing attention spans.
  • No OSHA Compliance: Actually justified by the time frame.
  • "Number of Objects" Title
  • Old Man Marrying a Child: Anna says she was 9 when she married Clinch and had sex with him within a year. It's not stated how much older Clinch is than her, but the fact that he was already an accomplished murderer at the time, plus Albert's Squicked reaction at the whole thing, implies he was already an adult.
    • Considering the actors' ages (Theron is 39, Neeson is 62), this is almost definitely the case.
  • Only Sane Man: Albert tries to come off as this.
  • Pet the Dog: Louise proves that, while she may be somewhat smug and prefer money to integrity, she's not exactly bad when she tries her best to talk Foy out of killing Albert in the duel even though Albert himself was the challenger.
    • Also a more literal 'pet the dog' moment when Anna adopts the dead prospector's dog in the beginning.
  • Poisoned Weapons: Albert laced his bullets with rattlesnake venom.
  • Politically Correct History: Inverted. MacFarlane cooks up Politically Incorrect History by taking everything that was bad about the West and making it worse!
  • Quirky Town: The town itself is filled with people who are so apathetic that they barely bat an eye at their fellow citizens dying right in front of them (which happens a lot), to the point where no-one shows concern over their mayor lying dead in the street for days, and the multiple deaths at the yearly fair are treated as an inevitable occurence.
  • Reaction Shot: The closest you'll get to a Gory Discretion Shot in this show. Seth MacFarlane's Jaw Drop is an art form in itself.
  • Rescue Introduction: Albert meets Anna when he saves her from a falling rail in the Bar Brawl scene. Since the romance takes a while to kick in, it's not really an example of Rescue Romance.
  • Ridiculous Future Inflation: Inverted: When Foy wages a dollar on the shooting match, townspeople don't believe he even has that much money, until he takes it out and shows them.
    "Take your hat off, boy, that's a dollar bill!"
  • Rule of Cool: Doc Brown's presence with the DeLorean. He did travel back to the Old West in Back to the Future Part III, but it was to California in 1885.
  • Running Gag: The sheep on the roof.
  • Scenery Porn: Absolutely gorgeous vistas of the American southwest, notably Monument Valley, enhanced by the thrilling classic-movie-Western-style soundtrack.
  • Shared Universe: With Back to the Future and Django Unchained, though purely through Rule of Funny.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Sleeps with Everyone but You: Ruth is a prostitute who has sex with 10 guys on a slow day, but won't sleep with her boyfriend Edward because she's a Christian and wants to wait for marriage. She does eventually change her mind when it seems like they might soon get killed by Clinch.
  • Smug Snake: Foy.
  • Snake Oil Salesman: One tries to sell Albert and Anna a bottle of patent medicine at the Fair, only to have the two of them tear his claims to shreds by reading the ingredients. Then he gets gored by a runaway bull.
  • Spiritual Successor: To Blazing Saddles, and possibly The Hallelujah Trail.
  • Take That!: Quite a few, mostly at the Old West itself and its ways, like hardcore Christianity and the like.
  • Talking Is a Free Action: Averted and parodied; Albert manages to poison Clinch without him realizing, then keeps talking to distract Clinch long enough for the poison to take effect. Once Clinch collapses, Albert explains what he did, only to be informed that Clinch died from the venom before he had a chance to hear the explanation. Albert is clearly disappointed.
  • Technically a Smile: Albert and Anna think the Texan must be insane.
  • Third Act Stupidity: Anna knocks Clinch out with a rock, but then just leaves him there to wake up and pursue her again instead of killing him or tying him up and leading the town Sheriff back to arrest him.
  • Title Drop: Done by Albert to Clinch during his Badass Boast speech after he clips him with a bullet laced with rattlesnake venom.
  • Toilet Humour: The whole laxative incident where Foy gets a serious case of diarrhea, and right before facing Albert in a duel, he steals two cowboy's hats (who don't really seem to care, even if one resists a little) and proceeds to do his business in them in front of the whole town. And then the film actually cuts to the hat ITSELF, showing us how it's filled with...
    • Later, as Albert is hiding from Clinch, a sheep pees on him. The sheep's wiener is shown in all its "glory".
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Albert's rivaling love interests - Anna and Louise.
  • Training Montage: Albert does one in preparation for his duel with Foy.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Albert points out that the Mayor has been lying dead in the middle of the town for several days and no one is doing anything about it, be it investigate the cause of death, bury him, or appoint a replacement. This also applies, much less pointedly, to the many deaths that occur throughout the film, with people staring in horror/interest for a few seconds and then carrying on like any other day.
    (Wolves come in and drag Mayor off)
    Albert: (being overly sarcastic) Oh! Look at that! Look at that! Wolves are dragging the body away as if to illustrate my point! Bye! Bye, Mr. Mayor! Bye! Have fun becoming wolf shit! Bye! God!
  • Vile Villain, Saccharine Show: "Saccharine" isn't the best word, but the film is a comedy. Any comedy comes to a halt whenever Clinch Leatherwood is around. He is likely the darkest villain in a Seth Macfarlane work.
  • Vulgar Humor: Oh yes. It has sex jokes, prostitute jokes, potty humor, anatomy humor, religious jokes, sudden violent deaths, racial humor, and hypocritical humor. Justified as vulgar humor is a Seth MacFarlane hallmark.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The guy Albert owes money to in the first scene who gives him two days to come up with the cash. He's never seen again, although in a later scene where Edwards says that Albert hasn't left his house in over a week, Albert does mention that he did leave to pay the rancher off.
  • Where da White Women At?: Django drops this joke after the credits.
  • Wimp Fight: Albert and Edward invoke this trope during a Bar Brawl, to avoid actually fighting anyone. Though Edward messes up and actually hits him. Albert complains that it was not in rehearsal.
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: Obviously, after Anna bashed Clinch's head with a rock to knock him out, she could have easily taken it further and killed him while he was unconscious, thereby avoiding the whole climax (although it's implied earlier that Anna just doesn't have it in her to kill).
  • Your Head A-Splode: In the scene where a big block of ice is being unloaded, the ropes tear and a worker gets his head smashed.