In a future where society has come full circle and man lives by the code of the guns at his side, a fugitive, a vengeful son, a killer, and a servant stand in a four-way face-off from which only one man can walk away. To the east lies seven boomtowns connected by railroad, and to the west is a Utopian community that cowers in fear of the outside world. Dividing these two areas is an arid stretch of desert known only as "The Badlands." Now, these four gunmen stand facing one another with their fingers on their triggers, their fates won't be known until the gun smoke clears.
- Accidental Murder: The Sherpa tells a story of how he 'borrowed' his brother's rifle and was practising his aim by sighting on a lone rider on the plain when the rifle went off in his hands and killed the rider (which exactly parallels the plot of the Johnny Cash song "I Hung My Head"). It is later revealed that he is originally from the Utopian community to the west and this crime got him exiled, and he is now attempting to find is way back.
- After the End: Despite all the Western trappings, the film actually takes place in a post-apocalyptic world, as evidenced by The Nomad's tape player (and his need for batteries) and the radio in the saloon. The nature of the disaster that befell the world is never mentioned.
- Blast Out: Given the film opens with a four-way Mexican Standoff, and most of the film is dedicated to explaining How We Got Here, there was really one way it could end...
- Chromosome Casting: The only speaking female role in the film is a radio announcer. The only women to appear onscreen are Nomad's mother and two geisha in the town of New Gibraltar, none of whom speak or are onscreen for more than a minute or so.
- The Exile: Late in the movie, it is revealed that The Sherpa was exiled from the Utopian community for committing only the second act of violence in the community's history, and has been engineering events so he can find his way back.
- Faking the Dead: The Nomad hires The Criminal to shoot him so that his horse will think he is dead (It Makes Sense in Context). Unfortunately for him, a Gambit Pileup gets in the way of his plan
- Gambit Pileup: Almost everyone involved in the Mexican Standoff that stats and ends the film has an ulterior motive for being in The Badlands and the gunfight. Only The Entrepreneur is actually there for the reasons he stated. However, the clashing plans of those involved results in almost everyone being shot by someone they weren't expecting during resulting Blast Out, and only The Sherpa survives to see his scheme through to the end.
- Grimy Water: The Sherpa and The Entrepreneur are ecstatic when they find a lake in the middle of the Thirsty Desert of The Badlands, but The Nomad tells them it is contaminated by toxic chemicals from the old coal mine and will kill them within two days if they drink it.
- Hidden Elf Village: To the west of The Badlands lies a Utopian community that has closed its gates to what it sees as the sin and corruption of the rest of the Post Apocalyptic world. According to a pilgrim searching for it at the start of the film, there are no criminals, no whores and no violence there.
- How We Got Here: The film opens with a Mexican Standoff between The Nomad, The Entrepreneur, The Sherpa and The Criminal in the middle of the desert. The rest of the film is dedicated to explaining how they ended up in this situation.
- I Don't Like the Sound of That Place: The Badlands.The Entrepreneur: We didn't think the journey would be so hard. There is nothing to eat out here at all.
The Nomad: I can see how the name 'Badlands' might have thrown you.
- Jar Potty: Fleeing across the Thirsty Desert of The Badlands, The Criminal is reduced to peeing into a tankard and then drinking his own urine.
- Mark of Shame: The Sherpa was branded with a spiral mark on his chest when he was exiled from the Utopian settlement beyond The Badlands for killing a man.
- Mexican Standoff: The film opens with a Mexican standoff between The Nomad, The Entrepreneur, The Sherpa and The Criminal in the middle of the desert. The rest of the film is dedicated to explaining How We Got Here.
- New Neo City: The Entrepreneur's father is murdered in the town of New Gibraltar.
- New Old West: Takes the tropes of the old west and places them in an unknown time with modern technology. The implication is that it is After the End.
- No Name Given: Very few characters are actually named. The main characters are identified as The Nomad, The Sherpa, The Entrepreneur, The Preacher and The Criminal.
- Pistol-Whipping: The Nomad knocks out The Entrepreneur and The Sherpa with his rifle butt when he thinks they have stolen his horse. In a flashback, The Entrepreneur is shown using his pistol butt to beat The Zeppelin Scout's face to a bloody pulp.
- Preacher Man: The ultimate authority in the Utopian settlement to the west is the town's preacher.
- Professional Killer: The Criminal is a killer-for-hire who murders The Entrepreneur's father in such a way that it guarantees that The Entrepreneur will pursue him out into The Badlands.
- Railroad Plot: Part of the background to the world is a bitter rivalry between the railroad and the Zeppelin line to link the boomtowns. This rivalry leads to the Entrepreneur's father, who runs the railroad, being assassinated, and sends The Entrepreneur into The Badlands in pursuit of his killer. Or, at least, that is how it is staged to look.
- Thirsty Desert: The Badlands. The Entrepreneur and The Sherpa are not prepared for the hardship of crossing The Badlands and nearly die of thirst, while The Criminal is reduced to drinking his own urine. The only obvious source of water is contaminated with toxic chemicals, but thanks to his years of wandering the wastes, The Nomad knows just where to shoot the ground to secure fresh water.
- Trivial Title: The title seems to have no relevance to the events of the film whatsoever.note
- "Wanted!" Poster: The Entrepreneur has a wanted poster for The Criminal in his pack that he uses to convince The Nomad of his story.
- Weird West: Strong elements of mysticism run through the movie, especially with regards to The Horse, which is supposed to possess mystic powers.
- You Killed My Father: After his father is assassinated by The Criminal, The Entrepreneur—accompanied by The Sherpa—follows him into The Badlands seeking vengeance.