The story is set during the Thirty Years' War, where Omar Sharif plays a teacher trying to survive in war-torn Germany. He witnesses a mercenary company led by Captain Michael Caine sack a village and flees blindly into the wilderness, where he stumbles upon a remote and hidden village. The mercenaries follow him, but as they are about to sack the village, Sharif makes a proposition to the Captain: why not spare the village and wait out the winter? Everybody wins.
The Last Valley contains examples of the following tropes:
- Adaptational Heroism: In the book, Gruber and his men murder the two soldiers the captain left behind and mortally wound Vogel when he tries to warn him, which turns out to be unnecessary, given the captains Mortal Wound Reveal. In the film, they don't kill the soldiers left at the village -although one dies during the witch burning-, and while they do spring an ambush, upon realizing the captain was dying anyway, spare the lives of the one man to make it back with the Captain, as well as Vogel.
- Adaptational Villainy: While Father Wendt clashes with the mercenaries in the book, he is given more depth there and dies during Hansen's raid rather than during an attempted witch burning.
- Asshole Victim: The first mercenary to die is the one that is implied to have raped a women in the prologue, as well as the one that just wants to burn the eponymous last valley.
- Composite Character: Tub and Stoffel, the two men left behind by the Captain in the book, are combined with Geddes and Pirelli.
- Crapsack World: The Holy Roman Empire pretty much fits during this point of history, with what the never ending war and the ravenous mercenaries killing and destroying the countryside.
- Divided We Fall: The mercenaries gradually fall to pieces over religious conflict and who gets which village girl.
- Enemy Mine: The villagers hate the soldiers, and the soldiers basically want to Rape, Pillage, and Burn the whole place, but they both need the site to survive the winter. so they defend it together.
- Forever War: The Thirty Years' War forms the backdrop to the story.
- The Fundamentalist: The Catholic village priest, played by Swedish actor Per Oscarsson, comes across as this. So does one of the Protestant mercenaries who stops to pray after killing a Catholic peasant.
- Hired Guns: The mercenaries.
- Let Them Die Happy: The Captain thinks Inge is Erica, who has been killed, as he's dying, and she lets him think it.
- Ominous Latin Chanting: The village priest during the witch-burning.
- Meaningful Name: The last valley alluded in the title is the only one that has managed to escape the devastation of the Thirty Years War so far.
- The Plague: Omar Sharif's character stumbles, literally, over a field dead of plague victims. He touches one with his left hand and immediately shoves it into a fire to purge potential infection.
- Pragmatic Villainy: The teacher convinces the mercenary captain to spare the village and live of it during the winter instead of indulging in Rape, Pillage, and Burn, arguing that it's the only bountiful village he has manage to encounter so far across Germany and to get rid of any troublemaker. The captain doesn't hesitate to kill the one mercenary that he knows won't agree with the idea a second after hearing it.Mercenary Captain: "Good ideas are rare these days."
- Worthless Yellow Rocks: At the beginning, the teacher tries to convince one of the peasants to let him stay by paying him, the peasant summarises how little does his coins value in the current famine.Peasant farmer: "You want to pay? Give me seeds, or new tools."
- Worthy Opponent: The mercenary captain considers the village mayor Gruber to be this.