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Film / Unforgiven

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"It's a hell of a thing, killing a man. You take away all he's got... and all he's ever gonna have."
Will Munny

A Western from 1992, written by David Webb Peoples, produced, directed by and starring Clint Eastwood.

In the town of Big Whiskey, normal people are trying to lead quiet lives. Cowboys are trying to make a living. Sheriff Little Bill Daggett (Gene Hackman) is trying to build a house and keep a heavy-handed order. The girls of the town's brothel are just trying to get by. But when two cowboys cut up one of the brothel's girls, who goes by the name of Delilah Fitzgerald (Anna Levine), the prostitutes are not satisfied with Little Bill's justice and put out a $1,000 bounty on the heads of both cowboys, Quick Mike and Davey Bunting.

William Munny (Eastwood) is a Retired Gunfighter. Formerly a notorious cold-blooded killer, Munny was seemingly reformed by his late wife Claudia, who convinced him to give up his murderous ways and settle down as an honest farmer, living peacefully with their two children. However, farming is hard and his family are in financial difficulties, so Munny is drawn back into a life of killing when Gunfighter Wannabe the Schofield Kid (Jaimz Woolvett) offers to split the reward on the bounty. Together with his old partner Ned Logan (Morgan Freeman), Munny and the Kid set off on one last job, and in the process run afoul of Little Bill. In the ensuing hostilities, the ruthless demon that laid dormant within Munny is unleashed with a vengeance.


The film has gone on to be considered one of the greatest westerns ever made. It won four Academy Awards (and was nominated for five others), garnering Best Picture and Best Director for Clint Eastwood, Best Supporting Actor for Gene Hackman and Best Film Editing for editor Joel Cox.

A Japanese remake starring Ken Watanabe was made in 2013.

Not to be confused with the older western film The Unforgiven, which tells another story entirely.


Provides examples of:

  • Actor Allusion:
    • When Will notes that Ned is still using a Spencer rifle, it would imply that Ned carried it in the Civil War as a member of a U.S. Colored Troops cavalry regiment. Morgan Freeman also starred in Glory as a member of a U.S. Colored regiment.
    • The earlier scene when Clint Eastwood practices firing guns is reminiscent of him firing guns before the credits of The Outlaw Josey Wales.
    • Will, beaten and bloody, crawling out of the saloon and across the boardwalk outside, is highly reminiscent of a scene from A Fistful of Dollars.
  • Advertised Extra: English Bob is memorable, but not as big a character as being featured in the poster would imply.
  • The Alcoholic: Munny used to be one; he was drunk during his most famous exploits.
  • All There in the Script: The screenplay reveals what happened to The Schofield Kid — he drowned himself out of guilt.
  • The Alleged House: Sheriff Bill Dagget built his own wood-frame house on a lonely parcel away from town. While recounting the exploits of The Wild West to biographer W.W. Beauchamp, both men set out assorted vessels to catch all the rainwater that's leaking through the roof. One of the sheriff's own deputies put it succinctly; "You know, he don't have a straight angle in that whole god-damned porch, or the whole house for that matter. He is the worst damn carpenter."
  • Animals Hate Him: When he cannot mount his own horse, William Munny claims that his horse is taking revenge on him because he was mean with all the animals in his past. See Badass Boast to know how much Munny had mistreated and killed animals.
    • Broken-down pig farmer Munny can't even manage his own sickly livestock, who probably resist his attempts to wrangle them out of spite as much as illness.
  • Arc Words: "I ain't like that no more."
    • "I guess they got (had) it coming"
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Invoked by Ned Logan when he tries to guess what provoked the placing of a deathmark on the heads of the cowboys:
    "So what did these fellas do? Cheat at cards? Steal some strays? Spit on a rich fella? What?"
  • Asshole Victim: The brothel owner "Skinny" very cruelly insults Delilah over her scars, and puts Ned's body on display outside the saloon. He should've armed himself before he did that last one, not that it would have mattered when Will came calling.
  • Asskicking Equals Authority: Subverted with Little Bill. He has a reputation as a badass who "worked them tough towns" in Kansas and Texas according to his deputies (including the notorious Abilene, according to Beauchamp), and he has the measure of "dangerous men" as he demonstrates dealing with English Bob and as he recounts to Beauchamp. English Bob has an Oh, Crap! moment when he first sees Little Bill, and not just because there are four guns pointed at him. At the same time, the only violence he manages in the entire movie is brutal beatdowns on men already at gunpoint or restrained, and the only time he manages to get a shot off, he's already on the floor shot and Munny handily deflects his gun away by stepping on his arm.
  • The Atoner: Munny honestly attempts to live a life that would be pleasing to his departed wife, never touching alcohol and even forbidding his children from cussing. But his dire financial situation pushes him back into his gunslinging ways, and he goes over the edge completely after Ned's death.
  • Badass Boast
  • Band of Brothels: When one of theirs is maimed by a bad john, the working girls pool their resources and put a bounty on the wrongdoers' heads, kicking off the action.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Averted with Delilah, whose injuries kick off the plot. While she's isn't exactly disfigured, and arguably still pretty good looking, she has permanent scarring on her face.
  • Being Evil Sucks: Since it's not necessarily obvious: The Schofield Kid has this one pretty bad right before the final showdown Where It All Began.
  • Being Good Sucks: Kind of. It's noticeable that during his period of trying to be good, Munny is an unsuccessful pig farmer eking out a wretched existence, is wracked by guilt, and comes across as kind of pathetic (note how often he falls off his horse, and his beating by Little Bill). After returning to his old ways, he becomes a scarily effective gunfighter and the epilogue indicates he became financially successful. Not to mention that things don't turn out well for Ned after he admits he's lost his stomach for killing and tries to return home.
  • Berserk Button: Munny finds out about Little Bill killing Ned and desecrating his body in the last 20 minutes of the movie. He spends those last 20 minutes killing most of the people who die in the movie in response.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Munny goes back to his old ways and Ned is murdered, but Munny avenges him. And with the money he earns from the bounty on the two cowboys, he's able to move on and make a better life for himself — rumored to be San Francisco, where he prospered in dry goods.
    Closing narration: ...And there was nothing on the marker to explain to Mrs. Feathers why her only daughter had married a known thief and murderer, a man of notoriously vicious and intemperate disposition.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Ned is beaten to death by Little Bill, even though he wasn't the one who fired the fatal shot at cowboy Davey.
  • Bleed 'em and Weep: The Schofield Kid provides a rare male example after killing Quick Mike.
  • Blind Without 'Em: The Schofield Kid, though he never owned any spectacles to begin with.
  • Blunt "Yes": During the final shootout.
    Little Bill: I'll See You in Hell, William Munny.
    Munny: Yeah. (shoots him)
  • Book-Ends
    • A unique meta-example; the boots that Clint Eastwood wears in this movie, which has been his last (to date) appearance in a western, are the same ones that he wore during his first western appearance, on the 1950s TV show Rawhide.
    • This movie and Eastwood's first directed western High Plains Drifter open and close their movies with the same location, camera angle and time of day.
  • Boom, Headshot!: How William Munny kills Little Bill.
  • Bond One-Liner: William Munny blows a guy away and then utters one of the best of these in a Western ever:
    "Little Bill" Daggett: Well, sir, you are a cowardly son of a bitch! You just shot an unarmed man!
    William Munny: Well he should've armed himself, if he's gonna decorate his saloon with my friend.
  • Bounty Hunter: Will Munny, Ned Logan, and The Schofield Kid.
  • Break the Haughty: English Bob has his gun dismantled, is beaten savagely, and is abandoned by his trusted scribe Beauchamp. It's supposed to illustrate the near-boundless cruelty of Sheriff Little Bill, but considering many of the stories Bob told Beauchamp were heavily exaggerated, if not outright fabricated, and considering Bob did little to ingratiate himself to his American hosts beforehand (mocking Americans for having a president for a leader instead of a monarch, for example), his mistreatment landed him much closer to this trope for many viewers.
  • Camping a Crapper: How Schofield Kid killed the second cowboy.
  • The Can Kicked Him: The Schofield Kid kills one of the marked men while he's sitting in an outhouse.
  • Celibate Hero: Will Munny stays faithful to his dead wife.
  • Chekhov's Lecture: Little Bill explains to Beauchamp, at length, about how proper aim trumps speed in a real gunfight. Illustrated bloodily during the movie's climactic gunfight: Munny systematically guns down the men surrounding him while standing still in a cramped bar due to the fact that everyone's so freaked out by his ruthless execution of the owner and Bill. Though Munny mentions that it has as much to do with pure luck as anything else.
  • Chinese Laborer: Apparently, English Bob earned a living killing them for the railroads.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Every single gunslinger in the film.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Little Bill delivers a brutal one sided beating to both English Bob and William Munny at two different points in the movie
    • Despite being out numbered, William Munny is able to easily outgun and kill Little Bill and his men; if only because of his experience and knowing better than anyone in the bar the business of gunfighting.
  • Darker and Edgier: Of the Western. Even compared to the Sergio Leone's Spaghetti Western films, this film is Darker and Edgier.
  • Dead Guy on Display: Done with Ned. Munny is angry and ready to kill by this point, but seeing Ned's body out in the open like that visibly enrages him further. Truth in Television — towns often put the unidentified dead out on display as well, in hopes that someone would identify them/claim the bodies.
  • Death Is Such an Odd Thing: The Schofield Kid feels that way after his first kill.
    It don't seem real... how he ain't gonna never breathe again, ever... how he's dead. And the other one too. All on account of pulling a trigger.
  • Deconstruction: Of Western movies. Munny himself is a Deconstructed Character Archetype of the kinds of characters Clint Eastwood played in the 60s and 70s.
    • One aspect of this is how the movie shows Munny dealing with his re-submersion into the violent, dangerous environment he left behind before he became a family man. He doesn't become a more heroic figure, rising to the occasion. Instead, he degrades, with his layers of civility being stripped away until at the end, he's the cold-blooded killer that he once was.
    • Eastwood’s trademark squint was subject to this too: the Schofield Kid is almost constantly squinting, but it’s just because of his poor eyesight and doesn’t look badass in the least.
    • The final showdown deconstructs Conservation of Ninjutsu. Will kills almost all Little Bill's deputies because none of them has a killer instinct despite their numbers.
    • Honor Before Reason is also deconstructed. Consider the title. The prostitutes can't forgive Quick Mike for cutting Delilah. Little Bill can't forgive the prostitutes for putting a hit on the cowboys. The Schofield Kid can't forgive himself for actually killing a man, and finally Will Munny can't forgive Little Bill for killing Ned. As a result, most of these characters are either dead, dying, or emotionally broken at the end of the movie.
    • The roles of the good guys and bad guys in the classic Westerns are deliberately reversed. Will Munny is a violent (former) criminal who rides into town and stirs up trouble, while Little Bill is the Sheriff trying to maintain order by throwing out the criminals, and rounds up a posse to go after them. Note that Will Munny's entrance just before the final shootout is almost a perfect Western villain entrance, complete with Munny standing eerily in the shadows and being dressed in all dark clothing. During the final shootout, William guns down an unarmed man, while Little Bill shows extraordinary bravery in his final moments. Ultimately and deliberately, neither of them comes out looking all that great.
    • More then perhaps any deconstruction in this film in contrast to most Clint Eastwood westerns (or any western) where the lead will casually gun down a group of people like it is nothing, this movie makes a point about how there is nothing glamorous about killing a person even if you think it is for heroic reasons. Will Munny is plauged by the guilt over all the people he has killed and the Schofield Kid has a breakdown after he finally kills one of the bounty targets.
  • Defiant to the End: Non-fatal example with English Bob. For all his cowardice and exaggeration of his deeds, he gives a spectacular, furious speech against the people of Big Whiskey as they're running him out of town.
    English Bob: A plague on you! A plague on the whole stinking lot of ya, without morals or laws. And all you whores got no laws. You got no honor. It's no wonder you all emigrated to America, because they wouldn't have you in England! You're a lot of savages, that's what you all are. A bunch of bloody savages! A plague on you!
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: A major part of the film's goal of de-romanticizing the West: racism (whether against Englishmen, "Chinamen", or "injuns") is rampant, prostitutes are seen as the scum of the earth (Skinny refers to the cut-up prostitute as "damaged property"), and an exchange of goods is seen as acceptable punishment for slicing them up. Unfortunately, all of this period-appropriate realism makes the fact that Ned's skin color is not even remarked upon, never mind serving as a plot point, extremely jarring. This was heavily criticized by the film's detractors (Ned was presumably not written with Morgan Freeman in mind).
  • Dime Novel: W.W. Beauchamp writes these. One example is "The Duke of Death", about English Bob. Little Bill insists on calling it "The Duck of Death".
  • Dirty Coward: Little Bill repeatedly accuses Munny of being one, expressing disgust at his past atrocities, even though he himself seems to prefer administering rough justice to old men who have already been disarmed and surrounded by deputies.
    • English Bob, having built his fearsome (but false) reputation as a deadly effective gunslinger by shooting other gunslingers unawares and gunning down unarmed Chinese migrant workers.
  • Disproportionate Retribution
    • Davey, the second of the two cowboys whose actions started the plot, attempted to stop his friend from hurting Delilah, and when the two of them came to pay compensation to Skinny, he attempted to give her a pony as part of a personal apology to her, which the other whores refused to accept out of anger. The whores put a price on his head anyway and he's killed by the protagonists. With a slow gutshot. After they break his leg by shooting his horse out from under him.
    • The whole movie is about this: Quick Mike's cutting up of Delilah for laughing at his small penis. Little Bill's refusal to punish him significantly, instead forcing the cowboys to pay horses to the saloon owner. The whores' putting out bounties on the cowboys, little realizing what kind of bounty hunters that would attract. Little Bill beating the crap out of English Bob, not just as a warning to bounty hunters but for personal reasons. The whores refusing Davey's direct apology and gift to Delilah, leaving the bounty on him for Munny to shoot him. Little Bill torturing poor Ned to death, with the saloon keeper displaying the corpse like a trophy. And the final shootout...
    Little Bill: I don't... deserve to die like this! I was building a house...
    Will Munny: Deserve's got nothing to do with it…
    • Illustrating just how psychotically violent he was in his outlaw days, Munny muses to Ned of a old memory that stayed with him, shooting a drover through the mouth with the teeth falling out of the back of the unfortunate man's head. Will reflects that after he sobered up he couldn't even think of a reason why the drover had deserved such a thing. He further recalls that most of men he had rode with at the time both hated and feared him, worrying that Will would kill them out of "pure meanness".
    • English Bob himself killed Two-Gun Corcoran purely for sleeping with a woman he had his eye on.
  • Distant Finale: According to Eastwood, this film is the official final-chapter of the story of The Man With No Name from The Dollars Trilogy.
  • Dramatic Thunder: On Will's appearance in the bar, and after his ultimatum to the entire town of Big Whiskey.
  • The Dreaded: Munny, when his past days as a thief and murderer are discussed. The Schofield Kid in their first scene together describes Munny's reputation as "the meanest goddamn son of a bitch alive." Later, when Little Sue (the prostitute who delivers the bounty) describes what Ned said about him — that dynamiting a train full of women and children wasn't even the worst he'd done — her quavering voice, and the look the Kid gives Will, say it all.
  • Drunken Master: Munny was drunk during most of his famous exploits. He drinks a bottle of whiskey before the salon shootout, where he's much more effective then he was previously in the movie.
  • Dying Truce: William Munny shoots and mortally wounds the cowboy Davey Bunting. Davey becomes thirsty and begs one of his friends to bring him water. His friends are reluctant to do so due to fear of being shot themselves. Munny calls out to them to give Davey some water and promises not to shoot them. One of them believes him and goes to Davey with a canteen.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • (In this case, Even Anti-Heroes Have Standards). After killing the men at the saloon, when writer W.W. Beauchamp asks him who he chose first (in an effort to romanticize the brutal events that Munny committed), Munny replies only by threatening him with death. All the players in the movie were eager to justify their Disproportionate Retribution, except for Munny: he knows that he did evil things once and he’s doing evil things now, and that for that he will go to hell. He will not try to hide that from himself or anyone else.
    • Even when he cold-bloodedly murdered an unarmed Skinny for displaying Ned's corpse outside his saloon and when he was about to shoot Little Bill, both times Munny warned the people standing near his target to move away for their own safety because he's using a shotgun, showing a remarkable concern for the welfare of people he doesn't have any specific intention of killing (and a surprising effort to avert Reckless Gun Usage).
  • Evil Counterpart: English Bob to Will Munny, except he's just a vicious coward who was trying to cash in on his reputation. An argument could be made that, in as much as 'good' and 'evil' are meaningful concepts in this movie, Will Munny is the Evil Counterpart to English Bob. Consider the way both of them end their time in the town; English Bob is kicked out in disgrace with his reputation in tatters, exposed as a coward, and for all his ineffectual ranting and raving about how he'll return and make them all pay, he's basically a joke. Will Munny leaves of his own accord with a room full of bodies behind him, and when he promises that he'll come back and make them all pay if they give him cause to return, there's probably not a person in the town who doubts his sincerity or ability to make good on his threats. Which one's the evil one again?
  • Everyone Has Standards: Little Bill's deputies are visibly uneased see how severely Little Bill is beating William Munny in the bar despite the fact he is clearly so sick that he clearly is no danger to them.
  • Fastest Gun in the West: This film deconstructs the hell out of this. Sheriff "Little Bill" Daggett recounts no less than two instances where merely being able to unholster and draw your pistol in a gunfight faster than the other guy doesn't guarantee you'll win; on the contrary- you're more likely to either miss your opponent, or worse, shoot yourself in the leg or foot- and that's if the gun doesn't jam or even blow up in you grip. Played With in that when Bill Munny returns to Big Whiskey to seek revenge for Ned's death, he does manage to kill all of his opponents with his clearly superior speed, coupled with unerring accuracy.
  • Faux Affably Evil: When he's not doling out Disproportionate Retribution, Little Bill can be fun to hang around with. He even takes on the writer English Bob brought into town, who is more fascinated with Bill's tales.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Little Bill, staring down Will Munny's gun. Subverted all to hell with every other death. None of them die cleanly or quickly.
  • Famous Last Words: "I'll See You in Hell, William Munny!" ("Yeah..." *shoots him*)
  • Foreshadowing: Little Bill telling Beauchamp about how it is a disadvantage to quick draw because you won't properly aim and it is all about staying calm and focous echos what will happen in the climax.
  • Gag Penis: As Little Bill tells Beauchamp, English Bob once killed a man who was nicknamed "Two-Gun Corcoran." Although Beauchamp was under the impression it was because Corcoran carried two guns, Little Bill explains in detail how he got the name, even though he in fact carried only one gun.
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars: Averted. Delilah, who's as "good" as anybody is in this movie, has some really nasty-looking facial scars, even though her beauty is still there if you look past them.
  • Gossip Evolution: When the Schofield Kid tells Munny about the attack, he says that the cowboys had cut out Delilah's eyes and cut off her ears, neither of which was true. When Munny tells Ned about it, he adds that they cut off her fingers and her breasts.
  • Grey-and-Gray Morality: None of the main characters are truly heroic or villainous.
  • Grievous Bottley Harm: Subverted. Munny attempts it, fails, and he gets his ass kicked for trying.
  • Grumpy Old Man: Munny has evolved into one. Once he's unable to shoot a can with a revolver, he angrily goes for a shotgun to ensure it falls.
  • The Gunfighter Wannabe: The Schofield Kid.
  • Gun Porn: Most westerns depict everyone carrying a Winchester rifle, a Colt Peacemaker, or a double-barreled shotgun (largely due to the use of the five-in-one blank round in movingie production). Unforgiven features a very wide selection of old-west firearms, and several are identified by name.
  • The Gunslinger: If they're not a whore, they're a gunslinger. Or a writer ("What, letters and such?").
  • Hiding the Handicap: Downplayed, the Schofield Kid tries his best to hide the fact that he has bad eyesight. It doesn't stop Ned from figuring it out real quick.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Delilah seems to emphasize the "heart of gold" aspect, being portrayed as the sweetest and most innocent of the working girls. Deconstructed with Strawberry Alice, the caring big sister of the group. While she does look after Delilah when she's hurt, she's also eager for revenge and shows no remorse for getting it.
  • How the Mighty Have Fallen: Word of God states that Bill Munny is the Man With No Name from The Dollars Trilogy by Sergio Leone, which means the fastest gunman and most cunning in the west who once had 100,000 Gold Pieces of Confederate Dollars to his name and collected the $27,000 bounty on El Indio and his gang (plus another $40,000 for returning the stolen money to the Bank of El Paso) is now a rheumatic old pig farmer who can barely get on his horse, or even shoot straight anymore...
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: As Will insists to Ned, "I'm just a fella now. I ain't any different from anyone else no more."
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy
    • Discussed, and ultimately Deconstructed. The deputies in the final showdown panic, blaze away at Munny, and hit exactly zip. Munny, on the other hand, keeps a cool head and rations out a bullet for each one.
    • At the start of the film, Munny is a horrible shot, missing a tin can with all six shots at close range. This leads him to bring a shotgun along just in case. It's only after he discovers that Ned is dead that he gets his old focus back.
    • Munny also apparently works best while drunk. He drinks a bottle of whisky (his first in the movie) before entering Skinny's for the showdown (Booze-Based Buff?).
    • This is Truth in Television: Revolvers of the time were notoriously inaccurate, even at close range. So as Little Bill says, accuracy trumps speed, and in fact shooting faster would likely make it less accurate, not more. Plus, Munny admits he's "always been lucky in killin' folks."
  • Insistent Terminology: Little Bill's insistence on referring to English Bob as the Duck (of Death) rather than the Duke. He and his deputies repeatedly refer to bounty hunters as "assassins" as a kind of insult.
  • Instant Death Bullet: Subverted. Munny shoots one of the targets in the gut, and he dies slowly and painfully. A few of his victims after the final shootout can be seen slowly writhing on the floor in obvious agony. Little Bill doesn't die from the first shot either.
  • It's Personal: Will pretty much drags his feet throughout the whole contract killing, but when he is given a personal reason to kill someone, like when Little Bill kills Ned, he goes back to his old ways, with increased focus and gusto.
  • Karma Houdini: Somewhat downplayed. While Will doesn't get any retribution at the end for his crimes, they were all either implied or justified in some way since he's given a Sympathetic P.O.V. throughout the film. And he knows he's going to pay for it in Hell anyway.
    "We all got it coming, kid."
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: William Munny shoots an unarmed man in front of a large crowd, but considering that said unarmed man had made a porch decoration out of a dead man...
  • Lame Comeback: Sort of. Instead of a witty one-liner, Munny responds in rather bland fashion, but the effect is, if anything, more intimidating because it's clear Munny no longer cares about anything like regular human communication.
    Little Bill: I'll See You in Hell, William Munny!
  • Large and in Charge: The ironically named sheriff "Little" Bill Daggett.
  • Love Redeems: Well, almost. Munny did change his ways for his wife, but eventually reverted to his old ways after she died.
  • Mass "Oh, Crap!": Everyone in Skinny's bar when they see Will Munny walk in.
  • Messianic Archetype: His late wife Claudia was – is – this for William Munny… to the extent he can be saved.
  • Meta Casting: Eastwood has stated on occasion that he considers this to be something of a direct sequel to his earlier Westerns, showing what happened when the Man With No Name when he grew old and ran out of bad guys to kill.
  • Miles Gloriosus: The Schofield Kid. For another example, English Bob is shown to be an excellent pistol marksman (shooting birds in flight from a moving train with a pistol is no mean feat), but he has no stomach for actual fighting.
    • William Munny is a subversion. He takes no glory in his past (bloody) achievements, even though being able to outshoot multiple opponents is quite impressive on the face of it. But Munny actually downplays his feats, claiming to kill fewer than the actual number.
  • Mood Whiplash: There is a humorous scene depicting Quick Mike among his bodyguards, where one jokes about handing Mike over for five cents, eliciting uproarious laughter. Mike himself comments that he's not worried, as he has "protection", and the camera switches to an overweight deputy snoring away. Then the scene immediately changes to a posse with a captive and bound Ned on horseback...
  • Mook Horror Show: Will Munny's entry into the bar, shotgun raised is played out practically like the introduction of an archvillain in a horror movie, complete with Dramatic Thunder.
  • Morality Chain: Munny's deceased wife.
  • The Münchausen: English Bob, who tells grand stories about his exploits, only for it to be revealed he's a coward and any truth to the stories has been heavily embellished. Averted with Little Bill and Munny. Bill is every bit as badass as his own stories suggest, and Munny's past actions were actually worse than the stories themselves, and he promptly tells off Beauchamp when the writer tries to cozy up to him as well (whereas both Bob and Bill enjoyed the audience).
  • Never Trust a Trailer: One trailer has a bystander yell at Munny that he just shot an unarmed man, and Munny replying matter-of-factly, "well, he should have armed himself." That's actually just half the line he speaks in the movie - what he actually says is, "well, he should have armed himself, if he's going to decorate his saloon with my friend."
  • Nobody Poops: Averted, fatally.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Little Bill is extremely fond of them.
  • Noodle Incident: Will and Ned often talk about their past exploits and their former gang. Subverted a bit in that Munny was drunk most of the time and doesn't remember all the details either.
  • Not His Blood: After the climactic gunbattle in which William Munny kills Little Bill and most of his deputies, Munny hears moaning coming from a pile of bodies. Mr. Beauchamp (Little Bill's biographer) moves a dead body off of himself, sees a patch of blood on his chest and says "I'm shot! I'm shot!" Munny tells him "You ain't shot", and he's right. The blood came from the dead man lying on top of him.
  • Not So Different: Part of the point of the movie is that the forces of law and order and the forces of criminality and villainy in the Old West often weren't as different as later mythologizing have made them out to be.
  • Not Quite Dead: Little Bill Daggett doesn't die immediately when William Munny initially shoots him, and this enables him to nearly get the drop on Munny. But at the last second, Munny notices Bill stirring and stops him from reaching his pistol, then finishes him off for good with a blast to the face.
    • One of the deputies Munny previously shot is still alive, with his groans of pain giving him away. Munny polishes him off, as well.
  • Of Corsets Sexy: As befits a brothel, we get quite a few shots of the ladies of Greeley's sitting around wearing corsets and even skimpier wear.
  • Off the Wagon: Munny has quit drinking, but he drinks a bottle of whisky before the final showdown.
  • Oh, Crap!
    • English Bob upon seeing Little Bill: "Shit and fried eggs."
    • First by Little Bill when Munny confronts him in the saloon, then by Munny as his weapon misfires.
    • The Schofield Kid gets one when he hears that he's the only friend Will has.
  • One Last Job: Gone horribly, horribly wrong.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted; although it's easy to overlook, both the protagonist and the antagonist have the same first name.note 
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: An in-universe version; English Bob, who normally speaks with a plummy upper-crust accent, slips into Cockney when suddenly confronted by Little Bill and his posse. Apparently he's pretending to be an upper-class gent when he's really from the gutter (an early indication is when he says "I thought you was dead" before correcting himself to the more "correct" "you were".) To some, Bob's accent sounds American (Southern or Midwestern) at this point, indicating that his entire identity as "English" Bob is a fabrication.
  • Parental Neglect: Munny leaves his two young children to fend for themselves while he risks his life to collect the bounty.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: The last 20 minutes of this are William Munny falling deeply into this trope after Little Bill kills Ned Logan.
  • Persona Non Grata: After beating and jailing English Bob, Little Bill sends him off on a wagon going out of town with a warning never to return.
    Little Bill: I suppose you know, Bob, if I ever see you again I'm just going to start shooting and figure it was self-defense.
  • Pet the Dog: After shooting a man, who is lying in agony begging for a drink of water, Will Munny shouts out to the man's friends to "Give him a drink of water for Christ's sake! We ain't gonna shoot!" This might also be a Mercy Kill, since when you have a wound in the guts, a drink of water will end your misery rather fast.
  • Platonic Prostitution: Just for Munny, though. His partners readily take "advances".
  • Police Brutality: Little Bill's really enjoys doling this out when he has the opportunity. When he English Bob refuses to hand over his gun, Bill's posse takes it by gun point, and then Bill proceeds to make an example of him by kicking Bill to a pulp and publicly declaring he won't tolerate assassins in his town coming to collect on the bounty. He later beats the hell out of Munny for pretending he doesn't have a gun. Even later, he accidentally beats Ned to death for his involvement in killing Davey, though Bill doesn't seem like he was too concerned about the possibility beforehand.
  • Posthumous Character: The Lost Lenore — Claudia Munny was dead before the beginning, but Munny will talk about her whenever he has a chance. At the end of the movie, we know how much her character influenced him and the whole story.
  • Psycho for Hire: Rather downplayed. Munny is brought onto the job mostly for his reputation as one, but he doesn't do much to live up to it. Even when Bill tortures Ned to death, he isn't overly sadistic in his revenge (ruthless, but not sadistic).
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: Averted when Munny kills Little Bill. Little Bill says "I'll See You in Hell, William Munny," and instead of dashing off a clever retort, Munny simply replies "Yeah..."
  • Punctuated Pounding: Little Bill gives one to English Bob and later one to Munny.
  • Quick Draw: Downplayed; As Little Bill notes when he's talking to the writer, while being fast on the draw is perfectly fine...those who draw and start blazing away without taking time to properly aim as a rule end up dead — while a slower, but more accurate, gunfighter will, as a rule, end up the victor.
    Little Bill: Look here. *draws quickly but not overly fast* That's about as fast as I can draw, aim, and hit anything more than ten feet away. 'Less it's a barn...
    • Demonstrated to brutal effect in the final shootout where, even though Munny throws his misfiring shotgun at him to buy time, Little Bill draws his gun and shoots faster than Munny can- and misses. Munny then guns him down, and steadily blows away the deputies one by one as they all blaze away at him in a panic.
  • Quick Nip: As is standard for any movie in the genre.
  • A Real Man Is a Killer: The whole point of the film is to point out that you'd have to be pretty cold-blooded or crazy to work as a gunfighter. An alternate point (which the Schofield Kid seems to get) is that killing someone costs the killer almost as much as the victim.
  • Reality Ensues: This whole movie is a realistic portrayal of what life is like in the west. From how quick drawing in a fight would actually be a disadvantage and how stories are altered and/or exaggerated to make someone look more heroic.
  • Reconstruction
    • While the movie is primarily a Deconstruction, the final fight scene is more or less played straight and Munny isn't portrayed as in the wrong. Word of God says that the movie wasn't so much "violence is bad" as it is "violence is complex and only applicable in certain situations".
    • Something of a Broken Aesop in that case: While Little Bill went too far in killing Ned and is repeatedly portrayed as a sadist who takes pleasure in doling out his version of justice, he believed the man he killed had murdered the babyfaced and relatively innocent — but still guilt-ridden — Davey in cold blood just for a quick pay-off. Munny convinced Ned to come along and help him commit a couple of contract killings despite the latter's misgivings; who's really responsible for getting him killed?
  • Redemption Failure
    • Munny is a former badman, who tried to make a go at being a farmer for the sake of his wife. When she dies and his farm fails to earn him anything beyond a wretched subsistence, in desperation he decides to take on One Last Job for enough money to start over. When Ned dies he fully slides back to his old ways for one evening. Afterwards, it was rumored that he eventually returned to a mundane life once more.
    • Little Bill, too. By his own admission, he is a bad man, but he's trying to make a go of it by being a sheriff. He just happens to piss off the wrong assassin.
  • Red Light District: Well, there's a brothel. It does turn up a lot in the film, though.
  • Reformed, but Rejected: Ned's wife Sally doesn't trust Will.
  • Rejected Apology: Davey trying to give his prize horse to Delilah as an apology for her newly scarred face. (Remember, it was Davey's partner who had cut up Delilah, and Davey tried to stop him.) Before Delilah could accept or reject it, the other prostitutes drive off Davey in rage, declaring that a simple horse isn't going to fix what was done to her.
  • Reliably Unreliable Guns
    • Misfiring guns feature prominently in both the backstory and the climax, which is more appropriate for the time period, in which lower-quality guns and ammo were more common. The rainy night of the climax might also have played a factor.
    • Little Bill, when telling W.W. Beauchamp the real story about how English Bob killed Two-Gun Corcoran, explains that Corcoran's Walker Colt exploded on him, allowing Bob to get the drop on him. This was a problem that Walker Colts really had.
  • Retired Badass: Deconstructed with Will and Ned. They have latent skills, but have been out of the game so long they don't have the same instincts and reflexes they once had. Ned starts off confident but loses his nerve trying to kill the first cowboy. Will starts off almost catatonic, but slowly descends into the cold killer he once was.
  • Retired Monster
    • There's a reason why Will Munny is unforgiven. He doesn't seem to really regret his previous life all that much, except when it comes to his deceased wife. But then Munny got pissed at what they did to Ned.
    • Little Bill describes both English Bob and himself as bad men, implying he thinks they both are this.
    • It's never exactly stated but given he's an old friend/colleague of Munny's, it can be presumed Ned has a pretty bad past too.
  • Retired Gunfighter: Both Will Munny and Ned Logan were retired and had families, until the Kid convinced them to come along for a bounty.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Subverted after Little Bill kills Ned; while Munny stalks into town to take his cold-blooded revenge on the man who killed his best friend and the owner of the saloon who put his corpse on display, he's remarkably controlled. Despite being described throughout the film as a psychotic butcher, once he guns down all the men who are actively shooting at him, he tells everyone else to just Get Out!, even those who are still clutching loaded weapons. Even before that, he warns bystanders to move away to avoid collateral damage before he shoots Skinny and Bill.
  • Saloon Owner: Skinny. It's established in short order that he isn't a great guy. After Alice gets cut up, he's more concerned about the loss of investment than he is about her wellbeing. He also decides to put Ned's corpse on display (or was told to by Little Bill), prompting Munny to blow him down with a shotgun and deliver one of the best lines of his career: "He should've armed himself, if he's gonna decorate his saloon with my friend."
  • See You in Hell: Little Bill, to William Munny. And Munny accepts the truth of it.
  • Self-Applied Nickname: It's heavily implied that the Schofield Kid is the only person who calls him "The Schofield Kid."
  • Shout-Out
  • Shrouded in Myth
    • William Munny. Funnily enough, it seems that the real facts about Will Munny's exploits are more fantastical than the urban legends. He claims he was drunk during most of them, so even he isn't clear on the details.
    • English Bob is a subversion. While he does seem to have some genuine skills (shooting a bird in flight from a moving train with a pistol is pretty damn impressive), it seems likely that most of his exploits are padded.
    • Subverted also when The Schofield Kid is babbling about his kill. "He reached for his gun and I shot him." In truth, the dead man had his hands raised, and his gun was well out of reach. This is probably how most of the myths come around. What the kid said was true, but he was semi-coherent and missed the middle part (the dead man reached for his gun, his gun moved out of reach as the door opened, he tried raising his hands instead, and the kid shot him with his hands raised). There's also probably a bit of selective rewriting of history going on in the process, since given the mood the Kid is in, he would probably rather remember (and have others remember) that he shot a man who was preparing to shoot him rather than that he shot an unarmed and entirely defenseless man.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Mostly to the cynicism side.
  • Taking a Third Option: Little Bill, to prove how difficult it actually is to shoot a man, hands his pistol to biographer W.W. Beauchamp, and dares him to shoot Bill, enabling Beauchamp to escape with the incarcerated English Bob. Beauchamp is indeed extremely nervous to even hold the gun (failing to put his finger on the trigger), and Little Bill moves to take the gun back. The writer then gets the bright idea to give the pistol to Bob, reasoning that the far more experienced gunslinger will not hesitate to shoot his tormentor. Bill, seemingly unfazed, dares him to do so. English Bob declines.
  • A Taste of the Lash: Little Bill captures Ned and wants information, immediately breaking out the whip. Ned does not survive.
  • Teeny Weenie: Quick Mike cut up Delilah because she laughted at his small penis.
  • They Fight Crime!: By killin' folks.
  • Throw-Away Guns: Clyde, one of Little Bill's deputies, carries three guns for this reason. He has only one arm and would be unable to reload in a fight. Also, contrary to the myth of the Colt Peacemaker, most of the guns available in the West during the time period were older cap-and-ball revolvers such as the Colt Navy, Dragoon, and 1860 Army. Reloading one of these weapons is a very slow processnote  that would be completely impractical in the heat of a fight, so it was quite common for a gunfighter to carry multiple pistols and to just draw a backup weapon rather than stop and reload.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Really, Skinny? You don't even carry a gun but you thought it would be a good idea to put Will Munny's best friend on display outside your saloon? And then just stand there when he tells everyone else to clear out?
  • Tranquil Fury: As only Eastwood can do, this is how Will Munny speaks, when he takes his revenge. Yikes.
  • Unreliable Narrator: In keeping with the overall Deconstruction of the Western, a running theme throughout the movie is that many of the characters are either actively trying to rewrite their pasts in order to make them seem better than they were, or have hazy recollections of them to begin with. These fraudulent and flawed recollections then go on to become myths of the west. This starts off early on, as Will only considers the offer from Shofield Kid because he said the target graphically maimed a prostitute, cutting up her face, carving her body, and chopping of her fingers, when she was just disfigured.
  • Unusual Euphemism: "Billiards."
  • Villain-by-Proxy Fallacy: The working girls put out a $1,000 bounty on the heads of two cowboys, Quick Mike and Davey Bunting. While this is understandable in Mike's case (he cut up one of the prostitutes pretty badly), Davey's only crime is his poor choice of friends.
  • Villainy Discretion Shot: Judging from the details given on their backstories, English Bob, Munny, and Ned did some pretty horrific things in the past. Part of the reason Munny and Ned can remain sympathetic is that those things are only described, not shown.
  • Villain Protagonist: The main characters are Professional Killers looking for a pay-out on an unsanctioned bounty. They are opposed by The Sheriff who is actively trying to keep law and order and stop the hit. The Killers happen to be reluctant and fighting their own demons, while the Sheriff has a sadistic streak and the hit itself was considered Disproportionate Retribution. The film in general features Grey-and-Gray Morality.
  • Villainous Valor: Little Bill in his final moments.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist
    • Little Bill genuinely believes that what he does is for the greater good. He probably enjoys it a bit more than he should, though.
    • The Schofield Kid: he continually asserts that the two cowboys "had it coming", even while bawling his eyes out from guilt. Munny replies that "We all have it coming, kid".
  • What Does She See in Him?: Will Munny and his wife. As the opening narration says: "She was a comely young woman and not without prospects. Therefore it was heartbreaking to her mother that she would enter into marriage with William Munny, a known thief and murderer, a man of notoriously vicious and intemperate disposition."
  • "What Now?" Ending: The fate of the town of Big Whiskey is left up in the air after Will massacres Little Bill and his deputies.
  • What Measure Is a Mook?: Little Bill's deputies get a lot of screen time talking about random stuff, showing they are just a bunch of okay guys just doing their jobs.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Subverted when Little Bill calls out Will for shooting an unarmed man, Will has none of that since the man is desecrating Ned's body by putting it in front of his saloon as a warning, you don't get to play innocent.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: Will took the kids and left for San Francisco, where he prospered in selling dry goods.
  • Who Will Bell the Cat?: At the end of the film, after the climactic shoot-out, Munny shouts out a threatening warning that anyone who takes a shot at him as he leaves will pay dearly for it. Two villagers, one a deputy holding a rifle, are hiding behind a wagon as he emerges and have him dead to rights... but the deputy is too terrified to take the shot, in case he misses. He offers the rifle to the other man, but he won't touch it either, and Munny rides away unmolested.
  • A World Half Full: This tale seems to be told in a Crapsack World... until we realize that Claudia has been dead for years and she still has influence over Munny. It could be said that this is her tale, how she still manages to be the only light in the The Western darkness.
  • Would Hit a Girl / Would Hurt a Child: Munny admits that he killed women and children.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy
    • The writer who follows Little Bill Daggett around seems to think he's in a simple white hats versus black hats world... whereas it's more akin to a Crapsack World.
    • Nearly everyone in the movie other than Munny and Little Bill, for the same reason mixed with a lot of ugly truth about the reality of actually living in a 1960's Western.


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