It's the end of the movie and The Drifter has to be moving on. There are other people in trouble, other wrongs to right, other paths to follow. He saddles up his horse and rides west into the setting sun. The townspeople look on as his figure, silhouetted against the orange disk, disappears into the horizon. The music swells and "The End" appears.
Riding into the sunset is a tried (some would say "tired") and true ending to a show. Primarily a western trope associated with cowboys, but not exclusively so. The setting sun is symbolic of the end of the story.
Sometimes, heroes are known to ride into the sunrise instead — possibly as a symbol of a new beginning or fresh start on life after their adventure is over, or possibly to show that the script writers realize that setting off into the wilderness at sunset is not the brightest idea. (What's he gonna do? Go two miles out of town and then make camp for the night?) Of course, the sunset is somewhat cooler, so a little Artistic License is allowed. In fact, the sunset is so expected that using the more pragmatic sunrise in a Western might be jarring. Besides, riding into the sunset means you're riding West. In stories where the hero has somewhere specific and not too distant to go and rest up, though, leaving at the end of the day makes perfect sense.
A subtrope of Off-into-the-Distance Ending.
- At the end of the Johto saga in Pokémon, Misty rides off into the sunset on her freshly repaired bike, with her Togepi in the basket.
- This kind of scenes were plenty in the Mazinger saga:
- Mazinger Z: Many episodes ended up with the main characters -in their robots standing against the sunset still inside their robots or driving their Humongous Mechas back to the Institute.
- One specific episode ended up with Kouji using Mazinger's hand to -carefully- pick Sayaka and she calmly sitting on the behemot's hand and happily talking to Kouji as Sun set after them.
- Another episode ended up with Kouji (inside Mazinger-Z) holding Sayaka (inside Aphrodite-A) bridal style and walking together into the sunset.
- The Great Mazinger vs UFO Robo Grendizer ended up with Kouji and Duke gazing at the sunset together after the battle. Kouji even commented on it being a beautiful sunset.
- Mazinger Z: Many episodes ended up with the main characters -in their robots standing against the sunset still inside their robots or driving their Humongous Mechas back to the Institute.
- Science Ninja Team Gatchaman: Most episodes of this classic anime — and its various dubs — ends with the God-Phoenix flying off into the sunset, or the team standing around looking at a sunset.
- In Saiyuki the group often ends the episodes driving towards the sunset because they are travelling west to India. They commented on it once in-universe:
Goku: [looking at the sunset] It's more beautiful than a meat bun!
Sha Gojyo: That's quite an endorsement.
Cho Hakkai: Come to think of it, we're always heading towards the setting sun, aren't we?
- In Bleach at the end of the Fullbringer Arc Moe Shishigawara carries Tsukishima on his back into the sunrise.
- Usavich seasons 1, 2, 4 and 5 end with protagonists riding toward horizon in a stolen car. In season 3 it's instead a prison van with the season's villain.
- Subverted in Golgo 13. Duke Togo is hired to kill a Distaff Counterpart, who it's revealed he met three years ago and had a relationship with. Knowing that Togo has the contract on her, she expects to be killed on meeting him again, but he just sleeps with her and leaves the next day. Realising she's been given a break, she decides to retire from the assassination business, but as she pilots a speedboat into the sunset Duke puts a bullet through her head with a single long distance shot.
- The Dragon Ball Z special Episode of Bardock ends with Bardock walking away from the village he protected into the sunset.
- Gundam Build Fighters Try Episode 20: after having fought an exciting Gunpla battle with one of the main characters, Junya rides of in a convertible driven by his friend Akira. Things go hilariously to pot when the latter reveals that he only got his license two days prior.
- Cowboy Bebop, "Cowboy Funk": Andy, as befitting an actual Space Cowboy, rides into the sunset after his battle with Spike... Which was set on the top of a skyscraper. Don't ask us how he got down.
- Every single adventure of Lucky Luke ends this way. In the metastory "Where the sunset is" the Dalton brothers try to avoid capture by keeping away from civilization and hiding out in the wilderness. All to no avail as the place they choose to hang out turns out to be Luke's "riding into the sunset" place. Apparently sunset is a place, not a time.
- The end of ElfQuest (TOS) #7: see here. Two Wolfrider elves, appropriately enough, riding wolves into the sunset. It's worth noting that since Wolfriders are generally nocturnal, sunset is an appropriate time for them to set out.
- At the end of Preacher, Jesse reveals he never wanted to be a preacher as a kid. His girlfriend asks him what he wanted to be. "Girl, can't you guess?" he says, as they ride on a horse towards the sunset.
- Issue #1 of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (IDW), last panel. Parodied since the riders are their own mounts.
- Wolverine's death was done as a variation of this trope. After being covered by adamantium and starting to suffocate inside the almost solid metal, Logan, who was on top of a building, starts walking towards the sunset while having flashbacks of his life before finally dying on the edge of the building in front of the dying sun.
- In the Outlaw Star fanfic A Fistful of Dragonite this is how the Five-Man Band end their story, doubled up on a trio of horses and off to live at least somewhat Happily Ever After.
- Tales Of The Canterlot Deportation Agency: From A Typical Day: How the tale ends, but with walking, not riding:
"It's a nice sunset — good color palette, some nice cloud touches, very artistic work — let's head towards it for a while."
- Done in An American Tail: Fievel Goes West as a bit of a tribute to this trope, when Wylie Burp walks off into the sunset after the final battle and Fievel follows him, and they sit on a rocky outcropping and talk while watching the sunset. It works on a meta level, too; the scene is Jimmy Stewart's last in his final film role.
- Has happened in every Cars film so far:
- The first film ends with Lightning and Sally racing each other back to Radiator Springs, while Mater flies by in the Dinoco helicopter.
- The second film ends with Lightning and Mater speeding off into the distance as Siddley winks at the camera and flies away, before the view irises out.
- The third film ends with Lightning and Cruz racing each other around Willy's Butte. In a rare inversion, it is sunset, but they speed away and then come toward the screen before the credits start.
- In Monsters vs. Aliens, the monsters fly off into the sunset.
- Lampshaded in Rango:
Priscilla: It’s the sunset scene.
- In The Road to El Dorado, it ends with Chell, Miguel and Tulio riding off into the sunset... well, at least Chell is riding off, as Miguel and Tulio fell off Altivo just before it started riding off.
- In Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas, Sinbad, Marina and his crew are sailing into the sunset in the last shot of the film.
- Blazing Saddles parodied this by having the heroes get off of their horses and into a car, driving off into the sunset at the end of the film.
- Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade ends with Indy, his father, Sallah, and Marcus riding into the sunset. Spielberg said this was done with the expectation that this would be the last Indiana Jones film.
Spielberg: I'm done with the series!note
- Variation in Legend (1985). Jack and Lily walk off together into the sunset in one version of the film. In the director's cut, Jack walks off by himself while Lily goes to her castle.
- Wild Wild West: plays with this at the end. It appears that Jim West and Artemus Gordon are riding off into the sunset on horses... until the camera pulls back to reveal they are riding Loveless' giant mechanical spider. Also, since they were traveling from Utah to Washington D.C. they were actually going east, into the sunrise.
- In Slither the main characters are seen walking off into the sunrise at the end of the film whilst the credits roll up.
- X-Men Origins: Wolverine includes this near the end — before a subversion. Logan/Wolverine and Kayla are walking off into the sunset — and a gunshot rings out as Stryker arrives with his adamantium bullets...
- Played with the sunrise version in Sam Peckinpah's Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid where Garrett rides off - although it was a sunset when they were shooting it, but it's dawn in the movie. It doesn't symbolise a new beginning: Garrett's life is competely ruined, nothing left except remorse and loneliness. It symbolizes the death of the Old West and also the whole genre.
- The title characters do this at the end of the film ˇThree Amigos!!.
- At the end of Shock Treatment (the semi-sequel to The Rocky Horror Picture Show), as the good guys are driving off in a car, the narrator remarks "The sun never sets on those who ride into it".
- The Russian ostern The Elusive Avengers. Its authors were fond of this trope. All three movies end with this. There are also a beginning, when the title team rides FROM the sunset.
- The ending of The Green Berets infamously features John Wayne's character walking onto a beach and into the sunset with the adorable little Vietnamese moppet that had accompanied his unit in the latter stages of the film....on a beach on the South China Sea, which faces east, meaning it would actually be impossible to observe a sunset on that beach.
- Used in The Men Who Stare at Goats. The main character's mentor (George Clooney) and his mentor's mentor (Jeff Bridges) fly a helicopter off into the sunset and are never seen again.
- The ending of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country has the Enterprise sailing towards a star.
- Parodied in Hot Shots! Part Deux, where the helicopter flies into the sunset from the side, then turns and flies into the sun, smoking as it comes out the other end.
- The ending of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl: "Now, bring me that horizon."
- Also parodied by Ellen Degeneres in Mr. Wrong: She and the main love interest are walking into the sunset before realizing that they're walking west and they have to turn north to get to the US-Mexico border, It's a Long Story. She even comments on how the sunset is a bit blinding.
- Somewhat surprisingly, The Movie of Buffy the Vampire Slayer ends this way as well, with Buffy and Pike roaring off toward the horizon on Pike's motorcycle in a romantic scene as Susanna Hoffs's cover of "We Close Our Eyes" plays. (In this example the sun has already set, but it still fits.)
- And even the mostly tough and unsentimental gangland meoldrama The Warriors ends happily, with the surviving heroes frolicking in the surf on the beach off Coney Island before disappearing over the horizon just as the sun is coming up.
- In Daybreakers, they are driving off into the sunrise. Given that the movie is about vampires and one of the characters found a way to turn back into a human, this has additional symbolic value.
- The 1912 film The Land Beyond the Sunset features a little boy drifting on a boat into the sunset, fleeing an abusive home. Since he's in an open boat with nothing to eat or drink, and doesn't even have an oar or a sail, this is either an allegory of rebirth, or Driven to Suicide.
- Both variants are a very common Godzilla trope with many movies ending with Godzilla swimming out to sea after saving the day.
- At the end of Furious 7, Paul Walker's character Brian drives a white Toyota Supra off into the sunset after a final drag race with Dom. It was a poignant send off for the actor, and was a nice way of handling Real Life Writes the Plot.
- The last shot of The Book of Eli is the female lead character walking off into the sunset.
- In She Wore a Yellow Ribbon this trope is subverted. After the main conflict of the film is resolved, the film narrator describes Nathan Brittle as going where old men go, west, with a vivid image of him riding towards the Sunset (a John Ford Image), until a soldier catches up with him and he is informed that his career is not over, so the movie does not end with him riding into the sunset.
- The Empire Strikes Back's Bittersweet Ending plays with this trope: Luke, Leia, C-3PO, and R2-D2 watch the Millennium Falcon fly, not into a sunset (they're in space, mind you), but in the direction of a bright protostar, on their way to rescue Han Solo, who had been captured and handed over to Jabba The Hutt.
- Parodied in Where's Wally? In Hollywood, which has a rider crashing through a painted backdrop of a setting sun.
- The end of Kitty and the Dead Man's Hand. Which doesn't make a lot of sense since the car's a rental, their luggage is back at the hotel, they're going the wrong way to get home, and it can't be much later than noon. But hey, it's the thought that counts...
- One of the "Star Trek" novels, in which the plot revolves around colonists' ambitious project to set their tidally-locked planet rotating, ends with Kirk ordering an odd departure course. When questioned, he explains: "Considering all the work we've done to create a sunset, it's only fitting that we fly off into it."
- At the end of the novelization of Revenge of the Sith, Obi-Wan heads off into Tatooine's Binary Sunset, after dropping off the infant Luke Skywalker with the Larses.
- In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix the Weasley twins ride off into "the glorious sunset" when they leave Umbridge sputtering furiously behind at Hogwarts. It's not the end of the book, but it is the end of the chapter and of Fred and George's student life.
- Star Trek: The Next Generation has an episode with a Western in the holodeck, and at the end the starship flies off towards a star whose lower half is obscured by the planet.
- Red Dwarf ended its Western-themed episode, "Gunmen of the Apocalypse", with Starbug doing the same (a star, not a supernova).
- Subverted in Supernatural. At the end of "Hollywood Babylon", Sam and Dean walk away silhouetted against a stunning sunset as Herb Alpert's "Green Peppers" plays. The sunset is then wheeled away and revealed to be a backdrop, with the real sunset behind it.
- Parodied in Friends: Joey gets a gig giving free aftershave samples out when a rival, dressed as a cowboy starts to invade his turf. In the end, we see Joey (who by this stage is selling the same cowboy-branded aftershave) walking with the girl towards a wall-painting of a sunset.
- The entire episode is a parody of Western tropes, with Joey as the good cowboy and his rival as the bad cowboy, complete with colour-coded outfits.
- The director Kevin Bright also talks about this in the commentary for the Grand Finale, saying he wanted to end with the gang going off into the sunset together. (It's actually a hallway but the sentiment is certainly there).
- The fourth season of 24 ended with Jack Bauer walking away into the sunrise with the intent of starting a new life. Of course, he comes back for the next season.
- In an episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus a customer is talking to a clerk about purchasing an ending to the episode:
Clerk: Walking into the sunset?
Customer: What's that one?
Clerk: You know, two lone figures silhouetted against the dying rays of the setting sun, the music swells and lovely... (music covers dialog)
Clerk: Pity, I rather like that one.
- Variation in Battlestar Galactica: the eponymous ship and the remaining ships of the civilian fleet fly into the sun, while the Original Series' theme music plays.
- Only Fools and Horses: The ending of "Time On Our Hands", which John Sullivan wanted to be the last-ever episode, before it was renewed for another set of Christmas episodes; the idea was that during this sequence, Del, Rodney and Albert would be replaced by cartoon versions of themselves.
- Lampshaded in (another show called) Legend. The writer-turned-cowboy hero and his inventor buddy are looking at the sunset. The buddy asks "Shouldn't you be riding off into that?" The hero says "Yeah. It's a device of the genre. They have to end that way."
- Hollyoaks had fun with this trope by giving the couple Jon Paul and Craig a riding off into the sunset ending - by having them kiss in front of a holiday poster bearing a sunset before getting on a train together.
- Deathlands: Homeward Bound. Ryan Cawdor turns down the chance to rule the barony from which he was outlawed years before, and his True Companions drive off into the sunset Forbidden Zone in their Sec Wag.
- Veronica Mars has a symbolic variation. Veronica walks away into the rain, signifiying the consequences of the series finale being rather crappy (her Dad's facing charges that could land him serious jail time for protecting her, and their primary opponent for her Dad's old job as Sheriff is a corrupt puppet of the mafia). As the camera pans out, we get the impression that Veronica is upset not only because she inadvertently got her Dad in trouble, but because she knows she'll never change her ways.
- The Goodies episode spoofing movies has The End words catching on our heroes clothes, carrying them off across a classic movie sunset (and yes, one of the movies genres being spoofed was The Western).
- Parodied on General Hospital. After Ned and Lois reconcile, he has a dream of them doing just this. . .and then tearing through the fake backdrop.
- In Power Rangers Wild Force, Jindrax and Toxica walked off into the sunset after helping the Rangers save the Princess.
- The very last issue of ZX Spectrum magazine Your Sinclair had this for the back cover. Two cowboys riding off into the sunset, guns aloft, with the Your Sinclair logo at the bottom, and beneath it five small words: "Our work here is done."
- Gary Larson's The Far Side:
- Someone gets dragged back into a saloon all burnt up because "the damn fool tried to ride off into the sunset."
- Another has a cowboy is riding off into a cardboard-stand/cutout of a sunset, whilst various people wave. The caption reads 'The embarrassment of riding into a fake sunset'.
- In Cabin Pressure , the final episode ends with Douglas and Herc being forced to fly into the sun, rising each time it appears to set (in a Call-Back to an earlier episode). Douglas declares "I hate flying into the sunset."
- The Brewing Network The episode simply titled 'D Day', which was the farewell for Session regular Daniela. She had gotten a job in her native Germany and this meant leaving the show. At times it became a real Tear Jerker.
- Hero Rides Away, a freelancer Charm from Exalted, allows you to regain power and create gratitude among the villagers you just saved by, well, riding off in some dramatic fashion, like having your horse rear up against the sunset or departing at the height of a thunderstorm. Of course, there's nothing preventing you from using this in the frozen North or verdant East rather than the dessicated South, meaning you can be a cowboy-movie hero while riding a simhatanote on a glacier.
- Fallout and Fallout2 begin their ending cinematics with footage of the player character walking off into the desert.
- The opening of Sunset Riders, to the surprise of absolutely nobody.
- The Bad Ending of Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards is a Warpstar Into The Sky.
- In Kirby's Dream Land, as well as in "Spring Breeze" in Kirby Super Star, the credits play as a giant Kirby is floating with King Dedede's castle towards the sunset.
- Also in Kirby Super Star/Ultra, after Kirby escapes from the sinking Halberd on a Wheelie Bike, he is shown riding off into the sunset.
- A riding into the sunrise variant occurs in the ending of Metal Gear Solid in which Snake and another character (either Meryl or Otacon) ride a snowmobile in the direction of the Alaskan sun.
- Ben, the protagonist of Full Throttle, rumbles off on his bike into a beautiful sunset.
- The last campaign of Left 4 Dead, "Blood Harvest," ends with the survivors getting into a military APC, which then drives off into the sunrise.
- Mass Effect ends with the Normandy flying away from the camera into the sunrise of an unknown gas giant.
- Max Payne 3 ends on one of these, with the title character walking off into the sunset of a beach in Bahia, Brazil.
- Red Dead Redemption despite being a game based on Westerns has a bit of fun with both subverting and playing this trope straight. Since John Marston dies at Ross's hands at the end of the game he doesn't have the tried and true riding off into the sunset happy ending where we know his adventuring days will continue, the game doesn't even get a proper credits scene after this takes place. In fact at John's grave his son Jack is moping around in depressingly sad rain while an achievement/trophy pops up lampshading the traditional ending to a Western called "Into The Sunset." It is eventually played straight when Jack gets revenge for his father's death and kills Ross and then walks off into the setting sun as the Red Dead Redemption logo blares across the screen allowing the credits to the roll, conclusively ending the story.
- The credits cinematic of Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood shows the three McCall brothers riding off into the sunset—not the straightest example, as William is actually dead by the end of the game, so this scene is presumably a flashback Thomas or Ray are having of the time when they still traveled together.
- Happens twice in the Monkey Island series: once at the end of The Curse of Monkey Island, when the newlywed Guybrush and Elaine ride the Sea Cucumber off into the sunset, with his mutinied crew waving them goodbye; and once near the end of Tales of Monkey Island, when the newly-reborn Guybrush, Elaine and Winslow ride the Screaming Narwhal off into the beautiful sunrise.
- At the end of the Heroes of Might and Magic III: Shadow of Death main campaign the four good heroes part way as they ride into the sunrise.
- The ending of Snatcher.
- Every Time Crisis game ends with the protagonists riding into the sunset, usually by helicopter.
- Out of This World has Buddy and Lester ride a dragon into the sunset.
- Azure Striker Gunvolt: The ending has the sunrise version of this, where Gunvolt has battled both sides of the conflict in the game. In this case, sunrise represents uncertainty of a new day, as Gunvolt has faced a tragedy and is at a loss on what he's going to do next.
- During the end credits in Star Fox 64, the Arwings and The Great Fox are shown flying into the sunset.
- Girl Genius mocks the trope with Agatha's fashion-clank and the Weasel Queen running off into the sunset to go open a fashion house in Paris. Here.
- In Dead Winter, Black Monday Blues walks into the sunset at the end of chapter 1.
- Parodied in W Webcomic/allyAndOsborne: since the titular duo live in Antarctica, the sun won't set in five months.
- The Nintendo Power tribute strip in Brawl in the Family ends with Howard and Nester walking off into the sunset, arguing all the while.
- Fittingly, the final episode of the Mega Man cartoon had Mega Man flying into the sunset on Rush.
- Parodied in King of the Hill, after Hank and Bobby came in second at a shooting competition, they walk to the sunset, until they realize they parked the car elsewhere.
- The final episode has them grilling into the sunset with their brand new grills as father and son, holding a cookout for the whole neighborhood.
- In the My Little Pony 'n Friends episode "Crunch the Rockdog", a story that Paradise is reading ends this way. Then Wind Whistler questions why anyone would start off on a journey at the end of the day.
- Kim Possible: Slightly different in The Grand Finale: Kim and her partner/boyfriend Ron jump into her supercar, kiss, and fly off into the full moon.
- Similar to the Kim Possible example, at the end of the Grand Finale of Danny Phantom, after the long awaited Relationship Upgrade between Danny and Sam, the two fly away to see what the future holds for them.
- Parodied in The Simpsons when Bart helped a retired TV cowboy become a real hero. He rides back into his house then comes out and discards a sack of garbage.
- Parodied at the end of one episode of Recess: Gus, after wining a game of dodgeball in the most awesome manner possible, ends the episode walking into a sunset that wasn't there before. Hector then yells, "Safety Man, where're you going? School isn't over yet!"
- Avatar: The Last Airbender:
- Done by Zuko to complete the Showdown at High Noon homage during his Day in the Limelight. Though he's definitely not the triumphant hero in this case.
- Aang, Katara, and Sokka end episodes flying on Appa at sunset no fewer than five times in the first season. inverting the trope, this is generally used to show Aang's sense of loss and alienation against the coming darkness, and that all they have is each other.
- The end of Rocky and Bullwinkle boxtop story arc shows the title duo ride off the sunset being heroes.
- Parodied in the G.I. Joe episode "Battle for the Train of Gold". Gung-Ho tries to ride off into the sunset on horse only for said horse to buck him off. Gung-Ho then decides to ride off into the sunset behind the wheel of a jeep.
- In Ben 10: Alien Force, at the end of one episode featuring Professor Paradox, when the heroes leave the are, they ride off into the sunrise.
- Seemingly played straight at the very end of Beavis And Butthead Do America, where B&B walk down the street into the sunset after finally locating their beloved TV set. Subverted just before the fade out when Butthead tells Beavis that he will most likely die a virgin because "You're too much of a Butt-Monkey."
- The original series finale, "Beavis and Butt-head Are Dead," ended with a parody of this trope as well.
- Chuck Jones' Merrie Melodies short "The Dover Boys at Pimento University". Dainty Dora Standpipe sashays off into the sunset (with the occasional bunny hop) with a very strange man.
- In The Looney Tunes Show episode "That's My Baby", Daffy did this as Tina stared after him. (He had just announced that he wanted to start a family with her, but suddenly derailed what he was saying into a speech about frozen yogurt, and continued to talk as he walked off...kind of spoiled the moment a bit.)
- That the Lone Ranger keeps doing this annoys the citizens in Thank You Masked Man, as he takes off before they can properly thank and reward him for his heroics around town.
- In the Garfield and Friends episode "Newsworthy Wade", the ending shows Wade and the host who interviewed him on "Seven Minutes" walking into the sunset, and seconds later, a chicken who kept interrupting the show makes a statement about how every cartoon these days ends with people walking into the sunset or laughing.
- The Swat Kats end their pilot episode flying their custom fighter jet, the Turbokat into the sunset afterburners blazing, after saving Megakat City from the undead sorcerer, The Pastmaster.
- At the end of the first episode of Bounty Hamster, Cassie ends up with her feet bound and tied to her inept Bounty Hunter Marion, so the two of them have to hop off into the sunset instead.
- In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Pinkie Pride", Cheese Sandwich leaves Ponyville this way. Since he's a pony, like nearly everypony else in the show, he just walks.
- Hiawatha's Rabbit Hunt: Played with. The short appears to be ending with Hiawatha paddling away downriver into the setting sun, as Bugs quotes again from The Song of Hiawatha. Then suddenly Hiawatha zooms back to the riverbank, gives Bugs a big wet kiss, and then rapidly zips away.
- Usually, Ricochet Rabbit will ricochet like a bullet into the sunset. Deputy Droopalong Coyote would try to do the same, only to crash into the sunset, shattering it to pieces.