Exploring the harsh realities of frontier life, Clint Eastwood depicts the West as an unforgiving place where tragedy strikes every time somebody draws a gun. It's clear from the fevered manner in which Saul Rubinek's dime novelist character gathers his Wild West stories from the last eyewitnesses that an era is about to pass into legend.
Following the death of his wife from smallpox and the failure of his farm, former gunfighter William Munny (Eastwood) is tempted back to his old ways by the bounty offered for killing the cowboys who badly scarred a prostitute.
Eastwood's own world-weary performance as the retired gunslinger forced to strap on the six-shooters one last time to feed his children, is exemplary, cleverly drawing on our familiarity with his "Man with No Name" persona to convey the magnitude of the disgust that he now feels at the prospect of killing.
The support playing of Morgan Freeman as his former partner, Richard Harris as vain killer English Bob and Oscar-winning Gene Hackman as the vicious Sheriff Daggett is unsurpassable.
It's easy to see why Eastwood dedicated the film to Sergio Leone and Don Siegel - this is both a testament and a riposte to his work with them. Winner of four Oscars, including best picture and director, this is, quite simply, one of the finest films ever made in the genre.
Sheriff "Little Bill" Daggett
Tara Dawn Frederick