Gunfighter Cole Thornton (John Wayne) is invited to the western town of El Dorado to take part in a range war, working for Bart Jason (Ed Asner) against a rival rancher, MacDonald.
He meets the local sheriff, who turns out to be an old friend, J P Harrah (Robert Mitchum). Soon, Cole agrees to turn Jason down.
However, by an unhappy chance, he guns down MacDonald’s youngest son, Luke (Johnny Crawford), is shot by MacDonald’s hot-headed daughter, “Joey” (Michele Carey) and leaves town as soon as he has recovered.
Months later, near the Mexican border, Cole meets a crowd of dangerous gunmen – including Nelse McLeod (Christopher George) – who are going to help Jason settle MacDonald for good. They tell him Harrah is a shadow of his old self and has taken to drink over a woman.
Cole rides for El Dorado with his new sidekick, “Mississippi” (James Caan) to help his old friend and make it up to the town.
Sheriff J P Harrah
Mississippi (Alan Bourdillon Traherne)
Josephine (Joey) MacDonald