I wish I could say exactly what it is that I like so much about this movie.

Maybe it's the comedy of it. Humor is deliberately absent from most Western films, and it's twice as fun when it's there for that reason alone. Butch creates most of the fun, not because he's a comedian, but because he's an extrovert who's always on top of his game, or at least is always trying to be. Even as we're looking straight toward the tragic ending of the main characters, we're given one last exchange of bright-eyed dialogue between two men who know each other inside and out.

Maybe it's the "buddy film" aspect, where two guys can be renowned criminals and still have complete trust in each other. They complement each other well, Butch being the cleverest bank robber around and Sundance being the best shooter. No matter how many members of their gang decide to break rank, or how hard they're being chased, or how much time they're spending with the same woman, they stick by each other as if it were unthinkable to do otherwise.

Maybe it's the fact that it's such a great guy movie. Robert Redford and Paul Newman were in their prime when this movie was made, and they play their parts well. This isn't a macho Western, it's about two guys who try to use their brains and skill to get around the sort of gunplay and fistfighting that Clint Eastwood would have just waded through.

But I think what it really is is a combination of all of those, plus the whole tragedy of their lifestyle. Like the Sandman and Hamlet, Butch and Sundance realize and acknowledge that they are bound by who they are and what they do. They're bank robbers, very good ones, and they enjoy what they do so much that it's become a part of who they are. They try to give it up, but they can't. And after they're done trying, and they know without question that death awaits them at the impending end of their career, and accept it.

It's a crazy, romantic fatalism that people throughout history have understood and admired. Their lifestyle may not be moral, but nevertheless, they are willing and ready to die for being who they are. I think that deep down, when our end comes, we all want to be able to say the same.

I make no apology for giving away the ending to this film. It's a true classic, and if you didn't already know it, you should before seeing it. Like any other tragedy, the fall is what makes the ride worth watching.

Written for my film class. The summary is nothing spectacular, written hastily and covers only the high points, a few technical aspects, and the occasional quote. I'm tempted to cut it out altogether, because the review at the bottom is really what I consider important, but the summary might help refresh the movie in your mind. If you want a serious summary, go to http://filmsite.org/butc.html.

WARNING: Being a summary and review, this writeup contains spoilers, so read at your own risk.

  • Newsreel footage, sepia tone, shows the exploits of the Hole in the Wall Gang robbing a train
  • Butch casing out a bank
  • Sundance winning a blackjack game, and Butch helps him get out without shooting anyone
  • Butch and Sundance ride back to the Hole in the Wall
  • Butch talks about all the new mining strikes in Bolivia and how they should go rob banks there
  • Logan challenges Butch for control of the gang, but Butch beats him
  • The gang robs a train but doesn't get much
  • While the sheriff tries to get the apathetic locals to form a posse, Butch and Sundance are celebrating across the street
  • Salesman interrupts sheriff to pitch bicycle
  • Butch suggests that they join the army and fight the Spanish
  • Sundance leaves to find a girl, lists all the qualities she has to have
  • Sundance has Etta undress at gunpoint
  • Butch takes Etta on a ride on his new bicycle the next morning. "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on my Head"
  • Etta: "Do you know what you're doing?"
    Butch: "Theoretically."
  • The gang rob the same train again, but this time use too much gunpowder blowing up the safe that the money is scattered everywhere
  • Another train shows up with a hired posse to chase the gang
  • They split up but the posse still follows them
  • Butch and Sundance hide out in brothel, but their alibi is blown when the posse comes back and they have to flee again
  • They seek the aide of a lawman friend, who says that they have no hope on the lam
  • Butch and Sundance get cornered at a cliff, and decide to jump rather than get captured
  • Butch: What's the matter with you?!
    Sundance: I can't swim!
    Butch: Why, you crazy - the fall'll probably kill ya!
  • Etta tells them that the newspapers said they were dead, and that the posse was paid to kill them
  • They decide to go to Bolivia, but Etta doesn't want to see them die
  • In a sepia still-frame segment, Butch, Sundance, and Etta enjoy a few days in New York City before shipping out to Bolivia
  • They find a desolate, poor town, but resolve to rob the bank
  • Etta tries to teach them some Spanish, but they mix it up at the robbery
  • Police chase Butch and Sundance, but they shoot back.
  • Montage of more bank robberies, wanted posters for "Banditos Yanquis"
  • Member of posse searching for Butch and Sundance
  • Butch and Sundance vow to go straight, get a job with a miner protecting payroll, who says that he can't pay them
  • Ambushed, miner shot
  • Butch and Sundance give up money but come back to bandits later to get it back
  • Butch says that he hasn't killed anyone before
  • Butch and Sundance ambushed in restaurant when kid recognizes a stolen mule
  • Firefight with police
  • Holed up in restaurant, they plan to go to Australia, not knowing that the Bolvian army is waiting for them outside
  • Butch and Sundance charge out of hiding place, guns blazing
  • The camera freezes, pulls back, and fades to sepia as the sound of the army firing again and again is heard
Lessons Learned:
Trust your friends, live life to the fullest, know your limits, be extraordinary.

Values Imparted:
Individualism, disrespect for authority, self-reliance, freedom, western ideals, vivacity, imagination, dreaming, respect of fate, fundamental morality (not killing people), fun, free-spiritedness.

"Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid", directed by George Roy Hill, tells the fanciful and entertaining tale of two romanticized bank robbers and their run from the law. Butch and Sundance are the perfect foil characters: brains vs. brawn, extrovert vs. introvert, cocky vs. calculating, dreamer vs. realist. The movie is a tragedy in a way, with the flaw of the title characters driving them to their own destruction, but the Hollywoodization of their story softens the moral question of the duo's actions. Their giddy self-reliance and defiance of authority seems like a glorified tribute, but these are the traits that lead to their downfall. This is a very romantic movie, sharing many traits with novels from the Romantic period of literature, including love of the outlaw/rebel, emphasis on nature, and faith in oneself. I find it ironic that one of Butch's dreams was to join the army, but their final surprise undoing is at the hands of the army. In a way, one of his dreams has caused his downfall.

The character of Etta represents a neutral, less radical force in the movie. She hardly belongs to either Butch or Sundance exclusively, and can be said to represent the audience's perspective or the western cultural affinity for the outlaws. Etta prophetically says, "I won't watch you die. I'll miss that scene if you don't mind." In the same way, the western world has a fascination with its outlaws, starting back with Robin Hood, as sort of the noble avenger to dull and lifeless authority. We make them our heroes, in a way, and we don't want to see our heroes die (For instance, the movie "Patton" ends with Patton soliloquizing as he walks through the mountains, omitting his somewhat less-than-heroic death in an car accident in Germany several months after the war). The end of this film echoes Etta's words. We are never shown the deaths of Butch and Cassidy. We "miss that scene." Seeing our two heroes riddled with bullets from the Bolivian army would have ruined the romantic image of the film. Instead, we are given a final tableau that honors their courage without fully revealing their demise; shielding us, in a way, from the full moral consequence of their actions.

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