|Directed by||Clint Eastwood|
|Written by||David Webb Peoples|
|Produced by||Clint Eastwood|
|Cinematography||Jack N. Green|
|Edited by||Joel Cox|
|Music by||Lennie Niehaus|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.|
|Box office||$159.2 million|
Unforgiven is a 1992 American Revisionist Western film directed, produced by, and starring Clint Eastwood in the lead role and written by David Webb Peoples. The film tells the story of William Munny, an aging outlaw and killer who takes on one more job, years after he had turned to farming. The film co-stars Gene Hackman, Morgan Freeman, and Richard Harris.
Unforgiven grossed over $159 million on a budget of $14.4 million and received widespread critical acclaim, with praise for the acting (particularly from Eastwood and Hackman), directing, editing, themes and cinematography. The film won four Academy Awards: Best Picture and Best Director for Clint Eastwood, Best Supporting Actor for Gene Hackman, and Best Film Editing for editor Joel Cox. Eastwood was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance, but he lost to Al Pacino for Scent of a Woman. The film was the third Western to win Best Picture, following Cimarron (1931) and Dances with Wolves (1990). Eastwood dedicated the film to directors and mentors Sergio Leone and Don Siegel.
In 2004, Unforgiven was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". The film was remade into a 2013 Japanese film, also titled Unforgiven, which stars Ken Watanabe and changes the setting to the early Meiji era in Japan. Eastwood has long asserted that the film would be his last Western, concerned any future projects would simply rehash previous plotlines or imitate someone else's work.
In 1880, in Big Whiskey, Wyoming, two cowboys—Quick Mike and Davey Bunting—slash prostitute Delilah Fitzgerald's face with a knife, permanently disfiguring her, after she laughs at Quick Mike's small penis. As punishment, local sheriff "Little Bill" Daggett orders the cowboys to turn over several of their horses to her employer, Skinny DuBois, for his loss of revenue. Outraged, the prostitutes offer a $1,000 bounty for the cowboys' deaths.
In Hodgeman County, Kansas, a boastful young man calling himself the "Schofield Kid" visits Will Munny's hog farm, seeking to recruit him to help claim the bounty. Formerly a notorious outlaw and murderer, Will is now a repentant widower raising two children. After initially refusing to help, Will realizes that his farm is failing and that his children's future is in jeopardy. Will recruits friend Ned Logan, another retired outlaw, and they catch up with the Kid.
Back in Big Whiskey, British-born gunfighter "English" Bob, an old acquaintance and rival of Little Bill, seeks the bounty. He arrives in town with his biographer W. W. Beauchamp, who naively believes Bob's exaggerated tales. Enforcing the town's anti-gun law, Little Bill and his deputies disarm Bob, and the sheriff beats him savagely to discourage other would-be gunmen from attempting to claim the bounty. Little Bill ejects Bob from town the next morning, but Beauchamp stays to write about Little Bill, who debunks many of the romantic notions Beauchamp has about the Wild West. Little Bill explains to Beauchamp that the best attribute for a gunslinger is to be cool-headed under fire, rather than to have the quickest draw.
Will, Ned, and the Kid arrive in town during a rainstorm and head into Skinny's saloon. While Ned and the Kid meet with the prostitutes upstairs, a feverish Will is sitting alone when Little Bill and his deputies confront him. Not realizing Will's identity, Bill beats him up and kicks him out of the saloon for carrying a pistol. Ned and the Kid escape through a back window, and the three regroup at a barn outside town, where they nurse Will back to health.
A few days later, the trio ambush and kill Davey in front of his friends. After missing Davey and hitting his horse instead, Ned realizes that he does not want to kill again and resolves to return home; Will then shoots and kills Davey himself with Ned's rifle. Feeling they must finish the job, Will takes the Kid with him to the cowboys' ranch, where the Kid ambushes Quick Mike in an outhouse and kills him. After they escape, a distraught Kid confesses he had never killed anyone before and renounces life as a gunfighter. When one of the prostitutes arrives to give them the reward, they learn that Ned was captured and tortured to death by Little Bill and his men. The Kid gives Will his revolver and returns to Kansas with the reward; Will heads back to Big Whiskey to take revenge on Little Bill.
That night, Will arrives and sees Ned's corpse displayed in a coffin outside Skinny's saloon as a warning to any other "assassins." Inside, Little Bill has assembled a posse to pursue the remaining two. Will walks in alone brandishing a shotgun to confront the posse and uses his first shot to kill Skinny. He holds Little Bill at gunpoint. The sheriff instructs his men to kill Will after he takes the second and final shot remaining in his shotgun. The shotgun misfires, allowing the deputies to draw and start shooting. Despite this, Will draws his pistol, shoots Little Bill, and calmly kills several deputies, whose panicked shots miss him. Will orders the bystanders to leave the saloon. Mortally wounded, Little Bill promises to see Will in hell, and Will kills him. Will leaves Big Whiskey, warning the townsfolk that he will return for more revenge if Ned is not buried properly or if any more of the prostitutes are harmed.
During the epilogue, a title card states that Will and his children abandoned their farm (leaving behind his wife's grave) and are rumored to have moved to San Francisco, prospering in dry goods. It also states that Will's in-laws, upon finding the place abandoned years later, never understood what their daughter saw in Will Munny, not realizing the depths of his feelings for her and how faithful he remained to her.
The film was written by David Webb Peoples, who had written the Oscar nominated film The Day After Trinity and co-written Blade Runner with Hampton Fancher. The concept for the film dated to 1976, when it was developed under the titles The Cut-Whore Killings and The William Munny Killings. By Eastwood's own recollection, he was given the script in the "early 80s" although he did not immediately pursue it, because, according to him, "I thought I should do some other things first". Eastwood personally phoned Harris to offer him the role of English Bob, and later said Harris was watching Eastwood's movie High Plains Drifter at the time of the phone call, leading to Harris thinking it was a prank.
Filming took place between August 26, 1991 and November 12, 1991. Much of the cinematography for the film was shot in Alberta in August 1991 by director of photography Jack Green. Production designer Henry Bumstead, who had worked with Eastwood on High Plains Drifter, was hired to create the "drained, wintry look" of the western. The railroad scenes were filmed on the Sierra Railroad in Tuolumne County, California.
Like other Revisionist Westerns, Unforgiven is primarily concerned with deconstructing[dubious ] the morally black-and-white vision of the American West that was established by traditional works in the genre, as David Webb Peoples’ script is saturated with unnerving reminders of Munny's own horrific past as a murderer and gunfighter haunted by the lives he's taken, while the film as a whole "reflects a reverse image of classical Western tropes": the protagonists, rather than avenging a God-fearing innocent, are hired to collect a bounty for a group of prostitutes. Men who claim to be fearless killers are either exposed as cowards and weaklings or self-promoting liars, while others find that they no longer have it in them to take another life. A writer with no conception of the harshness and cruelty of frontier life publishes stories that glorify common criminals as infallible men of honor. The law is represented by a pitiless and cynical former gunslinger whose idea of justice is often swift and without mercy, and while the main protagonist initially tries to resist his violent impulses, the murder of his friend drives him to become the same cold-blooded killer he once was, suggesting that a Western hero is not necessarily "the good guy", but rather "just the one who survived".[self-published source?]
Unforgiven does not offer a singular set of moral guidelines that the protagonists follow and the antagonists disobey. Instead, each character acts on what they think is right for them, and they often act in both morally right and wrong ways. Munny gets justice for Delilah and avenges Ned, but despite his noble actions, Munny's character is haunted by his violent past, where he was notorious for killing any man, woman or child. Allen Redmon's "Mechanisms of Violence in Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven and Mystic River" describes Munny's role as an antihero by stating he is "a virtuous or an injured hero [that] overcomes all obstacles to see that evil is eradicated using whatever means necessary". Munny's repeated acts of killing, to accomplish what he sees as just, eventually cause him to fall into his old ways of being a man corrupted by violence. Other characters in the film such as Ned and the Schofield Kid disagree with Munny's methods of justice after they decide they can no longer live a life where they kill others. Munny is motivated to kill in order to earn the bounty for Quick Mike and Davey Bunting. Though he realizes killing is difficult, he ultimately decides to return to the life of a gunslinger in order to provide for his children, which he thinks is the morally responsible thing to do for him and his family.[original research?]
Duality: Nonduality asks us to view good and evil as two parts of an undivided whole with good possessing evil and evil possessing good. This non-dualistic view is represented very well by the Chinese Dao symbol. In the movie, Will Munney views the world through a dualistic lens. Will sees every person that he comes across in a polarized way. And so when he aims to kill someone, he considers if they are good or bad, guilty or innocent, and there is no gray area through which to judge an entire person’s life. Little Bill killed Ned and so he must die. Quick Mike and Davey Bunting cut up Delilah and so they must die. Will’s worldview is as Durkheim describes when he writes, “at all times, man himself has had a keen sense of this duality. Everywhere, indeed, he has conceived of himself as formed of two radically heterogeneous beings: the body, on the one hand, the soul on the other” (Durkheim, 2005). For Will the world is black and white and he is the judge and executioner.
Unforgiven shares many parallels with Homer’s “Iliad”, in characters and themes. “In both works, the protagonists-Achilles and William Munny are self-questioning warriors who temporarily reject the culture of violence only to return to it after the death of their closest male friend, in which they are implicated” (534). Munny and Achilles have the same dilemma between fate and counter-fate. They know that their fate is being a warrior and likely dying that way, however they both try to reject it for at least some time. Munny continually claims he has changed and “ain’t like that no more” referring to his warrior-like hitman past, whereas Achilles continually refuses to be a soldier in the Greek army since he condemns Agamemnon for not stopping the war when he could have.
Neither wants to kill for causes from their past (Munny being an outlaw, Achilles being a warrior-king) since they find them unjust. Both are committed to a “higher” cause—Munny to his children and his wife’s wishes, and Achilles to the injustice of women-stealing and to Briseis, who at one point he would’ve had to sacrifice to Agamemnon to stop the war.
However, when their best friends are killed—Achilles’ Patroklos and Munny’s Ned—they allow their rage and desire for vengeance to make them return to their warrior-prescribed fate. Achilles rages against the Trojans and kills many. He gets vengeance by killing Hector and desecrating his corpse, dragging it around the town. Munny rages against Little Bill and his crew. He gets vengeance by killing them and Little Bill, threatening to kill anyone who opposes him.
There are however relevant differences in Homer’s epic and Eastwood’s film, namely that Achilles is fated to die in battle, whereas Munny moves to California at the end of the film to become a businessman to provide for his kids. Whether Munny has successfully countered his warrior-fate is unclear, as is whether a life in dry goods redeems him as his love for his wife had done.
The film debuted at the top position in its opening weekend. Its earnings of $15,018,007 ($7,252 average from 2,071 theaters) on its opening weekend was the best ever opening for an Eastwood film at that time. It spent a total of 3 weeks as the No. 1 film in North America. In its 35th weekend (April 2–4, 1993), capitalizing on its Oscar wins, the film returned to the Top 10 (spending another 3 weeks total), ranking at No. 8 with a gross of $2,538,358 ($2,969 average from 855 theaters), an improvement of 197 percent over the weekend before where it made $855,188 ($1,767 average from 484 theaters). The film closed on July 15, 1993, having spent nearly a full year in theaters (343 days / 49 weeks), having earned $101,157,447 in North America, and another $58,000,000 internationally for a total of $159,157,447 worldwide.
Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports a 96% approval rating based on 106 reviews and an average rating of 8.80/10. The website's critical consensus states: "As both director and star, Clint Eastwood strips away decades of Hollywood varnish applied to the Wild West, and emerges with a series of harshly eloquent statements about the nature of violence." Metacritic gave the film a score of 85 out of 100 based on 33 critical reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".
Jack Methews of the Los Angeles Times described Unforgiven as "the finest classical western to come along since perhaps John Ford's 1956 The Searchers." Richard Corliss in Time wrote that the film was "Eastwood's meditation on age, repute, courage, heroism—on all those burdens he has been carrying with such grace for decades." Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert criticized the work, though the latter gave it a positive vote, for being too long and having too many superfluous characters (such as Harris' English Bob, who enters and leaves without meeting the protagonists). Despite his initial reservations, Ebert eventually included the film in his "The Great Movies" list.
Unforgiven was named one of the ten best films of the year on 76 critics' lists, according to a poll of the nation's top 106 film critics.
|Academy Awards||Best Picture||Clint Eastwood||Won|
|Best Supporting Actor||Gene Hackman||Won|
|Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen||David Webb Peoples||Nominated|
|Best Art Direction||Henry Bumstead and Janice Blackie-Goodine||Nominated|
|Best Cinematography||Jack N. Green||Nominated|
|Best Film Editing||Joel Cox||Won|
|Best Sound||Les Fresholtz, Vern Poore, Dick Alexander and Rob Young||Nominated|
|BAFTA Awards||Best Supporting Actor||Gene Hackman||Won|
|Best Film||Clint Eastwood||Nominated|
|Best Original Screenplay||David Webb Peoples||Nominated|
|Best Sound||Les Fresholtz, Vern Poore, Dick Alexander and Rob Young||Nominated|
|Golden Globe Awards||Best Director||Clint Eastwood||Won|
|Best Supporting Actor||Gene Hackman||Won|
|Best Motion Picture – Drama||Clint Eastwood||Nominated|
|Best Screenplay||David Webb Peoples||Nominated|
The music for the Unforgiven film trailer, which appeared in theatres and on some of the DVDs, was composed by Randy J. Shams and Tim Stithem in 1992. The main theme song, "Claudia's Theme," was composed by Clint Eastwood.
The film was planned to be used as the theme for Six Flags Great Adventure’s then-upcoming roller coaster, but market research showed that people found it to be too dark of a theme, so the ride’s name was changed to Viper.
In 2004, Unforgiven was deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the Library of Congress and was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.
In 2013, the Writers Guild of America ranked Peoples' script for Unforgiven as the 30th greatest ever written.
Many story elements of the film are paralleled in the 2018 video game Red Dead Redemption 2, including Eastwood's character's retirement as a hog farmer, as well as elements of English Bob's backstory as a dishonest, self-aggrandizing gunfighter being chronicled by a naive writer.
In June 2008, Unforgiven was listed as the fourth best American film in the Western genre (behind The Searchers, High Noon, and Shane) in the American Film Institute's "AFI's 10 Top 10" list.
Unforgiven was released as premium home video, on DVD and VHS, on September 24, 2002. It was released on Blu-ray Book (a Blu-ray Disc with book packaging) on February 21, 2012. Special features include an audio commentary by Clint Eastwood biographer Richard Schickel; four documentaries including "All on Accounta Pullin' a Trigger", "Eastwood & Co.: Making Unforgiven", "Eastwood...A Star", and "Eastwood on Eastwood", and more. Unforgiven was released on 4K UHD Blu-Ray on May 16, 2017.
Main article: Unforgiven (2013 film)
A Japanese adaptation of Unforgiven, directed by Lee Sang-il and starring Ken Watanabe, was released in 2013. The plot of the 2013 version is very similar to the original, but it takes place in Japan during the Meiji period, with the main character being a samurai instead of a bandit.