Jerome’s 100 Favorite Movies Ever: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

(Check out the list so far)

The Movie: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)

One Sentence Plot Summary: Two bank robbers rob a capitalist and have to go on the road because spending money putting the robbers down is more important than money.

Why It’s on the List: This is absolutely one of my favorite buddy movies ever and set the stage for a number of future buddy movies. This was the continuation of Paul Newman’s legendary career and the beginning of Robert Redford’s. William Goldman sold the screenplay for a record amount and George Roy Hill crafted a unique western, one that feels so different ones from previous times. This is John Wayne riding off into the sunset or Jimmy Stewart stumbling his through another adventure. I would hate to say this is a modern movie, but it feels tonally different from so many others. The screenplay sounds much more like 2020 than 1969, and the soundtrack features music written and performed by Burt Bacharach.

What started out as a lark quickly becomes Butch and Sundance having to run around the entire country and then head down to a country. The plot is relatively simple, and the movie hinges on the chemistry of the two leads. We see Butch and Sundance banter in the very first scene and continue until the moment they head out for their final battle. While anti-heroes are common in 2020, there is also a backlash toward the idea of them as we consider cheering on people who exhibit such bad behavior. Back in 1969, this was a fresh idea, one that had only been lightly explored. A movie like Bonnie and Clyde came out a year before and was also very clearly about an anti-hero duo.

I am typically not a fan of westerns, but this had so much humor and did not cross over  into nearly as racist territory like so many other films. There is a charm to everything Robert Redford and Paul Newman, from the moment Redford announces he can’t swim until he’s about to jump or when Newman says he can’t shoot even though the movie is about ¾ over. I love this movie because it’s funny and because if the script were shot exactly as is in 2020 (Note to any producers: Don’t even think about it), you wouldn’t think this was written in 1969.

#problematic:   

*Sundance has a scene with his girlfriend Etta that’s a bit awkward. I don’t know if it’s a kink or consensual, but it’s awkward that he kind of uses a gun to threaten her.

*A LOT of random brown people get laid to waste.

MVP: William Goldman is one of the legendary screenwriters of all-time, and this is one of three movies he has on it, All the President’s Men and The Princess Bride. I don’t know how to rank this against those, but this is a really special piece of work. To invest the audience in caring about a pair of bank robbers in 1969 could not have been an easy task. This truly did feel like something so different from movies that were filmed even two to three years beforehand. George Roy Hill certainly gets a lot of the credit for bringing it to the screen, but Goldman not only won an Academy Award but he made an unprecedented $400,000 in 1960s money for this to be brought to the screen. One of the main reasons I think we know so much about screenwriters and see them as stars in some cases is thanks to the work of Goldman.

Best Performance: I can’t imagine this movie working without the incredible chemistry of Paul Newman and Robert Redford. The movie just would not be the same. I’m not sure how much of their interactions were improvised, but the back and forth felt incredibly natural. I really wish we could have gotten a couple more from these two, especially in the later stages of life. This and The Sting worked out incredibly well though, and set the stage for a lot of buddy movies (and even some of the Marvel movies feel like they took some of the quippiness and banter from these sorts of films) moving forward.

Best Quote: “Kid, the next time I say, “Let’s go someplace like Bolivia,” let’s GO someplace like Bolivia.” – Butch Cassidy

Is there a sequel? There’s a prequel that received middiling reviews. A sequel would be really hard to do given the characters likely met their end.

Follow Jerome on Twitter, and check out Reel BadThe Superhero Pantheon and his new podcast Pantheon Plus.

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