The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976) Poster

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Among The Best Westerns Of The 1970s
virek21317 January 2007
Even when matched up against his Oscar-winning 1992 film UNFORGIVEN, THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES must rank as being among Clint Eastwood's finest turns both in front of and behind the camera. Having displayed a solid feel for the director's chair with 1971's PLAY MISTY FOR ME and 1973's HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER, Eastwood took the reins on JOSEY WALES when he and the original director Philip Kaufman, who still shared a co-write of the script (and had directed 1972's THE GREAT NORTHFIELD, MINNESOTA RAID), ran into some pretty strong disagreements. The end result was one of the best westerns of the 1970s, in critical, commercial, and artistic terms.

Eastwood's character is a farmer living out a quiet life in Missouri near the end of the Civil War who is forced to see his whole family and homestead wiped out by marauding "Redlegs" from Kansas. He joins up with a guerrilla band of Southerners to "set things aright." But when the Union betrays those same guerrillas into surrendering and then promptly slaughters all of them, Eastwood takes violent revenge. He soon finds himself of the run at the reluctant hands of his former commander (John Vernon), and a determined Union man named Terrill (Bill McKinney, who played one of the sadistic mountain men in DELIVERANCE). As he heads towards Texas, he encounters a motley group of outcasts (Chief Dan George; Sondra Locke; Paula Trueman), and becomes less obsessed by violent revenge and more interested in helping, going for his guns only when McKinney's Union troop closes in, and bounty hunters come looking for him.

In contrast to the "Man With No Name" persona he codified with Sergio Leone in the 1960s, or the tough cop he personified in DIRTY HARRY, Eastwood's Josey Wales is a man of great courage and sympathy who becomes tired of all the violence he has had to see and to take part in. The vengeance motif is largely played out by the time the film is into its second half, and it only comes back towards the tail end for a brief moment. Those who have tagged Eastwood as a political reactionary, a John Wayne of our time, have certainly misjudged him, as even one viewing of THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES will testify to. He is not interested in being tough for the sake of being tough; he just wants to survive, and he wants those he protects to be able to live in peace. That's why, although the film is unavoidably violent at times, it has a considerable humanity too, and why it remains one of Eastwood's finest films even to this day.
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A personal tour de force for Eastwood!
Nazi_Fighter_David25 August 2002
Warning: Spoilers
Eastwood's film had all the necessary elements to make a classic... There are in his movie a lot of thoughts about war and the victims of war... The film has the magical combination of historical fact and cowboy fantasy...

The fantasy, as ever, is Eastwood... Josey Wales switches from a simple peasant farmer to stone-cold killer... His shooting becomes as precise as his tobacco spitting... Whether he is merely taking a split second to reverse the two guns he is pretending to hand over to some bounty hunters and concede some bullets instead, or whether he is decently shooting countless 'Blue Coats' with a captured machine gun, or appearing out of the sun to terrify a band of Indians into thinking he is an 'army of one,' or pulling the triggers of his empty guns over and over again, he remains superhuman and invincible... It is Eastwood's screen presence as something unique, direct and strong, the essential Eastwood persona that is a powerful attraction to the public and an enigma to the critics...

Josey Wales has no desire to become an outlaw... At the beginning of the film he is a peaceable Missouri farmer whose wife and child are murdered by Unionist vigilantes, the 'Kansas Red Legs.' The film opens in 1858 when the semi-discipline of the Civil War has been reduced to the chaos of marauding private armies... Wales joins a bunch of desperate Confederate fighters led by Commander Fletcher (John Vernon), and for the next seven years intensifies a multiple revenge on the Unionists, killing them without political cause or pity...

At the end of formal hostilities a price is placed on his head so he makes a picaresque journey into the Indian nation... On the way he picks up different companions: Jamie (Sam Bottoms), a young soldier he saves and who repays the favor only to die from his wounds; Lone Watie (Chief Dan George) who instructs him in the ways and thoughts of the Cherokees; Little Moonlight (Geraldine Keams), the Navajo girl who suffers injustice from the white man's civilization; Grandma Sarah (Paula Trueman), the old woman who knows how to shoot marauders, and Laura Lee (Sondra Locke), whom he rescues from a rape...

After surviving the dangers of their journey under the protective wing of Josey, the group settles on a farm formerly owned by Sarah's son who has died in the war... Wales tries to pass his self-sufficient qualities onto them so that they can if necessary survive without him... He shows them how to use guns and protect the farm against invaders, and negotiates a peace with the blue-painted Navajo Chief, Ten Bears (Will Sampson).

Eastwood plays a solitary figure who is not simply an avenger, or a fugitive with a gun... He is a man who at the same time defends women and children and the weak... His love affair with Laura is triggered off by such wistful sentiments as 'clouds are dreams floating across the sky of your mind,' but it rings true that a man blinkered by revenge and hardened by the sheer need to survive could be drawn to an innocent girl, able to escape from the terrors of her environment into the poetry of her reveries... This was the first of six films that Eastwood would make with Sondra Locke who has already won an Oscar nomination in her film debut 'The Heat Is a Lonely Hunter.'

Chief Dan George, who received an Oscar nomination, for playing Old Lodge Skins in Arthur Penn's 'Little Big Man,' is terrific as the aging Indian warrior Lone Watie... He calls himself a civilized Indian - "We're civilized because white men can sneak up on us.' He struck up a perfect partnership with Eastwood, sensitively timing the soft humor in their relationship... When Josey casually outdraws and kills four men, the Old Indian asks with genuine interest, 'How did you know which one to kill first?'
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One of the finest westerns
Daniel R. Baker21 March 2003
THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES is a wonderful story about a wounded man, Josey Wales, a Missourian who has lost his home and his family to the Civil War. As the Civil War ends in defeat and despair for the South, Wales alone of his guerrilla unit refuses to surrender. He has nothing left to live for, except to fight, and he cannot give that up.

This is a setup that has appeared many times in the movies, as the hero with nothing left to lose is a perfect excuse to show nonstop gunplay. To some extent, this happens in THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES too. It is an action western according to the classic formula, but it is more than that. Josey Wales heals his wounds as the story goes on, and begins to replace the friendship, and then the love, that he has lost. And as he heals, he begins to grow out of violence as a way of life. Many westerns have the theme of the older breed of man who tamed the west by violence being abandoned by his fellows; only this one, so far as I know, has the older breed of man abandon himself, that is to say, change his ways with the changing of the times.

Clint Eastwood is a decent actor, not a great one. But at times he has shown the skills of a really first-class director, and given his limitations as an actor it is the more to his credit that he did not hog the stage. He gives plenty of screen time to an excellent supporting cast, of whom the most memorable is Chief Dan George as aged Cherokee warrior Lone Watie, a role he plays with an eerily perfect balance of dignity and humor. Will Sampson makes an unforgettable cameo as Comanche chief Ten Bears, and Paula Trueman is a magnificently feisty Sarah.

John Vernon plays Fletcher, the man who betrays Josey Wales early on. I don't understand why Vernon could not find work in quality movies after this (he has appeared in 38 cinema releases since this movie and I challenge you to name any of them). Vernon has one of THE great basso-profundo voices in American cinema; only James Earl Jones could compare to it. If mountains could speak, they would sound like John Vernon. His role is a neat twist on the trope of the 'reluctant hero'; Fletcher is a reluctant villain.

The ending of THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES is the most beautiful and poetic of any in western movie history, maybe the most beautiful of any movie ever. According to the rules of the genre, the final confrontation between Wales and Fletcher can have only one outcome; the movie finds another way, because Josey Wales has found another way.

Rating: ***½ out of ****.

Recommendation: Western fans should own this one, but any movie fan should enjoy it.
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Love, Hate, Revenge, Forgiveness, Sorrow, Life, Death.
MrJinx4 November 2002
Love, hate, revenge, forgiveness, sorrow, life, death, emargination, racism, the uselessness of war, betrayal, redemption, solidarity, friendship. Not many films manage to deal competently with even just one of these topics. This masterpiece deals with all. Within the first 4 or 5 minutes (even before the opening credits) one has already been exposed to more force and emotion than most films can pack up in 90 minutes.

By the end of the 2 hrs 10 minutes of this film one would have lived through tour-de-force highlighted by memorable climaxes and showdowns featuring some of the most striking dialogue in cinematic history... "dying ain't no way to make a living". Eastwood's character doesn't speak much but utters a handful of memorable lines.

The central character played by Eastwood is given fine support by an excellent ensemble cast including Chief Dan George, Sondra Locke, Bill McKinney and most of all John Vernon. John Vernon plays a character called Fletcher who turns out to be one of the most complex characters I have ever come across. His motivations and true intentions are never quite clear. He comes across as a bit of a Judas figure and yet he still retains his humanity as the script and Eastwood as the director never truly judge Fletcher, leaving the viewer to judge for him or herself. Almost every character is memorable and every performance fits in place.

The action is sudden and explosive and not always expected. The film takes many twists and turns, yet every twist is a natural consequence of the situations and characters in the film. Ultimately one is left with a truly rich cinematic experience which should appeal to more than just fans of the Western genre. Its themes of suffering and the consequences of evil acts is still sadly relevant in today's world - a world in which not all wars are won by the good guys and in which the good are sometimes persecuted by those who win these wars.

When thinking of the best pre-credit sequences ever forget most others... this should be your best bet.
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One Of My Favorite Westerns
ccthemovieman-18 June 2006
Clint Eastwood has directed, played in or starred in a lot of westerns. We all have our favorites and this my favorite Eastwood western, along with the more set-in-modern-day western, "Bronco Billy." (The latter is really a drama more than a western.)

This is simply an extremely entertaining story with two lead characters - played by Eastwood and Chief Dan George - who were fascinating to watch. Also, as in most westerns, I enjoyed the good photography and was surprised, considering the year of release, that the language was pretty tame.

George has always been a favorite Native American actor for many people. He gets choice roles playing likable guys, and "Lone Watie" character here is no exception. Eastwood, as " Josey Wales," reverts successfully back to his "Man with no name" persona: you know, the strong silent and somewhat mean type. He's a lot like the characters John Wayne played late in his career. He best portrays this with scenes like the one in which he spits tobacco on his dog!

In addition, there are some solid actors in minor roles, people like John Vernon, Sondra Locke and Bill McKinney, Will Sampson, Sheb Wooley and Sam Bottoms, among others. I was surprised Locke, Eastwood's girlfriend or wife at the time, didn't have a bigger role. With her youthful looks and great big eyes, she looked prettier than I've ever seen her, although she never was a glamor girl or got many good parts.

At 136 minutes, this is a bit long but it never drags. This is one of the very few movies I ever watched twice within two weeks and enjoyed it immensely both times....and each time since.
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One of Clints very best!!!!!!!
jrlowe7117 June 2005
Having grown up with Josie Wales as a household name and being a big fan of westerns, I have to agree with the just about everyones previous comments in describing it as excellent. It represents what a true western is. The story line is captivating and intense. The lead character played by Clint himself could be played by no one else. What some may call "lack of acting" because of lack of dialog only lends itself to the desirability of this film. You find yourself hanging on his next words. Clints one liners are still household expressions nearly thirty years after the movies release. In short this film is one of the best westerns made period. There have been others that Clint has made including the spaghetti westerns and his Oscar winning Unforgiven that add to his credibility as a great actor and film maker. But not many films touch so many levels of emotion. The only letdown to this film is that it had to end and no sequel was followed by Clint. Lastly, it's too bad for the film industry and Eastwood fans like myself that the man has to get old. His take on what entertains an audience is uncompromising. Films like The outlaw Josie Wales and what it represents to the American Culture will be enjoyed for many years to come.
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"Are You Gonna Pull Those Pistols or Whistle Dixie?"
bsmith55521 March 2005
"The Outlaw Josie Wales" was made by Clint Eastwood at a time when westerns were out of favor and the public wanted more of Clint as Dirty Harry. This film as it turned out, was one of Clint's best and certainly ranks up there with the more popular "Unforgiven" (1992).

Josie Wales (Eastwood) is a dirt farmer in Missouri during the American Civil War. One day a group of yankee raiders led by Captain "Red Legs" Terrill (Bill McKinny) attacks and burns his farm and murders his wife and young son while leaving Josie for dead. As Josie ponders what to do next a group of southern raiders led by "Bloody Bill" Anderson (John Russell) takes him into his gang to seek his revenge.

After the South surrenders, a fellow southerner, Fletcher (John Vernon) offers the remaining members of Anderson's gang amnesty if they will swear allegiance to the North. All but Wales agree. Unbeknownst to Fletcher, the men are suddenly murdered by the Union soldiers led by Terrill and in spite of Josie's efforts, only he and a young soldier names Jamie (Sam Bottoms) escape. Terrill and Fletcher are sent to hunt down the fugitives.

Jamie soon dies from his wounds and Josie is left alone. He makes for Mexico but is joined first by Lone Watie (Chief Dan George), then Little Moonlight (Geraldine Kearns) whom Josie rescues from a trading post and finally Laura Lee (Sondra Locke) and Grandma Sarah (Paula Trueman) who he rescues from a gang of Commancheros.

The group makes for Texas where Grandma Sarah's son has left her a ranch. All the time Josie is being pursued by Terrill and assorted bounty hunters. Josie dispatches several of them with his brace of Colt 45 horse pistols.

Finally at the ranch, the group sets up a home and Josie begins to fall for Laura Lee. Fearing an Indian attack, Josie rides to meet with Chief Ten Bears (Will Sampson) and makes peace with him. But finally Terrill and his group of "Red Legs" tracks Josie down and..........

Eastwood who also directed the movie, plays Wales with his usual grim faced persons. He's not afraid to pull his pistols and dispose of anyone who stands in his way. Interestingly enough, Eastwood cast all of the principal Native roles with native actors and treated them as equals and not in the old Hollywood tradition.

An excellent western in every way.
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Eastwood's Best
Charles McGrew8 August 2004
Certainly Clint Eastwood's best complete movie, the story of a man drawn into hell by the inhumanity of others (specifically, the Redlegs and the Senator), who is redeemed by the humanity of others (the settlers, Lone Wattie and Ten Bears) to recover some semblance of a life after the Civil War. Eastwood's acting is economical (but a far cry from the man-with-no-name character he made famous), and carries the story very well, and his directing style is practically invisible (which is exactly what it should be -- if the director does his job, you should never even notice his contribution). The viewer is entirely caught up in the story of the man. All in all, a brilliant bit of film from Eastwood (who clearly learned everything he could from his own directors, and then combined that knowledge into superb craftsmanship of his own.)

It is interesting to contrast the Jose Wales and Billy Munny (from Unforgiven) characters. Wales seeks to regain his humanity through others; Munny - having regained his humanity from being a Wales-like character at the beginning of the movie - descends willingly into a hell of his own choosing.
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A brilliant western
klaramee-12 March 2006
Strikes all the right notes of humor, adventure, gun fights and most of all, authenticity. Eastwood is impressive in front of and behind the camera. The script stays reasonably close to the book (Gone to Texas).

Chief Dan George is truly a treasure and was perfectly cast. The great Will Samson is imposing and utterly believable as Ten Bears. Bill McKinney (from the "Eastwood acting collective") is great as Terrill. Although, Sandra Locke is typically forgettable in an otherwise well cast film.

This along with Unforgiven will forever be branded classic "Cowboy" movies in my mind. I still recall Orson Welles on the Tonight Show telling Johnny he had just seen "the greatest Western ever made" after viewing The Outlaw Josey Wales. Brilliant film.
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One of the Best Westerns (Short List, Too)
tostinati8 March 2003
The best thing I can say about this film is that it manages to be Epic --truly grand, covering broad territories interior and exterior, a lot of emotional, moral and physical ground-- without posturing or self-conscious bigness. You never get the feeling people are being herded onto a giant mark for a take. --Or that Eastwood the Director is scrambling for filler, biding his time until the timing is right for the next blow-out set piece. In a word, it really has none of the faults even of some of my long-time cherished 'favorite' epics (no names please). It is more focused and more genuinely evocative of mood than Nevada Smith, which its story may faintly call to mind; it seems less overtly "Hollywooden" than that film, too.

Westerns that stand in stature alongside Josey Wales: The Searchers, One Eyed Jacks, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Fort Apache, and The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. Beyond that, I draw a blank. The Boetticher and Mann '50s westerns with James Stewart and Randolph Scott are probably the real spiritual predecessors of this film, although, stylistically, Eastwood has clearly studied his Ford and paid close attention to Leone. (Those who've seen Jimmy Stewart break down in tears of moral anguish in one of the aforementioned films-- or watched Randolph Scott use up all his ammo in a standoff on some matter of principal so imperative that he cannot move until the thing plays itself out, however that may be-- know exactly what I mean.)

Another thing I like: Whenever you get too comfy within the environment of this film --as you did, say, in the late John Wayne westerns, after he had become such a franchise-- along comes some major shock or disappointment or unbearably poignant bit to remind you that the model of this film is, after all, real life, where these kinds of thing happens all the time.


May I add a spoiler at this point? I said "A SPOILER??" What happens to Terrill, the chief red leg, at the end of this film is more in line with the fate I envisioned early in the going for Bill the Butcher in Gangs of New York. It is spectacular, painful to watch and more than a touch grisly. But it is not so overblown and RoboCopesque that you can't imagine such a pivotal moment actually happening that way. The ending of The Outlaw Josey Wales is, in a word, what the ending of Gangs would have been if the focus groups and script doctors and the Great Scorcese had gotten the thing right.

Ten stars.See it.
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Classic Western!
gottogorunning13 August 2005
This is Clint Eastwood in one of his best roles ever. There's great one-liners like "You gonna pull those pistols or whistle Dixie?", "Dyin ain't much of a livin boy", etc. Eastwood meets up with the likes of 10-bears (Indian chief), Yankee soldiers, Rapist Trappers, you name it. At one point Eastwood meets an old Indian "I forgot his name" who tells him that he didn't surrender, but they captured his horse and made him surrender. I haven't seen this movie in over 2 or 3 years and so my memory of it has faded some but it's one of the best Westerns ever. As Eastwood would say "Better 'an you'll ever live to see". Rarely is there a happy ending in Eastwood's work. There's always another trail to ride, a bounty to collect, and blood to be shed. 'The Outlaw Josey Wales' shows how hard it is for that blood to be washed away.
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I guess we all died a little in that damned war.
Spikeopath5 October 2010
The Outlaw Josey Wales is directed by Clint Eastwood, who also stars as Wales, and is adapted by Sonia Chernus & Phil Kaufman from the novel "The Rebel Outlaw: Josey Wales" written by Forrest Carter. Joining Eastwood in the cast are Chief Dan George, Sondra Locke, Bill McKinney, John Vernon & Paula Trueman. Music is by Jerry Fielding and Bruce Surtees photographs on location in Utah, Arizona & Wyoming.

We are at the very end of the American Civil War and Josey Wales is a contented family man working on his Missouri farm. But his peaceful world is shattered when Union soldiers raid his home and murder his wife and child. Surviving the attack, Josey takes up arms with a group of Confederate guerrilla fighters who take the fight to the Redlegs. However, when the news comes that the war is over and the Confederates are required to surrender, Josey refuses to do so. A wise choice since his group are rounded up and slaughtered in cold blood. So Josey is forced to go on the lam as an outlaw, where hot on his trail are the Redleg group fronted by bloodthirsty Captain Terrill. On his way, as he contemplates survival and what life has in store for he and his aggressors, Josey acquires some interesting companions.

Acclaimed by the critics upon its release, The Outlaw Josey Wales is ageing like a fine wine. It's a film Eastwood himself is very proud of, citing it as one of the high points in his career. Yet the film got off to a difficult start. It was originally given to Kaufman to direct with Eastwood's Malpaso company producing, but the star and director fell out over Kaufman's directing style; and that a certain Sondra Locke was turning the heads of both men. As we now know, there was only one winner there.

The story is a classic Western tale, hell it's a powerful tale, one with layers that peel off as the film progresses. Josey Wales starts out a peaceful family man but after having that stripped away from him by violence, he too is forced to take up violence in response. So far so formulaic then. But the film is so much more than just a Western revenge yarn; even if that aspect of the story is darn good as Clint gets mean and broody and pulls his pistols. There's a real strong family thread throughout, from losing his own kin in the beginning-to a father son relationship-and on to the way he acquires a new family on his travels, it's very strong and gives the narrative a real emotional kick. As Josey goes on his way, angry, bitter and prepared to face the consequence of his choices, the character is constantly forming. It was only after a number of viewings that I personally realised that Josey Wales the man was being healed by the ragtag assortment of individuals that he collects on route to his character being rebuilt.

Eastwood the actor here is on fine form, cool and every inch a man's man . But even Eastwood wouldn't decry the scene stealing excellence of Chief Dan George as Lone Watie. His dry wit puts him in the top tier of Western comedy sidekicks, but the character is more than that. For Watie acts as a sort of spiritual mentor to Wales, and Eastwood reacts positively to George's serene acting to give the film its tight bonded centre. The rest of the cast are a much of a muchness but all serve the story well with solid performances. In fact it's a rare occasion when Locke's vacant method acting actually works well! Eastwood the director is calm, assured and subtle in pacing, with his storytelling boosted considerably by Fielding's popping score and Surtees' gorgeous cinematography. The script is awash with attentive dialogue and punching moments of humour, whilst its noticeable denouncement of violence and intelligent portrayals of the Indians is to be roundly applauded.

Iconography unbound and bulging with class in the writing, The Outlaw Josey Wales is not just one of Eastwoods best Westerns. It's one of the best Westerns period. I reckon so. 9/10
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Dyin' ain't much of a livin'
Tweekums5 December 2008
Warning: Spoilers
This is a contender for the title of Clint Eastwood's best western, possibly even his best film. I'd seen it on television in "pan and scan" format and enjoyed it but it really needs to see watching in wide-screen to fully appreciate the film.

Clint Eastwood plays a Missouri farmer, during the American civil war, who joins Confederate fighters after his wife and son are murdered Kansas red-legs who are fighting with the Union. When the war is over his commander says that he is going to surrender to the Union and all the other men join him with the exception of Josey. When they are in the process of surrendering it turns out that it was a trap and the Union troops plan to murder them, as they are being gunned down Josey rides in and rescues Jamie, one of his friends who is badly wounded, and kills many union troops in the process. The leader of the Red-legs and Fletcher, Josey's former commander, are tasked with hunting him down.

Josey and Jamie head towards Texas encountering a few problems including a ferryman who will back either side depending who is paying and a couple of hill-billies hoping for the reward. Unfortunately Jamie dies before they enter the Indian Nation. Josey isn't alone for long as he soon joins with a Cherokee who fought with the Confederacy, a young Navajo woman who he rescues from a trader and a mother and daughter from Kansas who he saved from a group of Comancheros. All of them continue to Texas where they head to the ranch that belonged the the elder Kansan woman's son. Here they prepare for conflict with the local Comanches but end up having to fight against the Red-legs who have finally caught up with Josey.

The acting throughout the film is very good, especially Clint Eastwood and Chief Dan George who played the Cherokee Lone Watie. As well as top rate acting Clint Eastwood proves himself to be a top rate director. The film is full of quotable dialogue but it never feels as if it has been spoken just to sound cool. I would certainly recommend this to all film lovers, especially fans of Clint or Westerns... although I can't imagine many such people wouldn't have seen this yet.
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I reckon this is a damn good film.
a_jordan_7713 September 2007
Warning: Spoilers
The thing that I love about all of the Westerns that Clint Eastwood directed is their moral complexity. He isn't content to tell a story where the heroes and villains are dressed all-in-black or all-in-white, so to speak. His characters are presented with difficult choices. Should Josey choose the path of justice and revenge, or the path of peace, reintegration, and submission? Within the moral framework of the movie these paths are mutually exclusive, and neither is completely satisfactory. It is painfully clear that from the moment Josey picks up a gun to avenge his slain family, he will never be able to return to a life of peace, although he will want to. But what other choice does he really have? What makes this movie amazing is that the main character is clearly cognizant of this moral struggle. In the briefest flickers of expression on Clint Eastwood's face, and in the well chosen word, we see that although this man is supernaturally good at killing people, he doesn't LIKE it. He would rather have been left alone on his farm with his wife and child, than to have been dragged into "the damn war". He also goes out of his way, at times, to avoid conflict. (i.e. giving the bounty hunter a chance to "walk away," bargaining with Ten Bears rather than making war.) He remembers peace, and he wants it (as symbolized by his attraction to Sandra Locke's character). But it will always be out of his reach.

I think that Clint Eastwood is single-handedly responsible for elevating the Western to an art form higher than Greek drama. My argument is that in Greek drama, the characters are, trapped by circumstance, doomed to act in a certain way. Yet it is only at the end of the play that they realize their actions have led to their demise. In this movie, Josey Wales seems painfully aware _at every second_ that his actions will have consequences both for himself and those around him. Yet his actions are dictated by strict rules of circumstance and honor, and in any given situation his choices are pretty limited. And he knows it! How's that for tragedy? Eyes wide-open, he plays his cards the best way he knows how, and _still_ he ends the movie gutshot and estranged from the things he loves.

My favorite scene from this movie, by the way, is when he finally tracks down Captain "Redlegs" Terrell, and kills him with his own sword. In the hands of a lesser actor-director, this could have been a neat scene where scores are settled, loose ends are tidied-up, and moral satifaction is achieved. But it isn't. In the seconds after he kills his nemesis, Clint Eastwood's face momentarily conveys a sense of disgust, disappointment, and even horror at what he has just done. Revenge has been exacted, but it brings no satisfaction, and doesn't bring back the dead.

I think part of Eastwood's brilliance as a director and actor is how with just a few lines of dialogue and a glimmer of facial expression, he can communicate volumes of moral complexity. It is a minimalism that places an unusual amount of trust in the audience. Not many directors believe that audiences can follow their characters into dark and morally ambiguous places. Eastwood not only believes that they can, but that he can take them there without a lot of sissy hand-holding and unnecessary exposition.
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An equivocal genre classic
erniemunger17 January 2006
Sixteen years before the unforgettable Unforgiven (1992), Eastwood delivered this genre classic, at a time where New Hollywood had confidently taken over and, outside of Italy's fledgling film industry, Western was no longer on the agenda. America's self-understanding as a conquering nation had been dealt a traumatic blow in Vietnam, and hence, tales of fearless and god-fearing conquistadors seemed at best inappropriate. Well into his transgressive Dirty Harry stints, Eastwood plays one Josey Wales, a farmer who is caught in the horrors of the Civil War and turns against his tormentors with a vengeance. The figure of Wales, which shares essential features with both the earlier Harry Callahan and the later William Munny, is the epitome of an Eastwoodian character, freighted with a moral ambiguity that is still likely to puzzle viewers today. A constituting factor of his lone riders is the outward defiance of authority where it is deficient, providing the moral justification for an individual to take the law into his hands. Josey Wales was unjustly harmed by the Union forces (who represent the State) and will fight them down come what will. Incidentally, Eastwood's positive depiction of Natives throughout his career fits in neatly with this ethical code, the State having stripped them of their rights, calling for individual action outside the boundaries of the law, or self-empowerment, if you will. Both the Natives and Josey Wales are outcasts, and by way of this ostracism, forced to become outlaws. The general feel of this film, like so many others, reflects Eastwood's no-nonsense directing. After all, he boasts a reputation for making swift decisions, doing with few takes, and coming in below budget. The opening credit scenes are a case in point here: instead of lengthy battle scenes, Eastwood has his bunch of guerrilla fighters ride across the landscape and shoot at random, enough to convey the essence of their action. The plot serves this purpose as well: a brief (pre-credits) introduction (Wales's family killed by the Union forces during a raid on his farm) serves as the inciting incident and must suffice to lay down the hero's motives. From here on, we may concentrate on Wales's adventures and, eventually, his inner conversion. It takes an immaculate female to bring this conversion about, a virgin who can be seen as the embodiment of the hippie movement and a Catholic figure of redemption alike – a perfect incarnation of Eastwood's trademark double entendre.
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Among Clint's most daring films.
Fmartiterron27 September 2006
WARNING: Contains spoilers.

This film must be one of my favorite westerns of all time, and I just watched it again on my brand new DVD player.

I also find it is one of the most strange westerns ever, something I'm not sure it is deliverate or it comes from the different personalities involved in the project. For starters, the film is based on a novel, and it is also known that Eastwood fired the man who was going to direct it (Philip Kaufman, also the screenwriter) when the project was already in an advanced stage.

Clint Eastwood stars as Josie Whales, a pacific farmer who sees his family killed during the American Civil war, and who, not having any good reason to live but to achieve revenge, joins the suddist irregulars. And here the strange things start to ocurr, because after the beginning credits the war is over and Whales is in more or less the same state where we left him. A series of events turn him into a fugitive, with literally every bounty hunter in the territory after him, and his dry, sullen persona starts to evolve as his journey towards Kansas progresses and he joins some of the most peculiar travel partners ever to grace a western: a young kid (Sam Bottons), a disenchanted Indian chief (Chief Dan George), an Indian woman who speaks in an unintelligible tongue, a dog, a puritan woman and her aloof young daughter (played by Sondra Locke, future companion and regular screen partner of Eastwood).

It is a wonderful film, really, but as I said it is VERY strange. It starts as your usual Eastwood vehicle, although Eastwood's tone as a director is even more laconic and dryly humorous than usual, but as the journey progresses new characters are introduced and Wales himself starts to change, developing, just like the film itself, and underlying schizophrenia. Wales is teared apart, as the film goes, between his desire for revenge and thus ending with his inner torment, and the newly found desire to reintegrate to society (he's been a loner for years as the film starts), as he founds himself as the leader of some sort of dysfunctional, even interracial, family.

This inner conflict is also transferred to the film itself, which seems to eternally debate between historical (and genre) accuracy (this must be the most "historical" of all Eastwood films, as it is based on historical events and several real figures like Quantril are mentioned) and Eastwood's desire to short-circuit it with dry humour and anti-archeotypical character allegiances.

This alone should make it a must see for all westerns aficionados, but it should also be noted that this is one of Eastwood's finest directing efforts. Attention to detail is overwhelming (notice for instance the use of period songs), and the cinematography is absolutely riveting, coating the interiors with persistent shadows, and washing out the familiar landscapes with invernal light. Kudos for the supporting cast, specially Chief Dan George, are also obligatory.
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Best Western of all time!!
nateroofams26 January 2008
It simply sickens me that this movie is not considered in the top 250. My innards churn with rage as this cineamatical marvel is reduced to such a pitiful rating. This movie is in my personal top 50 if not higher. Released in 1976, this is a timeless masterpiece that I will watch and enjoy for the remainder of my lifespan. I am not a huge Clint Eastwood fan, but simply love his character in this movie. His roll is equivalent to the Spartan King in "300". This movie has influenced my vocabulary and any fan of this movie will use the term "reckon" in their everyday life. If anyone has not seen this movie I strongly encourage. If anyone dislikes this movie or rates it less than an 8 (suprised every vote is not a 10) they are just silly individuals.
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"Leaves dead men wherever he goes"
Steffi_P17 October 2011
By the 1970s, the classic Western seemed to have come full circle through genre cliché and elegy, and was now going through an era of surrealism and self-reference, from cheeky comedies like Little Big Man to horror-tinged bloodbaths like High Plains Drifter. However, with 1976's The Outlaw Josey Wales, this wave of strange and violent Westerns gains a little perspective on itself.

Have no doubt, The Outlaw Josey Wales is an action Western, but it has an overriding theme of making peace and learning to have a life after conflict. It essentially presents the typical tough-jawed Clint Eastwood shooting his way through dozens of hoodlums with barely credible dexterity, but then gradually having his humanity restored by an unlikely family of sorts that he picks up on his way. As such it's ultimately a rather heart-warming affair. And amazingly this humane streak is not at the expense of the necessary business of gunning down men four at a time. There is a little prologue in which we see Eastwood as a meek little farmer witnessing his family get butchered. This version of Eastwood is perhaps a little too ineffectual for us to fully accept his transition to a hard-hearted badass, but enough happens in the meantime to make us forget the prologue, only for to be reminded of it in the picture's final act as some surreal dream of the life that once was, with renewed impact.

As an actor, Clint Eastwood was of course born to play the tough-jawed Clint Eastwood type, but he handles the more peaceable aspects of the Josey Wales character with rather mixed success. He looks appropriately awkward towards the end when attempting to dance with Sondra Locke, but his attempt at being the humble little fellow who gets his face slashed in the prologue is a really terrible bit of acting. The highlights of the movie however are really the supporting players. Chief Dan George is wonderfully deadpan, bringing a little hint of irony to even his most serious speeches. Paula Trueman is very good too, playing the feisty old lady stereotype with far more realism than one generally sees.

This was Eastwood's second Western as a director. The influence of his mentor Sergio Leone shows through with action scenes preceded by lots of mean-faced close-ups and made up of quick bursts of gunfire. But there's something that Eastwood does with the space that is very unlike the rolling vistas of Leone's work. Eastwood uses tight framing and close backgrounds to enclose each shot, as if fending off the Western landscape and even defying the width of the 'scope aspect ratio. Throughout we are encouraged to see the people, not the place. What landscape we do see is wintry and spiky, a harsh and atypical look.

And this is still in many ways a harsh and atypical Western. Although it certainly brings back some sense of hope and humanity to an increasingly brutal genre it is still very much of its time. There is no wistful harking back to the classic oaters of the previous generation. This is High Plains Drifter with a silver lining. And it is perhaps just what the Western needed at that time.
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Still a favorite
dorotka249 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Among my favorite westerns. Clint Eastwood to me personifies the quintessential western figure - tall, strong, intelligent, rugged, reserved, and a master of the gun. There has not been an actor before or since that can play such an ideal character.

Josey Wales exemplifies the folk hero that southerners so admired following the American Civil War. Obviously inspired by Jesse James, Wales' is a fugitive out for revenge against the Union forces who had wronged he and his family. Unlike James, Wales does not explicitly rely upon banditry for his living, although it is sometimes implied.

There is a great deal to like about the movie. The characters interactions are great, with much deadpan humor and highly quotable lines. The action is very good, with Josey shooting himself out of a number of sticky situations. Eastwood even manages to squeeze in a moral message or two regarding the Civil War and the Indian Wars.

My criticisms are few given the overall appeal here. Most of the villains were very one-dimensional and despicable, with several performing the typically dumb moves to set them up for the protagonist's bullets. And Wales, like most Western heroes,is a dead eye with the gun - not a single shot fired missed its mark.

In the end, though, it still tops my list of favorite westerns. Lovers of the genre will be very pleased.
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Arguably one of Clint Eastwood's best films ever.
HookidAwnFonix1 May 2004
Frankly, I can't say enough about how much this movie rocks. Being a big fan of westerns, I can say that this is definatly one of the better ones you can see. Eastwood brings his A-game and magnificently engulfs you into this movie within the first few minutes. This movie, being based on a true story, gives a great account of the Civil War's ending and one man's determination to rebel against those who have destroyed his life. This man is none other than one of the greatest outlaws ever known to the wild west, Josey Wales. In my opinion, you don't even have to like westerns in order to fall in love with this movie. The acting is great, the cast is great, the plot is great, and overall this movie is great. If you're looking for a good movie to watch, make no hesitation in seeing this fine western classic.
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Not just a great western....a great movie!!!
mctoomey1 August 2002
I saw this movie 20 years ago at the drive-in (weren't they great) and just recently on TV. I have seen thousands of films and, with the possible exception of "Casablanca", I cannot think of one whose entire cast of characters are as vivid and animated as they are in this film. Eastwood's directing is nothing short of amazing considering the size and scope of this production.

In fact, I cannot believe why The Academy snubbed Clint and this movie when it was made and yet gave honors years later to "Unforgiven" (a lesser movie in my opinion). The Outlaw Josey Wales has it all...action and adventure woven into a great story with great settings, brilliant acting by a ensemble cast of memorable characters, and is beautifully filmed, costumed, and decorated with an eye for detail and authenticity.

Needless to say, I would definitely rate this film a '10' and recommend it to all.
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Overlong but splendid Western well played and directed by Clint Eastwood as a farmer turns outlaw when Union soldiers kill his family
ma-cortes5 February 2015
Interesting movie based on a novel by Forrest Carter titled "Gone To Texas" and professionally performed and directed by Clint Eastwood . Exciting film based on historical events set during American Civil War (1861-1865) in which the Bushwhackers use guerrilla warfare to destroy Yankee targets and led by men set on revenge, make raid and surprising attacks . A Missouri peaceful farmer named Josey Wales (Clint Eastwood) whose family is killed by ¨Red Legs¨, a bunch of pillaging outlaws who have allied themselves with the Union Army ; he then turns vigilante . After the war , everyone in his troop surrenders to the victorious Unión except Wales . There take place fights between cutthroat Bushwhackers versus Jayhawkers , including historical characters named Quantrill and Bloody Bill Anderson (John Russell) who carried out an infamous Raid on Lawrence, Kansas . The surrendering detachment are then murdered after being promised amnesty . Then Wales in turn has a price on his head and joins a Confederate guerrilla unit to revenge their deaths and winds up on the run along with a motley group (Sam Bottoms , Chief Dan George , Sondra Locke) from the Union soldiers who murdered his family and undertaking a lethal chase .

The picture compellingly describes the atmosphere of violence set in post-Civil War ; in which women have few rights, and took place confrontation among bands and bloody battles . This thrilling as well as violent flick details a bloody vendetta , propelling a cat-and-mouse pursuit odyssey . Although atmospheric , it's also sometimes slow-moving and winds up into a spectacular showdown . Very good production design , including breathtaking attacks and fights ; as the film contains some of the most wild horse scenes ever recorded and kept in a movie . The scenes of the picture were filmed in Lake Powell, Arizona, Wyoming,Glen Canyon, Utah, Kanab, Paria, Utah, Oroville, Utah and Mescal, Arizona . Nice acting by Eastwood in his usual stoic attitude as the outlaw becomes the hunter and the hunted . In fact , Clint Eastwood cites Josey as his personal favorite of all the movies he's made . And this is the first of six movies made by real-life couple Clint Eastwood and Sondra Locke. Very good support cast plenty of familiar faces such as Chief Dan George , Bill McKinney . John Vernon , Paula Trueman as Grandma Sarah , Sam Bottoms , Joyce Jameson , John Davis Chandler , Will Sampson , Doug McGrath , John Russell , Charles Tyner , Matt Clark , among others . And uncredited Kyle Eastwood , in film debut , can be glimpsed very briefly in the opening sequence helping his dad, Josey, work the land by their home . Thrilling and atmospheric musical score by Jerry Fielding , Sam Peckinpah's usual . Colorful and adequate cinematography shot in Panavision by Bruce Surtees , great cameraman Robert Surtees's son.

This masterpiece of characterization , adventure and action was efficiently directed by Clint Eastwood ; however , the movie received mixed reviews on its release . Clint took over filmmaking from Philip Kaufman who also co-wrote the script , a rule which has ever since been titled the "Eastwood rule" . It is Clint's one of the best films as both a player and filmmaker and being followed by ¨The return of Josey Wales¨ with no participation by Clint Eastwood . Star, producer , director Eastwood realizes an excellent film and perfectly directed . This classic Western as good as the notorious ¨Pale rider¨ is magnificent in every way . Later on , Eastwood produced and directed another successful Western , the Oscarized ¨Unforgiven(1992)¨ also with some common theme.
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the best western ever made
pjpc15 June 2008
Eastwood's directorial talent has always shone through; his willingness to learn from others, whilst honing his own technique has meant any movie directed by him holds something worthy. In Josie Wales he displays his understanding of the genre, and his ability to frame a long movie without wasting a single shot. He draws outstanding performances from the whole cast, and uses the sparse dialogue to let his actors strut their stuff, whilst framing the beautiful settings, in scene after scene.

Yes it is violent and for some that is all Eastwood is about, but even a brief and superficial reflection should allow the viewer to see beyond the obvious.

I watched it again recently, and there is a sense of timelessness to it. Maybe the western is moribund, and maybe its just resting, waiting for another director of Eastwood's vision and talent. Let's all hope so!
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Desperate Lives
Garry Richards23 July 2005
At the beginning of this brilliant movie Josey Wales has a wife, a son and a small farm. Before the end of the opening credits he has only bitterness. With his family having been killed by union troops he joins a group of rebel guerrilla fighters; but the war is lost and his comrades plan to surrender so that they can go home to their families. Josey refuses to join them and then suffers the anguish of seeing his comrades betrayed and gunned down. He intervenes and kills many union soldiers before making his escape with one still living friend and then the story of the movie starts.

Even though he has little to live for Josey decides to head for Mexico and hopefully a life of peace but a $5000 bounty on his head ensures trouble all along the way. This huge reward along with tales of his exploits makes him a famous outlaw and a number of people try to take him in. This is where the movie shines for me. Through every confrontation Eastwoods character is impassive and unafraid but the demeanour of those attacking him is never so. To them he represents an incredibly dangerous escape from their desperate lives. The scenes of confrontation crackle with sweaty tension as trappers, farmers and bounty hunters take on this implacable, fearsome warrior for the small chance of living their dreams.

The scene in the trading post is typical as the spiteful, loathsome owner pleads for a share in the Wales bounty he thinks the trappers are going to get then hides in misery when Josey prevails.

but this is not a miserable movie. As the story progresses Josey acquires a new family. A chief, a squaw, some pilgrims and a red bone hound. They fall under his protection and in turn they save his soul.

The story comes full circle from peace and love at the very beginning, through adventure, violence, tragedy. humour and nobility, back to peace and love at the very end. I cannot recommend it highly enough; it also contains one of the best lines in movie history. "Dyin ain't much of a living boy".
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Movie making at it's best!
jdrt6615 March 2008
Orson Wells said this was the greatest movie ever made on Johnny Carson.

Enough said.

Just the performance of Chief George is enough to send you. This movie is an epic of huge proportions and deserves every accolade it gets. Not only is it Eastwood's shining jewel of his entire career, but it is a testament to the human spirit and what I feel what being an American really means.

Not withstanding all of the 'period' gaffs with the guns and songs and such, it's close enough for rock and roll and nobody cares. The joy of this movie is it's soul which shines and should be enjoyed and passed down from generation to generation!

Thank you Mister Eastwood and all! JD
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