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"Let's ride into the sunset together

Stirrup to stirrup, side by side

When the day is through, I'll be here with you

Into the sunset we will ride"
Lost Weekend Western Swing Band, "Let's ride into the sunset together"

It's the end of the movie and The Drifter has to be moving on. There are other people in trouble, other wrongs to right, other paths to follow. He saddles up his horse and rides west into the setting sun. The townspeople look on as his figure, silhouetted against the orange disk, disappears into the horizon. The music swells and "The End" appears.

Riding into the sunset is a tried (some would say "tired") and true ending to a show. Primarily a Western trope associated with cowboys, but not exclusively a western trope. The setting sun is symbolic of the end of the story.

Very often, heroes are known for riding into the sunrise as well. Possibly as a symbol for a new beginning or fresh start on life after their adventure is over. Also possibly to show that the script writers realize that setting off into the wilderness at sunset is not the brightest idea -- what's he gonna do? Go two miles out of town and then make camp for the night? Of course, the sunset is somewhat cooler, so a little Artistic License is allowed. In fact, the sunset is so expected that using the more pragmatic sunrise in a Western might be jarring.

Compare Against the Setting Sun, Partly Cloudy with a Chance of Death (for a darker ending), Watching the Sunset

Contrast Outrun the Fireball.

Examples of Riding Into the Sunset include:


Anime and Manga

  • At the end of the Johto saga in Pokémon, Misty rides off into the sunset on her freshly repaired bike, with her Togepi in the basket.
  • Science Ninja Team Gatchaman: Most episodes of this classic anime -- and its various dubs -- ends with the God-Phoenix flying off into the sunset, or the team standing around looking at a sunset.
  • In Saiyuki the group often ends the episodes driving towards the sunset because they are travelling west to India. The commented on it once in-universe :

 Goku: [looking at the sunset] It's more beautiful than a meat bun!

Sha Gojyo: That's quite an endorsement.

Cho Hakkai: Come to think of it, we're always heading towards the setting sun, aren't we?

  • In Bleach at the end of the Fullbringer Arc Moe Shishigawara carries Tsukishima on his back into the sunrise.


Comicbooks

  • Every single adventure of Lucky Luke ends this way. In the metastory "Where the sunset is" the Dalton brothers try to avoid capture by keeping away from civilization and hiding out in the wilderness. All to no avail as the place they choose to hang out turns out to be Luke's "riding into the sunset" place. Apparently sunset is a place, not a time.
  • The end of Elf Quest (TOS) #7: see here. Two Wolfrider elves, appropriately enough, riding wolves into the sunset. It's worth noting that since Wolfriders are generally nocturnal, sunset is an appropriate time for them to set out.
  • At the end of Preacher (Comic Book), Jesse reveals he never wanted to be a preacher as a kid. His girlfriend asks him what he wanted to be. "Girl, can't you guess?" he says, as they ride on a horse towards the sunset.


Film

  • High Noon: Probably the best known example of this trope (famous enough to be referenced in Die Hard) is the ending. Though it's neither a sunset, nor a sunrise, it's -- what a surprise -- noon.
  • Blazing Saddles parodied this by having the heroes get off of their horses and into a car, driving off into the sunset at the end of the film.
  • Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade ends with Indy, his father, Sallah, and Marcus riding into the sunset. Spielberg said this was done with the expectation that this would be the last Indiana Jones film (not that they wanted it to end, it just took time).
  • Nearly every Charlie Chaplin film ends with the Little Tramp shuffling down the road.
  • Variation in Legend: at the end of the movie, Jack and Lily walk off into the sunrise.
  • Wild Wild West: plays with this at the end. It appears that Jim West and Artemus Gordon are riding off into the sunset on horses... until the camera pulls back to reveal they are riding Loveless' giant mechanical spider. Also, since they were traveling from Utah to Washington D.C. they were actually going east, into the sunrise.
  • In Slither the main characters are seen walking off into the sunset at the end of the film whilst the credits roll up.
    • Another variation: they started in Promontory Point, Utah and are traveling toward Washington, D.C., which means they're heading east, into the sunrise.
  • X-Men Origins: Wolverine included this near the end- before a fairly brutal, and very effective, subversion. Logan/Wolverine and Kayla are walking off into the sunset- and a gunshot rings out as Stryker arrives with his adamantium bullets...
  • Played with the sunrise version in Sam Peckinpah's Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid where Garrett rides off - although it was a sunset when they were shooting it, but it's dawn in the movie. It doesn't symbolise a new beginning: Garrett's life is competely ruined, nothing left except remorse and loneliness. It symbolizes the death of the Old West and also the whole genre.
  • The title characters do this at the end of the film Three Amigos!.
  • Done in An American Tail: Fievel Goes West as a bit of a tribute to this trope, when Wylie Burp walks off into the sunset after the final battle and Fievel follows him, and they sit on a rocky outcropping and talk while watching the sunset.
  • At the end of Shock Treatment (the semi-sequel to The Rocky Horror Picture Show), as the good guys are driving off in a car, the narrator remarks "The sun never sets on those who ride into it".
  • The Russian ostern The Elusive Avengers. Its authors were fond of this trope. All three movies end with this. There are also a beginning, when the title team rides FROM the sunset.
  • McCabe & Mrs. Miller brutally subverts this when McCabe, having triumphed over the three men sent to kill him, dies out in the snow immediately afterwards rather than riding off into the sunset or achieving any kind of happiness with Constance.
  • The ending of The Green Berets infamously features John Wayne's character walking onto a beach and into the sunset with the adorable little Vietnamese moppet that had accompanied his unit in the latter stages of the film....on a beach on the South China Sea, which faces east, meaning it would actually be impossible to observe a sunset on that beach.
  • Used in The Men Who Stare at Goats. The main character's mentor (George Clooney) and his mentor's mentor (Jeff Bridges) fly a helicopter off into the sunset and are never seen again.
  • The ending of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country has the Enterprise sailing towards a star.
  • Parodied in Hot Shots! Part Deux, where the helicopter flies into the sunset from the side, then turns and flies into the sun, smoking as it comes out the other end.
  • The ending of Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl: "Now, bring me that horizon."
  • Also parodied by Ellen Degeneres in Mr. Wrong: She and the main love interest are walking into the sunset before realizing that they're walking west and they have to turn north to get to the US-Mexico border, It's a Long Story. She even comments on how the sunset is a bit blinding.
  • Somewhat surprisingly, The Movie of Buffy the Vampire Slayer ends this way as well, with Buffy and Pike roaring off toward the horizon on Pike's motorcycle in a romantic scene as Susanna Hoffs's cover of "We Close Our Eyes" plays. (In this example the sun has already set, but it still fits.)
  • And even the mostly tough and unsentimenal gangland meoldrama The Warriors ends happily, with the surviving heroes frolicking in the surf on the beach off Coney Island before disappearing over the horizon just as the sun is coming up.
  • In Monsters vs. Aliens, the monsters fly off into the sunset.
  • Lampshaded in Rango

  Priscilla: Its the sunset scene.

  • Mercilessly deconstructed in the pornographic parody film Once Upon a Girl. Cinderella and the prince ride off into the sunset to live happily ever after, and Mother Goose immediately launches into a tirade about how much Cinderella's life sucked after the initial honeymoon phase of her marriage.

Literature

  • Parodied in Where's Waldo? In Hollywood, which has a rider crashing through a painted backdrop.
  • The end of Kitty and the Dead Man's Hand. Which doesn't make a lot of sense since the car's a rental, their luggage is back at the hotel, they're going the wrong way to get home, and it can't be much later than noon. But hey, it's the thought that counts...
  • One of the "Star Trek" novels, in which the plot revolves around colonists' ambitious project to set their tidally-locked planet rotating, ends with Kirk ordering an odd departure course. When questioned, he explains: "Considering all the work we've done to create a sunset, it's only fitting that we fly off into it."


Live-Action TV

  • Star Trek: The Next Generation had an episode with a Western in the holodeck, and at the end the starship flew off into the "sunset". (In other words, straight into a star.)
    • Star Trek VI topped this by having the Enterprise fly off into what appeared to be a supernova.
    • Red Dwarf ended its Western-themed episode, "Gunmen of the Apocalypse", with Starbug doing the same (a star, not a supernova).
  • Subverted in Supernatural. At the end of "Hollywood Babylon", Sam and Dean seem to be walking away into the sunset... but then the shot widens and it's revealed that the sunset is a setpiece in a movie studio.
  • Parodied in Friends: Joey gets a gig giving free aftershave samples out when a rival, dressed as a cowboy starts to invade his turf. In the end, we see Joey (who by this stage is selling the same cowboy-branded aftershave) walking with the girl towards a wall-painting of a sunset.
    • The entire episode is a parody of Western tropes, with Joey as the good cowboy and his rival as the bad cowboy, complete with colour-coded outfits.
  • The fourth season of 24 ended with Jack Bauer walking away into the sunrise with the intent of starting a new life. Of course, he comes back for the next season.
  • In an episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus a customer is talking to a clerk about purchasing an ending to the episode:

 Clerk: Walking into the sunset?

Customer: What's that one?

Clerk: You know, two lone figures silhouetted against the dying rays of the setting sun, the music swells and lovely... (music covers dialog)

Customer: No.

Clerk: Pity, I rather like that one.

  • Variation in Battlestar Galactica Reimagined: the eponymous ship and the remaining ships of the civilian fleet fly into the sun, while the Original Series' theme music plays.
  • In Only Fools and Horses this happens at the end of the last of the 1996 Christmas Episode trilogy. This was supposed to be the last ever episode but then it was renewed for another set of Christmas episodes.
  • Lampshaded in (another show called) Legend. The writer-turned-cowboy hero and his inventor buddy are looking at the sunset. The buddy asks "Shouldn't you be riding off into that?" The hero says "Yeah. It's a device of the genre. They have to end that way."
  • Holly Oaks had fun with this trope by giving the couple Jon Paul and Craig a riding off into the sunset ending - by having them kiss in front of a holiday poster bearing a sunset before getting on a train together.
  • Deathlands Homeward Bound. Ryan Cawdor turns down the chance to rule the barony from which he was outlawed years before, and his True Companions drive off into the sunset Forbidden Zone in their Sec Wag.
  • Veronica Mars has a symbolic variation. Veronica walks away into the rain, signifiying the consequences of the series finale being rather crappy (her Dad's facing charges that could land him serious jail time for protecting her, and their primary opponent for her Dad's old job as Sheriff is a corrupt puppet of the mafia). As the camera pans out, we get the impression that Veronica is upset not only because she inadvertently got her Dad in trouble, but because she knows she'll never change her ways.


Magazines

  • The very last issue of ZX Spectrum magazine Your Sinclair had this for the back cover. Two cowboys riding off into the sunset, guns aloft, with the Your Sinclair logo at the bottom, and beneath it five small words: "Our work here is done."


Newspaper Comics

  • Gary Larson's The Far Side:
    • Someone gets dragged back into a saloon all burnt up because "the damn fool tried to ride off into the sunset."
    • Another has a cowboy is riding off into a cardboard-stand/cutout of a sunset, whilst various people wave. The caption reads 'The embarrassment of riding into a fake sunset'.


Tabletop Games

  • Hero Rides Away, a freelancer Charm from Exalted, allows you to regain power and create gratitude among the villagers you just saved by, well, riding off in some dramatic fashion, like having your horse rear up against the sunset or departing at the height of a thunderstorm. Of course, there's nothing preventing you from using this in the frozen North or verdant East rather than the dessicated South, meaning you can be a cowboy-movie hero while riding a simhata[1] on a glacier.


Videogames

  • The opening of Sunset Riders.
  • The Bad Ending of Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards is a Warpstar Into The Sky.
  • In Kirby's Dream Land, as well as in "Spring Breeze" in Kirby Super Star, the credits play as a giant Kirby is floating with King Dedede's castle towards the sunset.
  • A riding into the sunrise variant occurs in the ending of Metal Gear Solid in which Snake and another character (either Meryl or Otacon) ride a snowmobile in the direction of the Alaskan sun.
  • Ben, the protagonist of Full Throttle, rumbles off on his bike into a beautiful sunset.
  • The last campaign of Left 4 Dead, "Blood Harvest," ends with the survivors getting into a military APC, which then drives off into the sunrise.
  • Mass Effect ends with the Normandy flying away from the camera into the sunrise of an unknown gas giant.
  • Red Dead Redemption despite being a game based on Westerns has a bit of fun with both subverting and playing this trope straight. Since John Marston dies at Ross's hands at the end of the game he doesn't have the tried and true riding off into the sunset happy ending where we know his adventuring days will continue. In fact at John's grave his son Jack is moping around in depressingly sad rain while an achievement/trophy pops up lampshading the traditional ending to a Western called "Into The Sunset." It is eventually played straight when Jack gets revenge for his father's death and kills Ross and then walks off into the setting sun where-in the game has a second ending leaving what happens to him afterward up to the interpretation of the player.
  • Happens twice in the Monkey Island series: once at the end of The Curse of Monkey Island, when the newlywed Guybrush and Elaine ride the Sea Cucumber off into the sunset, with his mutinied crew waving them goodbye; and once near the end of Tales of Monkey Island, when the newly-reborn Guybrush, Elaine and Winslow ride the Screaming Narwhal off into the beautiful sunrise.
  • At the end of the Heroes of Might and Magic III: Shadow of Death main campaign the four good heroes part way as they ride into the sunrise.


Webcomics

  • Girl Genius mocks the trope with Agatha's fashion-clank and the Weasel Queen running off into the sunset to go open a fashion house in Paris. Here.
  • In Dead Winter, Black Monday Blues walks into the sunset at the end of chapter 1.
  • Parodied in Wally and Osborne: since the titular duo live in Antarctica, the sun won't set in five months.


Western Animation

  • Parodied in King of the Hill, after Hank and Bobby came in second at a shooting competition, they walk to the sunset, until they realize they parked the car elsewhere.
  • In the My Little Pony episode Crunch the Rockdog, a story that Paradise is reading ends this way. Then Wind Whistler questions why anyone would start off on a journey at the end of the day.
  • Kim Possible: Slightly different in The Grand Finale: Kim and her partner/boyfriend Ron jump into her supercar, kiss, and fly off into the full moon.
  • Similar to the Kim Possible example, at the end of the Grand Finale of Danny Phantom, after the long awaited Relationship Upgrade between Danny and Sam, the two fly away to see what the future holds for them.
  • Parodied in The Simpsons when Bart helped a retired TV cowboy become a real hero. He rides back into his house then comes out and discards a sack of garbage.
  • Parodied at the end of one episode of Recess: Gus, after wining a game of dodgeball in the most What Do You Mean It's Not Awesome? manner possible, ends the episode walking into a sunset that wasn't there before. Another character then says something like, "Wait, where're you going? School isn't over yet!"
  • Done by Zuko on Avatar: The Last Airbender to complete the Showdown At High Noon parody during his Day in The Limelight.
    • Aang, Katara, and Sokka end episodes flying on Appa at sunset no fewer than five times in the first season. Subverting the trope, this is generally used to show Aang's sense of loss and alienation against the coming darkness, and that all they have is each other.
  • The end of Rocky and Bullwinkle boxtop story arc shows the title duo ride off the sunset being heroes.
  • Parodied in the G.I. Joe episode "Battle for the Train of Gold". Gung-Ho tries to ride off into the sunset on horse only for said horse to buck him off. Gung-Ho then decides to ride off into the sunset behind the wheel of a jeep.
  • Don't know if this is an inversion or what, but in Ben 10 Alien Force, at the end of one episode featuring Professor Paradox, when the heroes leave the are, they ride off into the sunrise.
  • Seemingly played straight at the very end of Beavis And Butthead Do America, where B&B walk down the street into the sunset after finally locating their beloved TV set. Subverted just before the fade out when Butthead tells Beavis that he will most likely die a virgin because "You're too much of a Butt Monkey."
  • Chuck Jones' Merrie Melodies short "The Dover Boys at Pimento University". Dainty Dora Standpipe sashays off into the sunset (with the occasional bunny hop) with a very strange man.
  • In The Looney Tunes Show episode "That's My Baby", Daffy did this as Tina stared after him. (He had just announced that he wanted to start a family with her, but suddenly derailed what he was saying into a speech about frozen yogurt, and continued to talk as he walked off...kind of spoiled the moment a bit.)
  • That the Lone Ranger keeps doing this annoys the citizens in Thank You Masked Man, as he takes off before they can properly thank and reward him for his heroics around town.


Real Life

  • In New York City, there was some dispute going on with the United Nations, which has its headquarters there. Some NYC official made a snarky remark about how if the UN didn't like it in NYC they should leave and he'd be happy to come down to the docks and wave as they "sailed off into the sunset". Annoying literalists then noted that if you sail off into the sunset from NYC you end up in New Jersey.
    • Then again, that might have been the point.
  • There was an incident in early 2011 where two British teenage camping groups were sharing their campsite. They were both camping in a field next to a dense forest. The group from Hove entered the woods in the late morning and didn't return until late evening. They had wandered off into the sunset because it was pretty.

Notes

  1. a lion-like creature specifically bred to serve as the steed to Exalts
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