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Set during the aftermath of the American Civil War, The Outlaw Josey Wales follows a man whose whole family was killed, leading him to join a group of Confederate guerrillas to track down the killers. After eventually being sold out, however, he is on the run from bounty hunters and Yankee soldiers (including the group who killed his family). Along the way, while racking up a prodigious body count, Wales meets a group of people whom he reluctantly allows to join him. Hilarity Ensues. As does a lot of killing. This is a Clint Eastwood movie, after all.
Based on the novel Gone to Texas: The Rebel Outlaw Josey Wales, by Forrest Carter. The original printing of the book was less than one hundred copies, but one of those copies was sent to Eastwood...
The Outlaw Josey Wales provides examples of:
- Action Film Quiet Drama Scene: Two fantastic examples in Wales' confrontations with Ten Bears and Fletcher. (From the latter: "We all died a little in that damned war.")
- American Civil War: Specifically the carnage in Missouri, where the guerrilla fighting was so vicious by both sides that it was practically a civil war within the Civil War itself.
- Anti-Hero: Wales himself.
- Author Tract: The portrayal of the Union soldiers in the film make it quite apparent that this film and the book it was based on were written by a pro-segregationist Southern apologist.
- Badass: Well, the lead is played by Clint Eastwood.
- Badass Grandpa: Lone Watie.
- Bounty Hunter:
"A man's got to do something for a living these days."
"Dyin' ain't much of a living, boy."
- Catch Phrase: "I reckon so."
- Click Hello: This is done twice. First, when Clint Eastwood pulls a "click hello" on Chief Dan George; and later, when Dan George returns the favor, an Indian girl Eastwood freed pulls her own "click hello" on Chief Dan George (again):
Lone Watie (Chief Dan George): I'm gettin' better at sneaking up on you like this. Only an Indian can do something like this.
Josey Wales (Eastwood): That's what I figured.
Lone Watie: You figured?
Wales: Only an Indian could do something like that.
[Lone Watie hears a gun cock behind him; turns and sees Moonlight]
"You promised me those men would be decently treated."
"They were decently treated. They were decently fed, decently clothed, and then they were decently shot. Those men are common outlaws, nothing more." This from a US Senator allied to the Redlegs, themselves murderous (but pro-Union) guerrillas.
- The Film of the Book: Based on a little-known book by Forrest Carter...
- Final Battle: Josey and his band's showdown with the Redlegs.
- Gatling Good: The US troops used a Gatling mounted on the back of a wagon to kill all the bushwhackers that had just surrendered to them and turned their own guns in
- The Gunslinger: Well, duh.
- Hand Cannon: Josey's pair of Walker Colts.
- Hey, It's That Guy!: One of Wales's many victims is Uncle Leo, here playing a bounty hunter.
- And Fletcher is obviously trying to put Josey Wales on double-secret probation.
- Hitchhiker Heroes: The film is a good example of the Antihero version.
- I Surrender, Suckers: Happens twice, once with a couple of amateur bounty hunters (Josey gets help from a wounded buddy with a Hidden Weapon) and again with two particularly stupid mountain men (whom Josey defeats with a road agent's spin).
- Kick the Dog:
- Most of the people Josey kills get at least one kick in immediately before he shoots them.
- When Abe and Lige find Josey and the kid, Lige kicks the wounded (and apparently fevered) kid to shut him up.
- The two mountain men are interrupted while attempting to rape Little Moonlight.
- The Comancheros are first seen in the immediate aftermath of attacking the Kansas settlers, killing the men and attempting to rape the girl.
- And of course, at the very beginning, the Senator's Union soldiers murder all the surrendering guerrillas. Oddly enough, this extra bit of villainy was not in the original novel, which was itself written by the man who came up with the "Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever" speech.
- Leitmotif: The Rose of Alabama keeps popping up after the kid sings a bit of it.
- May-December Romance: Lone Watie and Little Moonlight.
- Names to Run Away From Really Fast: "Name's Anderson. Bloody Bill's what they call me."
- Perma Stubble: Josey Wales himself. Eastwood always has some of this in his Westerns but this movie has it at its thickest, straddling the line between Perma Stubble and a Badass Beard. Its probably there to make his scar stand out more.
- Also doubles as a Beard of Sorrow.
- Pragmatic Villainy: The Comancheros' leader stops them gang raping a young woman since it would radically decrease the price they could trade her for. He suggests they rape the old woman instead, since she isn't worth much, but none of them seem to take him up on this.
- Pre-Ass-Kicking One-Liner: "You gonna pull those pistols or whistle Dixie?"
- Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil
- Rated "M" for Manly
"I had to come back."
- Real Life Relative: Josey's son was played by Clint Eastwoods son Kyle Eastwood.
- Retired Badass: Josey attempts to become one of these.
- Roaring Rampage of Revenge: why Josey signs up with Bloody Bill's troops at the start of the war when the Redlegs killed his wife and son. Subverted by Terill and a reluctant Fletcher who pursue the fleeing Josey Wales fearing the outlaw would continue his rampage after the war's end (when Wales seems more interested in just fleeing to Texas, and is more annoyed by the bounty hunters and soldiers he has to keep killing to survive).
- Spiteful Spit: Clint Eastwood does this on anything that moves.
- It doesn't always scare away the ones he's spitting on.
- Shoot the Rope: This is how Clint Eastwood sends his pursuers downriver.
- Wag the Director: In a weird way, the Trope Maker. Early in filming, Clint Eastwood decided that he could do a better job than the original director, Philip Kaufman, was doing. He therefore arranged for Kaufman to be fired and took over the directorial duties himself. The Director's Guild of America was so disgusted by this that they created a new rule stating that whenever a film's director is fired, their replacement has to be someone with absolutely no previous connections to the film whatsoever. This is why, nowadays, actors are forced to Wag the Director, rather than just outright firing them and directing the film themselves. More commonly they just hire someone willing to take orders.
- War Is Hell
- The Western: While it's mostly an anti-war movie, it's based in the Western theater of the Civil War and contains many of the tropes - Indians, gunmen, settlers, cavalry - found in standard Wild West films. It might rightly be called a "Pre-Western".
- And still something of a Deconstruction of Westerns at that.