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Unforgiven 2.jpg
Theatrical release poster by Bill Gold
Directed byClint Eastwood
Written byDavid Webb Peoples
Produced byClint Eastwood
CinematographyJack N. Green
Edited byJoel Cox
Music byLennie Niehaus
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • August 3, 1992 (1992-08-03) (Mann Bruin Theater)
  • August 7, 1992 (1992-08-07) (United States)
Running time
131 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$14.4 million[2]
Box office$159.2 million[2]

Unforgiven is a 1992 American Revisionist Western film produced and directed by Clint Eastwood and written by David Webb Peoples. The film portrays William Munny, an aging outlaw and killer who takes on one more job, years after he had turned to farming. The film stars Eastwood in the lead role, with 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,[3] 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".[4] The film was remade into the 2013 film also titled Unforgiven, starring Ken Watanabe and changing the setting to the early Meiji era.

Eastwood had long asserted that the film would be his last Western, concerned he would simply be rehashing previous plotlines or imitating someone else's work.[5]


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 reward 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 reward. 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 jeopardizing his children's future. Will recruits friend Ned Logan, another retired outlaw, and they catch up with the Kid.

Back in Wyoming, British-born gunfighter "English" Bob, an old acquaintance and rival of Little Bill, seeks the reward. He arrives in Big Whiskey 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 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 Bunting in front of his friends. After missing Bunting 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 the young cowboy himself with Ned's rifle. Will feels they must finish the job and 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 the 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. Will 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 vengeance if Ned is not buried properly or if any of the prostitutes are harmed.

During the epilogue, a title card states that Will and his children abandoned their farm (leaving behind also his wife's grave) and are rumored to have moved to San Francisco, prospering in dry goods. It also states his in-laws, upon finding the place abandoned years later, never understood what their daughter saw in Will Munny, not realizing the depths of Munny's 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.[6] The concept for the film dated to 1976, when it was developed under the titles The Cut-Whore Killings and The William Munny Killings.[6] 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".[7] 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 phonecall, leading to Harris thinking it was a prank.[8]

Much of the cinematography for the film was shot in Alberta in August 1991 by director of photography Jack Green.[9] Filming took place between August 26, 1991 and November 12, 1991.[10] Production designer Henry Bumstead, who had worked with Eastwood on High Plains Drifter, was hired to create the "drained, wintry look" of the western.[9]


Like other Revisionist Westerns, Unforgiven is primarily concerned with deconstructing 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,[11] 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".[12][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".[13] 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 as 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?]

Morality in conflict[edit]

One of the major themes of the film Unforgiven is the conflicting morals regarding killing. The three most distinct morals on killing are these: (1) it is ok to kill whenever and whoever, (2) it is okay to kill if the person deserves it, and (3) it is never ok to kill unless it is used as a last resort. The first view is held by English Bob and Little Bill, most notably when Little Bill tries to get English Bob to take his gun so that he can shoot English Bob in “self-defense.” The second is held by William Munny: the main reason he took the job was because he believed the cowboys deserved to be killed for what they had done to Delilah. The third is shared by Ned Logan and the Schofield Kid. Ned decides to leave when realizes he cannot kill Davey or anyone. The Schofield Kid quits his goal of becoming an outlaw when he is struck by how horrible killing is after he shoots Quick Mike. The Schofield Kid “is unable to fathom the full implications of violence, at least until he shoots a man for the first time.”[14] The film’s moral center is found in either the second or third view. The film’s viewpoint may mirror the view of its protagonist, William Munny. Or the film may align with the point of view of the character who represents the future of the west, the Schofield Kid.


Box office[edit]

The film debuted at the top position in its opening weekend.[15][16] 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.[17] 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.[18]

Critical response[edit]

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."[19] Metacritic gave the film a score of 85 out of 100 based on 33 critical reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".[20]

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."[17] 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.[21]

"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.[22]


Award Category Recipients Result
Academy Awards Best Picture Clint Eastwood Won
Best Director Won
Best Actor Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Gene Hackman Won
Best Original Screenplay 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 Direction 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.[23]

In 2004, Unforgiven was deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthecically 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.[24]

American Film Institute recognition

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.[25][26]

Home media[edit]

Unforgiven was released as premium home video, on DVD and VHS, on September 24, 2002.[27] 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.[28] Unforgiven was released on 4K UHD Blu-Ray on May 16, 2017.[29]


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.


  1. ^ "Unforgiven". British Board of Film Classification. Archived from the original on March 5, 2016. Retrieved January 13, 2015.
  2. ^ a b "Unforgiven (1992) - Financial Information". The Numbers. Archived from the original on March 11, 2015. Retrieved January 13, 2015.
  3. ^ Canfield, David (April 16, 2015). "The 11 Best Modern Westerns". IndieWire. Archived from the original on July 23, 2018. Retrieved October 28, 2018.
  4. ^ "Librarian of Congress Adds 25 Films to National Film Registry". Library of Congress. Archived from the original on April 7, 2020. Retrieved February 2, 2021.
  5. ^ "Clint Eastwood reveals why UNFORGIVEN may be his last Western". American Film Institute. Archived from the original on March 28, 2014. Retrieved February 25, 2018.
  6. ^ a b McGilligan 1999, p. 467.
  7. ^ Whittey, Stephen (June 13, 2014). "Clint Eastwood on 'Jersey Boys,' taking risks and a life well lived". NJ.com. Archived from the original on December 8, 2015. Retrieved October 10, 2015.
  8. ^ "Richard Harris was watching Eastwood film when director offered him Unforgiven role". Hollywood.com. March 17, 2015. Retrieved October 7, 2021.
  9. ^ a b McGilligan 1999, p. 469.
  10. ^ "Miscellaneous Notes". Turner Classic Movies. A Time Warner Company. Archived from the original on February 25, 2018. Retrieved September 20, 2015.
  11. ^ "How Unforgiven laid the classic movie western to rest". Little White Lies. Archived from the original on August 12, 2020. Retrieved October 1, 2020.
  12. ^ "Unforgiven (1992) – Deep Focus Review – Movie Reviews, Critical Essays, and Film Analysis". Deep Focus Review. Archived from the original on September 23, 2020. Retrieved October 1, 2020.
  13. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on May 16, 2021. Retrieved April 18, 2021.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  14. ^ Plantinga, C. (1998). Spectacles of Death: Clint Eastwood and Violence in "Unforgiven". Cinema Journal, 37(2), 65-83. doi:10.2307/1225643
  15. ^ Fox, David J. (August 18, 1992). "Weekend Box Office: Eastwood Still Tall in the Saddle". The Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on April 2, 2011. Retrieved December 1, 2010.
  16. ^ Fox, David J. (August 25, 1992). "Weekend Box Office: 'Unforgiven' at Top for Third Week". The Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on April 2, 2011. Retrieved December 1, 2010.
  17. ^ a b McGilligan 1999, p. 473.
  18. ^ McGilligan 1999, p. 476.
  19. ^ "Unforgiven (1992)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Archived from the original on November 12, 2020. Retrieved March 31, 2021.
  20. ^ "Unforgiven Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Archived from the original on March 14, 2018. Retrieved March 1, 2018.
  21. ^ Ebert, Roger (July 21, 2002). "Unforgiven". Rogerebert.com. Ebert Digital LLC. Archived from the original on March 18, 2021. Retrieved April 2, 2021.
  22. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on August 1, 2020. Retrieved May 9, 2020.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  23. ^ Cameron (February 24, 2015). "Not Dead Yet: Ten Best Modern Westerns". The Film Box. p. 10. Archived from the original on November 17, 2015. Retrieved November 15, 2015.
  24. ^ "101 Greatest Screenplays". Writers Guild of America West. 2013. Archived from the original on November 22, 2016. Retrieved September 14, 2016.
  25. ^ Mirko (June 17, 2008). "AFI Crowns Top 10 Films in 10 Classic Genres". Comingsoon.net. Archived from the original on August 18, 2008. Retrieved June 18, 2008.
  26. ^ "Top 10 Western". American Film Institute. Archived from the original on October 20, 2013. Retrieved June 18, 2008.
  27. ^ Indvik, Kurt (July 3, 2002). "Warner Bows First Premium Video Line". hive4media.com. Archived from the original on August 28, 2002. Retrieved September 13, 2019.
  28. ^ Newman, Gene. "Unforgiven [Blu-ray Book]". Maxim.com. Alpha Media Group Inc. Archived from the original on May 2, 2013. Retrieved April 2, 2012.
  29. ^ "Unforgiven 4K Blu-ray". Archived from the original on April 26, 2018. Retrieved April 27, 2018.


External links[edit]