The Wild Bunch (1969) - Rotten Tomatoes

The Wild Bunch (1969)



Critic Consensus: The Wild Bunch is Sam Peckinpah's shocking, violent ballad to an old world and a dying genre.

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Movie Info

Sam Peckinpah's controversial revisionist Western takes place in Texas and Mexico in 1913, a transitional year when the Old West was giving way to the New West. The titular outlaw bunch, headed by ethical-in-his-fashion Pike (William Holden), continues staging violent bank robberies in their old, time-honored tradition. After a particularly brutal holdup in the town of San Rafael, the gang -- or what's left of it -- heads for the hills of Mexico, pursued by a posse led by Thornton (Robert Ryan), an old friend of Pike's. The gang discovers that the bank had been set up to be robbed by Thornton's railroad-executive boss Pat Harrigan (Albert Dekker), and that their booty consists of worthless metal washers. Meanwhile, the conscience-stricken Thornton seethes over Harrigan's scheme, which has cost too many innocent lives, but he is powerless to leave the railroad baron's employ lest he be sent back to jail. While hiding out in a Mexican village, the gang is engaged by corrupt general Emilio Fernandez to steal a huge shipment of guns from the U.S. Army. Like Thornton, Pike agrees against his will: his right-hand man Jaime Sanchez is being held hostage by Fernandez, who in turn is being manipulated by a pair of war-mongering German officers. More violence -- both justified and gratuitous -- follows, leading to a final blood-spattered confrontation between the Wild Bunch and 's posse. For many years, no one audience was privy to a "definitive" version of The Wild Bunch. Peckinpah's 144-minute director's cut was butchered by Warner Bros. after its first press showing (curiously, the studio removed not only the gorier scenes, but also several motivational sequences, rendering much of the film incomprehensible). The 1981 reissue was restored to 141 minutes, but it wasn't until the advent of home video that the complete version was once more made available. Once considered the last word in cinematic bloodletting, The Wild Bunch is a model of decorum compared to what was to follow.

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William Holden
as Pike Bishop
Ernest Borgnine
as Dutch Engstrom
Robert Ryan
as Deke Thornton
Warren Oates
as Lyle Gorch
Ben Johnson
as Tector Gorch
Albert Dekker
as Pat Harrigan
Bo Hopkins
as Crazy Lee
Dub Taylor
as Mayor Wainscoat
Jorge Russek
as Lt. Zamorra
Alfonso Arau
as Herrera
Chano Urueta
as Don José
Fernando Wagner
as German Army Officer
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Critic Reviews for The Wild Bunch

All Critics (59) | Top Critics (18)

If you must see The Wild Bunch, be sure to take along a barf bag.

December 31, 2019 | Full Review…

Remains hugely impressive, both for its technical brilliance and the emotional ferocity of its themes: old age, friendship, betrayal and the struggle to retain some kind of cock-eyed code of honour in an increasingly cynical world.

December 3, 2018 | Full Review…

Underneath the movie, which is set on the eve of World War I, there's an elegiac plangency that stays with you long after the shocks have worn off...The Wild Bunch still won't go down easy.

February 20, 2018 | Full Review…
Top Critic

It's a traumatic poem of violence, with imagery as ambivalent as Goya's.

March 28, 2016 | Full Review…

Arguably the strongest Hollywood movie of the 1960s -- a western that galvanizes the clichés of its dying genre with a shocking jolt of delirious carnage.

April 29, 2013 | Full Review…

In an era when body-count films mirror the mounting body count offscreen, The Wild Bunch dissects death rather than glorifying it.

April 29, 2013 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Wild Bunch

In Peckinpah's view, the bad guys are really the good guys because at least they have a code of honor. The good guys are little more than thieving cur, deserving bloody eradication. Despite the spurious politics, still a mammoth film, a testosterone ballet of bullets, blood and booty.

Kevin M. Williams
Kevin M. Williams

Super Reviewer


Initially panned by the critics due to its graphic amount of violence, this is an explosive and unforgettable Western classic that depicts with brutal intensity the last breath of an era, when outlaw gunfighters were finally becoming obsolete for a new, modern generation.

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer

Raw, intense, visceral and gritty are just some of the few words that describe Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch, which ranks among the finest Westerns ever made. The film features an all star cast of talented actors who light up the screen in the classic film. Every actor brings something terrific to the screen that elevates the plot significantly. Under Peckinpah's kinetic direction, The Wild Bunch is an action packed Western that is one of the finest in the genre. Peckinpah, like Sergio Leone before him, helped shape the Western film in a way that was both brutal, yet beautiful. Peckinpah had a flair for crafting pictures that really raised the bar in the way violence was presented, and in doing so, he broke new ground in what you could do in the cinematic medium. Set near the end of the Old West, when the country is being modernized in first years of the 20th Century, the film follows a group of aging outlaws out for one last score. The story is simple, but it works to the film's advantage because it doesn't overcomplicate things, the film uses the performances to elevate the films story. The result is impressive and in turn The Wild Bunch is a superb and accomplished picture that ranks among the finest Westerns ever made. With a great cast at his disposal, Sam Peckinpah does what he does best, and that's to make a riveting, violent and highly thrilling picture that has all of the director's trademarks that has made his work standout. In terms of sheer entertainment, The Wild Bunch succeeds on every level, with memorable performances, tense, well executed action; this is a blistering Western that is ranks among the finest of the genre. Sam Peckinpah knew how to get the most out of a simple concept, and that's exactly the case with this movie. Highly engaging from start to finish, this is a thrilling picture that delivers on all fronts, and it's a movie made with that raised the bar of what you could do in the genre.

Alex roy
Alex roy

Super Reviewer

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