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Unforgiven 2.jpg
Theatrical release poster by Bill Gold
Directed byClint Eastwood
Produced byClint Eastwood
Written byDavid Webb Peoples
Music byLennie Niehaus
CinematographyJack N. Green
Edited byJoel Cox
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 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. Eastwood stated that the film would be his last Western for fear of repeating himself or imitating someone else's work.[3]

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 the Oscar for Best Picture,[4] 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 added to the United States National Film Registry of the Library of Congress as being deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".


In 1881, 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 not to Delilah but to her employer, Skinny DuBois, for the loss to him of her ability to attract customers. The rest of the prostitutes are outraged by the sheriff's decision and offer a $1,000 reward to anyone who kills the cowboys.

In Hodgeman County, Kansas, a boastful young man calling himself the "Schofield Kid" visits the pig farm of William Munny, seeking to recruit him to help kill the cowboys and claim the reward. In his youth, Munny was a notorious outlaw and murderer, but he is now a repentant widower raising two children. After initially refusing to help, Munny recognizes that his farm is failing and jeopardizing his children's future, so he reconsiders. Munny recruits his 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, is also seeking the reward. He arrives in Big Whiskey with his biographer W. W. Beauchamp, who naively believes Bob's exaggerated tales of his exploits. Enforcing the town's anti-gun law, Little Bill and his deputies disarm Bob and Bill beats him savagely, hoping to discourage other would-be gunmen from attempting to claim the bounty. Bill ejects Bob from town the next morning, but Beauchamp decides to stay and 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.

Munny, Logan, and the Kid arrive in town during a rainstorm, and head into Dubois's saloon. While Logan and the Kid meet with the prostitutes upstairs, a feverish Munny is sitting alone when Little Bill and his deputies confront him. Not realizing Munny's identity, Bill beats him up and kicks him out of the saloon for carrying a pistol. Logan and the Kid escape through a back window, and the three regroup at a barn outside town, where they nurse Munny 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, Logan realizes that he doesn't want to kill again, and resolves to return home. Munny 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 Logan had been captured and tortured to death by Bill and his men. The Kid gives Will his revolver and heads back to Kansas with the reward; Munny heads back to Big Whiskey to take revenge on Little Bill.

That night, Munny arrives and sees Logan'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 Munny and the Kid. Munny walks in alone brandishing a shotgun to confront the posse and uses his first shot to kill Dubois. Munny then holds Bill at gunpoint. Little Bill instructs his men to kill Munny after he takes the second and final shot remaining in his shotgun. Munny pulls the trigger on Bill, but experiences a misfire, allowing the deputies to draw and start shooting. Despite this, Munny draws his pistol, shoots Bill, and calmly kills several deputies as all of their panicked shots miss him before ordering the bystanders to leave the saloon. Mortally wounded, Bill promises to see Munny in hell before Munny kills him. Munny then leaves Big Whiskey, warning the townsfolk that he will return for more vengeance if Logan is not buried properly or if any of the prostitutes are harmed.

During the epilogue, a title card states that Munny and his children abandoned their farm and are rumored to have moved to San Francisco, prospering in dry goods.



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.[5] The concept for the film dated to 1976, when it was developed under the titles The Cut-Whore Killings and The William Munny Killings.[5] 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".[6]

Much of the cinematography for the film was shot in Alberta in August 1991 by director of photography Jack Green.[7] Filming took place between August 26, 1991 and November 12, 1991.[8] Production designer Henry Bumstead, who had worked with Eastwood on High Plains Drifter, was hired to create the "drained, wintry look" of the western.[7]


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,[9] 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".[10]


Box office[edit]

The film debuted at the top position in its opening weekend.[11][12] 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.[13] 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.[14]

Critical response[edit]

Unforgiven received widespread acclaim. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes has a 96% approval rating based on 104 reviews, with an average rating of 8.82/10. 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."[15] Metacritic gave the film a score of 85 out of 100 based on 33 critical reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".[16]

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."[13] 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.[17]

"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.[18]


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 Sound Les Fresholtz, Vern Poore, Dick Alexander and Rob Young Nominated
Best Art Direction Henry Bumstead and Janice Blackie-Goodine Nominated
Best Cinematography Jack N. Green Nominated
Best Film Editing Joel Cox Won
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.[19]

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.[20]

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.[21][22]

Home media[edit]

Unforgiven was released as premium home video, on DVD and VHS, on September 24, 2002.[23] 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 the 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.[24] Unforgiven was released on 4K UHD Blu-Ray on May 16, 2017.[25]


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. Retrieved January 13, 2015.
  2. ^ a b "Unforgiven (1992) - Financial Information". The Numbers. Retrieved January 13, 2015.
  3. ^ "Clint Eastwood reveals why UNFORGIVEN may be his last Western". American Film Institute. Retrieved February 25, 2018.
  4. ^ Canfield, David (April 16, 2015). "The 11 Best Modern Westerns". IndieWire. Retrieved October 28, 2018.
  5. ^ a b McGilligan 1999, p. 467.
  6. ^ Whittey, Stephen (June 13, 2014). "Clint Eastwood on 'Jersey Boys,' taking risks and a life well lived". NJ.com. Retrieved October 10, 2015.
  7. ^ a b McGilligan 1999, p. 469.
  8. ^ "Miscellaneous Notes". Turner Classic Movies. A Time Warner Company. Retrieved September 20, 2015.
  9. ^ "How Unforgiven laid the classic movie western to rest". Little White Lies. Retrieved 2020-10-01.
  10. ^ "Unforgiven (1992) – Deep Focus Review – Movie Reviews, Critical Essays, and Film Analysis". Deep Focus Review. Retrieved 2020-10-01.
  11. ^ Fox, David J. (August 18, 1992). "Weekend Box Office: Eastwood Still Tall in the Saddle". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 1, 2010.
  12. ^ Fox, David J. (August 25, 1992). "Weekend Box Office: 'Unforgiven' at Top for Third Week". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 1, 2010.
  13. ^ a b McGilligan 1999, p. 473.
  14. ^ McGilligan 1999, p. 476.
  15. ^ "Unforgiven (1992)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved May 26, 2020.
  16. ^ "Unforgiven Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved March 1, 2018.
  17. ^ Ebert, Roger (July 21, 2002). "Unforgiven". Rogerebert.com. Ebert Digital LLC. Retrieved July 9, 2010.
  18. ^ https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1993-01-24-ca-2356-story.html
  19. ^ Cameron (February 24, 2015). "Not Dead Yet: Ten Best Modern Westerns". The Film Box. p. 10. Retrieved November 15, 2015.
  20. ^ "101 Greatest Screenplays". Writers Guild of America West. 2013. Retrieved September 14, 2016.
  21. ^ Mirko (June 17, 2008). "AFI Crowns Top 10 Films in 10 Classic Genres". Comingsoon.net. Retrieved June 18, 2008.
  22. ^ "Top 10 Western". American Film Institute. Archived from the original on October 20, 2013. Retrieved June 18, 2008.
  23. ^ 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.
  24. ^ Newman, Gene. "Unforgiven [Blu-ray Book]". Maxim.com. Alpha Media Group Inc. Archived from the original on May 2, 2013. Retrieved April 2, 2012.
  25. ^ "Unforgiven 4K Blu-ray". Retrieved April 27, 2018.


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