The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976) Movie Review

The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)

Movie Review by Debbie Winkler


Starring: Clint Eastwood, Chief Dan George, Sondra Locke, Bill McKinney, John Vernon
Director: Clint Eastwood
Release Date: 30 June 1976
Language: English
Length: 135 minutes
Movie Rating: PG
View Format: TV
My Rating: 4.5/5 stars


“Ex-Confederate soldier Josey Wales (Clint Eastwood, who also directs this Oscar-nominated Western) is on the run from both his former unit and the U.S. Army regiment that killed his family. Finally coming to rest in a quiet community and falling for pretty settler Laura Lee (Sondra Locke), Josey may finally find redemption. But he’s not sure he can change his violent ways – especially when his archenemy arrives on the scene.” —


This is one of my favorite Clint Eastwood westerns and I never tire of watching it.  It is almost like 2 movies in 1 as the movie begins with the fallout from the Civil War with Josey Wales (Clint Eastwood)  playing a kind of special forces soldier on the Confederate side to get revenge on the Union soldiers who murdered his family and tried to kill him.  He is offered a deal from the Union, but refuses to take it so the Union puts a bounty on his head.  He is being hunted on all sides and so escapes out to the west.  Along the way, he loses a fellow soldier (Bill McKinney) and gains an elderly Indian chief (Chief Dan George) and defiant squaw (Geraldine Keams).  He is one of the best gunslingers out there and leaves a trail of dead bodies in his wake, but cannot resist helping out a couple of hapless pioneers on their way out West.  Through them, he sees a chance at redemption – but can he stop killing long enough to take it?  The 1st half of the movie is pretty intense, dealing with soldiers hunting soldiers, betrayal, death and loss.  The 2nd half is more of a typical western out in the old West where there was land for the taking if you were brave enough and hardworking enough to eke out a hardscrabble existence.

The cinematography is understated and has a dusty feel.  You feel like you are really out West and experiencing what Josey Wales is experiencing.  The music is actually really good, too, and I enjoyed the soundtrack quite a bit.  The acting is really good in this movie, in my opinion.  Clint Eastwood is young, strong and fearless.  He is also really scary as he has kind of shut away all of his feelings to become a merciless killer. My favorite in the film was the old Indian Chief played by Chief Dan George, who added quite a bit of humor and lightened up the plot for me.  I love it when he tries to anticipate what Josey is going to do and gives a little narration, including “Now, spit.”  He has some great moments in the movie!  Josey Wales’ love interest, played by Sondra Locke, was a bit of a stretch for me as I feel like he deserved more, but she was fine.  Her grandmother (Paula Trueman) was a hoot, though, as a little old lady who was fiercely Christian and was almost able to scare Josey into compliance.  My favorite part of the film has to be the ending, though, where another gunslinger (John Vernon) finally tracks Josey Wales down and there is huge anticipation to see what is going to happen.  Just a classic western moment and it ends perfectly, too!

Even if you do not usually like westerns, I think you should give this movie a chance.  I love it and will always watch parts of it when it comes on TV.  The whole movie has a sparse, understated kind of feel that really suits the movie.  I also appreciate the fact that this movie deals with the aftermath of the Civil War and shows that there were lots of shades of gray during that time.  The Union soldiers were not always the good guys and the Confederate soldiers were not always the bad guys.  Both sides had good men who were fighting for an ideal and a way of life.  Some men fought because they liked to kill and inflict pain.  The lines between victim and hero are definitely blurred in this movie, which makes it that much more interesting for me.  Definitely take the time to watch this the next time on TV – I think that you will be surprised at how much you enjoy it!


This movie is pretty violent and deals with rape, death, murder, fighting, shooting, stabbing, selling people, slavery, blood and more.  The scenes are not overly gory, however, and people who die typically drop dead where they stand with minimal blood and details.  The rapes and attempted rapes are not shown on camera, but you do hear screaming in the background.  Children are killed, as are young soldiers, elderly grandfathers and everyone in between.  Still, it is on TV all the time and is pretty clean in that there are no sex scenes or language.  Recommended for ages 10 and up.

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Filed under Action Movies, Adventure Movies, Historical Movies, Westerns

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