30 Movies in 30 Days: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Had I seen it before: No.

Year: 1969

Director: George Roy Hill

Writer: William Goldman

Where you can stream it now: Starz

What IMDb says: Wyoming, early 1900s. Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid are the leaders of a band of outlaws. After a train robbery goes wrong they find themselves on the run with a posse hard on their heels. Their solution – escape to Bolivia.

Why I picked it: I’ve started a mission to get through AFI’s list of the top 100 films of all time, and this is one of them. I got a notification that it was coming to Starz, and as mentioned in my review for A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, I’m always looking to justify that money I spent on a Starz 6-month trial.

What I liked: This one is just an all-around fun movie. The concept of has-been outlaws is a great premise that lends itself both to comedy and action, and the movie takes full advantage of that. It both pays homage to classic westerns while finding tasteful ways to poke fun at their tropes. Robert Redford and Paul Newman have a great brother-like chemistry as the title duo. They never outright say that they love each other and would risk their lives for each other, but they don’t have to. We just know that these two will always have each other’s backs no matter what, and no amount of teasing and eye-rolling at each other will change that.

One of my favorite things about this movie is that it wasn’t always trying to be funny, but when it tried, damn was it hilarious. It’s a nice palette cleanse after yesterday’s movie, The Little Hours, a movie that felt like it was trying to make jokes every five seconds without any of them landing. It’s yet another reminder that with humor, quality trumps quantity every time. If your movie tries to make me laugh 100 times but only succeeds 10 times, I’ll remember your movie as unfunny. If you only had five jokes in your movie, but all five of them are hilarious, I’ll remember it as a funny movie. That’s true even with movies like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, which I really wouldn’t classify as “comedies” but still incorporate humor with great success.

The film is also just really, really pretty. I love the Western U.S. landscapes, and so many of the shots throughout this film could be postcards. Yet it never crossed the line into that more pretentious “look at my cinematography!” feeling you sometimes experience with modern Oscar bait. The aesthetically pleasing landscapes are still just a byproduct of the story set against them, rather than the main attraction.

What I didn’t like: It took me until maybe the 45 minute mark before I really felt like I was watching a real story that was building momentum as it went. But even when the film felt like an unstructured tangle of Butch and Sundance screwing around in the west, it was still a lot of fun, so that’s barely even a complaint.

Will I watch it again: Most likely. It’s a classic that stands the test of time, and it seems like the kind of thing that will hold up to rewatching.

Who would enjoy it?: It would be easy to say this is great for anyone who likes Westerns, but I also think this is an especially good one for people who don’t know much about the genre and are unsure where to start. Personally, I had never really latched onto any of the Westerns I’d seen before, but found this one quite charming. Anyone who loves action movies that don’t take themselves too seriously would love Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

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