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Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is the classic 1969 movie in which Paul Newman and Robert Redford play the legendary outlaws. While in some ways a self-aware movie poking some fun at the styles and conventions of Western movies, many of those conventions are still present -- gun and rife battles between outlaws and the authorities, beer and whiskey drinking in saloons, frolicking in bordellos with prostitutes. In one scene, Sundance is in a dark room pointing a gun at a woman on the other side of the room and seemingly forcing her to remove her clothes; it's later revealed that they're lovers. Occasional profanity: "s--t," "bitch," "bastard," "damn," "hell." Overall, while this movie is very much a product of its anti-authoritarian time, it's also a timeless evocation of legend and myth, and the "buddy movie" aspect of it inspired countless other buddy movies in the decades to come.
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What's the story?
In BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID, Butch is the brains and Sundance the levelheaded sure-shot. Together, they've led the Hole-in-the-Wall Gang through so many bank and train robberies that it was just a matter of time before the law came riding hard after them. The gang splits, and for a while Butch and Sundance elude the tireless posse and hole up with Sundance's girl, Etta (Katharine Ross), to plan their next move. Butch decides the best option is for all three of them to head for Bolivia. They'll even go straight if they have to. Traveling with a woman will be good cover -- or so they think, until the posse reappears in South America, eager for blood.
Is it any good?
Just as the real outlaws they portray are said to have been, Paul Newman and Robert Redford are an incredibly charismatic team. It's impossible to watch Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and not laugh with them, sympathize with them, even want to see them shoot their way out of trouble. What sort of example, parents might wonder, does that set for their children? Before answering, consider the talents of director George Roy Hill (who later reunited the two stars in The Sting) and screenwriter William Goldman, because they do something remarkable here. They construct a sublimely entertaining movie around the plight of two outlaws fleeing justice, but amidst the laughs and the clever exchanges lingers the scent of impending misfortune, an ever-present reminder that these men are criminals.
There's no outright moralizing -- Goldman is far too shrewd a writer for that -- but the message comes through, amidst a hail of gunfire, that crime is only glamorous up to a point. "Your times is over," they're told, "and you're gonna die bloody, and all you can do is choose where." The import of that statement is not lost on the viewer. Academy Awards went to Goldman for his outstanding screenplay, Conrad Hall for cinematography, and Burt Bacharach for his original score and the movie's theme song "Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head."
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the charisma of the outlaws. It's impossible to watch Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and not laugh with them, sympathize with them, even want to see them shoot their way out of trouble. What sort of example does that set? Is it ever okay to break the law if you can get away with it? What do you think of the crimes Butch and Sundance committed?
In the late 1960s, there was a romance and identification with outlaws from the past in some movies. Bonnie and Clyde is one example, and so is Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Why do you think, at a time when many young people were marching for civil rights, against the Vietnam War, and against what they saw as the injustices of the American system, some would identify and even see the good in authority-fighting anti-heroes like Bonnie and Clyde or Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid?
In addition to being a Western movie, this could also be seen as the template for the "buddy movies" that were released in the decades to come. The makers of Thelma and Louise, for instance, wanted to create a contemporary and female version of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. What are some other examples of buddy movies, and what do you think is their appeal?
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