Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

The Wild Bunch (1969)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

The Wild Bunch (1969)

In Sam Peckinpah's violent and controversial western, one of the masterpieces of cinema:

  • the extraordinary opening sequence (including an impressive presentation of the credits) set in a Southwestern Texas border town (filled with parading Temperance Union rally participants) when to the sound of snare drums and cymbals, the Wild Bunch (five of them) was masquerading in the disguise of tan-colored, regulation khaki outfits as U.S. Cavalry soldiers; they appeared heroically-positioned, riding stiffly and formally into a dusty town (San Rafael, also called Starbuck) along railroad tracks; the frame froze into a black and white chiaroscuro image when each of the credits appeared, unfreezing to continue with the colorful action
  • the symbolic parallel view of innocent village children watching as scorpions were senselessly tortured and eaten by a blanket of red ants
  • leader Pike's (William Holden) chilling command in the bank office during the robbery: "If they move, kill 'em"
  • the ambush of the Wild Bunch outlaws in the dusty town by bounty hunters with slow-motion, fast-edited, carnage and slaughter
  • the sight of a rider plunging through a storefront window on his horse
  • the shocking discovery by Wild Bunch brothers Lyle Gorch (Warren Oates) and Tector Gorch (Ben Johnson) that the money bags they had stolen were filled with worthless silver rings, with right hand man Dutch Engstrom's (Ernest Borgnine) condemnation: ("Silver rings, your butt! Them's washers. Damn!")
  • Pike's wise words about how the end of the Wild Bunch's days was fast approaching: "We've got to start thinkin' beyond our guns. Those days are closin' fast"
  • the dilemma of Wild Bunch pursuer Deke Thornton (Robert Ryan), a former gang member who was wounded, captured by the law and subsequently put in Yuma Prison (where he was seen being whipped in flashback); in exchange for freedom from a life-sentence, he agreed to hunt down his former gang, although he despised the bounty-hunters: "And what do I have? Nothin' but you egg-suckin', chicken-stealing gutter trash, with not even sixty rounds between you. We're after men, and I wish to God I was with them"
  • the exciting action sequence of the train robbery (and the shot of a smiling Dutch emerging from behind a gun barrel)
  • the explosion of a bridge after Pike's magnificent hat salute, to catch Deke Thornton and his posse in the collapsing structure

Pike's Hat Salute
Collapsing Bridge After Explosion
  • the courageous, heroic march of the four remaining gang members to face ruthless General Mapache (Emilio Fernandez) and his army for a showdown
  • the brutal full-frontal view of the slitting of young Mexican gang member Angel's (Jaime Sanchez) throat
Closing Sequence
Four Gang Members Marching to Face the General
Throat-Slitting of Angel
Lyle with Machine Gun
Mexican Troops
Pike With Machine Gun
Pike's Death
  • the spectacular, climactic bloodbath in the open courtyard (the Battle of the Bloody Porch) as the gang took on an entire Mexican soldier regiment to avenge Angel's death and found itself outmanned and outgunned, but for awhile, they commandeered the big gun before being slaughtered
The Bloodbath in Finale
  • the final farewell scene when victorious Deke Thornton, Pike's friend-turned-nemesis, who was sitting propped against a wall, mentioned that his plan was to "drift around down here, try to stay out of jail"; then he was given an offer to join Freddie Sykes' (Edmond O'Brien) posse of bounty hunters: "Well, me and the boys here, we got some work to do. You wanna come along? It ain't like it used to be, but, uh, it'll do" - and Thornton reluctantly rose from the dust, mounted his horse, and rode off toward the horizon with them, to join in the Mexican Revolution, thereby forming a 'new' Wild Bunch with Sykes, one of its original members
Freddie Sykes
Deke Thornton
Ending Image
  • the dissolve (in/out) montage of images of the 'reincarnated' members of the old Wild Bunch (earlier views when they would sit around together and engage in laughter and when they rode away from Angel's village (linking them to Sykes and Thornton), flashing momentarily onto the screen - over the view of the departing posse, as the end credits rolled up (accompanied by a reprised chorus of La Golondrina)

Opening Sequence

Pike: "If they move, kill 'em"

The Opening Massacre

Worthless Silver Rings in Money Bags

"We've got to start thinkin' beyond our guns. Those days are closin' fast"

Deke Thornton: "And what do I have? Nothin' but you egg-suckin', chicken-stealing gutter trash,

Train Robbery: A Smiling Dutch


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