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Past Films

The Wild Bunch (1969)

  • Starring: William Holden, Ernest Borgnine, Robert Ryan
  • Director: Sam Peckinpah
  • Genre(s): Action, Adventure, Western
  • Rating: R
  • Running Time: 135 min.

Essential Western Films This new quarterly series showcases the “essential” films everyone should see on the big screen. For each month-long program, we’ll screen five films organized by one of the following themes: directors, actors, genres, and eras/movements.
Essential tickets are $9 for Adults, $8 for Students/Seniors and Members get in Free!

The Wild Bunch (1969) is director/co-writer Sam Peckinpah’s provocative, brilliant yet controversial Western, shocking for its graphic and elevated portrayal of violence and savagely-explicit carnage, yet hailed for its truly realistic and reinterpreted vision of the dying West in the early 20th century. Peckinpah had earlier directed another classic western about the West’s passing, Ride the High Country (1962) and the epic western film Major Dundee (1965). Many of the film’s major stars, including William Holden, Edmond O’Brien, Robert Ryan and Ben Johnson, were veterans of westerns with a more romantic view of the West in the 40s and 50s. This hard-edged, landmark masterpiece of the Western film genre was beautifully shot in wide-screen by cinematographer Lucien Ballard.

Summary: An aging group of outlaws look for one last big score as the “traditional” American West is disappearing around them.

"Arguably the strongest Hollywood movie of the 1960s -- a western that galvanizes the clichés of its dying genre with a shocking jolt of delirious carnage."
- J. Hoberman, Village Voice
"In an era when body-count films mirror the mounting body count offscreen, The Wild Bunch dissects death rather than glorifying it."
- Carrie Rickey, Philadelphia Inquirer
"The Wild Bunch is an American masterpiece, one of the greatest films ever produced in the Hollywood system."
- Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune
"It is certainly one of the best westerns ever made, and the best film of any kind to come out in 1969."
- Jay Boyar, Orlando Sentinel
"It's a towering achievement that grows more riveting and resonant with the years."
- Peter Travers, Rolling Stone
"The Wild Bunch is Peckinpah's most complex inquiry into the metamorphosis of man into myth. Not incidentally, it is also a raucous, violent, powerful feat of American film making."
- TIME Magazine
"In purely cinematic terms, the film is a savagely beautiful spectacle, Lucien Ballard's superb cinematography complementing Peckinpah's darkly elegiac vision."
- Time Out
"The Wild Bunch takes the basic elements of the Western movie myth, which once defined a simple, morally comprehensible world, and by bending them turns them into symbols of futility and aimless corruption."
- Vincent Canby, New York Times
" true cinematic touchstone, the film has influenced a generation of movie makers, from Scorsese to Tarantino to Hong Kong action king John Woo."
- Peter Stack, San Francisco Chronicle
"Not only does The Wild Bunch illustrate Peckinpah's mastery of his medium, but it presents a story that is effective on nearly every level."
- James Berardinelli, ReelViews