AFInity: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

By Kim Hollis

August 6, 2009

If one more person talks about his pretty eyes, I'm going to smack them.

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We're a list society. From Casey Kasem and the American Top 40 to 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die to BOP's very own Best Horror Films (one of our most popular features ever), people love to talk about lists. They love to debate the merits of the "winners" and bemoan the exclusions, and start the whole process again when a new list captures pop culture fancy.

Perhaps one of the best-known, most widely discussed lists is the American Film Institute's 100 Years... 100 Movies. A non-profit organization known for its efforts at film restoration and screen education, the AFI list of the 100 best American movies was chosen by 1,500 leaders in the movie industry and announced in its first version in 1998. Since then, the 100 Years... 100 Movies list has proven to be so popular that the AFI came forth with a 10th anniversary edition in 2007, along with other series such as 100 Heroes and Villains, 100 Musicals, 100 Laughs and 100 Thrills.

In addition to talking about which films are deserving of being on the list and bitterly shaking our fists because a beloved film was left out, we also love to brag about the number of movies we've seen. As I was looking over the 100 Years... 100 Movies list recently, I realized that I've seen 47 - less than half. As a lover of film and writer/editor for a movie site, this seemed like a wrong that needed to remedied. And so an idea was born. I would watch all 100 movies on the 2007 10th Anniversary list - some of them for the first time in as much as 20 or more years - and ponder their relevance, worthiness and influence on today's film industry. With luck, I'll even discover a few new favorites along the way.


#73: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

I must have been around 14-years-old when I first saw Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and I remember thinking it was pretty great. It was a Western, though, and I've never been a particular fan of the genre (though my favorite TV series ever is Deadwood). This meant that I never bothered to see the movie a second time until this past weekend. I...regret this choice.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is a bit of a sneaky film. On the surface, it looks like a Western, of course. It's also a buddy movie and has elements of unconventional romance. The film's fa├žade is carefree and lively, so much so that you barely consider the fact that there's something deeper and more meaningful underneath it all. That something was completely missed by my 14-year-old self. Almost two decades later, it has a little more impact.

The film is (very) loosely based on the true-life exploits of the titular outlaws, with Paul Newman in the role of Butch and Robert Redford playing the Sundance Kid. The two of them head up the Hole in the Wall Gang, a group of bank robbers who also branch out into knocking off the occasional train. After Butch decides that there's more financial opportunity to rob a train twice, things go terribly awry on the second heist attempt, as they use too much dynamite and another train arrives, with an expert posse inside that has been tasked with taking the outlaws down. The rest of the movie sees Butch and Sundance always on the run, looking over their shoulders at every turn, with a few engaging little pit stops as they make their way to a blaze-of-glory finale.

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