For what is generally perceived to be a safe, Sunday afternoon movie that the whole family can enjoy, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is in many ways a strange, almost experimental film. Its deservedly-lauded script by William Goldman, which does so well to capture a spark of chemistry between the leads with its naturalised, witty dialogue, is structurally very odd. The famous score and soundtrack, while undeniably effective, is also weirdly anachronistic, but it still seems to work as a charming and humorous Western that functions as a fond farewell to a genre which subsequently went out of favour for some time.

It spends a lot of time establishing a rapport between its characters early on, which makes it feel like a buddy movie, a light-hearted romp with two scallywags whose bickering friendship is enjoyable to watch. But once it gets on the road, the tone gradually shifts to something more serious, culminating in its infamously bleak yet somehow perfect conclusion. It’s as though Goldman decided to lure us all in to the fun side of cinema’s Western myth, before gradually pulling away from that into something more brutally realistic, and ending on a freeze frame that seems to capture the genre in one shot before people basically stopped making Westerns for twenty years or so.

Everyone knows the song written for this film – Burt Bacharach’s eminently hummable “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head” – but that’s a really, really odd song to be written for a Western, when you think about it. It’s a sort of wilfully absurd thing to drop in the middle of the film, but somehow doesn’t seem at all out of place. Decisions like this can often be disastrous, but sometimes (for reasons nobody can ever quite analyse, otherwise they’d be pretty rich) pitching something a little out of left-field can help create something utterly idiosyncratic and unique. Perhaps that’s why, amongst so many of its peers which have dated badly, this film still feels fresh and maintains a modern interest.

BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID
One of the best-written buddy acts in the history of film9
A completely inappropriate yet somehow perfect score and soundtrack9
A strange, almost arty structure that is darker than a lot of people remember8
Cinematography from the legendary Conrad Hall9
Generally being a lot more interesting than people give it credit for9
Bechdel Test Passes
  • Features more than one named female character
Bechdel Test Failures
  • None of the female characters talk to each other
9Overall Score

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