Big Whiskey, Wyoming, 1880. A cowboy gets laughed at by a sex worker and he leaves her permanently disfigured. When the sheriff, Lil Bill, finds out, he fines the men a number of ponies. Alice, head sex worker, is furious the men aren’t all getting hanged. All the sex workers then stump up a $1,000 reward for anybody willing to give the men a more suitable punishment.
William Munny has retired from gunslinging to farm life since his wife died some years prior. The Schofield Kid wants Munny to be his partner and split the Big Whiskey $1,000 reward two ways. Munny initially says no. After some more thought, Will goes to see his old friend Ned. The two men agree to split the reward 3-ways with the Schofield Kid. The two cowboys make a campfire and Will explains that he’s left his hell-raising ways behind him.
English Bob is headed to Big Whiskey — complete with personal biographer, Beauchamp — to secure the sex workers’ reward. At Big Whiskey, Bob fails to turn in his weapons. When Lil Bill hears about Bob’s disregard of the gun law, he and his deputies soon have Bob and Beauchamp held at gunpoint. After Beauchamp wets himself with fear, Bob surrenders his weapons and takes a beating from Lil Bill in front of the whole town.
Ned and Munny catch up with the Kid — who starts shooting at them both wildly until they shout out who they are. Initially, the Kid doesn’t like the idea of a three-way split. But, he’s soon convinced it’s a good idea. Ned then discovers that the Kid can only see about fifty yards unaided.
English Bob is in Lil Bill’s jail licking his wounds. Lil Bill puts Beauchamp straight on all of Bob’s stories of derring-do. Lil Bill was present at one of these dramatic stories. Apparently, Bob was drunk at the time and he killed an unarmed man in cold blood. Beauchamp decides to start writing about Lil Bill’s exploits instead. Bob is loaded onto the next carriage out of town and is seen off.
The sheriff’s told that three more men have just ridden into town without surrendering their guns. He catches Will Munny alone in the bar — Will says his name’s Bill Pendershot. Lil Bill takes the man’s revolver anyway, then gives Will a beating. Lil Bill wants to find the other two men that he was told about. He even beats the sex workers to determine the mens’ whereabouts.
The ladies are now maintaining Will, Ned and the Kid in a shack on the outskirts of town. They plan to stay at least three days. Will is delirious after the beating and talks about having seen the angel of death. He also saw his dead wife Claudia’s face covered with worms. He tells Ned he thinks he’s going to die.
The three men then find their targets and start shooting. One man is shot through the stomach and calls out for water. Ned quits — he’s lost the taste for killing. Then, a brick is thrown through the ladies’ window and a town posse is set-up to find Ned. Ned is soon found and kept in Lil Bill’s custody while Lil Bill demands the names of his partners in crime. Lil Bill then starts whipping Ned to find out what he wants to know.
After Will and the Kid find the targets’ hideout, the Kid kills one of them in the outhouse. Soon after, he comes clean about this man having been the first man he ever killed. Earlier, he was saying he’d killed five.
Will hears that Ned’s been killed and that his friend’s corpse is being displayed in the town. After many years of successful abstinence, Will picks up the whisky bottle again. He’s furious. The Kid says he’s sworn off killing people and gives his Schofield gun to Will. The Kid is worried he’ll be killed, but Will says the Kid is currently Will’s only friend.
On the edge of town, Will tells the Kid to give his and Ned’s share of the money to his children — the Kid can keep the rest. In town, the sign hanging around Ned’s neck reads “This is what happens to assassins around here” — illuminated by two burning torches.
In the saloon, after dark, Lil Bill is promising free drinks for everyone who’ll ride with him the next day. Then, Will Munny shows up at the door. He asks who owns the place, and kills the man on the spot. Lil Bill now recognises Will as “Will Munny out of Missouri”. A brief firefight leaves Lil Bill and several others dead. The remaining men are chased off with threats. English Bob’s writer marvels that he just saw someone kill five men single-handed. Lil Bill hasn’t really died yet, but Will sees this just in time and kills the corrupt sheriff. Then, Will walks out into the rain.
They say Will Munny took his children to San Francisco where he prospered in dry goods.
Starring Clint Eastwood. Gene Hackman. Morgan Freeman. Rated 15. Dir Clint Eastwood. Released in the UK 1992. Runtime 2hrs 10mins.