'Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid:' Why That Ending?

By | January 3, 2019

test article image
Left: The famous final image from 'Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid.' Right: Robert Redford as Harry 'Sundance Kid' Longabaugh. Source: IMDB

Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid's ending, a freeze-frame of our outlaw heroes right before they charge half of the Bolivian army, is sudden and might even make the film seem incomplete. Based on historical facts and the overwhelming odds, we can assume that this "blaze of glory" ends in the violent deaths of Butch and Sundance, played by Paul Newman and Robert Redford. But why did director George Roy Hill choose not to show us the shootout? It's one of the most memorable scenes in '60s cinema, perhaps because it isn't really a "scene" at all. It's a still image, accompanied by the shouts of the Bolivian soldiers and the sound of huge volleys of gunfire.

The Movie Ends With A Shootout We Don't See

test article image
Paul Newman and Robert Redford firing guns in a scene from the film 'Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid', 1969. Source: (Photo by 20th Century-Fox/Getty Images)

Released in 1969, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was one of the top films of the groovy era. Part of the appeal may have been that the film was based on the exciting adventures of real-life outlaws, but its handsome and studly stars, the long-established Newman and relative newcomer Redford, were bound to be box office draws. Although the fate of the outlaws was well known, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid's ending might have left audience members scratching their heads. The true "final" scene, though audiences didn't know it, was really the long conversation that takes place between the two charming and wounded bank robbers before their fatal blaze of glory. But why?