The Wild Bunch (1969)

4 men-Pike, Dutch, Lyle, and Tector-played by William Holden, Ernest Borgnine, Warren Oates, and Ben Johnson, sit inside a Mexican brothel while their compadre (Angel) is tortured by an army of federales. Holden’s character, Pike, has been in this situation before. He left his best friend, Deke (Robert Ryan), behind some years before. He also left a young member of the gang to die in the first scene of the picture, so this time, he decides not to sit by, but to go out for a friend. He stands up, looks at the remaining members of his aging gang, and he knows they’re all thinking the same thing. “Let’s go,” Pike says. “Why not,” returns Lyle. The four march to the house of the corrupt General Mapache and the federales, knowing that they have no chance of survival. The particular shot of the four characters marching towards the screen is particularly influential, reflected in the seminal shot from The Right Stuff (1983), parodied in Monsters Inc. (2001) for example. This march is the perfect buildup for one of the greatest action sequences in film, director Sam Pechinpah’s finest work. That action sequence is, itself, a phenomenal scene, but I’m choosing the buildup because it holds within it all of the film’s themes unspoken, but there on the faces of The Wild Bunch’s incredible cast.

-Walter Howard-

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