In Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), director George Roy Hill helped define a wave of revisionist, deconstructed westerns of the 1960s and 1970s. Ranging from Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch to Arthur Penn’s Little Big Man to Robert Altman’s McCabe and Mrs. Miller, such films embraced seemingly contradictory aims. Seeking both to demolish and reclaim the western as a genre and as the bearer of a distinctively American identity, these revisionist westerns took upon themselves the paradoxical task of deploying a deeply traditional—yet still fluid and adaptable—cinematic mode to more contemporary ends that reflected the turmoil of their times.
Positioning itself as at once more grounded and more imaginative than its predecessors, Hill’s film occupies a special place in the larger story of the western as a uniquely American film genre that has continuously reinvented itself. In making a western to play to Woodstock-era audiences—who were increasingly alienated from the social mores and political ideas of their parents' generation—Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is a "buddy picture" for an unfriendly world, where being an outlaw means accepting one’s fate as the quintessential loner exiled from conventional values. With a memorable screenplay by William Goldman and chemistry for the ages between leads Paul Newman and Robert Redford, this is a film worth revisiting in our own time of turmoil.