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The Missouri Breaks (1976)

PG | | Drama, Western | 22 May 1976 (USA)
Tom Logan is a horse thief. Rancher David Braxton has horses, and a daughter, worth stealing. But Braxton has just hired Lee Clayton, an infamous "regulator", to hunt down the horse thieves; one at a time.




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Cast overview, first billed only:
John McLiam ...
Si (as John Ryan)
Sam Gilman ...
Pete Marker
James Greene ...
Hellsgate Rancher
Rancher's Wife
Danny Goldman ...
Baggage Clerk
Hunter von Leer ...
Sandy (as Hunter Von Leer)


Tom Logan is a horse thief. Rancher David Braxton has horses, and a daughter, worth stealing. But Braxton has just hired Lee Clayton, an infamous "regulator", to hunt down the horse thieves; one at a time.

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


One Steals, One Kills, One Dies


Drama | Western


PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

22 May 1976 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Missouri  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Writer Thomas McGuane originally wrote the film's screenplay with the intention of directing the movie as well. See more »


When Marlon Brando and Randy Quaid are crossing the Missouri River, there, far in the distance, cars driving on an interstate can be seen. See more »


Calvin: A 44.40 in the brain pan would be my sentence for him. Now I don't know why don't want to go along with that, Tom!
See more »


Featured in Brando (2007) See more »


Oh! Susanna
Written by Stephen Foster
Performed by Cast
See more »

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User Reviews

If I was a better businessman than I am a man hunter, I'd put you in the circus.
26 May 2010 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

Starring two titans of cinema in Marlon Brando and Jack Nicholson, The Missouri Breaks sees Arthur Penn (Bonnie & Clyde) direct, the screenplay provided by Thomas McGuane (Tom Horn) and John Williams composes the score. In the supporting cast are Harry Dean Stanton, Randy Quaid, Kathleen Lloyd, Frederic Forrest and John McLiam. With all these people in place the film was one of the most anticipated movies of the year. Anticipation that was not met at the time as the film became a critical and commercial failure. However, time has been kind to the piece and now it shows itself to be far better than the iffy reputation that's afforded it.

The story is a sort of working of the Johnson County War that surfaced in the early 1890s in Wyoming, where newer ranchers tried to settle but were set upon by the more established cattle barons of the land. One of the tactics by the wealthier ranch owners was to hire gunmen to terrorise anyone they saw as a threat. Here in Penn's movie we see David Braxton (McLiam) ruthlessly deal with anyone who he sees as a threat to his property. However, when someone enacts revenge on him by hanging his foreman, Braxton hires himself a "Regulator" named Robert E. Lee Clayton (Brando) to seek and destroy as it were. This spells bad news for the rustling gang led by Tom Logan (Nicholson), especially since Logan has started to form a relationship with Braxton's daughter, Jane (Lloyd). Somethings gotta give and blood is sure to be spilt.

The most popular word used in reviews for the film is eccentric, mostly in reference to Brando's performance. The big man was growing ever more erratic off the screen and sure enough he changed the make up of his character and improvised at his leisure. Yet it does work in the context of the movie. With his dandy nastiness playing off of an excellent Nicholson turn, McGuane's richly detailed screenplay gets added bite, particularly during the more solemn parts of the story; where patience would be tried were it not for the brogue Irish Clayton. With Penn at the helm it's no surprise to find the piece is an amalgamation of moods. Poignancy hangs heavy for the most part as we deal in the ending of an era and the need to move on. But Penn also delivers much frontier action and snatches of cheery comedy. Then there is the violence, which doubles in shock value on account of the leisurely pace that Penn has favoured. It's sad to think that one of the best splicers of moods was so upset at the reaction to his film he quit cinema for the next five years.

The film, well more realistically the reaction to it, possibly sounded the death knell for the Western genre until Eastwood & Costner refused to let it die. The 70s was an intriguing decade for the Oater, with many of them veering between traditional and revisionist. But of the many that were produced, the ones that dealt with the passing of the era, where the protagonists are soon to be relics of a tamed wilderness, have an elegiac quality about them. Penn's movie is fit to sit alongside the likes of Monte Walsh, The Shootist and The Outlaw Josey Wales. Yes it's quirky and is slowly driven forward, but it has many qualities for the genre fan to gorge on. 7.5/10

5 of 7 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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