The Shootist (1976)

PG  |   |  Drama, Western  |  20 August 1976 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.7/10 from 16,569 users  
Reviews: 145 user | 46 critic

A dying gunfighter spends his last days looking for a way to die with a minimum of pain and a maximum of dignity.



(novel), (screenplay), 1 more credit »
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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 1 win & 3 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Marshall Thibido
Rick Lenz ...
Dobkins (as Richard Lenz)
Gregg Palmer ...
Burly Man
Alfred Dennis ...
Dick Winslow ...
Streetcar Driver


John Books an aging gunfighter goes to see a doctor he knows for a second opinion after another doctor told him he has a cancer which is terminal. The doctor confirms what the other said. He says Books has a month maybe two left. He takes a room in the boarding house and the son of the woman who runs it recognizes him and tells his mother who he is. She doesn't like his kind but when he tells her of his condition, she empathizes. Her son wants him to teach him how to use a gun. Books tries to tell him that killing is not something he wants to live with. Books, not wanting to go through the agony of dying from cancer, tries to find a quicker way to go. Written by

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


He's got to face a gunfight once more to live up to his legend once more - TO WIN JUST ONE MORE TIME.


Drama | Western


PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

20 August 1976 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Der Scharfsch├╝tze  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$5,987,000 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


| (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Hugh O'Brian wanted to be in the film, so he was given the character of Pulford, who was originally in the novel as a card dealer. In the movie, his gunfight with a patron is depicted as occurring after Books comes to town. In the book, however, the fight took place much earlier. See more »


As Gillom walks to the door when leaving the bar after covering Books, his shirt is buttoned to the neck. When he is next seen after exiting the bar outside, the top of his shirt is clearly unbuttoned. See more »


Moses Brown: [haggling over the price of Books' horse] $295... $296... $297... $298...
John Bernard Books: Whoa.
Moses Brown: Two ninety - you mean I can - why Mr. Books, that makes me the bes' haggler!
John Bernard Books: Best in the world, Moses.
[Moses laughs]
See more »


Referenced in Golden Saddles, Silver Spurs (2000) See more »


Willow, Tit Willow
Music by Arthur Sullivan
Lyrics by William S. Gilbert
Performed by John Wayne & Lauren Bacall
See more »

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User Reviews

Don Siegel crafted a milestone along the trail to the last sunset with "The Shootist"...

"The Shootist" begins with clips from Wayne's previous pictures: "Hondo," "Rio Bravo," "El Dorado" etc...

Wayne portrays J. B. Books, the most famous lawman in the West who killed thirty men in his life... Books arrives to Carson City in 1901, the day Queen Victoria died in England...

Wayne went first to get a medical diagnosis known to everyone as cancer.

Dr. Hostetler (James Stewart) was too practical... He gives Book the most potent pain-killer he gets, and tells him where to stay in town...

The film is build to one and only purpose: To let Wayne die with dignity, without physical pain, at the Metropole gambling saloon, in a showdown with three heavies: Richard Boone, a bad-tempered ugly man who wants to avenge his brother's death; Hugh O'Brien, a skilled dealer and a presumptuous gunfighter; and Bill McKinney, an unpleasant provoking gunman just released from prison...

Ron Howard plays the crude graceless adolescent, the first to meet Wayne in the street: 'The old man ain't worth a bullet,' he says, 'he looks all tuckered out.' In this particular scene, it comes to my mind the insolent young punk, Skip Homeir, who tries to prove something when he confronts Gregory Peck in the psychological Western "The Gunfighter."

Wayne seems surprised by the visit of Serepta (Sheree North), an unscrupulous aging lady-love who tries to take advantage of him, asking him to marry her simply for a marriage certificate, and a famous name... She surely was not the woman of quality, the good prostitute (Claire Trevor) in "Stagecoach."

John Carradine, who plays the mysterious passenger, also in "Stagecoach," makes a brief appearance as the undertaker...

Tying to overcome his bloody past, John Wayne shows, in the film, the other side of the 'Shootist,' his human side... We find him pleasantly amusing when he reveals to Stewart the truth about the red fancy cushion he carries in the film...

Filmed in Carson City, Nevada, and with a fine supporting cast, this untraditional motion picture is a lyrical elegiac Western of the highest quality, a moving tribute to a legendary actor and a tender farewell to a Super Star...

77 of 94 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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