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The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)

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In theaters November 16.

Follows the story of two trail bosses on the Oregon Trail and a woman on the wagon train who needs the help of one of them and who might be a marriage prospect for the other.


Ethan Coen, Joel Coen


Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
743 ( 111)
1 win & 2 nominations. See more awards »



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Credited cast:
James Franco ... Cowboy (segment "Near Algodones")
Liam Neeson ... Impresario (segment "Meal Ticket")
David Krumholtz ... Frenchman in Saloon (segment "The Ballad of Buster Scruggs")
Clancy Brown ... (segment "The Ballad of Buster Scruggs")
Brendan Gleeson ... Irishman (segment "The Mortal Remains")
Zoe Kazan ... Alice Longabaugh (segment "The Gal Who Got Rattled)
Harry Melling ... Harrison (segment "The Ballad of Buster Scruggs")
Stephen Root ... (segment "Near Algodones")
Ralph Ineson ... The Man In Black (segment "Near Algodones")
Tyne Daly ... Lady (segment "The Mortal Remains")
Tom Waits ... Prospector (segment "All Gold Canyon")
Tim Blake Nelson ... Buster Scruggs (segment "The Ballad of Buster Scruggs")
Matthew Willig ... Hard Man #3 (segment "The Ballad of Buster Scruggs")
Saul Rubinek ... Frenchman (segment "The Mortal Remains")
Chelcie Ross ... Trapper (segment "The Mortal Remains")


Follows the story of two trail bosses on the Oregon Trail and a woman on the wagon train who needs the help of one of them and who might be a marriage prospect for the other.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


How the West Was Won (more or less) See more »

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for some strong violence | See all certifications »






Release Date:

16 November 2018 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs See more »

Filming Locations:

Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs



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Did You Know?


This will mark Joel & Ethan Coen's first project written and directed for television. See more »

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User Reviews

Return to the West
13 October 2018 | by rorymarsh00See all my reviews

The Coen Brothers have a catalogue spanning multiple genres and time periods, the vast majority of which considered landmarks in the cinematic landscape of the 1990's and 2000's. With the release of the enjoyable yet troubled 'Hail, Ceaser', however, they hit a speedbump. Whilst this anthology film is definitely a step above their 2016 effort, it shares many of the pitfalls which, for all its credit, remain as noticeable as ever. Being an anthology film, each segment is isolated in it's own narrative, with no overarching plot or recurring characters, granting a certain creative freedom, but also significantly weakening lesser sections which, when not completely immersing the audience, appear more an unnecessary dampener than a valid contribution to this jamboree. The titular section, 'The Ballad of Buster Scruggs', opens the picture, presenting a jovial incarnation of the Wild West complete with musical numbers, a metatheatrical performance from the infallible Tim Blake Nelson, and a surrealist edge absent from the remaining episodes. This proves more of a fantastical approach, with creative action sequences and a charming lead. Whilst it features the most Coenesque feel, it serves more as a breezy opener, than the real meat of the piece - a welcome introduction back to the Coen-dictated West. The shortest sequence is the James Franco starring 'Near Algodones', which serves as the action-packed counterpart to the aforementioned fantasy-musical of Buster Scruggs. The comedic moments here are pitch-perfect, with engrossing sequences to boot, however, our time with these characters is all too brief to make it anything more. Following close suit is by far the weakest portion of the film, Liam Neeson's 'Meal Ticket'. Here, the Brothers take an almost non-dialogic approach, instead utilising visual storytelling to comprehensive, oft-comedic, but ultimately repetitive effect. There's little to say of the narrative, featuring recurring Coen quirk, but little more. The final three portions are the strongest additions to this anthology, each gaining a longer runtime and for good reason. The characters appear far more engrossing and the tone more serious, which is no bad thing. 'All Gold Canyon' is gorgeously shot, providing a vastly different colour pallet and an expose on the harsher sides to living in the West, with Tom Waits perhaps proving the best addition to the cast. 'The Gal Who Got Rattled' likely shares the most with Westerns of old, blending character-centred drama with beautifully executed and tense action sequences, and featuring a warm turn from Bill Heck. Finally, 'The Mortal Remains' proves the most ambitious and starkly unique segment, crafting an almost Beckettian atmosphere with infinite metaphorical value and an assortment of expertly acted characters that finely blend a concoction of tension and side-splitting humour. It stands out like a sore thumb from its predecessors, but may be the freshest addition to the anthology, ending the film on a melancholic yet intriguing note. 'The Ballad of Buster Scruggs' accurately portrays the Coen's love for the Western genre, allowing them to create a series of vignettes exploring areas of the genre that otherwise remained untouched. Blending a musical, an action film, black comedy, drama, epic and existential think-piece together in an incoherent yet delightful feature, this may not be a whole they are remembered for, but certainly features parts that will remain evergreen in their catalogue. If only the opening three segments were stronger, this could have been a standout. Furthermore, they incite excitement for the Coen's to develop another serious feature, a la 'No Country for Old Men', as it affirms that this is where they excel.

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