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File:High plains drifter 6131.jpg

1973 Supernatural Deconstructionist Western starring and directed by Clint Eastwood.

In the Old West, a mysterious drifter referred to only as 'the Stranger' rides into a dismal little mining town called Lago, which is facing a crisis: three ruthless outlaws are making their way to the town to settle scores for an old wrong the townspeople did to them. After the Stranger kills the gunmen the cowardly townspeople had hired to protect them, the elders of the town decide to hire the Stranger to act as their protector, a role the Stranger only agrees to take after his bizarre demands -- among them, that the town be painted red and renamed 'Hell' -- are met.

As the Stranger begins to train the townsfolk to take arms and the outlaws draw ever closer, the hidden secrets and corruptions of the town begin to unravel, and the truth behind their feud with the outlaws and their culpability in the death of a federal marshal -- with whom the Stranger has a connection -- begin to be revealed...

High Plains Drifter provides examples of:

  • Actor Allusion: Hmmm...ClintEastwood drifting to town, accepting money to protect the villagers? Where have I heard this before?
  • Apathetic Citizens
  • Badass: The Stranger, so very, very much. Then again, it is Clint Eastwood.
  • Battle Amongst the Flames: Although it's not so much a battle as a massacre.
  • Cast as a Mask: To support the ambiguity about The Stranger's identity, when the marshal's murder is shown, he's played by Buddy van Horn, a stunt double for Eastwood.
  • Clint Squint
  • Crapsack World
  • Dead All Along: The Stranger. it's implied he's the spirit of the dead marshal returned to take revenge on both the men who killed him and the townspeople, some of whom were responsible for the plot to kill the marshal and the rest too cowardly and greedy to do anything about the murder.
    • Eastwood makes it ambiguous. He COULD be the spirit of the dead Marshall, but on the other hand the original script claimed he was the dead marshall's brother and the film does nothing to refute this. If he were the marshall's brother, he'd still have the same name i.e. the same last name, as the marshall. Plus The Stranger seems to do a lot of the things that 'out and out ghost' The Preacher couldn't i.e. have sex.
  • Directed by Cast Member
  • Dirty Coward: Most of the townspeople.
  • The Drifter: Although it's played with; the Drifter in this case isn't so much interested in helping the townspeople as much as punishing them, along with the killers of the marshal, for their inactivity and culpability in the marshal's death.
  • Especially Zoidberg: "Even the church?" "I mean especially the church!"
  • Flash Back
  • For the Evulz: Arguably what the Stranger did to everyone.
  • Go Seduce My Arch-Nemesis: Callie appears to willingly sleep with the Stranger a second time, but it turns out it was a ploy by Morgan to get his guard down so that he and his gang could kill the Stranger in his bed. It doesn't work, naturally.
  • Grey and Grey Morality: And while it might not ever reach black, the grey gets very dark on both sides.
  • The Gunslinger: Of course. The Stranger is a combination of Type A and Type D, although it could just be everyone else's incompetence making him look better.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: Louis' excuse for letting the Marshal die.
  • It's Not Rape If You Enjoyed It: The Stranger gives this excuse after Callie confronts him later.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Particularly bad is the scene where Callie ambushes the Stranger while he's taking a bath, unarmed, and fires several shots at him. She was standing less than 8 feet away from him, he simply ducks under the water and comes out completely unscathed.
  • Impromptu Tracheotomy: How Morgan dies.
  • Karmic Death The three gunmen all get what they deserve, particularly the first one to die-- whipped to death the same way the marshal was.
  • Kick the Dog or Kick the Bitch, depending on how you feel about Callie.
  • No Name Given: He's even called The Stranger in the credits.
  • Pet the Dog: The Stranger shows his heart of gold at a couple different points; when the townspeople agree to give him anything he wants for free in exchange for his help, he gives free jars of candy to two Native American children and a pile of blankets to their grandfather, who'd just been called 'savages' and told to get out of the store for not having money. He also appoints the town midget and Butt Monkey Mordecai as mayor and sheriff.
  • Rape Discretion Shot: The camera pans up right before the Stranger rapes an impudent woman to teach her a lesson.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge
  • Satan: Another possible interpretation of the Stranger's identity
  • The Scourge of God
  • Sinister Minister: One who talks of piety but is just as corrupt as the rest of the town leaders.
  • Slap Slap Kiss: The Stranger and Sarah have Slap Slap Passionate Sex.
  • Sociopathic Hero: The first thing The Stranger does when he rides into town is shoot a group of people and then rape a woman. But he's the protagonist.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: The Stranger always inexplicably has a stick of dynamite on hand.
  • Taking Over the Town
  • Town with a Dark Secret
  • Training the Peaceful Villagers: Except here, the villagers aren't so much 'peaceful' as 'Dirty Cowards'.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: You'll be saying this for a lot of the movie.
  • What the Hell, Townspeople?: The townspeople did this to the marshal in the backstory of the movie. Which makes it a case of turnabout-equalling-fair-play when the Stranger inverts the trope by doing it to the townspeople.
  • Whip It Good: The marshal's fate. Later the fate of one of the three gunmen.
  • White Man's Burden: The Native American family that shows up for a very brief scene exists just to look helpless while The Stranger stands up for them.
  • Yes-Man: Mordecai to the Stranger.