So smooth, so classy, so effortlessly entertaining. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is a revered film for many reasons, not the least of which, is that it contains two of the most charismatic performances of Paul Newman and Robert Redford’s career, and George Roy Hill’s direction was so crisp and clean that the film hardly has a chance to stop and admire it’s breezy charms and subtly elegant visual sense. William Goldman’s poetic yet salty dialogue rolls off everyone’s tongues with a sense of true joy for the spoken word, Conrad Hall’s majestic widescreen cinematography shows off amazing vistas without sacrificing the visual intimacy we crave because of how much we like the characters, and the action scenes are perfectly integrated into the story, never feeling forced or unnecessary. All of the elements came together on this film, and in general, Hill’s output was rather sterling and consistent, with Slap Shot and The Sting as other major standouts.
It’s also got some of the best stunts and one of the greatest explosions of all time, with those two particular stuntmen really earning their day rate for standing that close to the detonated train doors. Burt Bacharach’s playful and eclectic score set a jaunty tone that also shared the possibility for danger, while co-star Katharine Ross projected smarts, beauty, and grit, matching the two legendary leading men every step of the way. And then there’s the iconic finale, which says so much with so little, instilling a sense of grace to match its inherent sadness. Costing $6 million dollars in 1969, the film would become a smash hit and critical favorite, grossing well over $100 million in theatrical ticket sales and won four Oscars, before becoming one of the most ubiquitous films in the history of cable television. Richard Lester’s vastly underrated sequel, Butch and Sundance: The Early Years, would be released ten years later.