Where was Unforgiven filmed?
Cabin, Desert, Ranch Style
Hollywood has made a lot of classic westerns over the years, but few have the same impact or staying power as Unforgiven. This 1992 film, starring Clint Eastwood and produced and directed by him too, took home four Oscars, including gongs for Best Picture and Best Director. And three decades later, it’s still as engrossing as ever.
Unforgiven focuses on the tale of William Munny (Eastwood), an old cowboy, gunfighter, and killer who has changed his ways and become a hog farmer. But when he hears word of a $1,000 bounty for killing two cowboys who mutilated and disfigured a prostitute, he decides to come out of retirement one last time.
The bounty is offered by the prostitutes at Greeley’s, a brothel in the town of Big Whiskey, Wyoming. Dismayed at the pitiful punishment dished out by the local sheriff, “Little Bill” Daggett (Gene Hackman), the women put up the bounty to get their own revenge on the cowboys.
William teams up with his old friend and fellow outlaw Ned Logan (Morgan Freeman), and the men head to Big Whiskey in search of cowboys Quick Mike (David Mucci) and Davey Bunting (Rob Campbell).
But they’re not the only ones with their eyes on the prize. William first hears about the bounty from a young gunslinger calling himself the Schofield Kid (Jaimz Woolvett), a man who talks tough but may not be the experienced bounty hunter he claims. English Bob (Richard Harris), another old gunfighter, also plans to claim the bounty, but there’s one big obstacle standing in everyone’s way: Little Bill.
The sheriff is vicious and violent, and he’s determined to dish out his own brand of justice in Big Whiskey. What follows is an ever-escalating cycle of brutality that leads the main characters to question their attitudes to violence and ultimately culminates in a bloody showdown.
This Academy Award-winning film is still as relevant today as it was when it was made. So if you’d like to check out the Unforgiven locations where some of the film’s best scenes were shot, keep reading.
Before you start searching Google Maps to find out where Big Whiskey, Wyoming, can be found, let us save you the trouble. The town doesn’t exist.
Instead, if you want to visit the Unforgiven filming location, you’ll need to head for Alberta in Canada, where much of the film was shot. Specifically, the set for the town of Big Whiskey was constructed at the Bar U Ranch National Historic Site, which is found about 60 miles south of Calgary and offers the sort of remote, open setting you’d expect to find in a western.
Several other locations around Alberta were used to create the Unforgiven landscape. These include the spectacular Badlands of Drumheller, where Will catches up with Davey in a memorable shootout, plus scenes shot in and around Brooks and High River.
But not all of the best scenes in Unforgiven were filmed in Alberta. The train scene, where English Bob makes his way to Big Whiskey, was actually filmed along the Sierra Railroad in California.
We’ve gathered the details and settings of where some of the most memorable scenes in Unforgiven were filmed (spoiler alert!). Check them out below.
The script for Unforgiven was written by David Webb Peoples, who also wrote Blade Runner, in 1976. It was originally known as The Cut-Whore Killings and The William Munny Killings.
Train scene in Unforgiven
Sierra Railroad in California’s Tuolumne County
If Will Munny thinks earning the bounty will be easy, he’s got another thing coming. Not only will he have to overcome Little Bill, but he’ll also face stiff competition from sharpshooter English Bob.
We’re introduced to Bob as he rides the train to Big Whiskey and engages in a heated debate with a fellow passenger. British-born Bob is condescending and rude to the Americans on the train, and one cowboy is quick to respond angrily. What the man can’t figure out, however, is why no-one else on the train is standing up for the American way of life to the snooty English interloper — until his friend spells it out for him.
“Might be that this dude here is English Bob. He’s the one that works for the railroad shooting Chinamen. Might be he’s waiting for some crazy cowboy to touch his pistol so he can shoot him down,” he explains.
As mentioned, this scene was filmed on the Sierra Railroad in California’s Tuolumne County, a little over 50 miles east of Stockton. You might also recognize the area from other productions like Back to the Future Part III.
Davey is shot scene in Unforgiven
Badlands of Drumheller
Having been run out of town by Little Bill, Will, Ned and the Kid certainly haven’t given up on killing the two cowboys to win the bounty. Eventually, they catch up with Davey and his gang and ambush them in a rocky pass. Ned’s shot misses Davey and hits his horse instead, leaving Davey lying injured on the ground.
Stuck out in the open, Davey is a sitting duck, but Ned can’t bring himself to take the shot. Despite the Kid’s frantic urging, Ned shakes his head and Will takes the gun, eventually shooting Davey in the stomach. “You think we killed him?” the Kid asks nervously. “Yeah, we killed him, I guess,” Will responds.
These Unforgiven action scenes were filmed in the Badlands of Drumheller, found about 80 miles northeast of Calgary. Films like The Revenant and Brokeback Mountain have also been filmed in the area, along with Tom Cochrane’s Life is a Highway music video.Head to Drumheller and make your way to the Badlands Area.
Final shootout scene in Unforgiven
Bar U Ranch National Historic Site in Longview
With Ned having decided that the life of an outlaw is no longer for him, he decides to return home and leave the violence to others. So when Munny learns that Little Bill tortured Ned to death, and is even displaying his old friend’s body out the front of Greeley’s as a warning to other troublemakers, he’s furious.
Will then saddles up and heads for Big Whiskey, where we see Ned’s body displayed to warn off other assassins. With a storm raging outside, Munny walks into Greeley’s where Little Bill is addressing his posse. Little Bill calls him a coward and a killer, and Munny responds coldly: “That’s right. I’ve killed women and children. I’ve killed just about everything that walks or crawled at one time or another, and I’m here to kill you, Little Bill.”
The Big Whiskey set was created at the Bar U Ranch National Historic Site in Longview, south of Calgary. Set amid rolling hills, this old ranch once covered over 160,000 acres and is set against a backdrop of the beautiful Rocky Mountains. The Cowboy Trail and Township Road 171 will get you there.
Unforgiven is not your traditional western. All the cliches and stereotypes viewers had come to expect from the genre were turned inside out in this 1992 Clint Eastwood classic, which shed light on the tendency of many westerns to romanticize and glorify violence.
Both Eastwood and Morgan Freeman turn in stunning performances, while Gene Hackman’s Little Bill is as memorable a villain as you’ll come across on the silver screen. The other star is of course the Canadian province of Alberta, which offers a bleak and hostile backdrop to the drama unfolding in front of our eyes. Together with the plot and performances, it helps make Unforgiven unforgettable.