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Comes a Horseman (1978)

Ella Connors is a single woman who gets pressured to sell her failing cattle farm to her corrupt ex suitor, Jacob Ewing. She asks for help from her neighbor, Frank Athearn. As Ella and ... See full summary »


Alan J. Pakula

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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 5 wins & 3 nominations. See more awards »


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Complete credited cast:
James Caan ... Frank 'Buck' Athearn
Jane Fonda ... Ella Connors
Jason Robards ... Jacob 'J.W.' Ewing
George Grizzard ... Neil Atkinson
Richard Farnsworth ... Dodger
Jim Davis ... Julie Blocker
Mark Harmon ... Billy Joe Meynert
Macon McCalman ... Virgil Hoverton
Basil Hoffman ... George Bascomb
James Kline James Kline ... Ralph Cole
James Keach ... Emil Kroegh
Clifford A. Pellow Clifford A. Pellow ... Cattle Buyer


Ella Connors is a single woman who gets pressured to sell her failing cattle farm to her corrupt ex suitor, Jacob Ewing. She asks for help from her neighbor, Frank Athearn. As Ella and Frank fight back through stampedes, jealousy, betrayal, and sabotage, they eventually find love. Written by cactusjump

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

bar fight | showdown | land | 1940s | oil | See All (22) »


A story of love and freedom See more »


Drama | Romance | Western


PG | See all certifications »






Release Date:

25 October 1978 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Comes a Horseman Wild and Free See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (35 mm prints)| 70 mm 6-Track (70 mm prints)



Aspect Ratio:

2.39 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Publicity for this this picture stated that the film was the first major speaking role for stuntman and actor Richard Farnsworth, who debuted in a much bigger role at the well-seasoned age of fifty-eight years. Also, in this big debut performance, Farnsworth, who had frequently appeared as an uncredited actor, got Academy Award nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, which was the film's sole Oscar nomination. See more »


When Ewing is shot and falls of his horse, his foot slips THROUGH the stirrup. When the horse gallops away, the foot of the stuntman doubling for Jason Robards is TIED to the stirrup by a long strap, that can be safely released. See more »


Frank 'Buck' Athearn: You know lady, you got balls the size of grapefruits.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Our thanks to the Forest Service for allowing us to film in the Coconino National Forest See more »

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User Reviews

Twilight and romantic modern western with fine interpretations , striking scenes and wonderful landscapes
3 May 2017 | by ma-cortesSee all my reviews

Good and gripping modern western imbued with a deep nostalgia for a vanished world , set in the ranchlands of Montana 1945 , dealing with an old-fashioned cowboy on horseback , an Anzio war veteran resistant to the modern times , called Frank Buck (James Caan) . He is a free-spirited man out of sync with the contemporary age . Buck reluctantly attempts to help and joins forces with a single woman , Ella Connors , (Jane Fonda , who holds an uncanny resemblance to her father Henry as well as her brother Peter and her personality dominates the film) pitting wits against the world progress , oil-rich proprietaries and a nasty land baron (Jason Robards as her previous incestuous cousin) in an attempt to hold their dream of pioneering spirit and freedom . Buck and Connors are supported by a local old timer called Dodger (Richard Fansworth) . Meanwhile , a powerful banker (George Grizzard) attempts to take all the oil rich lands surrounding the wealthy owners . An the end takes place and exciting and moving climax when the main conflicts developing throughout the movie come alive .

Romantic , compelling , elegiac and marvelously acted Western with an extreme feel by that time and period . Sorrowfull essay on civilized progress and exploitation of nature , including two main characters out of step with the modern world . The message of Dennis Clark's screenplay is often a little too heavily underlined buttressed by some rather obvious symbols . The film turns out to be rebellious as well as respectful with classic Western mythology , including ordinary set pieces : saloon fights , go riding , rodeo , close range , stampedes and final gun-play , adding some Fordian touches . Although the flick is more interested in the sensitive love story between Fonda and Caan than battles and western action . This ¨Comes a horseman¨ bears certain resemblance to ¨Lonely are the brave¨ by David Miller with Kirk Douglas , Walter Matthaw , Gena Rowlands ; both of them are misfit modern Westerns , share similar issues : ranchers' conflict , open range , confrontations and resistance to the modern ages . ¨Comes the horseman¨ results to be an elaborately designed Western with a slow-moving and persuasive treatment of Western familiar themes such as : brawls in a bar , cattle chase , war range , shootouts , and including a blazing conclusion brings this thrilling picture to a highly satisfactory final . Very good acting from a great cast . As Jane Fonda as the spinster banshee woman who fights off relentlessly cattle baron , she is mercilessly struggling to make it on her own to not have to sell out her lands . James Caan is really convincing as the cowboy who feels empathy and finally love for Fonda . Both of whom are really faced off a villain owner , masterfully played by Jason Robards as a cattle baron attempting to gobble up all Montana land , whose affair with her as a teenager has marked to her father . And special mention for Richard Farnsworth as a Walter Brennan-style old times who steals the show as the veteran who wants to die with boots on .

Pakula directs with aplomb and eloquent feeling for landscapes , making magnificent use of outdoors and adding a wonderful cinematography by Gordon Willis who gives a visually superb lighting . Furthermore , it displays a rousing and thrilling musical score by Michael Small . This intriguing picture was compellingly directed by Alan J. Pacula , though being slowly and deliberately realized . Pacula made a lot of nice films , such as : All the president's men , Sophie's choice , The Parallax view , Starting over , Presumed innocent , Pelican brief , The devil's own and this one : Comes a horseman .

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