Red Dead Redemption 2 is a beautiful and expansive video game. It also cuts through mediums and contains many references (whether overt or subtle) to classic Western films. This is nothing new for Rockstar. Beloved game developers are big on pop culture, and they’ve been peppering their video games with cinematic references for decades. And while Red Dead Redemption 2 is more “serious” than their past offers, it still carries on the tradition.
Some of these references are obvious and basically shot-for-shot remakes of classic movies. Others can be as simple as a line of dialogue, a theme, or a story idea.
The assassination of Jesse James by the coward Robert Ford (2007)
Perhaps the most obvious cinematic reference is The assassination of Jesse James by the coward Robert Ford. A mission sees Arthur and a small group stealing a train and its passengers. The cutscene for this mission is pretty much taken from the movie.
The photo of the gang hiding in the nearby trees and lighting themselves up by the passing train is taken straight from the film, just like Arthur blocking the tracks and standing on top of the barricade as the train slowly approaches.
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Child (1969)
One of the best westerns of all time, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was a great inspiration for Red Dead Redemption 2. The whole plot of Red dead 2 borrows a lot from Butch cassidy, because this film is also about a group of cowboys fleeing the law after a series of crimes and thefts.
The flight of the opening train also shares a lot in common with that found in Butch cassidy, and the scene in which Dutch and his minions jump off a cliff and throw themselves into the river below is taken verbatim from the film.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)
An old movie that still stands today, The good the bad and the ugly is arguably one of the most influential Western films ever made. In Red dead 2, Hosea tells a funny and interesting story about his near-death experience. Just as he was being hanged, a stranger appeared and pulled the rope before he could swing, saving his life.
This is a direct reference to one of the opening scenes of The good, the bad and the ugly, who sees the character of Clint Eastwood saving Tuco from hanging by pulling the rope.
A Fistful of Dollars (1964)
Rockstar essentially based the entire third chapter of the game on the plot of a handful of dollars. The third chapter sees Dutch and his gang attempt to play both sides of a feud between two Rhodes families – the Braithwaites and the Grays.
This is strongly based on a handful of dollars, which sees The Man with No Name playing both sides of a feud between two San Miguel families – the Rojo Brothers and the Baxters. Not only that, but one of the Baxters is the town sheriff, just like Leigh Gray.
Back to the Future, Part III (1990)
One of the most unique cowboy movies ever made, Back to the future part 3 elegantly ends the beloved trilogy. The climax of the film sees Doc and Clara floating on Marty’s hoverboard just as the locomotive exits the unfinished track and into a ravine below.
A very similar train sits at the bottom of the granite ravine at Red Dead Redemption 2. These are the types of fun Easter eggs that Rockstar often excels at producing.
There Will Be Blood (2007)
It might not be a direct reference, but the subplot involving Leviticus Cornwall is very similar to the Daniel Day-Lewis classic. There will be blood. The film’s protagonist is Daniel Plainview, and like Cornwall, he’s a ruthless and headstrong businessman who earned his fortune in oil.
The themes of There will be blood are strongly rooted in the rise of capitalism and the beginnings of modern civilization – the themes are also very present throughout Red Dead Redemption 2.
O brother, where are you? (2000)
One of the funniest films of the Coen brothers, O brother, where are you? is a unique hybrid of many different genres including western, comedy, and adventure. Red dead 2 contains many references to the classic film, including the awkward members of the KKK who accidentally kill themselves with their flaming crosses.
Arthur can also cross paths with three men in black and white prison suits who recently escaped a chain gang, which is an obvious reference to the protagonists of O brother, where are you?
The Savage Band (1969)
Red dead 2 owes its very existence to The wild group. This is essentially a video game adaptation of the beloved film – that’s not a bad thing. As Red dead 2, The wild group also deals with a fractured outlaw gang whose time is coming to an end thanks to the advancement of American civilization.
The characters of The wild group also come into conflict with the US military, and Dutch van der Linde is probably named Ernest Borgnine’s Dutch Engstrom.
Open Range (2003)
Valentine is the first town players encounter Red dead 2, and it looks like a typical border town – wooden storefronts, muddy streets, and cars rumbling down the main drag. Valentine is strongly inspired by the city of Harmonville, which can be found in Kevin Costner Open range.
Like Valentine, the characters of Open range visit Harmonville for supplies. And like Valentine, the town of Harmonville is shot and destroyed at the end of Open range.
Django Unleashed (2012)
With Django Unchained, Quentin Tarantino sought to make the KKK somewhat ridiculous. In one of the film’s most memorable sequences, Schultz and Django lure a group of goofy KKK members into a trap and kill many of them with a well-timed explosion.
The streak of incompetent and awkward KKK members is reflected in many random encounters throughout Red dead 2. While not a direct reference, it was hilarious to watch Rockstar continue Tarantino’s lore and ridicule historical villains.
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