Unforgiven question - "Deserve's got nothin' to do with it"

In the movie, the following dialogue takes place between Little Bill and William Munny:

I have never understood this line of Clint Eastwood’s. I mean, just earlier in the same scene, Munny tells Little Bill that he is going to kill him for what he did to Ned.

It has always seemed to me that the line is nearly the exact opposite of what is true.
Am I missing something? Does anyone else have a take on this that could explain it?

I always took it as a comment that death was coming to everyone. “We all got it comin’, kid.”
Good or bad, gunfighter or farmer’s wife, saint or sinner, we are all going to die.

I think Munny felt that if he killed Little Bill because he deserved it, he (Munny) would be assuming a role of judge and righteous executioner that he didn’t deserve. So it’s something like “I’m gonna kill you for what you did, but that’s just me, I’m not gonna say that I’m right to do it or that you deserve to die at my hand.”

It might be might be he’s saying that there isn’t some overarching “justice” - you killed my friend and now I’m gonna kill you. Simple as that. Karma isn’t about what you deserve, it’s just what you get.

Yeah, I can see Roderick’s and CarnalK’s point. I do wonder though, given that Eastwood told Hackman
that this film would not be glorifying gun violence (to get him onboard), if the line was ‘adjusted’ in an attempt to better support this.

The “We all got it comin’, kid” line is so perfect, so complete in and of itself, that I often
quote it (and the Kid’s line that prompted it) to myself when I feel I need to be reminded of my mortality.

I own the film and I have seen in 25-26 times.

I have always taken Will Munny’s line as being a confirmation of what a cold-blooded killer that he really is. After it’s clear that he didn’t need to kill the people who he did; but he did so anyway.

The film gives him an “excuse” to kill Little Bill (the fact that he killed Ned). But really, it’s clear that a man like Munny doesn’t need a reason to do what he does. He simply is good at killing and it doesn’t bother him to do so.

Little Bill Daggett: You’d be William Munny out of Missouri. Killer of women and children.
Will Munny: 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, for what you did to Ned.

Good point. He does say something like “killin’s always come easy to me”, in fact, now that I think about it. Thanks.

I’ve posted this before in another Unforgiven thread here. I like this explanation of this, that it is the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector. While both men have done evil acts, only Munny accepts what he has done and struggles with it throughout the movie. Bill has lived, in his view, a righteous life.

This I think.

Remember that Will struggles with what he is for most of the film but when he hears of Ned’s death he picks up that bottle and from there on in it is a reversion to type. He can’t change what he is and his comments to Little Bill are a reflection of that.

I can’t let an “Unforgiven” thread without commenting that it is one of my very favourite films and that scene mentioned above with the Schofield kid, bottle of whiskey and “we all got it comin’ kid” is a masterpiece in a masterpiece of a film.

This is the most beautiful and eternaltruthexpressing line in cinematic history and expounds the greatest mystery.
There are no such things as deserts, for anyone, good or bad.

I alwas thought it meant that he was going to kill Little Bill whether he deserved it or not

I’ve always took it to reflect Munny’s melancholy outlook - forged and solidified by just about everything he’s done in his life, and now reconfirmed by the irony of his recent actions, namely, having to go back into the life that he gave up so that he could get what he needed to stay out of that life, and all of that because the only person who, inexplicably, ever saw any good in him, and, out of everyone he’s ever known, the least to “deserve” to die, died - that there is no overall sense to anything.

I’d interpret it that Munny meant that he was going to kill Little Bill simply out of personal revenge for killing his friend - even if Little Bill hadn’t actually intended for Ned to die, and no matter if Little Bill otherwise was on the side of righteousness. Munny wasn’t interested in justice, just revenge (actually, just like the whores he was working for).

I noticed the line was also used by Snoop, the drug hitwoman on The Wire, when she’s questioned by her accomplice about what their target has done to deserve being killed. “Deserves got nothing to do with it. It’s just his time, y’know?”

Absolutely flippin’ agree.

Tell that to the people in the Sahara, the Gobi, the Atacama and California’s Central Valley.

I love the film too, and take different meanings from it and have different questions about it each time I watch it.

Hopefully this isn’t a complete derailment, but I’m curious as to the thoughts of others regarding the meaning of the title of the film.

I’ve always wondered who was “The Unforgiven”, and who was the unforgiving. I have come to believe that Bill Munny was both. I never took him to be as evil as he himself thought he was. In my take, he was a reformed man who still carried the guilt of his youth with him. Throughout the film, he is in fact quite compassionate and ethical.

When Morgan Freeman is killed, he resorts to his old ways and exacts revenge. He was always an able killer, and it was a skill he felt evil for possessing. Sadly, it’s the one thing he’s good at. He’s not a very successful farmer. Paralleling his character, Hackman is also good at killing but bad at carpentry.

I know I’m not being very elegant here…but my take: he really wasn’t evil or bad to the core. He was just a man who had done bad things and never gotten over the stain it left on his soul.


There are two W. Munnys. One is a reformed killer and drunkard. His wife cured him of that. But then she died and W. Munny is hard on his luck. He couldn’t retain the bad W after they killed his friend and he got wasted. The good W would have reasoned whether Little Bill actually deserved what he had coming to him (and he didn’t by contemporary standards). Forgiveness was in order. But bad W was in control and was only out for blood, which is partly why he was so good at killing.

Ummm….Little Bill killed an innocent man by whipping him to death. Ned, while he rode in with Munny and The Kid, did not kill anything other than a horse. Of any of the three who went to kill the cowboys, Ned deserved to be murdered the LEAST.

Not certain how you can come to the conclusion that Munny would have decided that Daggett didn’t deserve to be murdered unless he rationalized as being necessary to allow his escape. Or that Little Bill was simply “doing his job.”

Must disagree with only one small point. IMHO, he COULD contain the “bad M”…that’s the point of the totally-sick-but-still-won’t-take-a-drink scene. When Ned is killed, he CHOOSES to start drinking, to let the bad M out. That way he can kill Little Bill out of vengence, even tho’ he “doesn’t deserve” it.

…And then go back to his kids, use the money to get them a better life, and never let bad M out again.

Well, he was an “innocent man” in town to do a killing for cash.