powered by AFI
In post-Civil War Wyoming, ranch owner Lucy Lee is en route to Rock Springs to sell her cattle. When Jeff Young approaches her camp, asking for food and a place to sleep, she at first fears that he is part of Butch Cassidy's notorious Wild Bunch, an outlaw gang that has been terrorizing the country, but nevertheless allows him to stay. That night, members of Cassidy's gang slip past her guards and hold them up, intending to take the cattle. When Sundance, a member of the gang, tries to force himself on Lucy, Jeff, his face masked by a bandana and a gun in each hand, sends them fleeing. Afterward, Lucy, whose father was killed by the Wild Bunch two years before, is grateful when Jeff agrees to ride with the crew for the rest of the trip, but he refuses to accept her offer of a permanent job. In Rock Springs, the gang relaxes at the "Maverick Queen," a saloon-hotel owned by Kit Banion, a displaced Southern woman from a "proud" family who is secretly in league with Cassidy's gang. Although Kit and Sundance have been lovers, Kit informs him that she wants a "better man." Jealous, Sundance accuses her of planting a hired gunman in Lucy's camp to get him killed. Later, when Jeff, unrecognized as the masked man who thwarted the rustling, beats Sundance at poker, the outlaw reacts violently, causing Kit to realize that Jeff is the "better man" she has been longing for. When Jeff introduces himself as ex-convict "Jeff Younger," the nephew of Jesse James gang members Cole and Jim Younger, and hints that he wants to join up with Cassidy, Kit hires him as a faro dealer. After several days, she invites him to assist in a train robbery, finally admitting her connections to the Cassidy gang, but confides that she cannot see Jeff as one of James's cold-blooded killers. When Jeff asks why she never married, she replies that marriage is not for someone like her. After selling her cattle to Kit, Lucy, unaware of Jeff's plans to take part in a robbery, helps him onto a departing train. Soon after, Jamie, a reprobate chuckwagon cook hired by Lucy's father, informs Kit that Jeff was the masked man who prevented Lucy's herd from being stolen. Angry that Jeff has deceived her, Kit rides to Cassidy's mountain hideout, called "Hole-in-the-Wall," but then decides to withhold the information until she learns how Jeff handles the robbery. Meanwhile, after disconnecting the passenger car from the train, Jeff forces the engineer to drive the baggage car farther down the track and stop, allowing the gang to ride up and steal gold from its safe. After the gang returns to the hideout, Kit accuses Jeff of sabotaging the gang's attempt to steal the Lee herd and Jeff explains that he intervened only to save Lucy from Sundance's lecherous advances and that he did not mention the incident because he feared Kit would have refused to invite him into the gang if she knew. Satisfied with Jeff's explanation, Kit decides to keep the incident to herself. She urges Jeff to escape to California while he can, predicting that the gang will be "gone" in a couple of years. When Cassidy asks her to return to Rock Springs to monitor events there, she asks him to prevent Sundance from following her. However, after seeing Kit kiss Jeff before leaving, the jealous Sundance manages to slip away unnoticed and catches up with her. Threatening to kill her and Jeff, Sundance knocks her off her horse. In the ensuing fight, Kit rolls a log toward Sundance, sending him tumbling over a cliff. Although Kit assumes that Sundance is dead, he emerges unharmed and proceeds to the Lee ranch, where Sheriff Wilson is recruiting volunteers for a posse. After all the ranch hands, except Jamie, leave with the sheriff, Sundance sneaks in and takes Jamie and Lucy prisoner. After Jamie reveals that Kit knows that Jeff was the masked man who foiled the trail robbery, Sundance takes Jamie and Lucy to the hideout, where he hopes to prove Kit's disloyalty to Cassidy. When Kit returns to town, Pinkerton agent Leo Malone accuses her of being a go-between for the Wild Bunch and orders her to leave Rock Springs. Soon after, a stranger arrives who claims to be the real "Jeff Younger" and shows her a picture of Younger to prove his identity. Accompanied by Younger and her employee, Jake, Kit then leaves town. The sheriff, hoping she will lead the posse to the gang's hideout, follows. During the night, Kit steals the newspaper article from Younger and sneaks away, and when the posse catches up to Jake and Younger, they force Jake to lead them to the hideout. Meanwhile, at the hideout, Sundance orders Jeff locked up after learning of his duplicity. Soon after, Kit, who has come to warn Jeff, sneaks into his locked room. As Kit avows her love for Jeff, Sundance assaults Lucy. Coming to her aid, Jeff knocks out Sundance. The three then escape, but Sundance and two members of the gang follow them to a cabin in the valley below, where they imprison Lucy and Kit inside. As Sundance guards Kit, Jeff slips into the cabin and in the ensuing fight kills Sundance. With Kit's help, he then rescues Lucy from the two gangmembers. When the rest of the gang rides up, the three take refuge in the cabin, but the outlaws set fire to it, forcing them out. Using the smoke as cover, Kit sends Lucy down the trail and then assists Jeff, who has been wounded. While trying to protect Jeff, she is shot and dies in his arms. Alerted by the smoke, the posse arrives and captures the gang. Afterward, Malone congratulates Jeff, who is an undercover Pinkerton agent, for the success of their mission, but Jeff claims that the "Wild Bunch came to an end because of the Maverick Queen."