At the end of the Civil War, Josey Wales just wanted to live in peace. When Union Soldiers burn his house and kill his wife, he takes up with a band of rebellious Confederate Soldiers. Eventually, their leader Fletcher convinces everyone to turn themselves in to the Union Army. Wales refuses to join his compatriots. Watching from afar, he starts to realize Fletcher has sold his men out and they are going to be killed.
After causing havoc, Josey only is able to save the life of one young man, Jamie. The two go on the run from Union Officer Terrill and Fletcher. Along the way, Josey starts to pick up other strays, such as the wise old Lone Wati, Laura Lee and her grandmother.
Wales is a remarkably sympathetic character. His whole motive for joining the Confederate rebels is the death of his wife at the hands of Union soldiers. He never seems to display any interest in the motives that drove the Confederacy, and it seems clear he would have never joined the group had he and his wife been left alone.
Chief Dan George’s Lone Watie is a rather thoughtful character. He is far more complex than the Native American representations of Hollywood westerns. This is actually true of the film’s outlook on the Native American community. They are not savages. They are educated men with traditions and beliefs. They don’t speak in choppy english.
The Outlaw Josie Wales is before Eastwood started to question the portrayal of violence, and so it is unquestionably seen as justified behavior anytime Wales gets brutal. But it is an entertaining film with a terrific cast.