‘The Searchers’ Movie Summary
In 1868, Ethan Edwards returns to his brother Aaron’s home in the wilderness of West Texas after the Civil War. He’s a nasty racist, and possibly wanted for several crimes. Aaron resides in the home with his two daughters Debbie and Lucy, his son Ben, a somewhat adopted son Martin Pawley, and his loving wife, Martha. She appears to harbor deep affection for Ethan; possibly unbeknownst to Aaron.
Shortly after Ethan arrives, Indians steal cattle belonging to his neighbor Lars Jorgensen. When a group of Rangers follow their trail, they discover the Comanche stole the cattle to draw the men away from their families. The blood-thirsty savages then attack the unprotected homesteads.
When the returns home, they find Aaron’s homestead in flames. Aaron, Martha, and their son, Ben, are dead. The Comanche chief, Scar, spares Debbie’s, and her older sister Lucy’s, lives; holding them captive. Ethan and Martin begin a five year search to find the girls, and the killer, Scar.
After finding Lucy dead, the men head to New Mexico. There, a Mexican man delivers them to Scar. They find Debbie, now an adolescent, living as one of Scar’s wives. She’s now a Comanche, and she asks them to leave without her.
Unfortunately for her, Ethan would rather see her dead than living as an Indian. As he goes to shoot her, Martin shields her with his body. Distracted; a Comanche shoots Ethan with an arrow.
The men return home to regroup. Months later, Ethan’s half-crazy friend, Mose Harper, arrives and says he knows Scar’s location. The townsfolk form another posse, and they attach the Comanche camp. Martin kills Scar, and Ethan scalps him. When Ethan spots Debbie in the melee, Ethan chases after her, but instead of killing her, home carries her home.
The film ends with one of the most iconic images in film history. Ethan walks slowly away from the cabin, alone and clutching his arm. He is forever the outcast; stuck between the civilized world and the savage frontier that has made him the man he is.
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