Study Guide

Blazing Saddles Hero's Journey

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Hero's Journey

Ever notice that every blockbuster movie has the same fundamental pieces? A hero, a journey, some conflicts to muck it all up, a reward, and the hero returning home and everybody applauding his or her swag? Yeah, scholar Joseph Campbell noticed first—in 1949. He wrote The Hero with a Thousand Faces, in which he outlined the 17 stages of a mythological hero's journey.

About half a century later, Christopher Vogler condensed those stages down to 12 in an attempt to show Hollywood how every story ever written should—and, uh, does—follow Campbell's pattern. We're working with those 12 stages, so take a look. (P.S. Want more? We have an entire Online Course devoted to the hero's journey.)

Ordinary World

Bart is living the typical life of a black railroad worker in the Old West (psst, it's not very comfortable). He gets bossed around a lot and sent off to do dangerous jobs because no one thinks his life matters.

This all changes one day, though, when he decides he's had enough and uses a shovel to knock out his boss, Taggart. Bart then gets imprisoned and sentenced to death by hanging. But we all know his story isn't going to end there.

Call To Adventure

Bart gets a second chance at life when Hedley Lamarr sets him free and makes him the new Sheriff of Rock Ridge. Bart doesn't know right away that Hedley is only doing this because he knows the townsfolk will kill Bart and then leave town. He only figures this out later on.

Either way, Bart will take a dangerous job as sheriff over a sure hanging any day. There might be lots of nonsensical decisions in this movie, but this ain't one of them.

Refusal Of The Call

When Bart first arrives in Rock Ridge, he's ready to get down to work. But the people do more than just refuse his help. They all get out their guns and prepare to kill him. Bart only gets out of this situation by putting a gun to his head and effectively taking himself hostage. The townsfolk are all so confused that they let him go. But they still hate him for being black and won't accept him as their sheriff.

Meeting The Mentor

While hiding out in his sheriff's office, Bart meets a drunk named Jim who used to go by the name of the Waco Kid. Jim says his gun dueling days are over, but he also demonstrates to Bart that his hands are still lightning fast. Jim gives Bart some friendly advice when he tells Bart to stop thinking he'll ever manage to win over the people of Rock Ridge.

Crossing The Threshold

The people of Rock Ridge have no choice but to turn to Bart for help when they realize that a monster-man named Mongo has come to town and is trashing everything and everyone in sight. Bart wants to revel for a bit in this sudden turnaround. But he knows he's got a job to do and he heads out to do it… like a boss.

Tests, Allies, Enemies

After defeating Mongo with an exploding box of candy (yeah, that happens), Bart must weather another attack from Hedley Lamarr. But this time the attack comes in the form of a beautiful singer named Lili. Things are looking bad for Bart for a moment, but then he proves to be so charming that Lili falls in love with him and roots for him instead of her boss, Hedley.

Approach To The Inmost Cave

When all his previous plans fail, Hedley Lamarr decides to recruit the biggest army of mercenaries he can find and to wage an all-out blitz on Rock Ridge. Bart manages to find out about the attack ahead of time though, and he uses this knowledge to convince the townsfolk and some railroad workers to build a complete replica of the town of Rock Ridge.


Hedley Lamarr's men attack the fake town of Rock Ridge and take a little too long to realize that it's not real. Bart tries to detonate a bunch of TNT to cripple the army once and for all, but the fuse doesn't work. That's when his buddy/mentor Jim steps in and uses his sharpshooting skills to detonate the explosives.

Once the mercenary army is in total confusion, Bart and his buddies ride in to finish them off. The resulting fight gets so out of control that it actually leaves the set of the Blazing Saddles movie and spills into the streets of Hollywood.

Reward (Seizing The Sword)

Bart eventually separates himself from the giant final fight and tracks down Hedley Lamarr at a Hollywood movie theatre. He catches Hedley and ends up shooting him in the groin. How's that for symbolically "seizing the sword"?

The Road Back

After taking out Hedley Lamarr, Bart meets up with his buddy Jim and they decide to head back into the movie theatre to see how Blazing Saddles ends.


Once inside the theatre, Jim and Bart watch as Bart gives an inspiring final speech to the people of Rock Ridge. He tells them that the trouble has past and that he now needs to move on to some new town to help more people. The townsfolk say he'll full of it, so he admits that he's leaving because he thinks the town is really boring.

Return With The Elixir

As he rides out of town, Bart passes by Jim and asks him to come along on a new adventure. Jim agrees and they ride away into the sunset. But just before the movie ends, we see both of them get off their horses and into a limousine, meaning that wherever they go next, they plan on going in style.

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