Sam Peckinpah eschews his slow-motion bullet ballets for this quiet character study of ex-rodeo cowboy turned drifter Junior Bonner (Steve McQueen), who returns home to Arizona to reconcile with the family he hasn't seen in years. Bonner is shocked to see that the solid family he was hoping to come back to is breaking apart.
His parents, Ace (Robert Preston) and Elvira (Ida Lupino), have separated, and his brother Curley (Joe Don Baker) has turned into a heartless real estate tycoon, parceling off sections of his parent's land for quick money.
With nowhere to turn and nowhere to run, Bonner has to face himself and try to find a way to regain his self-respect. He is given that opportunity at the town's Fourth of July Rodeo, where he is determined to mount and ride and unrideable bull.