Bart Jason (Ed Asner) is a big rancher who is trying to drive his neighbors off their land. He hires gunslinger Cole Thornton (John Wayne) to eliminate the MacDonalds, whose land is between Jason and the river. Thornton finds out the local sheriff is his old friend J. P. Harrah (Robert Mitchum) and refuses to work for Jason. Jason instead hires Nelse McLeod, who comes to town with a group of thugs. A gambler named Mississippi (James Caan) shows up and kills one of McLeod's crew, in revenge for the killing of his friend.
Early on, when the MacDonalds think Thornton is working for Jason, Luke MacDonald fires at Thornton, and Thornton shoots him in self defense. Josephine MacDonald shoots Thornton in the back. Thornton lives, but the bullet lodges near his spine where it causes moments of right arm paralysis.
Thornton and Mississippi team up with sheriff Harrah to take down Jason and his thugs. After killing a few, they put Jason in jail. However, during an episode of paralysis, Thornton is defenseless and is caught by the bad guys. Harrah has to free Jason to save Thornton. The MacDonald brothers come into town to deal with the bad guys. Harrah and Thornton realize that these farmers will be no match for the thugs. Harrah and Thornton come up with a plan to surprise the thugs in the saloon. Harrah kills Jason. Thornton faces off with MacLeod, but the paralysis returns. MacLeod hesitates to shoot the paralyzed Thornton, but Thornton shoots MacLeod with his left hand.
In the end, a new doctor in town removes the bullet, so Thornton is fine again. Mississippi and Josephine fall for each other.
Thanks Joseph C!