The Missouri Breaks is a 1976 American western film starring Marlon Brando and Jack Nicholson. The film was directed by Arthur Penn, with supporting performances by Randy Quaid, Harry Dean Stanton, Frederic Forrest and Kathleen Lloyd. The soundtrack was composed by John Williams.
The title of the movie refers to a forlorn and very rugged area in north central Montana, where over eons the Missouri River has made countless deep cuts or "breaks" in the land. The movie chronicles a gang of horse thieves that set their sights on a Montana ranch, with Nicholson posing as a farmer who soon comes under the suspicion of Brando, an eccentric bounty hunter hired by the ranch's ruthless owner.
In a May 24 1976 Time magazine interview it was revealed that Brando "changed the entire flavor of his character—a bounty hunter called Robert E. Lee Clayton—inventing a deadly hand weapon resembling both a harpoon and a mace that he uses to kill. 'I always wondered why in the history of lethal weapons no one invented that particular one. It appealed to me because I used to be very expert at knife throwing.'
Because of several instances of animal cruelty inflicted during the filming of several scenes—which resulted in the death of one horse and the wounding of several others—this film appears on the American Humane Association's "unacceptable" list.