The Unforgiven serves as a revisionist film in several ways. The first and clearest way is through using Morgan Freeman's character Ned as a protagonist instead of playing the role of the "other." In previous films, African-Americans had been the alpha male's second hand man, such as in The Man who Shot Liberty Valance, but the character was very shallow and unexplored. In The Unforgiven, Ned is the equivalent to Clint Eastwood's character Will. Ned has talents that Will does not, such as skill with a rifle, which was never the case in previous films. When Ned is captured and mercilessly whipped to death, the emotions that his death stir up in Will are beyond hatred and his character returns to the outlaw that he used to be. In previous films, the alpha male was rarely emotionally connected at all to an African American or any other form of the "other," but in this film the African American is Will's best friend and true partner.
The second way The Unforgiven is a revisionist film is through the fact that it switches perspectives from the cowboy to the outlaw. The alpha male cowboy, Little Bill, is portrayed in a negative light and is viewed as over the top and brutal. He uses violence to assert his will, and to the audience, his will is unjust. The outlaw however, in this film Will, assumes the role of protagonist and though he uses violence to distribute justice. The justice is swift and results in the death of many men, but the viewer agrees with Will and his actions, despite of the fact that he is killing cowboys, the typical American hero.