The film begins with Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) talking about how long he’s been sheriff, and how he comes from a family of police officers. He talks about how he likes to listen to the old timers tell stories, and wonders how the old timers would fare in today’s tougher times. Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) is arrested by a police officer by the side of the road. The reason why is not mentioned, and the cop also brings Chigurh’s strange tank that he was carrying. The deputy drives Chigurh to the police station, where they’re the only two people present. As the deputy calls his sheriff to reassure that he’s fine, Chigurh moves his handcuffs from his back to his front. As soon as the sheriff hangs up, Chigurh strangles the deputy from behind with his handcuffs. They wrestle around on the floor, and the strangulation is so intense that the handcuffs cut into the deputy’s throat. Chigurh then goes to the bathroom, where he removes his handcuffs into the sink and runs water over his bleeding wrists. A short time later, a man is pulled over by a cop car. Chigurh gets out of the stolen cop car and approaches the driver while holding a cattle gun. He orders for the driver to step outside, and he cooperates. He’s nervous because of the strange tank he’s holding, and Chigurh uses the cattle gun to blast a hole through the driver’s forehead.
Elsewhere, Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) is out in the desert hunting animals. He uses his rifle to shoot an animal, but instead of dying it runs off along with the group it’s with. Moss walks through the desert and then comes across a blood trail in the sand. He looks around him, and sees a dog stumbling away from him. Moss follows the blood trail to the edge of a small mountain overlooking the desert beneath him. Moss looks through his binoculars and sees five trucks in the middle of the desert, with a lot of dead bodies scattered across the ground. Moss approaches with caution, and sees that all the dead guys are Mexican. He opens a truck and finds the splattered remains of the driver inside. He opens another truck and is surprised to see a Mexican still alive, though dying. Moss takes away the man’s machine gun while the man asks for some water. Moss doesn’t have any, and then asks where the last man standing went. The Mexican repeatedly asks for water, and when Moss looks in back of the truck he sees that it’s filled with heroin. Moss walks away from the bloodbath, trying to figure out which way the last man standing went. He figures that he must’ve headed towards some place with shade, and so he goes to some nearby trees. He uses his binoculars to see that the last man standing is sitting by the tree. Moss decides to wait to see what he’s going to do. After time passes, Moss finally walks over to the tree and sees that the last man standing is dead. He pockets his pistol for himself, and then notices a satchel nearby. Moss opens it and finds that it’s full of cash.
Somewhere along here Chigurh stops for gas at a run-down gas station. The clerk is a bit lonely and bored, and he makes mention that he noticed him earlier as he was passing through. After making the clerk increasingly uncomfortable, Chigurh takes out a quarter and flips it. He slams the quarter down on the counter and tells the clerk to call it. He says that he didn’t gamble anything, but Chigurh tells him that he did. He stands to win everything, and Chigurh urges him to call it. The gas station clerk calls heads, and sees that the coin landed on heads. Chigurh spares him and tells him to keep his lucky quarter. Before he leaves, he tells him not to put the quarter into his pocket, or else it’ll get lost with all the other change.
Moss decided to take the money and goes to his trailer home. He hides the machine gun underneath the trailer, and then enters. His wife Carla Jean (Kelly Macdonald) asks him what’s in the satchel, and he says that it’s full of money. She also asks him about the pistol, but he says that he bought it. He gets himself something to drink and sits down next to her on the couch. She wonders where he’s been all day, and he won’t tell her. He teases that if she keeps talking, he’ll bring her into the other room and have sex with her. Later that night, Carla Jean falls asleep but Moss doesn’t. He gets up from bed and fills a jug with water. Carla Jean asks him what he’s doing, and he tells her that he forgot to do something. He figures it’s dumb, but he’s still going to do it. He puts on his coat and tells her that if he doesn’t come back, tell his mother that he loves her. She says that his mother’s dead, and so he figures that he’ll tell her himself. Moss drives back out to the desert and parks his truck on the mountain. He goes back down to the bloodbath with the water but finds that the Mexican he talked to is now dead. He hears some talking, and then sees a couple of Mexicans lurking around his truck. They slash his tires and then drive down the mountain towards him. Moss tries to run, but is shot at. He hides underneath a truck and then takes off running into the desert. The Mexicans follow him in their truck while shooting at him. They chase him until dawn, and they shoot him in the back of the shoulder. Moss gets to a river, takes off his coat, and jumps in as they continue to shoot at him. They get one of their dogs to go after him, which hops into the river as well. Moss makes his way to one side as the dog paddles towards him. Moss gets to land and takes out his pistol. He unloads the gun and tries to dry it off before the dog comes. Just as the dog lunges towards him, Moss shoots it dead. Since he lost his shoes, he rips off pieces of his shirt and wraps them around his feet.
Chigurh meets two men by the mountain. They examine Moss’ truck, and Chigurh takes the vehicle registration number. They drive down to the bloodbath, and examine the remains. The satchel of money has a transponder in it, which will allow them to track down Moss. Chigurh picks up a pistol, takes the transponder remote, and murders the two men in the desert. Moss winds up getting home with his feet bloodied and blistered from walking in the desert. He grabs the machine gun underneath his trailer and tells Carla Jean to pack while he bandages his shoulder wound. He tells her that they and the money have to disappear, and there’s no going back. The next day, Sheriff Bell gets ready to leave his home with his horses. He tells his wife Loretta (Tess Harper) goodbye and then goes to work. He’s called to the desert, where police officer Wendell (Garret Dillahunt) is already waiting for him. They find that a car has been set on fire. Bell and Wendell know that whoever killed the deputy and the motorist has been there. They use the horses to head on over to the bloodbath. Bell notices fresh tire marks recently, and then examines the different bullet calibers used. Wendell can’t believe that they even killed a dog during the shootout. Wendell notices that all the dead men were Mexicans, and Bell notices that the heroin is gone (some residue remains in the back of the truck). It’s clearly a deal gone horribly wrong, and Wendell calls it a mess. Bell says that if it’s not, it’ll do until the mess gets there. He also recognized Moss truck, and figures they have to question him about this.
Chigurh goes to Moss’ trailer home, and blasts off the lock using his cattle gun. He slowly looks around and sees that the Moss’ left in a hurry. He sits down with some milk and looks at his reflection in the TV. He looks through their phone bill and sees that Carla Jean has called her mother frequently. He exits and goes to the manager’s office, asking the obese manager where Moss is. She reckons that he’s at work, and he asks where he works. She won’t tell him, even though he keeps on asking. Once he hears someone in the bathroom, he decides to leave. Some time later Bell and Wendell go to Moss’ trailer. They see the busted lock, and Wendell pulls out his gun. Bell doesn’t, saying that he’ll be right behind him if anything goes down. They enter and don’t find anybody. Bell notices that the lock was blown off so hard that it made a dent in the opposite wall. Bell sees that Chigurh didn’t put away the milk he took from the refrigerator, and says that they just missed him. Bell sits down where Chigurh sat and stares at his reflection in the TV. Wendell asks him if he thinks Moss has any idea of how dangerous the guys chasing after him are. He says that he ought to, since they’ve made an impression on him. Moss and Carla Jean get on a bus. Moss tells Carla Jean to go to her mother’s and wait for him. She says that she has a bad feeling about this, but he promises to see her again and takes off on his own.
Moss goes to a motel and gets a room. He decides to stash the satchel of money in the vent above the bathroom. He unscrews the vent, ties a long string around the handle of the bag, and pushes the satchel as far as he can into the vent. If he needs to retrieve it again, he’ll use the string to pull it towards him. Moss then goes about and buys some boots from a store. He also buys some socks, and cleans up his bloody feet inside the bathroom. When he goes back to his motel, he gets paranoid when he sees a truck in the parking lot. He goes to the clerk and requests to pay for another room. He pays to stay in the room directly behind the one he already paid. He also buys a shotgun from the store and buys some tent poles. Moss goes to his second room and saws off the barrel of the shotgun. He attaches the poles together, along with a hangar on the end so that he can grab the satchel inside the vent. Chigurh drives along a bridge and randomly shoots at a bird. As he continues to drive, the transponder finally kicks in a weak signal. He drives around town and goes to the motel, following the signal. It’s very strong, and so Chigurh knows that Moss is there. Chigurh gets a room nearby and stays there. In the other room, Moss unscrews the vent and tries to get the satchel back.
Chigurh takes off his boots and walks outside in his socks. He carries his cattle gun in one hand; a shotgun with a silencer in the other. He blasts open the lock to Moss’ first room and finds a Mexican waiting for Moss. Chigurh shoots him the arm. The man screams in pain, and then Chigurh blasts his chest apart. Another Mexican man runs out of the bathroom with a gun but is also shot to death by Chigurh. He walks into the bathroom and sees the reflection of a third Mexican hiding in the shower. Chigurh asks him how they tracked down Moss. The man doesn’t answer, so Chigurh closes the shower curtain between them and kills him. Moss hears the shootings, and so he takes out the satchel and runs off. Chigurh takes off his socks, leaves them on the floor, and searches around the room for the money. He unscrews the vent with a coin and sees drag marks in the dust (thus he knows that’s where Moss stashed it). Moss hitchhikes with a driver who warns that hitchhiking is dangerous. Moss is driven to a hotel in another city and he pays for one night. He also pays the clerk extra, under the condition that he will call his room if anyone else checks in.
The DEA arrives to visit the crime scene, and they ask Bell to accompany them. However, he refuses because he is still disturbed by what he’s seen. Wendell tells him that the coroner’s report has come back, and it showed that the motorist wasn’t killed by a bullet to the forehead, which baffles them. Anyways, Bell has it arranged to visit Carla Jean in the near future at her mother’s. Elsewhere, Carson Wells (Woody Harrelson) is hired by a man (Stephen Root) in a fancy business building. He says that he has a loose cannon, a lot of missing money, and the Mexicans are missing their heroin. He asks Wells what he thinks of Chigurh, and he says that he’s a psychopath. Nonetheless, Wells is hired to take out Chigurh and retrieve the money. Moss tries to get some sleep in his hotel room but can’t. He then looks into the satchel and feels around for anything that’s not supposed to be in there. As he flips through bundles of cash, two things catch his eye (1) one bundle in particular has $1 bills instead of $100 bills, and (2) in that same bundle is the transponder. On alert, he hears someone coming up in the elevator. He phones the clerk downstairs, but he doesn’t respond. Moss can hear Chigurh walking along the highway and the beeping of the tracker. Moss grabs his shotgun and sits on his bed, watching Chigurh’s footsteps through the light in the hallway. Moss tries to silently cock his shotgun, and Chigurh hears him. He turns off all the lights in the hallway, and then blasts the lock off with the cattle gun. The lock hits Moss in the chest, and Moss fires through the door with his shotgun. He throws the satchel outside and jumps out of the window, narrowly being shot by Chigurh.
Moss grabs the bag and runs back into the hotel. He realizes that the clerk is dead, and then makes a run for it. Chigurh fires at Moss outside, and one bullet hits Moss in the side of his stomach. There’s no one out in the streets except for Moss, and then he sees a truck driver coming by. Moss steps in front of the truck, forcing it to stop, and gets in. He tells the driver that he’s not going to hurt him, but he needs for him to drive him away. The driver is suddenly shot through the throat by Chigurh, and then finished off with a shot to the forehead. Chigurh fires through the truck many times, trying to hit Moss (who’s put his foot on the gas and is steering from the passenger seat). Moss eventually loses control of the truck and crashes into a parked car. Bloodied, Moss gets out and hides behind a car across the street. Chigurh approaches the wreck, sees the dead driver, and sees Moss’ blood trail in the street. Moss pops out and fires at Chigurh as he jumps down in back of a car. After unloading into the car, Moss approaches but only finds Chigurh’s blood trail, leading into a dark alley. Moss takes the truck and drives to the U.S./Mexico border. Instead of driving across, he gets out and walks over with the satchel. Three young guys coming back from Mexico come across Moss, and see that he’s in bad shape. Moss offers $500 to take one of the guy’s jackets. The guy gives it to him, and Moss also requests the beer they’re drinking. The three youths continue to walk towards the U.S. while Moss stays on the border. He throws the satchel over the bridge, and walks to Mexico. The next morning, Moss wakes up to see a mariachi band playing for him. They stop once he opens his shirt to reveal how bloody he is. Moss gives them a bloody hundred dollar bill so that they will take him to a hospital.
Somewhere along here, Bell meets with Carla Jean in a restaurant. He asks where Moss is, and she says she doesn’t know. They make small talk, and Bell tells her that next time she talks to Moss, tell him that he can help protect him. Elsewhere, Chigurh limps to a car parked in front of a pharmacy. Moss managed to shoot him in the leg the previous night. Chigurh rips off a piece of his shirt, puts it in a gas tank of a car, makes sure no one’s looking, and then lights it on fire. As he walks inside the pharmacy, the car explodes behind him. While everyone is preoccupied with the explosion, Chigurh steals some medicine and supplies. He goes back to his hotel room and covers the floor with a plastic sheet. He takes off his boots and blood flows down his leg. Chigurh cuts off his pants and takes a bath. He cleans up his wound and gets ready to move again. In Mexico, Moss wakes up to be greeted by Wells. He assures him that he’s not the one hunting him, and Moss says that he already knew that. Wells is amazed that Moss has seen Chigurh and is still alive. Moss asks him to describe Chigurh, and Wells tells him that he’s lacking humor. He’ll probably still kill Moss even if he hands over the cash, due to his warped principles. Wells knows that Moss is a Vietnam War veteran, same as him, and urges him to reveal where he stashed the money. Moss refuses, and Wells says that Chigurh will undoubtedly find him and will track down Carla Jean as well. Wells tells Moss where he’s staying, and tells him to call him.
Wells goes out to the border bridge and looks around. He spots the satchel down below and smiles. Instead of retrieving the money right there, he goes back to his hotel. As he walks up the stairs, Chigurh appears behind Wells and orders him into his room. They both sit down and discuss how Wells’ fate has landed him in this situation. The phone rings, and both men stare at it. Chigurh shoots Wells in the chest, killing him, and answers the phone. It’s Moss, and Chigurh tells him that he knows where he is. Moss tells him that it doesn’t matter, since he’s leaving. Wells’ blood flows towards Chigurh’s feet, so he picks them up and rests them on the bed. Chigurh then tells him that he knows where his wife is, and that’s where he’s headed next. He tells Moss that he should already know how this is going to turn out. Chigurh then offers Moss a deal if he hands over the money, he’ll spare Carla Jean. Moss is dead either way, but this way he can at least save his wife. Moss promises that he’s going to come after him and hangs up. A little while later, Moss leaves the hospital and tries to walk back to the U.S. at the border. The border guard won’t let him pass, due to him wearing just a hospital gown. Once Moss tells him that he was in Vietnam though, the guard lets him pass. Moss goes back to the same store where he bought the shoes/socks from and buys some clothes. He then goes down and retrieves the satchel.
Carla Jean gets her mother Agnes (Beth Grant), who’s dying of cancer, into a cab and they head off towards the bus station. Agnes is all upset because they’re going to El Paso for no reason, and she doesn’t even know anyone in El Paso. Some Mexicans are stalking them, and when they get to the bus station they keep their distance. Carla Jean goes inside the station to get their tickets while one of the Mexicans walks over to Agnes. He acts like a nice guy and offers to help with her luggage. Through his actions, he finds out where they’re going and where they’re planning to stay. Moss calls Carla Jean while she’s in the bus station. She’s worried about him, and she tells him about Bell’s visit. Moss tells her that once they meet up in El Paso, he’s going to put her on a plane with the money. He figures that Chigurh won’t do anything to him, since he won’t have the money and will be the only person to know where it is. Carla Jean also calls Bell and tells him that Moss will meet them in El Paso. Somewhere along here Chigurh blasts off another lock to a door and walks down a hallway. He opens another door and walks into the office of the man that hired Wells. Chigurh shoots him in the neck and watches as he gurgles on his own blood. A scared accountant is there also, and Chigurh tells him that there was no reason to hire other people to retrieve the money, since he was enough to handle the job. The accountant says that the man hired multiple people to increase their odds of getting the money back. The man dies, and the accountant asks Chigurh if he’s going to shoot him. Chigurh replies “That depends. Do you see me?” It’s unknown whether he kills the accountant or not.
Moss goes to a motel in El Paso. A woman at the pool asks him if he wants to have some drinks with her. Moss tells her that he’s married, and that he knows where the beer will lead them. She still tries to get him to drink with her, and he smiles. A little while later, Bell is driving to the motel when he hears a lot of gunfire. He sees some Mexicans get into a truck and speed away. Bell parks his car and gets out his pistol. The poolside woman has been killed and her corpse is in the pool. On the ground is a wounded Mexican, who’s been shot in the chest and is trying to crawl away. Bell walks into an open motel room and finds the corpse of Llewelyn Moss on the floor. He has been shot in the chest and killed in the shootout. By nightfall, Carla Jean and Agnes arrive at the motel. Bell approaches Carla Jean and she learns about Moss being dead. Bell looks at Moss’ body in the morgue, and a police officer tells him that he’s sorry they couldn’t save Moss. After having a chat with the police officer, Bell drives back to the motel. He approaches the door, and then notices that the lock has been blasted off. He gets out his pistol and approaches. Chigurh hides on the other side of the door, shotgun in hand. They both stand by the door, and it seems as though they both know who’s on the other side. Bell enters the room and searches everywhere but behind the door. Bell sees that the air vent has been unscrewed by a coin, implying that Chigurh wound up with the money.
Bell goes and visits one of his uncles, who is wheelchair bound and has numerous cats living with him. Bell pours them some coffee, but finds that his uncle only makes it fresh once a week. The uncle tells him that he’s learned about Bell retiring from the police force. Bell says that he feels overpowered, and is incapable of keeping up with the times. Elsewhere, Agnes dies of her cancer, and Carla Jean attends her funeral. Afterwards, she goes back to her home and sits down at the table. She then notices that a window is open. Carla Jean walks into the bedroom and finds Chigurh waiting for her in the corner. She says that she doesn’t have the money, and she just buried her two loved ones. Chigurh doesn’t care though, and flips a coin. He tells her to call it, but she refuses. He tells her to choose her fate, but she says that it’s really him who’s going to decide whether she lives or not. A little later, Chigurh leaves the house and makes sure there’s no blood on his boots (he killed Carla Jean). He gets in a car and drives down a street. He passes by two boys on bicycles, and drives through an intersection when he’s suddenly crashed into from the side by another driver. Chigurh stumbles outside and rests by the curb. His head is bleeding, an eye vessel popped, and he’s got a bone sticking out of his arm. The bicycle boys catch up and are shocked at how bad Chigurh looks. He hears sirens in the distance, and offers one of the boys a hundred dollar bill for his shirt. The kid takes the money and gives him the shirt, which he uses as a sling for his arm. Chigurh tells the kids to tell the police that he was already gone when they got there, and then he walks off.
Bell is now retired, and doesn’t know what to do with himself. The film ends with Bell telling Loretta about a dream he had the previous night about his father.
*CUT TO THE CHASE*
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Moss (Brolin) is ambushed and killed by the Mexicans looking for their money. Chigurh (Bardem) murders many, many people, including Woody Harrelson’s character and his character’s boss (a very young looking Steven Root) before finding the money (implied, not shown). He then murders Moss’ wife (off screen and chillingly conveyed later when he looks at the bottom of his boots as he leaves her house). He’s involved in terrible car crash leaving the scene, but he just limps away. Tommy Lee Jones’ sheriff retires to get away from all the bloodshed.
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