John Tunstall (Terence Stamp), an educated Englishman and cattle rancher in Lincoln County, New Mexico, hires wayward young gunmen to live and work on his ranch. Tunstall is in heavy competition with another well-connected rancher named Lawrence Murphy (Jack Palance) and their men clash on a regular basis. Tunstall recruits Billy (Emilio Estevez) and advises him to renounce violence saying that "He who sows the wind will reap the whirlwind." Tensions escalate between the two camps, resulting in the murder of Tunstall. Billy, Doc Scurlock (Kiefer Sutherland), Jose Chavez y Chavez (Lou Diamond Phillips), Richard M. "Dick" Brewer (Charlie Sheen), "Dirty" Steve Stephens (Dermot Mulroney), and Charlie Bowdre (Casey Siemaszko), consult their lawyer friend Alex McSween (Terry O'Quinn), who manages to get them deputized and given warrants for the arrest of Murphy's murderous henchmen.