Bus Stop is the wildly underrated story of two young people at a crossroads (both figurative and literal) in their lives. She is hustling from the Ozarks to Hollywood, and he is journeying from his native Montana down to Phoenix to become a rodeo champion. It also presents a powerful message on the growing feminism of the era and how it can coexist and even thrive within more old-fashioned ideas about gender roles.
He comes from a small town and has seen very few “gals” in his life. From the instant he sees Marilyn’s character, he falls instantly (and foolishly) in love with her and decides to make her his bride. She is flattered by his chivalry while also fearful of it; having only known men as semi-abusive clients, she is unable to deal with men who treat her well.
This seemingly perfect pairing deteriorates as their journey continues; his once-chivalrous ways become obsessive and she regrets having accepted his courtship. She asserts herself by denying herself to him, seeing him as an obstacle to her Hollywood dreams. To deter him, she cites her past of having “many boyfriends” as a foil to his pureness and virginity.
This conflict inspires one of the best movie lines of the 1950s. He reassures her that her past does not reflect poorly on her or his feelings for her. “I like the way you are, so what do I care how you got that way?”
The film is ultimately about compromise and sacrifice. Neither has exactly the future they had envisioned for themselves, but by the end they don’t see it as a sacrifice but rather a new future just as promising as their original dreams.
A bus stop is a single point on a greater journey. It is a place of interaction, collision, and reflection. After all the action takes place though, the trip must continue, progressing ever onward toward a better place.