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After a hold-up and a murder, outlaw Ben Wade (Glenn Ford) and his gang are captured. Wade's men break out of jail and wait for a chance to rescue him. The authorities suspect that a daring escape plan is underway, so they look for a guard to escort Wade by train to Yuma to stand trial. The marshal offers a bounty and Dan Evans (Van Heflin), a poor rancher hit hard by a crippling drought, takes the job. His wife pleads with him to save his own life by letting Wade go free, but for Evans, it's a matter of principle as well as money. He takes Wade and begins the dangerous trek to the station.