Kevin Costner Defeats Clint Eastwood And John Wayne As The Biggest Western Star Ever

By Sckylar Gibby-Brown | Published

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If you were to guess who is the biggest Western star of all time, you’d probably guess John Wayne, the actor who was in 83 Western films throughout his career. Or, you’d guess Clint Eastwood, who appeared in more than 20 Western films and television series. Both names are synonymous with the Western genre, unlike the actual highest-grossing Western star ever: Kevin Costner, who has only been in four Western films but has made a pretty penny with just a few movies.

He’s Been In Fewer Westerns, But Brought In More Dough

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Unlike Wayne and Eastwood, when you think of Kevin Costner, you probably don’t immediately think of Westerns. At least, not until recently when he starred in Yellowstone, the Western TV series that has taken the world by storm since 2018. With a total of 64 projects on his roster over a career spanning more than 43 years, only four movies are considered a part of the Western genre.

Dances With Wolves Is A Big Part Of The Prize

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Still, somehow Kevin Costner manages to take the title as the biggest Western star of all time, at least where the numbers are concerned. Kevin Costner’s four Western films at the box office have amassed a staggering sum of $551,065,992. A large chunk of that change — 72 percent of it — is thanks to a Costner classic: Dances with Wolves, which garnered more than $400 million at the theater.

Wolves Did More Than Put Him On Top Of Westerns

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Dances with Wolves stands as arguably one of the most triumphant debut films by a new director in cinematic history. This sweeping three-hour epic follows Kevin Costner portraying a Union lieutenant amidst the tumult of the American Civil War. Through his service, Costner’s character forges a profound connection with a community of Sioux Native Americans, leading to a transformative journey. 

Despite a modest domestic opening weekend earning less than a million dollars from its $22 million production budget, its acclaim swiftly spread through word of mouth. Ultimately, Dances with Wolves concluded its 1990-1991 domestic box office run with over $184 million, while its global earnings soared to an unparalleled $424.2 million, nearly twenty times its initial budget. It went on to win seven Academy Awards, including awarding Kevin Costner with his first Oscar for Best Director, a rare occurrence for debut auteurs.

Costner’s Westerns Fare Better Than His Other Genre Work

While Kevin Costner has tried his hand at nearly every genre from romantic medieval adventures like Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves to post-apocalyptic dramas like The Postman, the Western genre has always proven to be fertile ground for the actor. While his movies in other genres are often hit or miss, with no telling what will be a major success or colossal failure, Costner’s Western projects have nearly always seen critical acclaim.


Kevin Costner’s contribution to television Westerns has been equally significant, with his portrayal of John Dutton III in the critically acclaimed series Yellowstone captivating audiences worldwide. However, after five seasons, Costner is poised to bid farewell to the beloved show, paving the way for his return to the silver screen in a brand new Western movie with Horizon: An American Saga in 2024.

Horizon: An American Saga promises to be a cinematic spectacle, with Kevin Costner assuming the dual roles of lead actor and director once again. Like his other Western films, Horizon promises to be a huge success, likely securing Costner’s place as the most successful Western actor for the foreseeable future.