The ’90s A-List Western That Can Never Be Topped

By Charlene Badasie | Published

The A-list Western that can never be topped is Tombstone, a movie from director George P. Cosmatos and writer Kevin Jarre. The film features a talented ensemble cast led by Kurt Russell and Val Kilmer. Sam Elliott, Bill Paxton, Powers Boothe, Michael Biehn, and Dana Delany appear in supporting roles, with Robert Mitchum serving as narrator.

Tombstone Is A Classic

The Tombstone movie is inspired by actual events that took place in 1880s Southeast Arizona, such as the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral and the Earp Vendetta Ride. It also showcases various real-life Western outlaws and lawmen, including Wyatt Earp, William Brocius, Johnny Ringo, and Doc Holliday, who were famous for their actions at the time.

The film begins in 1879 when members of an outlaw gang called the Cowboys, led by “Curly Bill” Brocius (Powers Boothe), arrive in a Mexican town and crash a police officer’s wedding.

Kurt Russell As Wyatt Earp

The group turns their guns on the police officers in attendance and exacts a revenge killing for losing two of their fellow gang members. A priest warns that their savage acts will be avenged before he, too, is murdered.

Meanwhile, retired peace officer Wyatt Earp (Kurt Russell) reunites with his brothers Virgil (Sam Elliott) and Morgan (Bill Paxton) in Tucson, Arizona. They decide to travel to Tombstone, setting the stage for the movie.

Val Kilmer As Doc Holliday

Tombstone movie

After they arrive, the trio runs into Wyatt’s long-time friend, Doc Holliday (Val Kilmer), seeking refuge from illness.

Wyatt and his brothers start making money from a portion of a gambling emporium and saloon. But their peaceful life is interrupted when they encounter the Cowboys. Wyatt is pressured to rid the town of the gang even though he is no longer involved with law enforcement. But when Curly Bill shoots and kills the marshal, he is forcibly arrested.

Tombstone A Box Office Success

Tombstone movie

The arrest angers the other Cowboys, and Curly Bill stands trial. Due to a lack of witnesses, he is set free, and the town descends into chaos. Unable to tolerate the lack of order, Virgil becomes the new marshal and announces a weapons ban. This leads to a gunfight and more violence before the Tombstone movie reaches its enthralling conclusion.

The Tombstone movie was released in theaters in December 1993. The film was a financial success, earning $73.2 million at the global box office. It became the 16th highest-grossing film in the Western genre since 1979.

Critical Reception And Production

Tombstone movie

The film also received a positive reception from critics who praised the story and acting – especially the performance from Val Kilmer Doc Holliday.

Filming took place on location in Arizona in May 1993. Kevin Jarre was initially supposed to direct the Tombstone movie, but he became overwhelmed by the job.

He failed to capture the required shots, and the entire production fell behind schedule. Producer Andrew Vajna eventually replaced Jarre with George P. Cosmatos.

Streaming Tombstone

Tombstone movie

Cosmatos brought a demanding sensibility to the set of the Tombstone movie, which resulted in some conflicts with certain crew members and cinematographer William Fraker. Fortunately, Kurt Russell collaborated with producer James Jacks so that the script emphasized the relationship between Wyatt and Doc.

The Tombstone movie was eventually completed and hailed as a success by all involved. It can be streamed via Apple TV+Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video.