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Tombstone: Kurt Russell, Val Kilmer and Sam Elliott Recapture Famous Shoot-Out at O.K. Corral

Updated on October 6, 2017
Athlyn Green profile image

Athlyn Green enjoys good movies and discusses these with readers who may be looking to add to their home libraries.

It's Guns Blazing and Strong Character Portrayals in This Exciting Blockbuster.

This movie version of Tombstone offers viewers a gripping portrayal of the historic gunfight involving Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, Virgil and Morgan Earp and the McLaurys and Clantons at the OK Corral, October 26, 1881.
This movie version of Tombstone offers viewers a gripping portrayal of the historic gunfight involving Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, Virgil and Morgan Earp and the McLaurys and Clantons at the OK Corral, October 26, 1881.

A Stellar Cast & a Gripping Movie

The movie,Tombstone, was released by Hollywood Pictures in the United States on December 24, 1993 and ranks number 14 (Western genre) in the list of highest-grossing films since 1979.

This movie version, starring Kurt Russell (Wyatt Earp), Val Kilmer (Doc Holliday), Sam Elliot (Virgil Earp) and Bill Paxton (Morgan Earp) showcases the talent of a big-name cast. Other big players are Powers Booth (Curly Bill Brocius), Michael Biehn (Johnny Ringo), Stephen Lang (Ike Clanton) and Thomas Haden Church (Billy Clanton).

With such a line-up of top-notch actors, it comes as no surprise that such a stellar job was done of portraying a historic moment in time: Wyatt Earp, moves to Tombstone, Arizona, retiring his badge to start a peaceful new life. He is joined there by Doc Holliday. Tombstone is fast becoming a boom town, attracting its share of settlers and outlaws. Wyatt's plans for a peaceful new life are forever changed by one gang of outlaws. In a showdown that has gone down in the annals of time, the Earps and the Cowboys face off in the famous gunfight at the OK Corral.

But there is far more in this movie. Add in excellent directing, attention to historic details, and sweeping authentic scenery, and viewers feel they've stepped back into the past and are watching history as it unfolds.

With all these elements in place, what else does this 1993 movie version offer?

A Movie That Explores Human Strengths and Weaknesses

More than just a Western movie depicting historical events, Tombstone is a psychological drama, introducing intriguing characters with unique personalities, which provides a story within a story and makes this movie far more compelling.

Red Sashes

The Cowboys wear red sashes around their waists.

Good & Evil Played Out in Tombstone

Tombstone is a riveting portrayal of the powers of good and evil and how these forces leave their marks on men. The Tombstone movie aptly demonstrates that the lines often become blurred. Seemingly upstanding men with values give into temptation, and outlaws aren't completely ruthless or lacking in sensitivity.

When the movie begins, the lines seem clearly drawn. There's the good guys: Wyatt Earp, his brothers, and Doc Holliday; on the other side are the bad guys: the Red Sash Cowboy Gang, a motley crew of outlaws.

But nothing is a clear-cut as it seems.

  • Wyatt Earp stands for law and order and is seemingly a man of values and may be viewed as heroic but he isn't above trying to make money by cheating at cards and he falls prey to temptation with Josephine and cheats on his wife. And when pushed to the limit, he goes on a rampage, showing that he has a violent side.
  • Doc Holiday is a ruthless gunman, yet glimpses are seen of an educated Doc, someone who was once innocent, idealistic, and good.

Wyatt and Doc share similar personality traits, so it's not surprising that a lawman and an outlaw becomes friends.

Additionally, Wyatt and Doc, display many of the same character traits seen in the bad guys in the Red Sash Gang.

  • They want to get rich and aren't above breaking the law to become so.
  • They take what they want, regardless of the consequences.
  • They use force when they feel it's warranted.
  • They are willing to kill.

Dust and Demons

More than just a Western and a famous gunfight, this movie portrays complex men fighting their own personal demons. And more intriguing still, there's really not much difference between the good guys and the bad guys.

"You tell 'em I'm comin'... and Hell's comin' with me!"

Kurt Russell as Wyatt Earp

Kurt Russell brings a whole new layer to Wyatt Earp, showing the human side, not just the heroic side, of the man.

Main Characters

  • Kurt Russell as Wyatt Earp
  • Sam Elliott as Virgil Earp
  • Bill Paxton as Morgan Earp
  • Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday
  • Powers Boothe as "Curly Bill" Brocius
  • Michael Biehn as Johnny Ringo
  • Dana Delany as Josephine Marcus

Character Analysis

  • Wyatt Earp--Wyatt is strong and sensible. Earp is a man of values, who finds these tested to the limit.
  • Doc Holliday--Doc is educated, cultured and intelligent but after a broken heart, disillusionment, and knowing he will die from tuberculosis, he uses his talents to become a gambler, gunslinger, and a lovable rogue.
  • Virgil Earp--Virgil is the straighter arrow.
  • Curly Bill--Curly has a sense of humor and is charming and charismatic, which blurs the lines between who is actually "good" and who is "bad."
  • Johnny Ringo--Johnny Ringo is cold and deadly but he meets his match in the cold and deadly Doc.
  • Josephine-- Josephine is independent and has a bit of wild side.

Who's your Favorite Tombstone Character?

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Guns Blaze on Both Sides

Important Questions

Does carrying a badge absolve one of guilt for killing fellow humans? Is might always right?

"Must be a... peach of a hand..."

Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday

Val Kilmer brings Doc Holliday to life and viewers see more than just a gunslinger, they see a refined and cultured man with a Southern Aristocrat accent who has chosen the dark side.

Val Kilmer Quotes

  • "I'm your huckleberry."
  • "Isn't that a daisy."
  • "There, now we can be friends again."
  • "That's just my game."
  • "I have two guns. One for each of ya."
  • "I have not yet begun to defile myself."
  • "The strain was more than he could bear."

Why Doc was called "Lunger."

This was a slang term of the period for someone suffering from consumption.

Intriguing Contrasts

  • Josephine is attracted to corrupt sheriff Behan & to peace-loving Wyatt.
  • Wyatt has a depressed wife and a fun-loving mistress.
  • Charming Wyatt and charismatic Curly Bill have as their sidekicks, two ruthless men: Doc Holiday and Johnny Ringo.
  • When the Earp brothers walk down Center Street, a line is drawn that forever divides people.
  • Tombstone does not climax with the shoot-out in the OK Corral, rather, this sparks a greater battle as Wyatt wages war on the Cowboys.
  • Wyatt battles both inner and outer demons, as he hunts down the outlaws.
  • Justice and revenge are intermixed in this George Cosmato film.

Three Thumbs Up

This was such an enjoyable movie. I, like many others, loved Doc's coin sleight-of-hand, his accent, and all of his sayings.

The bad guys were interesting, as well, real people with real emotions.

A great movie, with strong character portrayals and much attention given to historical details. A good choice for the home library.

Have you seen this version of Tombstone?

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Did You Know?

This movie was driven by authenticity and attention to historical details.

  • It was shot in and around Tombstone, so the scenery was as authentic as possible.
  • The characters carried the guns the real people carried.
  • Original saddles were used.
  • The set was a mirror of how the original Tombstone was laid out.
  • The period costumes were authentic.
  • The wallpaper, furniture, and fixtures were true to the time period.

What are your thoughts about this version of Tombstone?

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"Why, Johnny Ringo... you look like someone just walked over your grave... "

Have You Seen Tombstone?

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One of the Best Tombstone Movie Versions

This version of the Wyatt Earp story stands out because of the character portrayals. Viewers become emotionally involved with believable men and women with their inherent human foibles.

Tombstone grabs its audience and then some, giving fans much to think about, long after the movie is over.

© 2011 Athlyn Green

What did you think of this version of Tombstone?

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    • profile image


      8 years ago

      This is a very good movie. Though Val and Kirk played their parts well, I have to take my hat off to the man who played Ike Clanton, Stephen Lang. He was always in the middle of things. He was both a brave man and a coward.

    • Athlyn Green profile imageAUTHOR

      Athlyn Green 

      8 years ago from West Kootenays

      I agree with you. This is one of my favorite movies.

    • pmccray profile image


      8 years ago from Utah

      You beat me to the punch I was going to review this movie about 11 months ago. My husband and I bought the video, then the DVD. Kilmer as Doc and Russell as Wyatt is the best casting ever. The cast as a whole shine. BB Thorton . . a little more meat on his bones than now was superb!!! I'm a huge fan of the western gendre, but Tombstone, is the best ever made. Thank you for sharing Voted up marked interesting!

    • Athlyn Green profile imageAUTHOR

      Athlyn Green 

      9 years ago from West Kootenays

      Tombstone is a psychological drama done so well by the actors. This is one of my favorite movies portraying a historical event.

    • chspublish profile image


      9 years ago from Ireland

      Great movie and great remake of this story. Good hub too.

    • Athlyn Green profile imageAUTHOR

      Athlyn Green 

      9 years ago from West Kootenays


      Thanks for both your comments. Yes, this version of the shoot-out at the O,K, Corral is one of my favorites. Tombstone with this cast of excellent actors, really makes the grade, so very well done and well worth watching.

      I loved Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday & Kurt Russell did a fabuloous job as the strong Wyatt Earp.

      The interchange between Johnny Ringo & Doc Holliday was fascinating, You have two men who can be ruthless and who are alike in that they are both empty souls.

      This movie rocks from a psychological standpoint.

    • Cogerson profile image


      9 years ago from Virginia

      Tombstone is one of my favorite movies... I loved Val Kilmer as Doc Holiday ...he should have gotten some love at Oscar time....Little tidbits about this movie....look for Billy Bob Thorton in a small role....and Kurt Russell pretty much ended up directing this movie...great hub on a great movie.

    • gr82bme profile image


      9 years ago from USA

      I loved this movie. It is now one of my favs


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