Critics Consensus

If you're seeking a stylish modern western with a solid story and a well-chosen ensemble cast, Tombstone is your huckleberry.



Total Count: 45


Audience Score

User Ratings: 195,341
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Movie Info

A high-energy action adventure based on legend rather than historical fact finds Wyatt Earp (Kurt Russell) desiring to retire from law enforcement. With brothers Virgil (Sam Elliot) and Morgan (Bill Paxton), he arrives in Tombstone, Arizona intending to build his fortune. He discovers that long-time friend Doc Holliday (Val Kilmer) is there and that the town is run by a group of brutal outlaws called the Cowboys. Earp, frustrated with his laudanum-addicted wife, begins a romance with traveling stage actress Josephine Marcus (Dana Delany). Meanwhile, the Cowboys terrorize the citizens of Tombstone unchecked. When the town marshal is killed by a Cowboy, Earp steps in to prevent a lynching by an angry mob. He also refuses to hand the killer over to his fellows, beginning the enmity between the Cowboys and the Earp brothers. Virgil, overcome with guilt at doing nothing to help the Tombstone citizens, accepts the position of town marshal. With Wyatt and Morgan as his deputies, and the help of Doc, Virgil attempts to arrest several Cowboys, resulting in the famous OK Corral shoot-out. The Cowboys take revenge by ambushing two of the brothers and injuring Virgil and killing Morgan. The Earps leave town, apparently cowed. Wyatt returns, wearing the badge of a U.S. marshal, vowing to destroy every last Cowboy. He hunts them mercilessly, until the leader, Johnny Ringo (Michael Biehn) challenges Wyatt to a duel. While not regarded as an artistic masterpiece, "Tombstone" is considered the best of director George P. Cosmatos' prolific films. The all-star cast (including Thomas Haden Church and Billy Bob Thornton in small roles) delivers solid performances. Both William A. Fraker's cinematography and Bruce Broughton's stirring musical score are expertly designed for dramatic effect. Blood is shown liberally in several key scenes, but seems intended to show that there is nothing glorious in Wyatt Earp's actions, only necessity. He and his deputies take on the symbolism of the horsemen of the apocalypse -- dispensing judgement, and the Biblical references form a symmetry at the beginning and end of the film. ~ Lucinda Ramsey, Rovi


Kurt Russell
as Wyatt Earp
Val Kilmer
as Doc Holliday
Michael Biehn
as Johnny Ringo
Dana Delany
as Josephine
Sam Elliott
as Virgil Earp
Powers Boothe
as Curly Bill
Stephen Lang
as Ike Clanton
Bill Paxton
as Morgan Earp
Jason Priestley
as Billy Breckenridge
Robert John Burke
as Frank McLaury
Terry O'Quinn
as Mayor Clum
Billy Zane
as Mr. Fabian
Charlton Heston
as Henry Hooker
Michael Rooker
as Sherman McMasters
Buck Taylor
as Turkey Creek Jack Johnson
Harry Carey Jr.
as Marshall Fred White
Frank Stallone
as Ed Bailey
Billy Bob Thornton
as Johnny Tyler
Paul Ben-Victor
as Florentino
John Philbin
as Tom McLaury
Chris Mitchum
as Ranch Hand
Robert Mitchum
as Narration
Tomas Arana
as Frank Stillwell
Thomas Haden Church
as Billy Clanton
Cecil Hoffman
as Lucinda Hobbs
Paula Malcomson
as Allie Earp
Lisa Collins
as Louisa Earp
Pat Brady
as Milt Joyce
Wyatt Earp
as Billy Claiborne
Bo Greigh
as Wes Fuller
Forrie J. Smith
as Pony Deal
Peter Sherayko
as Texas Jack Vermillion
Charles Schneider
as Professor Gillman
Grant James
as Dr. Goodfellow
Gary Clark
as Crawley Dake
Don Collier
as High Roller
Shane McCabe
as Audience Member
Sandy Gibbons
as Father Feeney
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Critic Reviews for Tombstone

All Critics (45) | Top Critics (7) | Fresh (33) | Rotten (12)

  • A lot of care and attention were obviously devoted to selecting locations, designing sets, and grooming handlebar mustaches. Much less attention went to making one believe that any of the events took place circa 1879.

    May 10, 2012 | Full Review…
  • A tough-talking but soft-hearted tale that is entertaining in a sprawling, old-fashioned manner.

    Dec 4, 2008

    Emanuel Levy

    Top Critic
  • There's a misguided romantic subplot and the ending rather sprawls, but mostly this is rootin', tootin' entertainment.

    Feb 9, 2006 | Full Review…
    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • It wants to be at once traditional and morally ambiguous. The two visions don't quite harmonize.

    Aug 30, 2004 | Full Review…
  • Highly stylized fashion-wise but awkwardly unfocused in its plotlines, it aims for the western iconography of Sam Peckinpah and Sergio Leone but never gets past its own directorial hurdles.

    Jan 1, 2000 | Full Review…
  • It's difficult to assign responsibility for the most serious of this film's shortcomings, but one thing is clear: somewhere along the way, the creative process misfired.

    Jan 1, 2000 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Tombstone

  • Feb 27, 2016
    Tombstone is a very well made western featuring great performances and story. Check it out if you haven't!
    Mr N Super Reviewer
  • Apr 06, 2014
    Directors C Super Reviewer
  • Jul 01, 2013
    I was very much looking forward in seeing Tombstone as I had heard plenty of good things about it, I eventually was able to see this one, and although it is not the best Western as what everyone has claimed, this is still an entertaining action film with some good performances. Kurt Russell and Val Kilmer deliver the best performances here along with Powers Booth and they all bring something worthwhile to the screen. Tombstone is far from the old Sergio Leone Westerns, which were epic in scope and storytelling. This is a movie that tends to be more action oriented than give the viewer a straight forward well layered plot that you can really get into. It's not a bad thing, but it does make you want more out of this movie. Overall this is a good movie, but one that does fall short of many other Westerns that we've seen before. Luckily Director George P. Cosmatos keeps the action thrilling and interesting and you are well entertained for its two hour run time. If you love the genre, Tombstone is worth checking out, but be warned, it is far from the classic Westerns, and it does lack the effective storytelling and immaculate performances that have made the old school Westerns such a treat to watch. However for a straight forward Western action film, Tombstone delivers good action and is a fun movie, but it does leave a lot to be desired. It is not the movie that could have been, and it could have been improved upon. With a good cast of talented actors, Tombstone is a fun popcorn film, but it doesn't rank up there with the best Westerns movies either. There are still enough gun fights in the film to entertain the most devoted fan of the genre. Tombstone for all its faults is a fun ride.
    Alex r Super Reviewer
  • Sep 23, 2012
    I'm a big fan of the Western genre since they always seem to have some of the most interesting characters and stories out of any genre. Tombstone is good Western, while it does suffer from having too many characters, it's nonetheless well worth a watch. Tombstone follows successful lawman's Wyatt Earp who plans to retire anonymously in Tombstone, Arizona, where he's disrupted by the kind of outlaws he was famous for eliminating. At about it two hours and fifteen minutes length there a couple of notable flaws with this western. One mainly being it suffers from having too many characters which means you'll get some characters that don't get enough screen time, development, and death scenes that will little impact due to the lack of screen time some receive. Another issue is the romance is a bit under developed, there was never a solid enough for Wyatt Earp to fall in love with another character and was surprised to see them together by the end of movie. What it does get right pacing, while a little slow in the beginning, but when everything shifts into full motion it get started and the plot will hold attention till the end. The cast here is one of best I've seen in a Western with all the actors giving some of their best performances. Kurt Russell mainly steals the show here, he makes an excellent Wyatt Earp nearly carrying the entire film on his shoulder to good results. Though there is a scene where Kurt Russell shouts "no" for some reason and delivers the movie most over the top moment which will probably make the viewer laugh unintentionally. The cinematography is great in creating atmosphere and the terrific score is well worth mentioning as well. Tombstone is also one the most violent Western I've seen since The Wild Bunch, though it never comes close to reaching the triple digit body count as the The Wild Bunch. Tombstone suffers from having too much characters, but the cast more than makes for it with their memorable performances. Tombstone is might not be as good as some of the other Westerns I've seen, but it's well worth your time to go check it out.
    Caesar M Super Reviewer

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