Late to being your huckleberry! A review of Tombstone

Doc Holliday: Make no mistake, it’s not revenge he’s after. It’s a reckonin’.

Tombstone Movie Poster

Tombstone (1993) 

Dear Diary: Today I learned that the Wild West was wild because everyone was addicted to opiates. Cool.

Kevin claimed that he wanted me to watch Tombstone because it was his “favorite movie” and would be a great introduction to the western film world. Nope. I figured out about 25 minutes in that he wanted me to watch the movie because he’s insanely in love with Dana Delaney. It’s fine, I’ve known this for a while but I do not enjoy being misled.

For my first foray into Westerns (unless you count the 20 minutes I spent watching Butch Cassidy with my mom so she could check out Robert Redford), many people insisted that I begin with this movie. I can understand the reasons why some might think this is a good suggestion as it is a more modern take on a Western (I assume). There are also a million recognizable faces in this movie (JOHN LOCKE!), which always makes for a good time. But I definitely wondered if some of the attributes I noticed about this movie are typical of all Westerns.

I was expecting the silly music that I always saw portrayed in cartoonish versions of Westerns. I was expecting a ton of action, nearing the level of an action movie but with gun fights instead of gun fights AND explosives AND karate AND car chases. I was expecting a standard scene when a dude walks through a swinging door and the camera pans from his shoes to his face, and some piano player is banging out some really intense notes. I just assumed these were typical characterizations of a Western so I feel like I missed out a bit.

Parts of the the movie were slow and even dull at times. When I did some research and found out some of the difficulties behind the production of the movie (actor changes, a screenplay that was way too long, a rush to production), I was not surprised at all. I believer there was some character development and background information cut from the film that would have benefitted the movie (although making it way too long). I did not feel any connection to the Earp brothers at all, I thought Wyatt’s interaction with Josephine felt forced and made a little sense, and besides being on drugs WHY DOES EVERYONE WANT TO KILL EVERYONE ELSE. Sheesh.

I did not expect Val Kilmer to be so amazing in this movie as Doc Holliday– he was by far my favorite part of this movie. I didn’t hate his Southern accent and I loved how sweaty he was in every single scene (indeed, tuberculosis makes you grey and constantly dripping with perspiration). While I felt as though I was watching Kurt Russell or Bill Paxton or Sam Elliott play their characters, by the end of the movie I had forgotten that I was watching Val Kilmer. Also, Doc Holliday seems like the kind of guy you’d want on your side for several reasons: he’s loyal, good with a gun and he likes to party. I want to be his friend badly. Doc Holliday for President.

I know this movie sounds like a negative review, but between the quotability factor, Kilmer’s performance, and the “spot-the-actor” game I played, I actually enjoyed watching the movie. I’m just not sure it should have been my introduction to this genre. I suppose I should watch a few more films before I decide how I really feel about Westerns.

Face palm moment: For about 20 minutes I was freaking out over the actress who played Mattie Earp. Her face was incredibly familiar but I could not place it. After a long Google search, I figured it out– she was Laney from the baby shower episode, the party girl turned suburban mom, the ONE who stole Charlotte’s BABY NAME. UGH. I was pretty excited about this turn of events. That, plus John Corbett, tells me that Sex and the City was a Tombstone spinoff. 

Favorite part: The part where Kevin said, “oh man, I’m glad the cowboys didn’t show up to our wedding.” He’s now calling it the original Red Wedding.

The “I missed that in pop culture trivia” moment:

Well Bye Tombstone

Well… Bye.

[NOTE: I mean, what a dick move.]

Regrettable tardiness scale (out of 10): 10/10, there are probably a billion quotes I hear daily that come from this movie. Context is important.


  • My favorite line: You gonna do something, or just stand there and bleed? And to Billy Bob Thornton!

    When I first saw this movie, I didn’t really care for it. Not impressed and for all the reasons you list. But I saw it again, probably because a friend wanted to see it and I went along, and upon a second watching I found that I really, REALLY liked it. Not a terribly unusual thing, for me to change my mind but later that year Siskel and Ebert (was Gene Siskel still alive? I think he was.) were doing did a year-end retrospective of movies that they didn’t like at first but changed their mind upon a re-watch. This movie was on that list. One of the many times I identified with Roger Ebert. Now if I happen across the movie as I’m flipping channels, I always watch it or at least record it to watch later. And it’s an interesting juxtaposition with Kevin Costner’s “Wyatt Earp,” that came out the same year as this.

    Finally, well done, Kevin, on the Dana Delany thing. I still have a semi-serious boy-girl thing with her.

  • I’m curious: Who did you prefer as Doc Holliday, Val Kilmer or Dennis Quaid? I thought both were great, but Kilmer’s was both funnier and campier.

  • I still love Dana in China Beach and wouldn’t mind revisiting it. My favorite line (so damn hard to choose) was probably when he says, ” It’s like I’m playing cards with my brothers’ kids or something!” Also, Sam Neil is fantastic in everything. Laura somehow, someway needs to see Mask and Roadhouse.

    • Road House is easily me most favorite bad movie ever. One, the rich, thick mullets. Two, with lines like “I used to fuck guys like you in prison!” how can you not love it?

  • I knew what you meant and I didn’t want to be that guy who corrects and honest and understandable mistake. I mean, I *AM* that guy, but I don’t like that about myself so I’m trying not to be him, at least all the time.

  • Westerns are probably my least favorite (and least knowledgeable) genre, but this movie is a blast to watch. Like you touched on, it isn’t really “good” per se as much as it is super fun, pulpy and incredibly rewatchable. Like, crazy, you have to stop and keep it on the channel if you come across it. My favorite over the top part is Russell’s “NO. NO. NOOOOOOOO.” at the river. Overall, I think you’d be better served with other traditional westerns to introduce yourself to the genre. I don’t think Tombstone is an ideal example of the genre, but it certainly is fun.

    I was under the impression you had seen all of Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid…Move that to the top of the next list. I demand it.

    Also, Dana Delany is super hot.

    • I agree with every word of this (except that I do like westerns, even if I don’t necessarily love them). But Butch & Sundance is one of my four or five favorite movies ever and I, too, demand that LTTM give this film its own special treatment. But if you want to see a great, more traditional, western, see “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.” John Ford was a genius and this movie is a deconstruction of the myth of the American West even though it was so subversive that no one realized that he was taking apart the myth as he was building it up at the same time. You should also place that on the list.


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