By Jeffrey Anderson,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Very popular and very violent Wyatt Earp story.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Though it doesn't start out that way, the movie is eventually about making ethical choices and showing empathy for others. In the beginning, Wyatt and his brothers are tired of being lawmen and wary of the danger involved. Now they just want to make money from gambling casinos. Trouble arises, and the brothers try to stay out of it as long as they can, but eventually they realize that they must do the right thing. It could be argued, however, that part of the motivation for this is revenge, since the bad guys manage to kill just about all of Wyatt's friends and relations.
Positive Role Models
Of course, Wyatt Earp is a classic hero, but we must take into account that, in this movie, he is a reluctant one. He'd rather not get himself killed, and would like to continue making money by running a bar and casino. He also becomes interested in another woman, even though he's married. Eventually, his conscience gets the better of him and he decides to do the right thing, stepping up to fight, though it could be argued that part of his motivation is revenge.
Violence & Scariness
Very strong violence, mostly involving the frequent use of guns, as well as shooting and killing. We see blood smears and blood gushing. In one very gory scene, a doctor tries -- and fails -- to remove a bullet from a man's body (with much screaming and yelling). A priest is shot in the head, and other characters are similarly shot. We see gruesome corpses. A little girl is seen cowering, terrified during a shootout.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Allusions to hookers available in the town of Tombstone. The already-married Wyatt Earp becomes interested in a sexy showgirl, Josephine, who is seen as "the devil" in a stage play. (Although, according to the end credits, Earp happily spent the rest of his life with her). Otherwise, there's a good measure of flirting and kissing. There is also a suggestive painting of a girl on a wall.
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Strong, but not constant language, including one use of "f--king." We also hear: "s--t," "dick," "damn," "Goddamn," "Christ Almighty," "sons of a bitch," "hell," "piss," "damn," and "Antichrist."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
In this Old West town, most secondary characters drink heavily. The hero's best friend, Doc Holliday, drinks very, very heavily and is seen very drunk. Some characters smoke opium. Wyatt Earp's wife takes Laudanum for a headache, and always seems to be in a state of stupor. (She tries to hide her drugs from her husband.) We also see some cigar smoking.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that TOMBSTONE is a very violent modern-day Western about Wyatt Earp, his brothers, and his friend Doc Holliday. As it starts out, Earp and his brothers are retired lawmen, looking to relax and make some money. When a group of villains called the Cowboys starts to make trouble, the Earps make it clear that they do not want to get involved. Eventually, they decide to stand up and do the right thing, though not without a hint of vengeance. The movie is filled with guns, shooting, killing, and gushing blood, as well as some language, alcohol, and drugs (opium), and some mild sexual situations. This movie is much admired -- even by non-Western fans -- especially for its portrayal of the friendship between Earp (Kurt Russell) and Holliday (Val Kilmer). But for younger viewers, a better introduction to the Wyatt Earp legend is John Ford's My Darling Clementine (1946).
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Where to Watch
Based on 6 parent reviews
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A great movie held back by sexual content.
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What's the Story?
Former lawman Wyatt Earp (Kurt Russell) decides to retire in the growing town of Tombstone with his two brothers. There, they meet Wyatt's old friend Doc Holliday (Val Kilmer), a gunslinger with tuberculosis. The Earps plan to take it easy and make some money on a drinking/gambling establishment. Unfortunately, a band of violent criminals called the Cowboys starts to make trouble, and before long it becomes apparent that the Earps must take up their guns once again to help keep the peace. Meanwhile, a saucy showgirl (Dana Delany) has caught the married Wyatt's eye, causing even more trouble for him. Will Wyatt survive all this, plus a showdown with the malevolent sharpshooter Johnny Ringo (Michael Biehn)?
Is It Any Good?
Tombstone will seem shockingly violent to those who already like Westerns, but for Rambo fans, it won't seem out of the ordinary. The movie has a few over-the-top moments, and there is perhaps too much story crammed into too little space, but it also has an energetic flow, and a genuinely rugged, exciting feel, unlike many of the more bloated, picturesque examples of the Western genre. Ultimately, it's Russell and Kilmer -- and their chemistry together -- that make this movie work.
Directed by George P. Cosmatos (Rambo: First Blood Part II), Tombstone had an inauspicious start when it was released to theaters without press screenings. Before long, however, fans were cheering over the terrific performances by Kurt Russell and especially Val Kilmer as the cool, verbose Doc Holliday. Though this wasn't enough to make the movie a hit, it has gained a solid fan following over the years. Many viewers generally prefer it to the much higher-profile Wyatt Earp (1994), released six months later.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the intense violence in the film. Was it necessary to tell the story? Was any of it gratuitous?
Why do you think the Western genre not as popular as it once was? Do you have a favorite Western?
The legendary hero Wyatt Earp has many flaws in this film. Do the flaws make him more interesting? Do they make him less of a hero?
- In theaters: December 25, 1993
- On DVD or streaming: December 2, 1997
- Cast: Dana Delany, Kurt Russell, Val Kilmer
- Director: George Pan Cosmatos
- Studio: Hollywood Pictures
- Genre: Western
- Run time: 130 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: strong Western violence
- Last updated: April 28, 2023
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