Wyatt Earp

Movie review by
Tom Cassidy, Common Sense Media
Wyatt Earp Movie Poster Image
Long, violent retelling of Old West legend; some drug use.
  • PG-13
  • 1994
  • 191 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Set in the near-lawless Old West, the message is kill or be killed. Characters learn strong values but struggle to stick to them in the violent environment. Some loyalty.

Positive Role Models

Wyatt Earp is negatively affected by tragedy and fails to stick to his principles. Characters carry guns and settle disputes with violence. Some characters have strong beliefs about the importance of family and following the law. Characters gamble in saloons.


Guns feature heavily. Some kills are bloody and painful. Characters have brutal fist-fights and someone is hit in the throat with a pool ball. A parent says they have to beat their child as a punishment. Horses and buffalo are shot. A character burns down a house with a makeshift bomb made from a liquor bottle. A character twice attempts suicide with liquid opium. A character dies of typhoid.


Topless photographs. Character's breasts can be seen under wet cotton clothes during a death scene. Couples kiss. Characters kiss in bed while topless and touch each other under the covers during a sex scene. Sex workers flirt with customers in bars. Characters discuss paying for sex.


One use of "f--k." Other language includes "dammit," "hell," "d--k," "s--t," "whore," "bastards," and "bitch." Native Americans referred to as "Indians."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Drunk character burns down a house. Lots of scenes in bars and saloons where everyone drinks whiskey. Character goes sober and is subsequently taunted in bars, before returning to drink due to stress. Character uses liquid opium, intentionally overdoses on it in a failed suicide attempt, and then suffers withdrawal symptoms.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Wyatt Earp is a long, Oscar-nominated biopic that contains some bloody violence as a result of gun and fist fights. The movie follows the life of legendary gunslinger and lawman, Wyatt Earp (Kevin Costner), following his journey from young boy through to the infamous gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Guns feature heavily and are used readily as vendettas are settled with bullets. Some deaths are realistic and bloody while others are more "classic" Westerns kills, with people clutching their bodies and falling through windows. Other characters die of illness. Earp's judge father, Nicholas Earp (Gene Hackman), teaches him strong values, including family and law. But he fails to stick to them when faced with violence and tragedy. There is brief nudity and a mild sex scene. Some characters are sex workers and characters discuss paying for sex. There is one use of "f--k" and other milder bad language throughout. A character becomes an opium user and attempts suicide by overdose. There is a lot of alcohol consumption and Earp quits drinking after a drunken incident. With a runtime of over three hours, a degree of patience is required to sit through the movie in its entirety.

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What's the story?

WYATT EARP -- played by Kevin Costner -- tells the story of the legendary gunslinger and lawmaker, from boyhood through to the infamous shootout at the O.K. Corral. Throughout his life, Earp encounters family tragedy and bloody vendettas.

Is it any good?

This 1994 biopic delivers a throwback to the epic Westerns of the 1950s, but Wyatt Earp never changes pace or rouses emotion, which only adds to its labored three hour runtime. Only Dennis Quaid's Doc Holliday lifts Wyatt Earp's listless tone. The difference is huge when he's around, producing a fantastic stand-out performance in just a few short scenes. Costner contributes heavily to the static tone of the movie. After he's struck by tragedy early on, Earp's dour shuffle through life hardly feels befitting of national legend or even his own movie.

The production design is great though and each town and settlement feels alive, packed with characters more interesting and compelling than sad-sack Earp. Indeed the cinematography received an Academy Award nomination with the vast scenery capturing the Technicolor feel of classic Western epics. This isn't a bad movie, it just fails to sell how the tale of Wyatt Earp captivated an entire country for more than 100 years. In this version, everyone around him is much more interesting. So to be swept up by the legend, maybe look elsewhere, perhaps starting with the hour-shorter and the more dynamic Tombstone, released a year earlier.

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For kids who love Westerns

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