Wyatt Earp
Theatrical release poster
Directed byLawrence Kasdan
Written by
Produced by
CinematographyOwen Roizman
Edited byCarol Littleton
Music byJames Newton Howard
  • Kasdan Pictures
  • Tig Productions
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • June 24, 1994 (1994-06-24)
Running time
190 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$63 million[2]
Box office$55.9 million[3]

Wyatt Earp is a 1994 American epic biographical Western drama film directed and produced by Lawrence Kasdan, and co-written by Kasdan and Dan Gordon.[4] The film covers the lawman of the same name's life, from an Iowa farmboy, to a feared marshal, to the feud in Tombstone, Arizona that led to the O.K. Corral gunfight. Starring Kevin Costner in the title role, it features an ensemble supporting cast that includes Gene Hackman, Mark Harmon, Michael Madsen, Bill Pullman, Dennis Quaid, Isabella Rossellini, Tom Sizemore, JoBeth Williams, Mare Winningham and Jim Caviezel in one of his earliest roles.

The film was released a mere six months after Tombstone, also about Earp and the O.K. Corral gunfight. Unlike Tombstone, it was a box office failure[5] and received mixed to negative reviews, with criticism for its three-hour length, although its production values were praised.[6]


During the American Civil War, teenaged Wyatt Earp lives on his family's farm in Pella, Iowa, while his older brothers Virgil and James serve with the Union Army. Wyatt attempts to run away, intending to lie about his age and join his brothers in the war, but his father catches him. His brothers return home at the war's end, with James gravely wounded, and the family moves west to start over. Wyatt sees a man being shot dead in a duel and vomits at the sight.

Years later, a teenaged Wyatt works as a wagon driver and earns extra money by acting as a referee for boxing matches. A bully tries to shoot him after a drunken argument, but Wyatt disarms him, taking his gun. Returning home to Missouri, Wyatt marries his childhood sweetheart, Urilla Sutherland. They move into their own house, and he begins working as a lawman. Months later, his pregnant wife dies from typhoid fever. After staying by her side through the illness, Wyatt becomes deeply depressed. Burning their home and possessions, he begins drinking and drifts from town to town, landing in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. He robs a man and steals his horse but is quickly arrested. With Wyatt facing certain hanging, his father bails him out of jail, telling him to never return to Arkansas.

Working as a buffalo hunter, Wyatt befriends Bat Masterson and his brother Ed Masterson. Years pass, and Wyatt becomes a deputy marshal in Wichita, Kansas, building a reputation as a man unafraid to enforce the law. He is recruited to work for the police force in Dodge City, with a lower salary but earning extra money for every arrest. Wyatt becomes romantically involved with a prostitute, Mattie Blaylock, and persuades the Matersons to come on as his deputies. Wyatt believes Ed is too passive, but the Dodge City council fires Wyatt for repeated complaints of excessive force, appointing Ed to take his place. Wyatt starts working for the railroad to catch robbers.

Pursuing outlaw Dave Rudabaugh, Wyatt is introduced to gunman and gambler Doc Holliday in Fort Griffin, Texas, and the two become friends. Holliday assists Earp in locating Rudabaugh, whom he dislikes tremendously. Wyatt receives word that Ed has been killed, having shot and killed both his assailants before dying in the street. Wyatt returns to Dodge City and soon after kills his first man, witnessed by actress Josie Marcus. Despite his brothers' wives' and Mattie's protests, Wyatt moves the family to Tombstone, Arizona and immediately finds himself at odds with the outlaw Cowboy gang. He becomes romantically involved with Josie Marcus, angering her boyfriend Sheriff Behan and stressing his relationship with Mattie, and becomes the subject of rumor about town.

Wyatt and his brothers Morgan and Virgil arrest several Cowboys, and Virgil assumes the post of head marshal following the murder of Fred White by a Cowboy. Tension builds between the brothers and the gang as Wyatt breaks up several altercations involving the Cowboys, particularly Ike Clanton, and Holliday swears his loyalty to Wyatt, whom he considers his only real friend. The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral makes the brothers very unpopular in town as many citizens feel that they deliberately provoked the shootout. Virgil is ambushed and wounded, and Morgan is killed. In the Vendetta Ride, Wyatt forms a posse with his friends to hunt down and take revenge against the remaining Cowboys.

Many years later, Wyatt and Josie mine for gold in Alaska. A young man on the same boat recognizes Wyatt and recounts a story in which Wyatt had saved the boy's uncle, "Tommy Behind-The-Deuce". Wyatt says to Josie, "Some people say it didn't happen that way", to which she responds, "Never mind them, Wyatt. It happened that way." An epilogue states that Holliday died six years later in a hospital in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. Members of the Clanton gang continued to die mysteriously for years after Morgan's murder. Josie and Wyatt's marriage lasted 47 years until Wyatt died at age 80 in Los Angeles.



Costner was originally involved with the film Tombstone, another film about Wyatt Earp, written by Kevin Jarre of Glory. However, Costner disagreed with Jarre over the focus of the film (he believed that the emphasis should have been on Wyatt Earp rather than the many characters in Jarre's script) and left the project, eventually teaming up with Kasdan to produce his own Wyatt Earp project. The film was also originally meant to be a six-hour miniseries until Kevin Costner joined the cast. Costner proceeded to use his then-considerable clout to convince most of the major studios to refuse to distribute the competing film, which affected casting on the rival project.[7]


Principal photography began on July 19 and ended on December 15, 1993


Wyatt Earp
Soundtrack album by
LabelWarner Bros. Records

The score was composed by James Newton Howard, conducted by Marty Paich with The Hollywood Recording Musicians Orchestra and released by Warner Bros. Records in 1994. It was later re-released in 2013 in an expanded edition by La-La Land.[8]

  1. "Main Title"
  2. "Home from the War"
  3. "Going to Town"
  4. "The Wagon Chase"
  5. "Mattie Wants Children"
  6. "Railroad"
  7. "Nicholas Springs Wyatt"
  8. "Is That Your Hat?"
  9. "The Wedding"
  10. "Stillwell Makes Bail"
  11. "It All Ends Now"
  12. "Urilla Dies"
  13. "Tell Me About Missouri"
  14. "The Night Before"
  15. "O.K. Corral"
  16. "Down by the River"
  17. "Kill 'Em All"
  18. "Dodge City"
  19. "Leaving Dodge"
  20. "Indian Charlie"
  21. "We Stayed Too Long"
  22. "Winter to Spring"
  23. "It Happened That Way"


Box office

Wyatt Earp, released six months after Tombstone, grossed $56 million on a $63 million budget,[3][5] compared to Tombstone's $73 million gross on a $25 million budget.[9] The film opened at number 4 at the US box office behind The Lion King, Speed and Wolf, grossing $7.5 million in its first week.[10] It grossed $25 million in the United States and Canada, compared to Tombstone's $56 million.[5][9] Internationally, Wyatt Earp was more successful grossing $31 million, compared to Tombstone's $17 million, but this was not enough to recoup its budget, making it a box office bomb.[3]

Later Dennis Quaid said:

"I personally thought it was too long. But I'm also really proud of it."[11]

Critical reception

Wyatt Earp received mixed to negative reviews from critics. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes retrospectively gives the film a "rotten" score of 32%, based on 85 reviews, with an average rating of 5.4/10. The site's consensus states: "Easy to admire yet difficult to love, Wyatt Earp buries eye-catching direction and an impressive cast in an undisciplined and overlong story."[6] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 47 out of 100 based on 20 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[12] Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 2 out of 4 stars, saying "Wyatt Earp plays as if they took Tombstone and pumped it full of hot air. It involves many of the same characters and much of the same story, but little of the tension and drama. It's a rambling, unfocused biography of Wyatt Earp (Kevin Costner), starting when he's a kid and following his development from an awkward would-be lawyer into a slick gunslinger. This is a long journey, in a three-hour film that needs better pacing."[13]

Todd McCarthy of Variety praised the cast and production values, but remarked, "If you're going to ask an audience to sit through a three-hour, nine-minute rendition of an oft-told story, it would help to have a strong point of view on your material and an urgent reason to relate it. Such is not the case with Wyatt Earp."[14] Similarly, Caryn James of The New York Times complimented the film's ambition and effort to portray a more human Wyatt, but still felt that "the film's literal-minded approach to the hero's dark soul is one of its terrible problems. 'Wyatt Earp' labors to turn this mythic figure into a complex man; instead it makes him a cardboard cutout and his story a creepingly slow one."[15]

Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade "B+" on scale of A to F.[16]

Year-end worst-of lists


Award Category Nominee(s) Result
Academy Awards[23] Best Cinematography Owen Roizman Nominated
American Society of Cinematographers Awards[24] Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography in Theatrical Releases Nominated
Golden Raspberry Awards Worst Picture Kevin Costner, Lawrence Kasdan, and Jim Wilson Nominated
Worst Director Lawrence Kasdan Nominated
Worst Actor Kevin Costner Won
Worst Screen Combo Kevin Costner and "any of his three wives"
(Annabeth Gish, Joanna Going, and Mare Winningham)
Worst Remake or Sequel Kevin Costner, Lawrence Kasdan and Jim Wilson Won
International Film Music Critics Association Awards[25] Best Archival Release of an Existing Score – Re-Release or Re-Recording James Newton Howard, Dan Goldwasser, and Tim Grieving Nominated
Spur Awards[26] Best Drama Script Dan Gordon and Lawrence Kasdan Won
Turkish Film Critics Association Awards Best Foreign Film 18th Place

American Film Institute nominated the film in AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores[27]

See also


  1. ^ "WYATT EARP (12)". British Board of Film Classification. July 11, 1994. Archived from the original on March 11, 2016. Retrieved March 10, 2016.
  2. ^ "Fresh Ideas Pay Off at Box Office : Movies: Strong openings boost concept films such as 'Speed,' 'The Shadow' and other original ideas, while star vehicles stall". The Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on June 29, 2021. Retrieved January 12, 2011.
  3. ^ a b c "Worldwide rentals beat domestic take". Variety. February 13, 1995. p. 28.
  4. ^ "Hollywood Habits : Leave 'Wyatt Earp' Off His Tombstone : Movies: Scripter Dan Gordon wants critics to know that the film is different from what he and Kevin Costner wrote and from his book". The Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on March 11, 2016. Retrieved December 5, 2010.
  5. ^ a b c "Wyatt Earp". Box Office Mojo. IMDB. Archived from the original on August 5, 2018. Retrieved February 21, 2020.
  6. ^ a b "Wyatt Earp". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Archived from the original on February 5, 2017. Retrieved November 9, 2017.
  7. ^ Beck, Henry Cabot. "The "Western" Godfather Archived July 5, 2008, at the Wayback Machine". True West Magazine. October 2006.
  8. ^ "Wyatt Earp (James Newton Howard)". Filmtracks. Archived from the original on November 21, 2015. Retrieved November 16, 2016.
  9. ^ a b "Tombstone". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Archived from the original on January 16, 2019. Retrieved February 21, 2020.
  10. ^ "Weekend Box Office". The Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved January 12, 2011.
  11. ^ "CNN.com - Transcripts". transcripts.cnn.com. Retrieved April 19, 2023.
  12. ^ Wyatt Earp, retrieved July 6, 2021
  13. ^ Ebert, Roger (June 24, 1994). "Wyatt Earp Movie Review & Film Summary (1994)". RogerEbert.com. Archived from the original on February 7, 2021. Retrieved November 16, 2016.
  14. ^ McCarthy, Todd (June 20, 1994). "Wyatt Earp". Variety. Archived from the original on September 16, 2017. Retrieved November 16, 2016.
  15. ^ James, Caryn (June 24, 1994). "Review/Film: Wyatt Earp; Into the Heart And Soul Of Darkness". NYTimes.com. Archived from the original on November 21, 2015. Retrieved November 16, 2016.
  16. ^ "Cinemascore". Archived from the original on December 20, 2018.
  17. ^ Travers, Peter (December 29, 1994). "The Best and Worst Movies of 1994". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on January 25, 2021. Retrieved July 20, 2020.
  18. ^ Craft, Dan (December 30, 1994). "Success, Failure and a Lot of In-between; Movies '94". The Pantagraph. p. B1.
  19. ^ Lovell, Glenn (December 25, 1994). "The Past Picture Show the Good, the Bad and the Ugly – a Year Worth's of Movie Memories". San Jose Mercury News (Morning Final ed.). p. 3.
  20. ^ Denerstein, Robert (January 1, 1995). "Perhaps It Was Best to Simply Fade to Black". Rocky Mountain News (Final ed.). p. 61A.
  21. ^ Hurley, John (December 30, 1994). "Movie Industry Hit Highs and Lows in '94". Staten Island Advance. p. D11.
  22. ^ Elliott, David (December 25, 1994). "On the big screen, color it a satisfying time". The San Diego Union-Tribune (1, 2 ed.). p. E=8.
  23. ^ "The 67th Academy Awards (1995) Nominees and Winners". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. AMPAS. Archived from the original on November 9, 2014. Retrieved November 20, 2011.
  24. ^ "Past Nominees & Winners". American Society of Cinematographers. Retrieved February 1, 2022.
  25. ^ IFMCA (2014). "2013 IFMCA Awards". IFMCA. Retrieved May 1, 2020.
  26. ^ "Winners – Western Writers of America". Western Writers of America. May 12, 2012. Retrieved April 10, 2022.
  27. ^ "AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on March 13, 2011.