"All right, Clanton, you called down the thunder, well now you've got it! You see that? It says United States Marshal. Take a good look at him, Ike, 'cause that's how you're gonna end up. The Cowboys are finished, you understand? I see a red sash, I kill the man wearin' it. So run, you cur. Run! Tell all the other curs the law's comin'. You tell 'em I'm coming, and Hell's coming with me, you hear? Hell's coming with me!"
— Wyatt Earp, Tombstone
Tombstone is a 1993 Western starring Kurt Russell, Val Kilmer, Sam Elliott, and Bill Paxton. Set in the 1880s in Tombstone, Arizona, it centers on Wyatt Earp, his two brothers, and Doc Holliday facing off against the criminal Cowboys. The film had a large ensemble cast, with 85 speaking roles. The main Cowboys were played by Powers Boothe, Michael Biehn, Stephen Lang, and Thomas Haden Church. Charlton Heston cameos as a ranch owner.Wyatt Earp, the legendary former lawman, moves to Tombstone, Arizona looking to begin a prosperous new life with his two brothers, Virgil and Morgan, and their wives. Also in town is an old friend of his, Doc Holliday. After Wyatt establishes himself as a dealer in a local saloon, and rejects many requests to help maintain law and order in the town, the town marshal is shot dead by Curly Bill, the leader of a band of criminals known as the Cowboys. Their ire is raised when Wyatt insists that Curly Bill stand trial. With the town now lacking respectable law and order, Virgil and Morgan volunteer to become marshals and enforce a new policy banning wearing guns into town. The tension between the lawmen and the criminals reaches the breaking point when a group of illegally-armed Cowboys gather at the OK Corral. Virgil insists that they must be confronted and the infamous shootout takes place, resulting in several dead Cowboys.The Cowboys later seek revenge for the fight by shooting at the Earps' wives, shooting Virgil in the street, and fatally shooting Morgan in the back. Virgil, who loses the use of his left arm, and the wives take the train out of town while Wyatt remains behind and forms a band of marshals to eliminate the Cowboys. The posse is ruthless in hunting down anyone wearing the red sash of the Cowboys, shooting them on sight. In a big showdown at a creek, Wyatt rushes at them with guns blazing, killing Curly Bill and several others. The Cowboys are not yet finished, however, as their new leader is the psychotic gunman Johnny Ringo, who challenges Wyatt to a duel. Doc Holliday duels Ringo instead, making good on an earlier challenge that never led to a fight, and expertly shoots Ringo in the head. The last of the Cowboys eliminated, the film ends with the quiet death of Doc in a hospital bed and an epilogue describing Wyatt's life, happily ever after.The film is somewhat accurate, although it does portray an idealized version of the Earps while also making the whole story a lot more dramatic. In reality, the conflict between the Earps and the Cowboys is not entirely clear-cut; the Earps are generally regarded as the "good guys" only because they happened to be the ones wearing badges at the time.the exact sequence of the events at the OK Corral remains ambiguous. Critics of the Earps point out that many of them were veteran gunfighters (at least Civil War veteran Virgil was; Wyatt had been in one gunfight in Dodge City at that point, and Doc's reputation as a gunfighter is questionable to say the least), while for the Cowboys the shootout was their first (and last) and that it was therefore unlikely that they would have been the aggressors. However, as the film depicts accurately, some of the unarmed cowboys were allowed to flee unscathed, highlighting that the Earps weren't there to massacre the Cowboys. Also, Earp's defenders point to the testimonies of the unbiased witnesses H.F. Sills (whose testimony backed up Wyatt's, and who earlier heard the Cowboys threaten murder) and Addie Bourland (who testified that just before the fight, no one had their hands up). Johnny Ringo's death in particular is shrouded in mystery and originally ruled a suicide. Some other examples are the idea that both Morgan and Virgil were shot the same night, when they weren't, or the notion that the ex-Cowboys eventually joined Wyatt's posse (which was never confirmed).The Other Wiki has articles of interest here and here if you want to see the differences between Real Life and film. IMDB has a fairly complete compilation of differences hereWhile the film largely focuses on Wyatt Earp, most find Doc Holliday—as portrayed by Val Kilmer—to be more memorable.
This film contains examples of:
Accidental Murder: When Curly Bill Brocius accidentally shoots and kills Tombstone's town marshal, Fred White, while high on opium. Historically, the real life Brocius and White were friends, and everyone, even Wyatt Earp himself (who arrested Brocius after the shooting and testified during Brocius's trial that the gun went off accidentally) said so (and in the end, Brocius was acquitted of murder and the shooting ruled accidental). In the movie, this is made clear by Curly Bill repeatedly (and mournfully) asking, "Get up, Fred! C'mon now, get up!"
Age Lift: Seventy-two year old Harry Carey Jr, a long-time veteran of countless Westerns, plays Marshal Fred White, who was barely into his thirties when the events depicted in the film occurred.
Ambiguously Gay: Billy Breckinridge, who seems to have a crush on the actor. "Curly Bill" Brocious is Ambiguously Camp Gay.
Batman Gambit: Doc Holiday knows Wyatt Earp can't beat Ringo, so while showing himself to be very ill he manipulates Wyatt Earp into giving him his U.S. Marshal's badge, by asking him what it's like to wear one of those. He then sneaks off to the meeting place and uses the badge to manipulate Ringo into dueling him instead, saving Wyatt's life.
Because Destiny Says So: It almost counts as a Fridge Logic moment, but the reason after the duel between Doc and Ringo why Wyatt Earp takes off Ringo's boots and stages his death scene like a suicide is to make it exactly the way in Real Life Ringo's body was found.
Big "NO!": Wyatt Earp, is wading through a river with gunshots just barely missing him; he's shouting "No!" as he shoots at the bad guys. This culminates in a long, slow-motion, "Nooo!" at the end.
Bilingual Bonus: The unsubtitled Latin dialogue between Ringo and Holliday. The intention is to show that these two characters are educated. Ringo calls Holliday a drunk; Holiday tells Ringo to mind his own business and dismisses him. Ringo then threatens him by saying something to the effect that fools learn from their mistakes, gesturing to his gun with Doc ending the dialogue with a line ambiguous between calling for peace and threatening death. Commentary
Translation of the Latin:
In vino veritas. [In wine (is) the truth]
Age quod agis. [Do what you're going to do] (bring it on)
Credat Judaeus apella, non ego. [May the Jew Apella, not I, believe it] (tell it to someone who cares)
Iuventus stultorum magister. [Youth (is) the teacher of fools]
In pace requiescat. [may he rest in Peace]
Blast Out: Portrays the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral as a tense standoff before a sly wink from Doc Holiday to Billy Clanton turns it into a full blown blast out.
Call Back: Early in the movie a Mexican priest predicts that someone will wreak revenge upon the Cowboys for their crimes and quotes from Revelation 6:8. note "And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him." Wyatt unknowingly calls back to this moment with his "Hell's coming with me!" speech. One wonders if Ike Clanton noticed.
Circuit Judge: When someone gets tried for a crime, it's whenever Judge Spicer shows up.
Cowboy Cop: Wyatt when he leaves Tombstone and gets a U.S. Marshal's badge, using it as a means to cover his Roaring Rampage of Revenge against the Cowboys who wounded Virgil and killed Morgan.
Cultured Badass: Johnny Ringo and Doc Holliday. (Ringo as a villain is technically Wicked Cultured.) Early in the film Ringo understands a Mexican priest's warning (in Spanish), and translates it by quoting The Bible. Holliday is described as a (former) Southern Gentleman and plays Chopin on the piano. The two hold a conversation in Latin during their first meeting.
Death Seeker: Doc Holliday, who suffers from tuberculosis and takes every opportunity to be a smart ass to the most psychotic Cowboys.
Johnny Ringo shows a reckless need to get into fights and borders this trope as a means of scaring the crap out of everyone else. The one person Ringo DOESN'T want to fight - Doc - just happens to be a deadlier and more sincere Death Seeker than he is. This may be a Truth in Televisionbecause the Real Life Johnny Ringo was found dead under mysterious circumstances that left the coroner with only one possible conclusion of "suicide".
Dirty Cop: County Sheriff Johnny Behan, at least in-film where he's seen siding with the Cowboys and leads a Cowboy-filled Posse chasing after Wyatt's vendetta.
Dirty Coward: Ike Clanton. He is shown in his last scene of the film ripping off his Cowboy sash while being pursued by Wyatt and the Immortals. The narrator lets us know - during the Where Are They Now closing as the credits roll - that Ike was later killed during a robbery in New Mexico.
Drugs Are Bad: As evidenced by Mattie Earp, Wyatt's laudanum-addicted wife. She died later of a drug overdose.
For Virgil, it's when he sees that the Cowboys have even injured the town's schoolmarm and terrorized innocent children. His conscience will not rest until he gets sworn in as a deputy.
Wyatt's blunt handling of a bullying faro dealer (Billy Bob Thornton) that was ruining a hotel's business, throwing him out (literally) on his ear and negotiating a sweet job with the owner in return.
Before that there's a scene where Wyatt sees a man whipping an unruly horse, something Wyatt takes exception to. He grabs the whip and gives the man a couple thwacks. "Hurts, doesn't it?"
The cowboys shoot up a wedding in the opening scene, executing the bride and groom and terrorizing the guests. They purposefully avoid killing the priest, who continues to shout verses from Revelation at them, until Johnny Ringo shoots him on an impulse. Now, who do you think will turn out to be the sociopath of the group?
Even Evil Has Standards: One of the Cowboys—McMasters—drops his red sash and falls in with the Earp brothers after someone fires a gun into the Earp household, nearly killing one of the brothers' wives; he flatly states that attacking defenseless women was something he simply couldn't stomach. (This is foreshadowed during the implied rape scene at the Mexican wedding in the introduction.) He even joins Earp in his vendetta against the Cowboys.
Though he laughs about it immediately afterwards, Curly Bill is visibly shocked when Johnny Ringo shoots the Mexican priest at the beginning.
Evil Counterpart: Johnny Ringo, to Doc Holliday. Both educated men, both death-dealers (and in their own ways, death-seekers). Ringo is The Dragon to Curly Bill, with Doc The Lancer to Wyatt.
Doc Holliday: Look, darling, Johnny Ringo. The deadliest pistoleer since Wild Bill, they say. What do you think, darling? Should I hate him?
Kate: You don't even know him.
Doc Holliday: Yes, but there's just something about him. Something around the eyes, I don't know, reminds me of... Me. No. I'm sure of it, I hate him.
Firing One-Handed: Wyatt Earp blows away a fleeing enemy with a double-barreled shotgun... one-handed, while riding on a horse, at full gallop. Granted, since it's a shotgun, you don't have to be precise, but...
Gotta Kill Them All: After Wyatt Earp's family is attacked by the red sash-wearing Cowboys, he declares, "From now on, I see a red sash, I kill the man wearing it."
Grave Humor: Seen in Boot Hill. "Here lies Lester Moore, took four slugs from a .44. No Les, no more." In fact, this is a real gravestone at the cemetery.
Wyatt Earp: I just want you to know it's over between us.
Curly Bill: Well... bye.
Johnny Ringo: Smell that, Bill? Smells like someone died.
Guns Akimbo: Doc Holliday confronts one of the Cowboys and pulls a pistol on him. The man says that Holliday is so drunk (which he clearly is) he's probably seeing double. Holliday then pulls out a second pistol with the other hand, points both of them at the guy, flips each one in a different direction while still holding his cup, and says, "I have two guns... one for each of ya."
Johnny Ringo. And then memorably parodied by Doc Holliday with a tin cup in place of a gun.
Also done memorably by Doc later on, with two guns. One clockwise, one counter-clockwise. He's still holding his tin cup.
Handshake Refusal: Doc Holliday refuses to shake the hand of the corrupt fop of a sheriff who is in league with the cowboy gangs, though this is because he's a Lawman, and has nothing to do with his corrupt foppery.
Subverted all to hell with Wyatt and Mattie. Whatever reasons they married were soon lost the second Mattie found the laudanum.
And then played straight with Wyatt and Josephine at the end.
Hair-Trigger Temper: Johnny Ringo. Doc Holliday surmises that Johnny has a gaping hole in him that can never be filled with enough murder, theft or other horrible deeds because Johnny is angry at the whole world for being born.
Johnny Tyler, the crooked blackjack dealer who Wyatt swiftly deals with.
Heel-Face Turn: McMasters decides the Cowboys organization have crossed it and quits in protest.
Breckinridge after Cowboys murder the actor Fabian. In a Deleted Scene he even hunts and kills those responsible.
Historical Villain Upgrade: Johnny Ringo. While the film shows Ringo as a remorseless killer, historic research can only point to him committing one murder. At one point in his life, he even served as a town marshal, and was to all accounts a conscientious and efficient lawman. It's his awesome name (Johnny Ringo) plus Ringo's mysterious death several months after the events this film depicts, that has the various movies on the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral boost his status as a lethal counterpart to Doc Holliday.
Pretty much every single one of the "villains" in this film, with a single exception, weren't actually anywhere near as evil or malicious as this movie would have you believe. Their biggest "crime", if you will, was opposing the supposedly heroic Earp brothers, who themselves were hardly knights in shining armor, either. The single exception was Curly Bill Brocious, who apparently really was this violent and sociopathic.
Wyatt: Virg, that's a misdemeanor. You go down there to arrest them, something goes wrong, maybe this time somebody really gets his head broke. You'll have Cowboys coming round looking for trouble from here to Christmas. You wanna risk all that over a misdemenour?
Virgil: Damn right I'll risk it. They're breaking the law!
Immune to Bullets: Wyatt Earp. With all the gunfights he ends up being in, he walks away from each one without so much as a flesh wound (all the other heroes, Doc included, get hit at least once). Massively Truth in Television because in the shootouts at the O.K. Corral and at Iron Springs (the waterhole), Wyatt DID walk away from them without a scratch.
Mistaken For An Impostor: When the famous Wyatt Earp introduces himself to the owner of the bar where he and his brothers will run a gambling operation, the bar owner snorts and says "Yeah, right."
Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Much of the reason the Earps are gunning for the Cowboys and vice versa is because of Ike Clanton. He runs his mouth off more than Doc Holliday, threatening the Earps and Holliday, raising paranoia about how they came to Tombstone to bring the law. All the Earps wanted to do was make some money and retire in peace.
Noodle Incident: The events of Dodge city that made Wyatt a living legend are only referenced within the film without the details. The real life events are documented.
Oh Crap: When Wyatt sees the looks on the cowboy's faces in the O.K. Corral standoff and sees they're going to draw, all he says is "Oh my god".
When Johnny Ringo sees who he thinks is Wyatt Earp showing up for their gunfight, he's very confident and arrogant, knowing he's faster than Wyatt. When he sees that it's actually Doc Holliday, he stops dead in his tracks. Right at this point his facial expression is one of the best Oh Crap moments in the history of cinema. Trying to talk his way out of it carries absolutely no weight with Holliday, who makes it perfectly clear to Ringo that it's way too late for him to back down now.
The film spent a lot of time building up to the showdown between Ringo and Doc, and a considerable amount of foreshadowing and preparation went into it. The main reason for Ringo's Oh Crap expression is not only was he not expecting Doc, but he's at a severe disadvantage and he knows it. If you pay attention to the movie, Doc has seen Ringo draw, but Ringo has never seen Doc draw. Also, the way each one wears their gun is entirely to Doc's advantage. Ringo wears his on his hip, in the traditional fashion, but Doc wears his across his stomach, with the butt of the gun towards his drawing hand. When you look at the scene, Doc's hand is so close to his gun he can casually tap it, and the total distance he has to move his hand to draw and fire the gun is very much less than Ringo, with his traditional holster, has to cover. Ringo even tries to negate Doc's advantage here by keeping his body angled in such a way that Doc cannot see his gun, but there's no way he can start to draw the gun without his shoulder and upper arm telegraphing the movement.
Opening Narration: Introduces the setting, Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday, and the Cowboys. (Narrator played by Robert Mitchum.)
Opium Den: Appears twice: First when Curly Bill gets high and murders accidentally shoots the marshal, and then later in a montage when a Cowboy is shown absentmindedly trying to smoke from Wyatt's gun barrel (and yes, it does go off in his mouth).
Psycho for Hire: Johnny Ringo. Firmly established within the first few minutes when he guns down a priest, something the other Cowboys had avoided during a massacre moments prior.
Punch Clock Hero: Wyatt Earp starts the film not wantingto be a lawman anymore. He helps keep order after the marshal is murdered killed, but then tries to convince Virgil and Morgan that being a marshal is a bad idea. Near the end of the film he says that all he ever wanted was a normal life.
Reckless Gun Usage: Curly Bill, after a night in an opium den, starts shooting wildly at buildings and people, culminating with a dogged attempt to shoot the moon out of the sky.
Refusal of the Call: Wyatt refuses to take up the mantle of lawman again, despite every official under the sun pleading with him to make a return. He becomes Resigned to the Call in support of his brothers, and later throws himself headfirst into the fray, becoming a U.S. Marshall to hunt down the cowboys after they murder Morgan.
Reluctant Warrior: Wyatt does not want to fight or become a lawman again and does everything he can to avoid it until Morgan is murdered.
Retired Gunfighter: Wyatt Earp, a well-known peace officer, settling down in Tombstone. He refuses to get into any trouble saying he's retired. Of course, things soon get messy as the leader of the Cowboys kills the town marshal, so Wyatt's two brothers take his place. As one of them is maimed by criminals, and another is killed, this gets personal, so Wyatt confronts the outlaws.
Right Behind Me: Ike drunkenly threatens the Earps for arresting Curly and Doc for beating him out of poker only to find Virgil standing behind him.
The film shows Wyatt and his allies wiping out a mass army of Cowboys, but in the real vendetta ride Wyatt killed four men (Frank Stilwell, "Indian Charlie" Cruz, Johnny Barnes and Curly Bill) before fleeing to Colorado after four days of riding. The film's climactic duel between Ringo and Holliday is based loosely on Wyatt's confession that he had snuck back into Arizona to finish the Rampage of Revenge on Ringo.
Doc Holliday: No, make no mistake. It's not revenge he's after. It's a reckoning.
Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: When the stage coach rolls up with the recently-killed actor, the actress in the coach Shames the Mob by pointing out that he only wanted to make their lives better by performing on stage. The sheriff's deputy Breckinridge (who had sided with the Cowboys) decides that this has gone too far, saying "We have to have some kind of law," and quits.
Showdown at High Noon: Duel between Doc Holliday and Johnny Ringo. They stand an arm's length from one another, circle slowly, and draw. Slightly subverted though in that the duel was supposed to be between Wyatt and Ringo, and at seven o'clock.
Smug Snake: County Sheriff Behan is in it to gain power and popularity and nothing else. He even sides with the cowboys while they still have a numbers and firepower advantage over Wyatt and the other marshals.
Sympathetic Murder Backstory: Wyatt feels nothing but remorse over killing a man in a gunfight (despite being on the side of right and doing his job as a lawman) in the George Hoyt shooting in Dodge city. He tells Morgan that he shouldn't ever want to find out what its like to kill another man, right or wrong.
Wyatt: How the hell did we get ourselves into this?
Token Romance: Wyatt's thing with the actress serves little more than to expand on his inner conflict and to provide a happy ending. But then again, said romance happened in Real Life too...
Torches and Pitchforks: Not literally pitchforks, but pickaxes. A lynch mob, including miners with pickaxes, appears after Curly Bill kills the town marshal. Wyatt disperses the mob by saying there will be a trial.
Villains Out Shopping: When the travelling show comes to town, The Cowboys show up en masse, and seem to have a genuinely good time and be very appreciative of the performance. They even give Fabian a standing ovation for his rendition of the St. Crispin's Day speech. They do, however, freak out one of the performers by shooting at him for the hell of it.
Young Gun: Wyatt Earp's younger brother Morgan, to some extent. This is mostly in his portrayal as the least experienced of the four heroes at the OK Corral and in Wyatt's disapproval of his participation.