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Film / Tombstone

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And hell's coming with him.

"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 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. Billy Zane plays an actor.

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 Brocius, 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 here

While 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!" The trial itself (which happens off-screen) is changed to the case being thrown out on a technicality.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: Several of the Cowboys who were ready to throw down with the Earps laugh when Doc spins his cup around in mocking Johnny Ringo's fancy Gun Twirling.
    • Also, just before he dies, Doc Holliday notes the irony in that he isn't wearing his boots.
  • Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: As Doc lays on his death bed, he confesses a few of his life's regrets to Wyatt, before encouraging him to pursue Josephine.
  • 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: Cochise County Sheriff's Deputy Billy Breckinridge, who seems to have a crush on the actor. Based on Earp's recollections, this might be true. "Curly Bill" Brocious has a few possible hints as well, though would be an invention.
  • Artistic License – History: The details are Shrouded in Myth, but in addition to some Historical Hero Upgrade and Historical Villain Upgrade modifications, other known facts are altered/omitted:
    • The events depicted in the movie were actually spread out over several years. Morgan and Virgil were shot five months after the OK Corral fight, and not on the same night. The bodycount of everything that transpires after the Earp brothers are shot is also heavily inflated; historical record supports all of four Cowboys killed during the Earp Vendetta Ride, including Frank Stillwell killed at the outset at the train station and Curly Bill.
    • Wyatt's brother Warren Earp is omitted from the story entirely.
    • Curly Bill Brocius only became leader of the Cowboys after the death of Old Man Clanton. Clanton, who frequently led the gang into Mexico to rustle cattle, was driving a herd back into Arizona and was attacked a mile south of the border on August 12, 1881. Clanton and all but two of the men with him were killed. The Clanton Gang's activities were causing major diplomatic problems, and the US Government had promised their Mexican counterparts, who were threatening a military response, that it would be taken care of.
    • The Clanton ranch, centerpiece of Cowboy operations, is omitted entirely.
    • Milt Joyce of the Oriental Saloon was no friend of the Earps. The altercation in the saloon was actually between Johnny Tyler and Doc Holliday, and escalated into Doc and Joyce shooting at each other. Joyce and Sheriff Behan tried to frame Doc for a double murder committed by Cowboys a few months later.
  • A-Team Firing: All the Cowboys at Iron Springs. This is actually very accurate to the historical record.
  • Awesome Mc Coolname: Johnny Ringo and Doc Holliday, as was Truth in Television, though both were aliases.
  • Badass Boast:
    Wyatt: Run! Tell all the curs that the law is comin'!! You tell 'em I'M comin!!! And Hell's comin' with me, y'hear! HELL'S COMIN' WITH ME!!!
    • Needless to say Wyatt comes after the Cowboys with a hellbent vengeance.
    • And then there's Doc Holliday's "I'm your huckleberry", which, in context, is his way of saying "If you want to fight to the death, I'm more than happy to oblige you."
    • When one of the Cowboys has Doc Holliday at gunpoint, Doc calmly holds out his (empty) pistols and all but dares him to shoot.
      Cowboy: I got you now, you sonofabitch!
    • Ike Clanton tries to do this several times, but his bravado is always deflated in seconds by superior gunfighters.
      Ike: I swear to God, lawdog, you don't step aside, we'll tear you apar- (Wyatt puts his gun to Ike's forehead and Ike visibly shrivels)
      Wyatt: You die first. Your friends may get me in a rush, but not before I turn your head into a canoe.
    • When Billy Clanton tells Doc he's probably drunkenly "seeing double", Doc whips out an extra pistol and spins them both in opposite directions with the line "I have two guns, one for each of you."
    • One of the most offhanded and casually insulting ever comes from Doc (who else?) when he sees a furious Johnny Tyler watching him while tightly clutching a shotgun.
      Doc: Oh, Johnny, I apologize, I forgot you were there. You may go now.
  • Badass Family: The Earp brothers.
  • Badass Longcoat: Particularly Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp.
  • Badass Moustache: Just about everybody in the movie, especially the Earps. Especially in Real Life. Interestingly, despite Doc Holliday arguably being the most badass character in the movie, he probably has the least impressive moustache.
  • Bang, Bang, BANG: Played liberally straight.
  • 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 Bad Wannabe: Cochise County Sheriff Johnny Behan acts like he runs Tombstone, but the Cowboys mostly ignore him and the Earps consider him more nuisance than threat. Even when he draws his gun, nobody takes him seriously, as he lacks the balls to do anything with it. Then there is Ike Clanton, who is the second most prominent Cowboy after Curly Bill and runs his mouth constantly, but every time a fight gets ready to happen, he turns and runs.
  • 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] (I meant exactly what I said.)note 
      • 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] (Allow me to teach you a lesson.)
      • In pace requiescat. [May he rest in peace] (It's your funeral.)
    • There's also the unsubtitled damnation of the Cowboys by the Mexican priest at the beginning (see Foreshadowing.)
  • Blast Out: Portrays the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral as a tense standoff before a sly wink from Doc Holliday to Billy Clanton turns it into a full blown blast out.
  • Bling-Bling-BANG!: Wyatt's personalized pistol, a custom made Buntline Special from "the grateful citizens of Dodge City".
  • Boisterous Weakling: Many of the Cowboys are fond of making violent threats but few of them have the stones to back it up. Ike Clanton, Johnny Tyler, Johnny Behan...take your pick.
  • Boom Town: As stated in the prologue, silver had been discovered in Arizona making Tombstone "queen of the boom towns".
  • Born Lucky: Wyatt Earp is the only one of the lawmen never to suffer even a glancing bullet wound. According to his contemporaries, he really did have a reputation for almost miraculously avoiding being shot. After the real-life shootout at Iron Springs, Earp found dozens of holes in his coat but had not been hit a single time himself.
  • Bottomless Magazines: The gunfight at the OK Corral is really guilty of this.
  • Bring It:
    Cowboy: (pointing a gun at Holliday) I got you now, you sonofabitch!
    Holliday: You're a daisy if ya do!
    • And, more famously:
    Ringo: {to the Earps} Don't any of you have the guts to play for blood?
    Holliday: {holding a gun behind his back} I'm your huckleberry.note 
  • Bullets Do Not Work That Way: A notable example occurs during the showdown between Doc and Ringo. Doc outdraws Ringo and shoots him in the forehead. Ringo is killed, but only has a small, neat, nearly bloodless hole in his head from the bullet. In reality, getting shot in the forehead at that range with Doc's gun would have blown the top of his head off. It's not just the bullet, it's the ballistic pressure wave.
  • Butt-Monkey: Billy Breckinridge is openly mocked by the Cowboys, prompting Wyatt to remark after the OK Corral gunfight, "All they ever did was laugh at him." Only Curly Bill treats him with any kind of respect. He does Take a Level in Badass later in the movie. Ike Clanton possibly has it even worse than Billy.
  • Byronic Hero: Doc Holliday.
  • 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  Wyatt unknowingly calls back to this moment with his "Hell's coming with me!" speech. One wonders if Ike Clanton noticed.
  • The Cameo: Charlton Heston.
  • Circuit Judge: When someone gets tried for a crime, it's whenever Judge Spicer shows up.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Doc Holliday. The cleverest example is probably when a Cowboy is using a horse for cover during the OK Corral gunfight, so Doc fires his shotgun into the air to spook the horse and give him a clear shot at the cowboy.
  • 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.
  • Cukoloris: A short scene involving a traveling show features a decidedly low-tech version, where the effect of flickering flame (symbolizing Fire and Brimstone Hell in a reading of Faust) is created by having a stagehand slosh a half-full bottle of whiskey in front of the light.
  • 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.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: During the shootout at the OK Corral, the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday wear black Badass Longcoats and hats while the Cowboys wear more colorful clothes with white hats.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Doc Holliday. If his sense of humor was any dryer, it would send the whole town into a drought.
    Doc: Maybe poker's just not your game, Ike. I know! Let's have a spelling contest!
  • Deal with the Devil: Used by the theatre company's rendition of Faust. Curly Bill says he'd take the deal and then shove the contract up the devil's backside. When he asks Johnny Ringo what he'd do, Ringo says he already did.
  • Death Seeker: Doc Holliday, who suffers from tuberculosis and takes every opportunity to be a smart ass to the most psychotic Cowboys.
    Johnny Ringo: I'll put you out of your misery!
    Doc Holliday: Say when!
    • 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 Television because the Real Life Johnny Ringo was found dead under mysterious circumstances that left the coroner with only one possible conclusion of "suicide".
  • Deconstruction: The film acts as a deconstruction of John Ford westerns, specifically My Darling Clementine, picking apart the idealized image of the Earps and the clear cut, black and white values that classic westerns represented.
  • 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 repeatedly talks tough and then collapses into a whimpering mess whenever the shooting starts. During the Corral shootout, the Earps let him go as he surrenders as an unarmed participant; he immediately holes up in a nearby building, takes a gun from the man inside, and starts shooting at the Earps from behind. In his last scene of the film he rips 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. Also Johnny Tyler and Sheriff Behan.
  • The Dragon / Dragon Ascendant: Johnny Ringo to Curly Bill Brocius. After the latter's death he takes up command of the Cowboys.
  • The Dreaded: Nobody wants to dance with Doc Holliday. Johnny Tyler immediately surrenders the moment he realizes who he's dealing with rather than risk a gunfight with Doc Holliday, despite the fact that Doc doesn't have his gun at the ready and Johnny already has his shotgun out and aimed at Doc. Even Johnny Ringo totally freaks out when he realizes that Doc's come for him.
  • Drugs Are Bad: As evidenced by Mattie Earp, Wyatt's laudanum-addicted wife. She died later of a drug overdose.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Doc Holliday's first appearance.
    • 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?"
    • A secondary one comes for Doc when he casually chats with the Earp brothers while Johnny Tyler is standing there with a gun aimed at him, before turning and cheerily sending Johnny on his way after admitting that Doc had forgotten Johnny was standing there.
    • 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 / Token Good Teammate: Sherman McMasters—drops his red sash in front of Wyatt and fall in with the Earp brothers after someone fires a gun into the Earp household, nearly killing the brothers' wives; McMasters 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. He also repeatedly tells Ringo to cool down and—parallel with Earp—tries to maintain what passes for peace in the town. In addition, Curly Bill's shooting of marshal Fred White is a complete accident while high off his ass on opium, and can be heard begging "C'mon, Fred, get up!" in a horrified tone of voice.
    Curly Bill: I tell you boys, even I'm worried about what's gonna happen once Ringo runs this outfit, God have mercy!
  • Evil Counterpart: Johnny Ringo, to Doc Holliday. Both well-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. Also Curly Bill to Wyatt - both being the leaders of their respective gangs. Amplified by the fact that Wyatt kills Curly and Doc kills Johnny.
    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.
    • There's also the memorably funny/badass scene where Johnny Ringo tries to intimidate Holliday with some admittedly impressive Gun Twirling tricks...which Holliday then mocks him for by recreating with spins of his drinking cup.
  • Famous Last Words: "Oh my. This is funny." (Truth in Television)
  • Fanfare: Just really on the dramatic end.
  • Fastest Gun in the West: Doc Holliday. His reputation is subtly indicated early on when Johnny Tyler hands over his shotgun rather than pit his shooting speed against Doc, even though Doc's not in a shooting position and Johnny already has his shotgun out and pointed at Doc.
  • 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...
    • If someone wasn't firing Guns Akimbo, they're doing this trope.
  • Foreshadowing: At the beginning, the Mexican priest condemns the Cowboys in Spanish until Ringo shoots him. Curly Bill asks Florentino what he said, and Florentino says a "sick horse" will get them. Ringo corrects him, saying that the priest was quoting the Bible, referring to the "pale horse" ridden by Death. Of course, "pale" and "sick" can both refer to Doc Holliday, who kills Ringo.
    • Sherman McMasters is the only Cowboy who looks uncomfortable when the other Cowboys start dragging the bride away at the beginning of the movie. He eventually joins Wyatt in fighting the Cowboys.
    • Out of the three Earp brothers, Morgan gets hurt the worst in the fighting at the OK Corral. He's the only to die.
  • Good Bad Girl: Josephine. As she puts it:
    Josephine: (To Wyatt, cheerily) Oh, I know. Don't say it: I'm rotten. I tried to be good. It's just so boring.
    Wyatt: (Awed) The way you talk...
    Josephine: Never heard a woman talk like that?
    Wyatt: ...Never.
    Josephine: I don't have time to be "proper". I'm a woman, I like men. If that means I'm not "ladylike", then I guess I'm just not a lady. At least I'm honest.
    Wyatt: You're different...there's no arguing that. But you're a lady, all right. I'll take my oath on it.
  • Good Is Not Nice/Good Is Not Soft: The Earp Vendetta Ride shows that they weren't really discreet in how they went about their business. They're out to murder the Cowboys, no two ways about it. The Federal Marshal badges just let them pretend it's about law and order.
    Wyatt: From now on, I see a red sash, I kill the man wearing it!
  • 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 Billy Clanton (Ike's younger brother) and pulls a pistol on him. Clanton 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."
    • Everybody does this at least once in the movie. At the gunfight, Doc provides covering fire by dual-wielding his Colt Single Action Army and Colt Lightning together.
    • Curly Bill wears a two-gun rig and sometimes uses both pistols. He aims and fires one while cocking the other. It requires some coordination, but it's actually realistic.
  • The Gunslinger: Lots of them, of the Quick Draw variety, as one might guess from the film's subject. Especially, and in order of increasing quickness, Curly Bill, Wyatt, Johnny Ringo, and Doc Holliday. The latter two are in Fastest Gun in the West league.
  • Gun Twirling:
    • 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.
  • Happily Married: Virgil and Allie Earp. According to numerous biographies and eyewitness accounts, this was Truth in Television. Then with Wyatt and Josie.
    • Subverted all to hell with Wyatt and Mattie. Whatever reasons they married were soon lost the second Mattie found the laudanum.
  • 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.
  • Harbinger of Impending Doom: This movie gave the trope its original title, when Wyatt tells Ike that "Hell is coming with me!" He still winds up being this for the Cowboys.
  • 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.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Doc and Wyatt. The two are willing to do anything for each other.
    (after Doc has a bad coughing fit) "Turkey Creek" Jack Johnson: Doc, you oughta be in bed. What in the hell are you doing this for anyway?
    Doc Holliday: Wyatt Earp is my friend.
    "Turkey Creek" Jack Johnson: Hell, I got lots of friends.
    Doc Holliday: ...I don't.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade: While Doc Holliday's reputation as a feared gunfighter is acknowledged, the Earp faction in Tombstone is whitewashed. Holliday and the Earps had numerous run-ins with the law and assorted violent encounters. When they were lawmen themselves, they often exploited their authority for profit.
    • Wyatt Earp actually had a reputation for being a remarkably fair frontier lawman before coming to Tombstone. Where many of his contemporaries might shoot first and ask questions rarely, he mostly used his pistol as a club, which, if not exactly gentle, still allowed the man on the receiving end to continue breathing. Although he was willing to kill someone if he had to, it was never his go-to option. (As he says in the movie, he had only been involved in one shooting prior to coming to Tombstone.) At least until Morgan got shot...
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: As in most movies, the real situation's much more Gray and Grey Morality than its screen depiction.
    • Ike Clanton gets this, according to his descendants. Historical records don't really support their claims, though. It's definitely a simplification; the movie presents him as a Cowboy enforcer from the first, while historically he was closely associated with them (he mas a major purchaser of the cattle they stole and had family in the gang) but not a direct participant in their crimes until after his brother's death.
    • The Cowboys in general are portrayed as an organized gang of vicious killers who are tearing the town apart and ruthlessly persecuting the heroic Earp family. In reality, the Cowboys were a loose association of cattle rustlers who primarily stole cattle in Mexico. They had a lot of local support and helped consolidate local resistance against northern industrialists. Their feud with the Earps, however, was quite bloody and they weren't above murdering the Earps and their supporters after the OK Corral gunfight. Oddly enough, the film does portray a public and politically charged funeral for the victims of the OK Corral shootout, which conflicts with the rest of the film's characterization of the cowboys as 0% Approval Rating villains.
  • Honour Before Reason:
    Virgil: They're carrying guns, Wyatt.
    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 misdemeanor?
    Virgil: Damn right I'll risk it. They're breaking the law!
    • Although the Cowboys were making direct threats to their lives as well.
  • I Don't Like the Sound of That Place: Tombstone, Arizona.
  • 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). This is remarked on as borderline miraculous after the fight at the waterhole where he walked out of cover and picked off the Cowboys one by one with bullets flying past the whole time. 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.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Most notable when Wyatt wades across a watering hole into a hail of bullets, and all the bad guys miss him. This is based on a real life event where, according to eyewitnesses, this is exactly what happened.
  • Incurable Cough of Death: Doc Holliday, who really did die of tuberculosis.
  • Instant Death Bullet: Averted, when Johnny Ringo is left staggering around weakly for a few seconds before collapsing to the ground after Doc shoots him in the head.
  • Insult Backfire: This legendary comeback.
    Billy Clanton: The drunk piano player? You're so drunk you can't hit nothin'. In fact, (pulls out a knife) you're probably seein' double.
    Doc Holliday: (pulls out another pistol and spins them both in opposite directions while still holding his drinking cup) I have two guns, one for each of you.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Wyatt and Doc Holliday are crack shots. Probably the most severe instance is Wyatt, using his horse as cover by hanging off the side of it while it's galloping, reaching underneath the horse's neck to shoot someone on the other side.
  • In Vino Veritas: Holliday quotes the trope by name during his first exchange with Johnny Ringo to let everyone know that while he is drunk, he also means everything that he says — namely, that he hates Ringo at first sight.
  • Kissing Cousins: Doc reveals towards the end that the only woman he ever loved was not Big Nosed Kate, but rather a first cousin of his, who left him at 15 to join a convent over the affair.
  • Knight, Knave and Squire: The Earp brothers and Doc Holliday. Virgil and Wyatt share the role of the Knight (in shining and sour flavors respectively), Doc Holliday is the Knave, and Morgan the Squire.
  • Large Ham: Wyatt has his moments. So does Curly Bill.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: The Cowboys all get theirs at some point. Even Ike, who managed to escape Wyatt, gets shot and killed later in life.
  • Limited Wardrobe: While the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday wear different outfits throughout the films, the Cowboys wear the exact same thing from start to finish, including Curly Bill with his trademark red vest while Ike and Billy Clanton always wear blue vests.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: 85 speaking roles. Kurt Russell claims that he cut his own role down to allow other cast members more screen time.
  • Love at First Sight: The first time Wyatt and Josephine lay eyes on each other is played this way. Even Doc Holliday lampshades it:"Well... an enchanted moment!"
  • Love Triangle: Wyatt, Mattie (his wife), and Josie (the actress).
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Josephine Marcus.
  • Meaningful Echo: Doc to Ringo " I'm your huckleberry [...] Say when! "
  • Misplaced Retribution: The murder of Morgan by the Cowboy gang makes Wyatt swear to kill any member of them he finds. This includes Cowboys he may never have even met and who did nothing to him personally.
  • 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."
  • More Criminals Than Targets: The movie never explains how the dozens of Cowboys, who make up a good percentage of the entire economy of Tombstone, fund their outlaw lifestyles off the same population. Historically they didn't, with a primary business of rustling cattle from Mexico and thereby bringing value into the economy of the Tombstone area.
  • More Dakka: That sure is one impressive 18-round revolver Doc Holliday is carrying, isn't it? No wonder he won the shootout at the OK Corral with firepower like that!
  • 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.
  • No Kill Like Overkill: Billy Clanton manages to get some lucky shots off on Virgil and Morgan. Billy is shredded in a hail of bullets when all three Earp brothers return fire.
  • 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, making it more like an aversion of As You Know.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • When Johnny Tyler realizes he almost threatened Doc Holliday with a shotgun. Then he hears Doc address the man he'd grabbed the shotgun for as "Wyatt," figures out he'd tried to gun down Wyatt Earp, and truly comes to understand the depth of shit he'd just stepped in.
    • When Wyatt sees the looks on the Cowboy's faces in the O.K. Corral standoff and sees they're going to draw, he mutters, "Oh my God".
    • When Wyatt is dragging Curly Bill into custody while surrounded by the Cowboys, Ike Clanton approaches him while threatening that "we'll tear you apart." He gets too close and Wyatt puts the gun to his forehead. Ike's expression goes from "macho bravado" to "loosened bowels" in milliseconds.
    • 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.
  • One-Man Army: Wyatt at the Iron Springs shootout. He wades into a hail of gunfire without so much as a scratch, and kills almost half a dozen Cowboys in return, including their leader. This actually happened in real life.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted, we get three Johnnys (four if you count Doc, whose real name is John Henry Holliday) and two Billys: Johnny Ringo, Johnny Tyler (the obnoxious dealer who Wyatt throws out of his own poker game) and Johnny Behan, the corrupt, cowardly sheriff, as well as Billy Clanton and Billy Breckinridge (the bespectacled sheriff's deputy).
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: John Henry Holliday is only ever referred to by his nickname 'Doc'.
  • Opening Monologue: 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).
  • Parasol of Prettiness: Josie carries one in her first scene.
  • The Piano Player: Doc has fun with this at the bar in one scene.
  • The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: The Cowboys don't get up to much organized crime - they mainly just drink, gamble, make trouble, and shoot people who try to stand up to them. This is because the actual historical Cowboys were cattle rustlers who crossed the border into Mexico to steal cattle to sell back in Arizona. Hence why they're regarded as good for business in Tombstone until they make too much trouble.
  • Pistol-Whipping: Done in a conventional fashion with revolvers and also via the stock of a shotgun to bloody effect.
  • Plot Armor: In contrast to his brothers and Doc, who all get hit at least once, Wyatt Earp does not incur a single bullet wound in any of the numerous gunfights he's in. Even more impressive is that the historical records back this up.
  • Power Walk: The Earps with Holliday walking towards the OK Corral. They did make that walk in Real Life. It's so awesome that this movie replays the Power Walk during the end credits.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: Curly Bill is usually the one to talk the other Cowboys (especially Ringo) out of impulsively fighting the Earps, urging them to wait for the opportune moment to strike.
  • Precision F-Strike: The music lover apparently hasn't heard of "Frederic fucking Chopin". This is the sole F bomb in the film.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: Doc gives an awesome one to Johnny while he's staggering and dying from a gunshot to the head.
    Doc: You're no daisy! You're no daisy at all!
  • Professional Gambler: Doc Holliday. The degree to which his Real Life counterpart corresponded to this trope is debatable.
  • 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 wanting to 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.
  • Quote-to-Quote Combat: Again, the scene where Doc Holliday and Johnny Ringo trade thinly-veiled barbs at one another in Latin.
  • Rated M for Manly: Russel, Kilmer, Elliot, and so on...each with a Badass Moustache and skill with a gun. So much macho it hurts.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: The Shootout at Iron Springs, where Wyatt Earp strides slowly through a hail of gunfire, picking the cowboys off one by one and eventually shooting Curly Bill himself comes across as ridiculous Hollywood exaggeration of history for the sake of a tired action movie cliche....except that's exactly the way it happened in real life, and Wyatt Earp never got so much as a scratch at either Iron Springs or the OK Corral.
  • 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.
  • Re-Cut: An extended version was released on DVD. About nine minutes of never-before-seen footage were restored. The most noticeable are:
    • A scene showing the depths of Mattie's addiction to laudanum and her jealousy over Josephine.
    • A somber soliloquy by Doc quoting Kublai Khan.
    • A scene explaining Kate's sudden disappearance from the film, with Doc stressing the importance of friendship.
    • A scene with McMasters and the Cowboys meeting one last time. A small scene showing the graphic result of that meeting has been re-inserted, with the line "They got McMasters!" being moved into this small insert.
  • Reconstruction: Whilst the protagonists are portrayed as shaded in and imperfect, at the end of they are still presented as the heroes of the story and the Cowboys whilst not simple card carrying villains are still the bad guys. Wyatt's victory and chance to live a new life with Josephine is presented triumphantly, corroborated by the ending narration, and the Cowboys have a designator of their villainy like the westerns of old with the red sashes in lieu of black hats. The ending starts bittersweet but ends on an upbeat note.
  • 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.
  • Reliably Unreliable Guns: One of Curly Bill's revolvers goes off and kills the Marshal while he's surrendering them.
  • 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.
    • Frank Stilwell doesn't even have enough time to regret asking where Wyatt is before the latter shoots him.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Wyatt Earp swears to wipe out the entire band of Cowboys after they ambush his brothers. See the quote at the top of the page.
    • 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 two weeks of riding. The film's climactic duel between Ringo and Holliday is based loosely on Wyatt's claim that he had snuck back into Arizona to finish the Rampage of Revenge on Ringo.
    • Though :
    Doc Holliday: No, make no mistake. It's not revenge he's after. It's a reckoning.
  • Rule of Symbolism: Both the priest in the beginning speaking untranslated Spanish at Johnny Ringo before being shot, and Wyatt's quote at the top of the page reference the Biblical Four Horseman of the Apocalypse. note  Guess how many lawmen go to confront the Cowboys at the OK Corral?
    • In addition, the fourth lawman (Doc) is the only one that's not an Earp brother, and his tuberculosis makes him notably the palest of the three. Guess who goes to confront Johnny Ringo at the end?
  • Running Gag: The number of times Wyatt has to tell people he's retired as a lawman. By the time the mayor tries to ask him, he can't even get two words out after introducing himself before Wyatt cuts him off.
  • Saloon Owner: Milt.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: When the stage coach rolls up with the recently-killed actor, Josephine 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.
    • Also Ike Clanton's forte. He runs from a fight no less than 5 times.
  • Sharp-Dressed Man: Sheriff Behan wears the hell out of those pinstripes.
  • Shoutout To Shakespeare: Fabian performs the Saint Crispin's day speech from Henry V.
  • 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.
  • Smart People Know Latin: Doc and Ringo have a whole conversation of death threats in Latin.
  • Smug Snake: Cochise 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. Nobody on either side ever takes him seriously.
  • Snark-to-Snark Combat: Doc Holliday and Johnny Ringo, culminating in a duel of Latin phrases.
  • Spirited Young Lady: Josephine, through and through. She's free-spirited and independent, can ride a horse with the best of them, and even plays the part of Mephistopheles in the acting group's scene from Faust. She even confides with Wyatt that she isn't sure if she qualifies as a "lady". He earnestly tells her she is.
  • Stock Footage/Sean Connery Is About to Shoot You: A cowboy near the beginning of the film shoots at the camera/audience. The footage is straight from The Great Train Robbery; the actor is Justus D. Barnes.
  • Southern Gentleman: Doc Holliday oozes charm, even when he's snarking.
  • The Stoic: Virgil Earp
  • Stuffed into the Fridge: Johnny Ringo tempts the heroes into a duel by torturing and killing Sherman McMasters and sending his body to the heroes.
  • 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.
  • Tap on the Head: Wyatt's preferred method of subduing Cowboys was to "buffalo" them, IE. smacking them in the head with the barrel of a revolver.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: At the gunfight, Wyatt and Doc pretty much empty their revolvers into Billy.
  • This Is Gonna Suck: Invoked by Wyatt on the way to the O.K. Corral.
    Wyatt: How the hell did we get ourselves into this?
  • Throw It In!: According to the director, all of Billy Bob Thornton's lines were ad-libbed, as he was told to just sound like a bully.
  • 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.
  • Undying Loyalty: Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday.
    Turkey Creek Jack Johnson: Doc, you oughtta be in bed. What the hell are you doin' out here?
    Doc Holliday: Wyatt Earp is my friend.
    Turkey Creek Jack Johnson: Hell, I got lotsa friends.
    Doc Holliday: ...I don't.
  • Unwanted Spouse: Wyatt Earp's laudanum-addicted wife. Treated as part of the Token Romance plotline.
  • 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.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: The narrator describes what happened to various characters later in life.
  • Wicked Cultured: Johnny Ringo.
  • Who Will Bell the Cat?: Wyatt invokes this one, placing his revolver to Ike Clanton's head as the other Cowboys threaten to shoot him up.
    "Your friends might get me in a rush but not before I turn your head into a canoe, do you understand me?"
  • You Look Like You've Seen a Ghost: "Why, Johnny Ringo, you looked like somebody just walked over your grave."
  • 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.
  • You Remind Me of X: Doc Holliday does the Deadpan Snarker version, saying how Ringo reminds him of himself... which just means that Doc really hates Ringo.


Example of: