(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a series where the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)
The Movie: Tombstone
Where You Can Stream It: Amazon Prime Video
The Pitch: Former lawman Wyatt Earp and his brothers move with their families to Tombstone, Arizona to make it rich. But when a gang called The Cowboys starts terrorizing the area, the Earps and their old pal Doc Holliday decide that they can’t just stand by and watch, setting up a massive conflict which erupts into violence during a famous showdown at the O.K. Corral.
Why It’s Essential Viewing: Because this movie straight up rules, that’s why.
If you peruse the IMDb “quotes” page for this 1993 western classic, you’ll find a hundred different reasons why this is my favorite western of all time. No other western comes close in terms of quotable lines, and I challenge anyone to find a performance in the genre that’s better than Val Kilmer’s complete transformation into the boozy, tuberculosis-afflicted Doc Holliday, who is just as quick with a quip as he is with his trigger finger. The women in this film are admittedly given short shrift, but that’s because the film isn’t concerned with them: this is primarily a story of brotherhood and male friendship, with the relationship between Kilmer’s Holliday and Kurt Russell’s Wyatt Earp serving as the focal point.
Tombstone is in a long tradition of macho, testosterone-fueled movies about men who use violence to exert power over the helpless, and those who are forced to resort to that same violence to rebel against the corrupt forces that threaten their quest for the American Dream. On the surface, it’s a cool movie with incredible one-liners, memorable face-offs, and unforgettable characters. But it’s also the sad story of men who are drawn into a war they don’t want to join, but feel morally required to participate in. It’s a tragedy that rips apart families and eats away at the souls of the players, and it’s a film that doesn’t try to depict the “good guys” as pure, unfaltering, upstanding citizens.
“Skin that smokewagon and see what happens.”
“You gonna do somethin’ or just stand there and bleed?”
“You called down the thunder, well now you’ve got it!”
“I’m your huckleberry.”
The list goes on. Throw a dart at these script pages and odds are you’ll land on a winner. But hot damn, ya’ll. This script, that direction (credited to George P. Cosmatos, but widely accepted to be ghost-directed by Russell himself), and those line readings make Tombstone an absolute all-timer.
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