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Tombstone Review

For Families provided by Common Sense Media

Iffy for 15+

Very popular and very violent Wyatt Earp story.

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that TOMBSTONE is a very violent modern-day Western about Wyatt Earp, his brothers, and his friend Doc Holliday. As it starts out, Earp and his brothers are retired lawmen, looking to relax and make some money. When a group of villains called the Cowboys starts to make trouble, the Earps make it clear that they do not want to get involved. Eventually, they decide to stand up and do the right thing, though not without a hint of vengeance. The movie is filled with guns, shooting, killing, and gushing blood, as well as some language, alcohol, and drugs (opium), and some mild sexual situations. This movie is much admired -- even by non-Western fans -- especially for its portrayal of the friendship between Earp (Kurt Russell) and Holliday (Val Kilmer). But for younger viewers, a better introduction to the Wyatt Earp legend is John Ford's My Darling Clementine (1946).

  • Families can talk about the intense violence in the film. Was it necessary to tell the story? Was any of it gratuitous?
  • Why do you think the Western genre not as popular as it once was? Do you have a favorite Western?
  • The legendary hero Wyatt Earp has many flaws in this film. Do the flaws make him more interesting? Do they make him less of a hero?

The good stuff
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    Messages: Though it doesn't start out that way, the movie is eventually about making ethical choices and showing empathy for others. In the beginning, Wyatt and his brothers are tired of being lawmen and wary of the danger involved. Now they just want to make money from gambling casinos. Trouble arises, and the brothers try to stay out of it as long as they can, but eventually they realize that they must do the right thing. It could be argued, however, that part of the motivation for this is revenge, since the bad guys manage to kill just about all of Wyatt's friends and relations.

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    Role models: Of course, Wyatt Earp is a classic hero, but we must take into account that, in this movie, he is a reluctant one. He'd rather not get himself killed, and would like to continue making money by running a bar and casino. He also becomes interested in another woman, even though he's married. Eventually, his conscience gets the better of him and he decides to do the right thing, stepping up to fight, though it could be argued that part of his motivation is revenge.

What to watch for
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    Violence: Very strong violence, mostly involving the frequent use of guns, as well as shooting and killing. We see blood smears and blood gushing. In one very gory scene, a doctor tries -- and fails -- to remove a bullet from a man's body (with much screaming and yelling). A priest is shot in the head, and other characters are similarly shot. We see gruesome corpses. A little girl is seen cowering, terrified during a shootout.

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    Sex: Allusions to hookers available in the town of Tombstone. The already-married Wyatt Earp becomes interested in a sexy showgirl, Josephine, who is seen as "the devil" in a stage play. (Although, according to the end credits, Earp happily spent the rest of his life with her). Otherwise, there's a good measure of flirting and kissing. There is also a suggestive painting of a girl on a wall.

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    Language: Strong, but not constant language, including one use of "f--king." We also hear: "s--t," "dick," "damn," "Goddamn," "Christ Almighty," "sons of a bitch," "hell," "piss," "damn," and "Antichrist."

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    Consumerism: Not an issue

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    Drinking, drugs and smoking: In this Old West town, most secondary characters drink heavily. The hero's best friend, Doc Holliday, drinks very, very heavily and is seen very drunk. Some characters smoke opium. Wyatt Earp's wife takes Laudanum for a headache, and always seems to be in a state of stupor. (She tries to hide her drugs from her husband.) We also see some cigar smoking.