5 classic Kevin Costner movies you should see while waiting for more Yellowstone (and 5 hidden gems you may have missed)
Before Yellowstone and the role of John Dutton made him one of the highest-paid actors on TV, Kevin Costner was one of Hollywood’s most successful movie stars. A string of hits in the late 1980s to early 1990s put Costner on the map, and his Best Picture and Best Director Oscar wins for 1990’s Dances With Wolves solidified his place on Hollywood’s rarified A-List. While some of his movies were instant classics (think The Untouchables), others fell somewhere between monster hits (Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves) and blockbuster guilty pleasures (The Bodyguard). As Yellowstone fans wait for season five to resume this summer, here are five classic Costner movies, followed by five underrated Costner gems, that you should watch before the Duttons return.
Classic #1: No Way Out (1987)
No Way Out Official Trailer #1 - Gene Hackman Movie (1987) HD
The 1980s dined out on Cold War thrillers, but few proved to be as riveting as No Way Out. Directed by Roger Donaldson, Costner plays a seemingly straight-laced Naval officer in way over his head when a scandalous romance with a fiery Sean Young turns into a murder investigation that threatens to frame Costner for the crime and potentially expose a Russian operative deep within the U.S. government.
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No Way Out is full of twists and turns that are never predictable and always compelling, and Costner excels at playing the beleaguered hero forced to outrun and outwit his own people to prove his innocence. It all wraps up with one of the most satisfying, and jaw-dropping, twist endings ever.
Classic #2: The Untouchables (1987)
The Untouchables (1987) Trailer #1 | Movieclips Classic Trailers
Sean Connery’s scene-stealing (and Oscar-winning) performance as the PC-averse cop Jim Malone is what most remember about The Untouchables, Brian De Palma’s adaptation of the classic TV show which starred Robert Stack as intrepid G-Man Elliot Ness. But Costner’s take on Ness—think Clark Kent with a badge—is not to be overlooked.
Connery and Costner have exceptional chemistry as Malone takes Ness under his wing to wage war on Al Capone (Robert De Niro) during Prohibition. Costner has the harder job, though. He has to make the green-gilled, Boy Scout Ness both likable and believable when the stakes get higher and the bodies pile up. Costner’s performance is at times uneven, but when it clicks the role does for Costner what Maverick did for Tom Cruise in 1986’s Top Gun: make him a movie star.
Classic #3: Field of Dreams (1989)
Field of Dreams Official Trailer #1 - (1989) HD
In the late ’80s, Costner delivered back-to-back all-timer baseball films—with Field Of Dreams often duking it out with Bull Durham for “Best Baseball Movie Ever” status. Aside from being famous for its most quotable line—“If you build it, he will come”—Field of Dreams is also well-known for sending grown adults into an ugly cry in an emotionally charged drama about a struggling family man and farmer (Costner) who hears voices instructing him to turn his Iowa cornfield into a baseball diamond.
Costner uses his new ballpark to help the ghosts of sports legends past find peace in the present, as writer-director Phil Alden Robinson drags audiences by the heartstrings into “just-go-with-it” fantasy drama territory. Nominated for three Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Field Of Dreams is the baseball movie equivalent of It’s A Wonderful Life—it only gets better with repeat viewings.
Classic #4: Dances With Wolves (1990)
Dances With Wolves (1990) - Kevin Costner Western Movie HD
Costner took on the unenviable task of directing, producing, and starring in Dances With Wolves, an epic Civil War drama about a soldier struggling to find himself in a remote area of the country he almost died to protect. And he does all this while surrounded by the people that he and his government stole this country from: Native Americans.
Based on the novel by Michael Blake, Costner couldn’t have picked a more challenging movie for his feature-directing debut. But he ultimately found a film that brilliantly showcases his versatility both behind and in front of the camera, delivering a three-hour, Oscar-winning classic that captures one of the United States’ most formative periods with effortless grace and scale.
Classic #5: Bull Durham (1988)
Bull Durham (1988) - Nuke Brings the Heat Scene (4/12) | Movieclips
Former minor leaguer-turned-filmmaker Ron Shelton mixed his love for baseball with funny-as-hell observations about sex and fandom to create Bull Durham, his intentionally rough-around-the-edges rom-com.
A poignant and character-driven crowd-pleaser, Bull Durham centers on two minor league Durham Bulls—Crash Davis (Costner) and “Nuke” LaLoosh (Tim Robbins, in his star-making turn)—vying for the love of a compelling, poetry-spouting groupie (Susan Sarandon). Plenty of sparks, and hilarious comedy, ensue as Shelton uses the complexities of baseball to make sense of the even more complicated off-the-field romances that the game inspires.
Hidden Gem #1: A Perfect World (1993)
Trailer - PERFECT WORLD (1993, Kevin Costner, Laura Dern, Clint Eastwood)
Our first underrated Costner gem is 1993’s A Perfect World. After the success of Unforgiven, director Clint Eastwood turned to fellow Oscar-winner Costner to headline this stark exploration of what justice looks like in America. This underappreciated drama is a slow-burn thriller centered on escaped convict “Butch” Haynes (Costner), who kidnaps a sheltered 8-year-old boy named Phillip (T.J. Lowther) and ropes him into a violent but formative road trip across 1960s Texas. Eastwood plays the dogged, but not rigid, Texas Ranger leading the manhunt for Butch, with Laura Dern’s empathetic criminologist in tow.
John Lee Hancock’s script blesses Costner with an embarrassment of scenes that let the actor give what is arguably his most tender and heartbreaking performance, as Butch’s violent ways put him on course for a tragic, and haunting, end.
Hidden Gem #2: Tin Cup (1996)
Trailer HD | Tin Cup | Warner Archive
Costner reunited with Bull Durham writer-director Ron Shelton for Tin Cup, a sleeper hit rom-com about Roy “Tin Cup” MacAvoy, a down-in-the-dumps golf pro who’s given one more chance to get back what his profession thinks he has lost. Complicating this very funny and charming redemption story is a love triangle between his rival (Don Johnson) and his rival’s girlfriend (Rene Russo). Costner and Russo’s breezy chemistry is scary-good, and it pairs well with Shelton’s clever and witty script, making Tin Cup one of the greatest (and funniest) sports movies ever made.
Hidden Gem #3: Open Range (2003)
OPEN RANGE Clip - Killed Our Friend? (2003) Kevin Costner
Costner’s excellent Western Open Range is one of the genre’s best. It takes a purposefully grounded, “intimate epic” approach to those who braved the Wild West to tell a riveting tale of redemption, Civil War PTSD, and good ol’ fashioned gunslingin’. Robert Duvall and Annette Bening star opposite Costner, with the three leading an impressive ensemble in an equally impressive movie full of sweeping anamorphic vistas and haunting drama.
The movie’s gunfights are intentionally clunky and askew, full of misfires and ricochets, as anti-heroes take aim at sinister villains who are just as fallible as they are. In doing so, Open Range proves to be the rare Western that doesn’t glorify or lionize those who constantly give everything they’ve got to survive in a world that only takes. While Dances With Wolves was showered with Oscars, Open Range is an equally impressive, but sadly overlooked, achievement.
Hidden Gem #4: Silverado (1985)
Silverado 1985 Trailer HD | Kevin Kline | Scott Glenn | Kevin Costner
In a just world, writer-director Lawrence Kasdan (who wrote the screenplay for Raiders Of The Lost Ark) would have been able to make several sequels to his highly entertaining (and painfully underrated) Western Silverado, a spirited love letter to the genre.
Costner, Scott Glenn, and Kevin Kline headline an impressive ensemble of misfit cowboys forced to take on an amoral sheriff (the late, great Brian Dennehy) and a ruthless rancher (Ray Baker). Silverado was Kasdan’s attempt to revitalize the Western, and he certainly gives it his all, with clever dialogue and inspired action set pieces. Despite the movie’s tepid reaction at the box office, Silverado remains one of Costner’s most entertaining films.
Hidden Gem #5: Thirteen Days (2001)
Thirteen Days 2000 Trailer | Kevin Costner | Shawn Driscoll
Costner reunited with No Way Out director Roger Donaldson for Thirteen Days, the slow-burn political thriller that chronicles the harrowing days of the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. For almost two weeks, the world found itself tipping toward nuclear war as political consultant Kenneth P. O’Donnell (Costner) and President John F. Kennedy (Bruce Greenwood) worked tirelessly to bring the globe back from the brink.
Mostly a story told by people talking in rooms, Donaldson finds riveting ways to turn those conversations into compelling drama without making it feel like a live-action adaptation of the Missile Crisis’ Wiki page. Greenwood is exceptional as JFK, giving his portrayal of the late president a relatable vulnerability that helps remind audiences that he’s just as human and worried as those that voted for him. Greenwood and Costner’s chemistry—alongside Robert Culp’s Robert Kennedy—make this engaging movie feel like it’s a Cold War edition of The West Wing, but with bigger (and real-life) stakes.
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