The Paramount Network’s “Yellowstone,” starring Kevin Costner, has been a ratings smash in recent years, despite the actor’s dwindling movie roles. Costner received an Oscar for both producing and directing the Western “Dances with Wolves” (1990).
Costner’s career had almost ended before it had started. Following a string of prominent supporting roles in films such as Ron Howard’s “Night Shift” and Jessica Lange’s “Frances,” Costner landed a role that very well may have launched his career. Lawrence Kasdan subsequently cut the scenes from the movie “The Big Chill” in which he played a suicide victim. It’s because of this that the same director gave Costner a showy role in the film “Silverado.”
From then on, his career took off, and he went on to star in such classics as “The Untouchables,” “Bull Durham,” “JFK,” “Field of Dreams,” and “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” during the ’80s and ’90s. Costner’s “Waterworld” was a critical and commercial flop. Despite this setback, he has continued working in cinema and has even extended into television, winning an Emmy in 2012 for Best Movie/Mini Actor for his performance in “Hatfields and McCoys.”
The gallery up top lists Kevin Costner movies and TV shows from worst to best.
“Bull Durham” (1988)
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The combination of Costner, Susan Sarandon, and Tim Robbins’ powerful on-screen presence plus Shelton’s own background in minor league baseball makes for a picture that is both a romantic comedy and a sports drama but also stands on its own. Bull Durham is an unconventional masterwork, a complex and character-driven crowdpleaser about two Durham Bull players competing for the love of a minor league groupie. It’s hilarious, it’s seductive, and the actors are brilliant. It’s a kind of fantasy entertainment that provides a nostalgic rush. Absolutely thrilling.
“Field of Dreams” (1989)
He will come if you construct it. With Field of Dreams, Costner and director Phil Alden Robinson go deeply into the realm of fantasy, creating a film notorious for reducing adult men to tears. A farmer who hears voices constructs a baseball field in the hopes of attracting the spirits of deceased sports greats. This premise seems bizarre, if not completely bonkers, on paper.
The rare fantasy intended for a large adult audience that succeeds, this American fairy tale about redemption, family, and religion was a hit with audiences and reviewers alike. The film, which was nominated for three Oscars (including Best Picture), is a worthy sequel to It’s a Wonderful Life.
A sophisticated plot is woven around one of the nation’s most tragic tragedies in Oliver Stone’s epic drama, which is controversial but totally, cruelly riveting. Critics have compared Costner to a contemporary James Stewart for his portrayal of romanticized Louisiana District Attorney Jim Garrison in this film. Eight Academy Award nominations were submitted for JFK, including Best Picture.
The Untouchables (1987)
Brian De Palma, with his usual flair, directs Kevin Costner, Sean Connery, Andy Garcia, and Robert De Niro in a largely dramatized thriller about the search for mobster Al Capone during Prohibition. David Mamet wrote the screenplay. Connery stole the show and took home the Oscar, but it’s important to note that everyone involved was at the peak of their careers here. True crime fans should see The Untouchables.
Dances With Wolves (1990)
Costner’s first feature film as a director is a timeless American classic about a Union Army lieutenant who forms an unbreakable kinship with a band of Lakota Indians and abandons his former life. There has been considerable pushback against Dances With Wolves in the decades since its astounding critical and economic success, but no one can deny that the movie is an epic piece of art that moves people deeply. Seven Oscars were awarded to the film, including Best Picture and Best Director, so clearly the Academy agrees.
A Perfect World (1993)
Both Costner and Eastwood starred in this film. An escaped felon, a captive youngster, and a Texas ranger in hot pursuit feature prominently in Clint Eastwood’s directorial follow-up to the Oscar-winning Unforgiven. The themes of intergenerational trauma and mental and physical violence are explored in A Perfect World in a way that is subtle, methodical, unsettling, and incredibly effective. Both the director and the celebrity may count this as a professional high point.
Open Range (2003)
The popularity of the traditional American Western has waxed and waned for decades, if not longer, and it has been around for almost as long as motion pictures. Once in a while, however seldom, a terrific one like Open Range comes along and breathes new life into it. This riveting tale stars Robert Duvall, Michael Gambon, and Annette Bening as gunslingers turned cowhands who take on corrupt lawmen. A romance subplot, although well-acted, is unnecessary. Open Range is still a great and heartfelt Western, despite these flaws. One of the finest last shootouts in recent cinematic history, it is realistic to the point of being chaotic, abrupt, and scary.
Hidden Figures (2016)
Theodore Melfi’s uplifting drama about African-American female heroes in the history of the U.S. space program stars Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monae. Costner’s portrayal of Al Harrison was a composite character based on real men who worked for NASA. At the 2017 Screen Actors Guild Awards, the cast unexpectedly won the top prize (Best Ensemble).
Silverado is a high-octane western that sets a ragtag group of outcast cowboys against an immoral sheriff and a corrupt businessman. Costner, Danny Glover, Kevin Kline, and Scott Glenn gave the Western genre a boost in the mid-1980s with their stellar performances. Lawrence Kasdan, the director and co-writer of such films as “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” deserves much of the praise. It’s a sincere and effective homage to the classic serials of yesteryear.
The Upside of Anger (2005)
Mike Binder’s drama features Joan Allen as a sharp-witted, heavy-drinking suburban housewife whose husband vanishes with his secretary, leaving her and their four girls to fend for themselves. Costner portrays a former baseball player who lives next door and may become the focus of the protagonist’s attention. The Upside of Anger is Allen’s showcase, arguably the finest performance of his illustrious career, but the whole ensemble is superb.
Molly’s Game (2017)
Aaron Sorkin wrote and directed this award-winning crime drama starring Jessica Chastain, which was based on Molly Bloom’s best-selling book of the same name. Bloom, an Olympic-level skier, ran the most exclusive high-stakes poker game for ten years before the FBI detained him. The actors, including Kevin Costner, Idris Elba, and Jeremy Strong, eat up the witty and smart banter in Sorkin’s directorial debut with relish. The film may lack the impact of, say, The Social Network.
Robin Hood Prince of Thieves (1991)
Buckle is riding high on the success of a film that was a box office monster in 1991, despite receiving mixed reviews from critics. Reynolds directed Costner once again, this time in a dark and violent retelling of the English fairy tale. Despite lukewarm reviews, the film made around $400 million at the box office. Alan Rickman’s portrayal of the evil Sheriff of Nottingham was hailed as the highlight and earned him a British Academy Film Award.
Thirteen Days (2000)
The 13 days in 1962 when the world was on the verge of nuclear war are depicted in Roger Donaldson’s The Cuban Missile Crisis, a suitably suspenseful and scary historical political thriller. The film, which stars Costner as top political adviser Kenneth P. O’Donnell and Bruce Greenwood as John F. Kennedy, received positive reviews but bombed at the box office.
Let Him Go (2020)
In Thomas Bezucha’s overlooked but riveting drama about bereaved parents who leave their Montana ranch in pursuit of their missing grandson, Costner reunited with Diane Lane seven years after Man of Steel and one year before Zack Snyder’s Justice League. It’s a wild journey, so it’s better to have no expectations. A larger audience should have been found in 2020 for Let Him Go since it is a powerful, engaging, and really dark neo-Western. The most valuable player is Lesley Manville, who is as captivating as always.
No Way Out (1987)
A popular thriller starring Costner, Gene Hackman, and Sean Young as a Defense Secretary, a Navy lieutenant on his staff, and a beautiful lady who ends up dead It’s Hitchcock’s famous “wrong-man” idea turned up for today’s adrenaline junkies. It’s chaotic, but it all turns out well. The marketing campaign for No Way Out made full use of Costner’s ruggedly handsome, all-American persona. Many of the promotional posters and stills featured the actor in different stages of undress.
This early Costner film is now widely regarded as a true cult masterpiece. The actor’s debut project with Kevin Reynolds (Waterworld, Prince of Thieves) is a heartwarming and hilarious road movie about five college pals in Texas who take one more road trip before entering the real world. Fandango has been called “one of the best directorial debuts in cinema history” by none other than Quentin Tarantino.
Man of Steel (2013)
The first film in the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) has its high points and low points: Henry Cavill and the supporting cast are fantastic, but the escalating apocalyptic action becomes more tedious and distracting. Though Cavill’s portrayal of Kal-El is spot-on, it’s Costner as adoptive father Jonathan Kent who steals the show by effortlessly radiating the movie’s much-needed warmth.
McFarland, USA (2015)
Like in Tin Cup, Costner manages to convert a sport that first looks uninteresting into an unexpected cinematic treat. McFarland, directed by Whale Rider’s Niki Caro, is based on the actual tale of an underdog cross-country team comprised mostly of Latino kids at a high school in California. It’s not exactly ground-breaking filmmaking, but it has all the hallmarks of a great feel-good sports film. Try not to shed a few tears at this.
Tin Cup (1996)
This romantic comedy about a bad-boy golf star and a love triangle reunited Costner with Bull Durham director Ron Shelton. Costner’s chemistry with co-star Rene Russo sizzles in Tin Cup, despite the film’s lightness and predictability.
The Bodyguard (1992)
Love it or hate it, this romantic drama starring Kevin Costner and a career-best performance from Whitney Houston will always have a special place in our hearts. Even after all these years, viewers still adore The Bodyguard despite the film’s chart-topping song overshadowing the story of a diva and her no-nonsense bodyguard. When it came out, it was the highest-grossing film of all time, and it quickly rose to number 10.
Mr. Brooks (2007)
Costner plays a successful businessman hiding his deadly alter ego (William Hurt) in this odd but enjoyable psychological thriller from regular Costner partner Roger Donaldson. The odd, brutal procedural also stars Dane Cook and Demi Moore, but it’s the connection between Costner and Hurt that really shines.
The Highwaymen (2019)
The idea of John Lee Hancock’s real crime drama, which recounts the 1930s chase for Bonnie and Clyde from the viewpoint of police enforcement, is quite enticing. Both Costner and Harrelson play the Texas Rangers in the film. The Highwaymen is sleek, well-acted historical entertainment, but it’s not as riveting as Bonnie & Clyde.
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014)
Shadow Recruit is an innovative take on Tom Clancy’s characters that reimagines how CIA agent Ryan got his start. While enrolled at the London School of Economics, he witnessed the 9/11 terrorist attacks and was inspired to join the United States Marine Corps. In the end, Costner’s portrayal of a CIA spymaster picks him up. Chris Pine’s attractive performance as Ryan is a highlight, and Costner’s experience and gravitas are also appreciated. The effort to make this character hipper for a younger audience in Shadow Recruit appears rather forced, but the film is still enjoyable and entertaining to watch.
For Love of the Game (1999)
Costner plays a professional pitcher who is about to play his farewell game and comforts himself with thoughts of his longtime girlfriend Jane (Kelly Preston) in this frothy but endearingly honest sports tale. The Sam Raimi-directed movie has a cameo from the late, great announcer Vin Scully and is entertaining but not as memorable as Costner’s legendary baseball films, which are among the greatest ever produced.
Director Kevin Reynolds’ science fiction epic set on a submerged Earth of the future has a reputation it arguably doesn’t fully deserve, given the timing of its release in the midst of massive bad press regarding the ever-expanding budget and production issues. It cost a fortune to make and ultimately disappointed audiences, but the narrative wasn’t terrible, so it made money when released on home video. Even after all this time, Costner still loves this movie. Waterworld is a shaky and sometimes thrilling amusement. It’s intriguing as a snapshot of 1995 Hollywood history.