Young Guns (1988)

young guns

“Billy, we’re good, but this is getting ridiculous.”

The Scoop: 1988 R, directed by Christopher Cain and starring Emilio Estevez, Kiefer Sutherland, and Charlie Sheen

Tagline: Six reasons why the West was wild

Summary Capsule: It’s an 80s Western revision of the Billy the Kid mythos.  With rock music.

Justin’s rating: Can we get to Part II for the “Blaze of Glory” references already?

Justin’s review: I’d never seen Young Guns before 2014 (although the sequel is another story), but it didn’t take long for me to instantly peg this film as high on the fumes of the ’80s.  Western it may be, Young Guns is just as much a product of that era as any zany teen comedy or wacky sci-fi adventure.  This one just so happens to have cowboys and shootouts, but it still retains the same love of witty one-liners, the glorious electric guitar soundtrack, and a head-over-heels infatuation with its cast of good-looking guys.

Even today, Young Guns’ casting should be considered a coup.  I mean, seriously, look at this roster: Emilio Estevez, Kiefer Sutherland, Terrance Stamp, Jack freaking Palance, Charlie Sheen, Dermot Mulroney, Lou Diamond Phillips, and even LOST’s Terry O’Quinn.   Those guys weren’t one-hit wonders, but legitimate stars back then through now, and it helps the cause of this revenge plot nicely.

The story goes that there’s this really nice English rancher (Stamp) who’s taken in a number of ruffians, educated them, and named them “Regulators.”  But the local heavy (Palance) has the region under his thumb and soon orders a hit on the poor Brit.  That doesn’t sit well with his pseudo-adopted family, who all take up badges to hunt down and deliver justice.  More or less, the rest of the movie cycles through action scenes, downtime scenes lush with character development and Estevez’ backside, and pep talks.  All you really need know is that it’s a group of guys who are weird, wild, and pretty good fighters trying to make wrong things right.

The monkey wrench with this entire film is the presence of Billy the Kid (Estevez, back when he was trying to be an action star).  Billy is a little crazy and a lot impulsive, and while his quips are often hilarious, his decisions hurt his fellow Regulators just as much as help them.   The one thing you can say in his favor is that he’s got a never-say-die spirit about him; he’s a character who fears no one, cows to no one, and will fight dirty if he has to.

While a little long and full of some pretty hefty amounts of cheese (slow motion action scenes complete with slow motion talking abound), Young Guns is just downright entertaining, especially if you love the ’80s.  It’s really, really funny in parts and not afraid to let each of its principal cast have actual personalities and character development.  Seeing Jack Bauer as a soft-spoken romantic is hilarious looking back, but he’s great in the role.  The action is serviceable but not the best I’ve seen in Westerns, but that’s almost beside the point when you have a cast like this bouncing off of each other.  See it, reap it.

And just like that, Bill and Ted met their fate in the Old West.  The end.
And just like that, Bill and Ted met their fate in the Old West. The end.


  • Along the way they get super-high on American Indian juice, because how else are they to get psyched for a major combat experience?
  • Shootout with an outhouse
  • Slow-mo shootouts are the best and don’t let anyone tell you differently
  • Using a Gatling gun against an unarmed man seems like a tad overkill
  • Tom Cruise was disguised with a mustache and is hiding behind the barricades on the street during the shootout.   Also, in the final battle, on a day he wasn’t shooting, Emilio Estevez dressed as a bad guy and fought along with them.
  • Based on actual events from the Lincoln County War, although liberties were taken.

Groovy Quotes

Alex: I’m not leaving my house.
Billy the Kid: Alex, if you stay they’re gonna kill you. And then I’m gonna have to to go around and kill all the guys who killed you. That’s a lot of killing.

Billy the Kid: “Dear Governor Axtell. I’ve heard that you will give 200 dollars for my head. Perhaps we should meet and talk. I am at the Juarez village at the border. Send 3 men, and instruct them not to shoot, as I am unarmed. In short, Sir; I surrender. Your obedient servant William H. Bonney. PS: I changed my mind. Kiss my ass.”

[When the cavalry arrives]
Doc: Billy, we’re good, but this is getting ridiculous.

Dirty Steve: Damn good riding with you, Chavez.
Chavez: Many nights, my friend… Many nights I’ve put a blade to your throat while you were sleeping. Glad I never killed you, Steve. You’re all right.

Billy the Kid: Hey, Peppin. I see you got Charley Crawford down there with you.
Peppin: Yeah, that’s right, Bonney. We got a whole–
[Bonney goes to the window and shoots Charley Crawford]
Billy the Kid: Hey, Peppin. Charley Crawford’s not with you anymore.

Billy the Kid: Reap it, Murphy, you son of a bitch.

Charley: Hey, Chavez, how come they ain’t killing us?
Dirty Steve: Because we’re in the spirit world, a**hole. They can’t see us.

If you liked this movie, try these:

  • Young Guns II
  • Tombstone
  • Silverado

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