An all-American, blue-collar working man turned Hollywood essential, Kevin Costner has lived a life full of experience and dreams that some can only imagine. Starting out as a small kid — 5’2” at high school graduation — who moved around a lot, Costner was fond of things like poetry, writing, and singing in his Baptist choir. Outside of the arts, he was also very interested in sports of all kinds which is reflected in his film career to this day. Also a man of the outdoors, Costner built his own canoe at 18 and paddled it through sections where Lewis and Clark ventured. Fun facts aside, Costner had a full and interesting life before the world got to know him as the charming and eloquent movie man we know him to be today.
From his past life, accomplishments, and hobbies, Costner was fully prepared to write, direct, and act for the screen as he fulfilled yet another lifelong dream. A man who was once called ‘The King of the Sports Movie’, Costner has been able to act in films of a subject matter near and dear to his heart that became the films he is best known for. And that doesn’t include his many other successful movies having to do with politics, crime, and romance that also make for some of his best roles. Luckily, we’re here to talk about all of those films at once as we celebrate the man who has accomplished more in one lifetime than some could in many.
10. The Bodyguard (1992)
While some might be surprised that this movie is on the list at all, The Bodyguard is a somewhat guilty pleasure for those who enjoy the performances and the chemistry between the two stars. Rachel Marron (Whitney Houston) is a huge pop star which has garnered a fanatical following from an obsessed and dangerous fan, prompting her to hire former secret service agent Frank Farmer (Costner) as her personal bodyguard. While this movie achieves its goals as a melodramatic romance drama, some have received it in a less kind fashion. Even so, the undeniable chemistry between Costner and Houston and Costner’s laid-back-yet-cool performance are what makes this movie great. Not to mention the well-written script from veteran writer Lawrence Kasdan, who has worked with Costner on many of his best roles.
Director: Mick Jackson
Main Cast: Kevin Costner, Whitney Houston, Gary Kemp
Runtime: 129 minutes
IMDb Rating: 6.3
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9. Tin Cup (1996)
Featuring a cleverly written script and a powerhouse cast of characters, Tin Cup is a golf movie about love, pride, and (of course) a comeback. Roy McAvoy (Costner) is a washed-up, trailer-living, former pro golfer working at a driving range who decides to attempt the PGA tour title after meeting his rival’s charming girlfriend and setting out to win her heart. If you’re looking to see Costner in a great, comedic, and signature performance, this one is a great go-to for a good time. A classic for recreational golfers everywhere, this film will have you playing entire courses with just your 7 iron, just to see if you can.
Director: Ron Shelton
Main Cast: Kevin Costner, Rene Russo, Don Johnson
Runtime: 135 minutes
IMDb Rating: 6.4
8. Silverado (1985)
In what was — for some — the first noticeable role for Costner, Silverado is a hootin’, hollerin’ good time that boasts an entertaining premise and an extensive cast. Each with a distinctive chip on their shoulder, four wrongly done cowboys ride into Silverado to pay their dues, earn their riches, and take back what’s theirs. After having his scenes cut from the ’80s hit The Big Chill, Costner received a promise from director/writer Lawrence Kasdan that he would make it up to him when this movie came along. The role he landed was the most eccentric and fun we’ve seen Costner take on (besides the not as celebrated Fandango of the same year), and one which got many viewers to stop and think, “Who was that and when can I see him again?”
Director: Lawrence Kasdan
Main Cast: Kevin Kline, Scott Glenn, Kevin Costner
Runtime: 133 minutes
IMDb Rating: 7.2
7. A Perfect World (1993)
In one of the best films from director/star Clint Eastwood, A Perfect World is a surprisingly genuine and endearing film. Butch Haynes (Costner) is an escaped convict on the run with a boy he has captured as a hostage, though their friendly father-son-like banter would have you believe otherwise. Chief Red Garnett (Clint Eastwood) has been tasked with finding and arresting Haynes but doesn’t seem to be in much of a hurry to do so. As the film progresses — as with all Eastwood films — the plot turns out to be much more than it seems, with characters tied together by histories we have yet to discover. The bond between the boy and Haynes speaks volumes about both characters, which is a beautiful and smooth method of exposition as well as a great showcasing of Costner’s on-screen charm and dramatic acting.
Director: Clint Eastwood
Main Cast: Kevin Costner, Clint Eastwood, Laura Dern
Runtime: 138 minutes
IMDb Rating: 7.5
6. JFK (1991)
A critically acclaimed Oliver Stone political drama of monumental proportions, JFK rehashes the killing of the former president and the effect it had on society. New Orleans district attorney Jim Garrison (Costner) takes another look at the controversial Warren Commission report, conducting a thorough separate investigation of the events that took place and the person or people that got away with murder. While Stone’s film takes a firm stance against ‘The Man’ and the way this historical event shaped our country, the psychological impact on the viewers was, for some, profound and disheartening to witness. Costner’s performance in this film is glorious as ever, portraying the man who put his career on the line in an attempt to find justice.
Director: Oliver Stone
Main Cast: Kevin Costner, Gary Oldman, Jack Lemmon
Runtime: 189 minutes
IMDb Rating: 8.0
5. The Untouchables (1987)
A film that is referenced in film classes for its meticulous set designs, costuming, cinematography, and editing, The Untouchables is a classic gangster movie that is based on the real events of special agent Eliot Ness and his investigations. After the city of Chicago is brought to its knees by the notorious crime lord and empirical bootlegger Al Capone (Robert De Niro), Secret Agent Eliot Ness (Costner) builds a small, trustworthy task force to investigate and incriminate one of the most powerful crime lords in history. Revered as some of director Brian De Palma’s best work, this film is also highlighted by the incredible performances from its lead characters including Sean Connery in one of his best films. Costner’s portrayal of Agent Ness has a true evolution to it, going from by-the-book rookie practices to vengeful, desperate methods that change you as a human and a character.
Director: Brian De Palma
Main Cast: Kevin Costner, Sean Connery, Robert De Niro
Runtime: 119 minutes
IMDb Rating: 7.9
4. Field of Dreams (1989)
Referred to as “my generation’s A Wonderful Life” by the man himself (Costner), Field of Dreams is a heartwarming account of an Iowa farmer compelled to create something magical. When Ray Kinsella (Costner) gets inspiration from a detached voice telling him the ever-referenced line, “If you build it, he will come,” (Mandela Effect: “If you build it, they will come,”) he becomes compelled to transform his ordinary cornfield into a baseball diamond. Based on the 1982 novel Shoeless Joe, which is loosely based on a true story, we witness the vision of a man inspired by what some called lunacy but which turns out to be one of the most fantastical baseball movies of the century. Costner in this role is a perfect fit, making it hard to imagine anyone else making this movie as wonderful and gratifying as it is.
Director: Phil Alden Robinson
Main Cast: Kevin Costner, James Earl Jones, Ray Liotta
Runtime: 107 minutes
IMDb Rating: 7.5
3. No Way Out (1987)
In the very tense and multi-faceted action thriller No Way Out, a — once again — stellar cast is highlighted by an incredibly well-written script that twists and turns in all the right ways. When cold, calculating politician David Brice (Gene Hackman) accidentally kills his eccentric and beautiful mistress Susan (Sean Young), Navy Lt. Tom Farrell (Costner) is subject to a witch hunt after Brice turns the killing into a political scheme to deflect blame. In what could be considered multiple different genres — romance, thriller, drama, action, crime, espionage, political, etc. — this movie is masterfully exciting and suspenseful to a surprising degree. Costner gives one of his best performances despite starring in an incredible 9 films between 1985 and 1989, cementing him in film history as one of the 80s greats and securing roles for years to come.
Director: Roger Donaldson
Main Cast: Kevin Costner, Gene Hackman, Sean Young
Runtime: 114 minutes
IMDb Rating: 7.1
2. Dances with Wolves (1990)
What could be interpreted as a love letter to the American frontier and a bygone era, Dances with Wolves is a western-style civil war drama that is one of Costners’ best performances and certainly his best-directed feature. When a civil war lieutenant, John Dunbar (Costner) sees the tragedies of war and the destruction that his people cause, he chooses to live out his life with a tribe of Native Americans. From the perspective of this lost and found again in exile Lt. Dunbar, the narration and sequence of events are poetic and stirring to take part in. While the performances in this movie are great (primarily Costner’s since he is the main focus of the film), he strikes gold in his shockingly successful directorial debut with what would ultimately be his standout film — since The Postman which was not so well received.
Director: Kevin Costner
Main Cast: Kevin Costner, Mary McDonnell, Graham Greene
Runtime: 181 minutes
IMDb Rating: 8.0
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1. Bull Durham (1988)
In what is his best and most sincere performance as well as a smart movie overall, Bull Durham follows players in the minor leagues as they show us that there is more to baseball than just the act of playing it. Annie Savoy (Susan Sarandon) has a tradition where she chooses one player from the Durham Bulls each season and teaches them the ways of romance paired with literature, which is ultimately supposed to improve their baseball performance, but she encounters trouble when she meets minor league veteran Crash Davis (Costner) who throws off her whole strategy with his no-BS approach. With fantastic performances from Costner, Susan Sarandon, and Tim Robbins, we take part in a romantic comedy that takes the genre and becomes so much more. Besides its clever writing and original plot, Costner’s performance is so hilarious, charming, and sincere that it makes for his most unforgettable and best film to date.
Director: Ron Shelton
Main Cast: Kevin Costner, Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins
Runtime: 108 minutes
IMDb Rating: 7.1
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