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Movies & TV

29th Mar 2019

Ranking the 10 best films of Kevin Costner’s career

Tony Cuddihy

Matthew McConaughey

With his new film being released on Netflix, an appreciation of his best work.

The Oscar-winning director of Dances with Wolves is back with his new film The Highwaymen being released on Netflix.

With that in mind, we’ve ranked his ten best films all the way to the top.

Fans of Waterworld, there’s nothing to see here.

Before we dig in, you can take a look at The Highwaymen here.

10. A Perfect World

Not a classic, but better than the reviews indicated at the time.

A road-trip movie not a million miles removed from the later (and superior) Road to Perdition, Costner plays the kidnapper of a young boy who strikes up a bond with his charge while being pursued by Clint Eastwood’s U.S. Marshal.

It’s well-paced, and nicely shot, but Costner never truly convinces in one of his few roles as the villain.

Clip via 2663KinkyCyborg

9. The Bodyguard

It got slated by most critics but there’s something enjoyably terrible about The Bodyguard, in which Costner is employed by Whitney Houston (playing a version of Whitney Houston) to guard against an unknown stalker.

Somehow the films survives the lack of chemistry between the two leads to become more than the sum of its parts; it manages to be good fun without realising it, and box office takings of $411m worldwide proves it was anything but a turkey.

Clip via Movieclips Classic Trailers

8. No Way Out

Described by Roger Ebert as ‘truly labyrinthine and ingenious,’ Costner stars as a US Navy Lieutenant Commander who gets involved with the wrong woman. It’s a cat-and-mouse thriller reminiscent of the best of the 1980s, with the brilliant Gene Hackman typically oily and charming as the US Secretary of Defence.

Clip via Movieclips Classic Trailers

7. Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves

Yeah yeah, we know, the disappearing English accent. Forget that. Put it in a box, get out that Bryan Adams mix-tape and crank it up to 90.

You can just imagine Costner, fresh from a gruelling Dances With Wolves shoot (the films were released roughly a year apart), deciding it was time to get out his bow and arrow and have some craic.

It’s a lot of giddy fun, especially with Alan Rickman’s Sheriff of Nottingham to play against. Critics pretty much hated it but this was one for the kids, and people saw it in their droves. Prince of Thieves ended up as the second biggest movie of 1991 behind Terminator 2: Judgement Day, and Costner has stuck to his American patter ever since.

Clip via Movieclips Classic Trailers

6. Bull Durham

Considered to be the greatest baseball film of all time (Field of Dreams, while loosely based around the same sport, was far more of a family drama), Bull Durham saw Costner play a veteran catcher whose reputation comes under threat from ‘the next big thing,’ played by Tim Robbins.

It’s a well worn premise – think Any Given Sunday, Major League, even elements of the Rocky franchise – but it’s never been done as well as in Ron Shelton’s masterpiece.

Clip via Movieclips Classic Trailers

5. Thirteen Days

A box office bomb, cruelly overlooked by a mainstream audience given some superb performances, a great script and a plot based around the Cuban missile crisis of 1962.

Costner plays Kenny O’Donnell, a special advisor to John F. Kennedy during the most testing days of his presidency.

It’s not a showy role as Costner plays underling to Bruce Greenwood’s JFK and Steven Culp’s Bobby, but as our eyes and ears his is a crucial role in a fine film.

Clip via Michael Appert

4. Field of Dreams

It has the kind of wistful melodrama that would send it straight into the darkest recesses of the Netflix library nowadays, but the late ’80s lapped up a film that left all cynicism at the door.

The perfect Sunday afternoon film, Costner plays a farmer who is supernaturally moved to build a baseball pitch on his own Iowa patch. It’s incredibly sentimental but never sickly, benefitting from Costner’s charm and fine supporting play from James Earl Jones, Timothy Busfield (Danny from The West Wing) and a pre-GoodFellas Ray Liotta.

Interestingly, there are also cameos during the Fenway Park scene from Matt Damon and Ben Affleck.

Clip via Movieclips

 3. JFK

Oliver Stone poured everything into this three-hour beast of a film, a convoluted and often batshit crazy conspiracy marathon around the assassination of the American President.

With Costner grounding proceedings with his sober Jim Garrison, the likes of Tommy Lee Jones, Joe Pesci and John Candy were left to ham things up to the nth degree.

This, from Rotten Tomatoes, sums things up perfectly: “As history, Oliver Stone’s JFK is dubious, but as filmmaking it’s electric, cramming a ton of information and excitement into its three-hour runtime and making great use of its outstanding cast.”

Clip via Movieclips Classic Trailers

2. Dances With Wolves

Winner of seven Oscars, including Best Picture, Costner’s Dances With Wolves thieved the top prize from GoodFellas but is still among the best Westerns of the last 30 years, riding alongside Unforgiven, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada and No Country For Old Men.

Costner plays a Union Army Lieutenant who travels to a remote frontier outpost and comes into contact with the local Lakota Indian tribe before going native. Apocalypse Now with the lights on, it swept up at the Academy Awards and is deeply beautiful, if too long.


1. The Untouchables

Brian de Palma’s Prohibition-era gangster classic announced Costner as a leading force, ahead of a cast that also included an Oscar-winning Sean Connery, a cooler than f**k Andy Garcia and a torrential, baseball bat-wielding Robert de Niro as Al Capone.

It’s up there with Scarface among de Palma’s best films, and without The Untouchables we would never have been introduced to a man called Banner, Rex Banner. Doesn’t bear thinking about.

Clip via LoveExposure

Ahead of The Highwaymen being released, JOE had the chance to chat with Costner and we had to ask him about his status as a Hollywood icon.

As you would expect from a living Hollywood legend, Costner values longevity and quality over any notion of status or celebrity.

“I’ve made a life in the movies and I’ve always felt that movies can be important to people. Ok, they’ not as important as science but they could be something that people lean on and love. I always though that movies can be something that you think about later on. Things that you want to share – like a good book, or a great song. I’ve always known that movies can travel the world so my choices are important to me. That’s what’s more important to me, than thinking about status,” he said.

You can check out JOE’s interview with Kevin Costner here.

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