Taglines: Don’t count the odds, count the bodies.
1878 in New Mexico: John Tunstall picks up young gun men from the road to have them work on his ranch, but also to teach them reading and to civilize them. However he’s a thorn in the side of the rich rancher Murphy, as he’s a competitor in selling cattle. One day he’s shot by Murphy’s men.
Judge Wilson can’t do anything, since Sheriff Brady is one of Murphy’s men. But attorney Alex persuades him to constitute Tunstall’s young friends to Deputies and give them warrants of arrest for the murderers. Instead of arresting them, William Bonney just shoots them down. Soon the 5 guys become famous and William gets the name “Billie the Kid” – but they’re also chased by dozens of Murphy’s men and the army. The people however honor him as fighter for justice.
Young Guns is a 1988 American western film directed by Christopher Cain and written by John Fusco. The film is the first installment in the Young Gun film series and the first to be produced by Morgan Creek Productions. The film stars Emilio Estevez, Kiefer Sutherland, Lou Diamond Phillips, Charlie Sheen, Dermot Mulroney, Casey Siemaszko, Terence Stamp, Terry O’Quinn, Brian Keith, and Jack Palance.
Young Guns is a retelling of the adventures of Billy the Kid during the Lincoln County War, which took place in New Mexico during 1877–78. It was filmed in and around New Mexico. Historian Dr. Paul Hutton called Young Guns the most historically accurate of all prior Billy the Kid films. It opened no. 1 at the box office, eventually earning $45 million from a moderate $11 million budget. A sequel, Young Guns II, was released in 1990.
About the Story
John Tunstall (Terence Stamp), an educated Englishman and cattle rancher in Lincoln County, New Mexico, hires wayward young gunmen to live and work on his ranch. Tunstall is in heavy competition with a well-connected Irishman named Lawrence Murphy (Jack Palance), who owns a large ranch; their men clash on a regular basis.
Tunstall recruits Billy (Emilio Estevez) and advises him to renounce violence saying that “He who sows the wind will reap the whirlwind.” Tensions escalate between the two camps, resulting in the murder of Tunstall. Billy, Doc Scurlock (Kiefer Sutherland), Jose Chavez y Chavez (Lou Diamond Phillips), Richard M. “Dick” Brewer (Charlie Sheen), “Dirty” Steve Stephens (Dermot Mulroney), and Charlie Bowdre (Casey Siemaszko), consult their lawyer friend Alexander McSween (Terry O’Quinn), who manages to get them deputized and given warrants for the arrest of Murphy’s murderous henchmen.
Billy quickly challenges Dick’s authority as leader, vowing revenge against Murphy and the men responsible for killing Tunstall. The men call themselves The Regulators and arrest some of the murderers, but hot-headed Billy is unable to wait for justice. He guns down unarmed men and goes on to kill one of his fellow Regulators (later arrival J. McCloskey) in the paranoid (but correct) belief that he was still in league with Murphy. The men are stripped of their badges, which they find out about by reading a newspaper. That same paper also confuses Dick for Billy, showing a picture of Dick labeled Billy the Kid, a nickname to which Billy takes an immediate liking.
While the local authorities begin their hunt for Billy and the boys, the Regulators argue about continuing with their warrants or to go on the run. One of the men on their list of warrants, Buckshot Roberts (Brian Keith), tracks them down, barricades himself in an outhouse, and Dick dies in an intense shootout. Billy appoints himself as the new leader, the gang becomes famous and the U.S. Army is charged with bringing them to justice under Murphy’s corrupt political influence.
The gang eludes attention for some time, and Charlie gets married in Mexico. While attending the wedding, Billy meets Pat Garrett (Patrick Wayne) who is not yet a sheriff, but warns Billy of an attempt on Alex’s life by Murphy’s men that will happen the next day. Thus the gang packs up and heads off to save Alex.
Back in Lincoln, Murphy’s men, led by George W. Peppin, surround Alex’s house, trapping the Regulators, and a shootout begins. A ceasefire is called for the night. In the morning, accompanied by Murphy, the army comes in and torches the house, but Chavez escapes out the back. While the house is burning, the men come up with an escape plan. They begin throwing Alex’s possessions out the windows of the second floor. Billy places himself inside of a large trunk, and when it lands in front of the house, he leaps out and begins to open fire.
Young Guns (1988)
Directed by: Christopher Cain
Starring: Emilio Estevez, Kiefer Sutherland, Lou Diamond Phillips, Charlie Sheen, Dermot Mulroney, Casey Siemaszko, Jack Palance, Terence Stamp, Alice Carter
Screenplay by: John Fusco
Production Design by: Jane Musky
Cinematography by: Dean Semler
Film Editing by: Jack Hofstra
Costume Design by: Richard Hornung
Set Decoration by: Robert Kracik
Art Direction by: Harold Thrasher
Music by: Brian Banks, Anthony Marinelli
Distributed by: 20th Century Fox
Release Date: August 12, 1988