Over a career that spans over four decades, working in front of and behind the camera, the Lynwood, Calif., native excelled across numerous genres with no lack of creative ambition, and he’s perhaps best-known for enduringly popular works that capture Americana at its finest.
Here are the best Kevin Costner movies of all time, ranked.
Best Kevin Costner Movies
25. Waterworld (1995)
Released in the wake of heavy negative publicity surrounding the ever-expanding budget and production crises, director Kevin Reynolds‘ sci-fi epic set in a submerged Earth of the future has a reputation that perhaps it doesn’t fully deserve. It was monumentally expensive and somewhat underwhelming, but not actively bad from a storytelling perspective, and it eventually turned a profit on home video. Costner has maintained an affinity for the film.
As entertainment, Waterworld is uneven and sometimes exciting. As a landmark of Hollywood in 1995, it’s fascinating.
24. For Love of the Game (1999)
A soapy but appealingly earnest sports drama stars Costner as a pro pitcher nearing the final game of his career and soothing himself with memories of great love Jane (Kelly Preston). It isn’t as memorable as Costner’s classic baseball pictures (which are among the finest ever made), but there highlights in the Sam Raimi-directed drama, including an appearance from late, all-time great announcer Vin Scully.
23. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014)
An original story based on characters Tom Clancy created, Shadow Recruit rewrites CIA operative Ryan’s origin story. Here, he’s studying at the London School of Economics during the 9/11 terror attacks, which motivate him to become a U.S. Marine. He’s ultimately recruited by a CIA spymaster (Costner).
Chris Pine makes an appealing, handsome Ryan, and Costner brings a welcome class and wisdom to the enterprise. Shadow Recruit is a watchable and diverting spy picture, if almost wholly derivative of other entries in the genre, and it’s an attempt to make this character hipper, for a younger audience, that feels somewhat forced.
Related: All Jack Ryan Movies, Ranked
22. The Highwaymen (2019)
John Lee Hancock’s true crime thriller has a tantalizing premise indeed: it’s the story of the 1930s Bonnie and Clyde manhunt, from the perspective of law, enforcement. Costner co-stars with Woody Harrelson, both as Texas Rangers. The Highwaymen is surely not as gripping as Bonnie & Clyde (scarcely few films are) but it’s slick, well-acted period entertainment.
21. Mr. Brooks (2007)
An underrated, strange and pleasurable psychological thriller from frequent Costner collaborator Roger Donaldson stars Costner as an esteemed businessman with a secret: his murderous alter ego (William Hurt). Dane Cook and Demi Moore also star in an offbeat, grisly procedural where the highlight is Costner and Hurt’s chemistry.
20. The Bodyguard (1992)
We’ll always love this iconic, if shy of great, romantic drama that pairs Costner with a radiant Whitney Houston at the zenith of her powers. Sure, the record-breaking soundtrack upstages the story about a diva and a hard-nosed protector, but The Bodyguard remains an audience favorite more than three full decades later.
At the time of its release, it was the 10th highest-grossing movie of all time.
19. Tin Cup (1996)
Costner reunited with Bull Durham director Ron Shelton for this sleeper hit rom-com about a bad-boy golf star and a love triangle. Tin Cup is fluffy and predictable, but breezily enjoyable—and Costner’s chemistry with co-star Rene Russo sizzles.
Related: See Kevin Costner Through the Years
18. McFarland, USA (2015)
As in Tin Cup, Costner makes a sport that hardly seems cinematic surprisingly entertaining. Directed by Whale Rider‘s Niki Caro, McFarland is based on the true story of a California high school coach’s cross-country team of Latino students who became unexpected sports heroes. It may not break new ground as cinema, but it’s pretty much everything you love about feel-good sports movies. Seriously, best of luck not sobbing a little.
17. Man of Steel (2013)
The DCEU’s inaugural feature is a mixed bag overall: an excellent Henry Cavill and supporting cast are at odds with apocalyptic action that snowballs, ultimately headache-inducing bordering on nightmare fuel.
Cavill truly makes a perfect square-jawed Kal-El, but Costner, as adoptive father Jonathan Kent, is the best part of the movie, effortlessly exuding a tenderness the movie needed more of.
16. Fandango (1985)
One of Costner’s earliest pictures is now a bona fide cult classic. The actor’s first collaboration with Waterworld and Prince of Thieves‘ Kevin Reynolds is a funny, touching road movie about five Texas college friends who take off on one last trip as adulthood looms overhead. None other than Quentin Tarantino has gone on record to call Fandango “one of the best directorial debuts” in cinema history.
15. No Way Out (1987)
Opposite Gene Hackman and Sean Young, Costner stars in a hit thriller about a Defense Secretary, a Navy Lt. on his staff, and a beautiful woman who winds up dead. It’s a Hitchcockian wrong-man premise amped up for a more modern, action-hungry audience. It’s unpredictable, and it all works quite well.
Publicity behind No Way Out wasn’t shy about capitalizing on Costner’s all-American good looks. The actor appeared in various states of undress in much of the advertising posters and stills.
14. Let Him Go (2020)
Seven years after Man of Steel and one year before Zack Snyder‘s Justice League, Costner co-starred once again with Diane Lane in Thomas Bezucha’s underrated, gripping drama about grieving parents who leave their Montana ranch in search of their grandson. It’s an unpredictable ride, and it’s best to go in blind.
Let Him Go is a strong, absorbing and really dark neo-Western that deserved to find a bigger audience in 2020. MVP here is a characteristically riveting Lesley Manville.
13. Thirteen Days (2000)
A fittingly tense and chilling historical political thriller directed by Roger Donaldson depicts The Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, 13 days when the world was on the brink of nuclear war. Costner plays top political consultant Kenneth P. O’Donnell opposite Bruce Greenwood‘s John F. Kennedy in a film that was critically praised but financially unsuccessful.
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12. Robin Hood Prince of Thieves (1991)
Buckle is indeed swashed in a box-office leviathan that critics weren’t unanimously kind to in 1991. Reynolds once again directed Costner, this time in a relatively gritty, violent take on the English folk tale. Though critical reception was mixed, the box-office receipts nearly totaled $400 million. Everyone agreed the best part was Alan Rickman‘s villainous Sheriff of Nottingham; he won a BAFTA.
11. Molly’s Game (2017)
Aaron Sorkin‘s critically acclaimed crime dramedy starring Jessica Chastain is an adaptation of Molly Bloom‘s bestselling memoir of the same name. Bloom was an Olympic-class skier who ran the world’s most exclusive high-stakes poker game for a decade before being arrested by the FBI. Sorkin’s directorial debut may not have quite the power of, say, The Social Network, but it’s still a ripper, filled with brilliant and insightful dialogue that the cast, including Costner, Idris Elba and Jeremy Strong, sink their teeth into with gusto.
Top 10 Kevin Costner Movies
10. The Upside of Anger (2005)
In Mike Binder’s brutally funny (or is it funnily brutal?) drama, Joan Allen plays a sharp-witted, heavy-drinking suburban homemaker who’s left alone with four daughters after her husband disappears with his secretary. Costner plays the next-door neighbor and potential object of affection, who happens to be a former baseball player.
An unpredictable, patient and ultimately very special film, The Upside of Anger is Allen’s show, perhaps a career-best turn in a mighty career—but the whole cast is perfect.
9. Silverado (1985)
High-spirited and even giddy, Silverado pits a band of misfit cowboys against an amoral sheriff and powerful businessman. This was a mid-’80s shot in the arm for Westerns, thanks in no small part to its cast, including Costner, Danny Glover, Kevin Kline and Scott Glenn.
A lot of the credit goes to the filmmaker: co-writer and director Lawrence Kasdan, whose credits include The Empire Strikes Back and Raiders of the Lost Ark. This is a loving, successful attempt to recreate the magic of old-fashioned serials.
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8. Hidden Figures (2016)
Taraji P.Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae star in Theodore Melfi’s feel-good drama about African-American female heroes in the U.S. space program’s history. Costner played Al Harrison, a composite character based on real-life men in NASA. The cast shared top honors (Best Ensemble) is a surprise win at the 2017 Screen Actors Guild Awards.
7. Open Range (2003)
The classic American Western has been around about as long as cinema, and it’s gone in and out of fashion for decades. Every once in a while, though rarely, a great one like Open Range comes around and reinvigorates it. Robert Duvall, Michael Gambon and Annette Bening co-star in a gripping yarn about a former gunslinger-turned-cowhand who faces off with corrupt lawmen.
A romantic subplot is well performed but feels tacked on. Even then, Open Range is a spectacular, emotional Western. The alarmingly realistic final shootout is one of the best in modern film history: messy, abrupt and disturbing.
6. A Perfect World (1993)
Costner. Eastwood. Two legends in Clint Eastwood‘s directing follow-up to Oscar-winning Unforgiven, about an escaped convict, a captive boy and a Texas ranger in pursuit. A Perfect World is a subtle, deliberate, chilling and highly effective look at intergenerational trauma, as well as emotional and physical violence. It’s a career highlight for both the director and the star.
5. Dances With Wolves (1990)
In his feature directing debut, Costner minted an all-time American classic about a Union Army Lieutenant who leaves his old life behind after bonding with a tribe of Lakota Indians.
There’s been some backlash to Dances With Wolves in the decades since its astonishing critical and commercial success, but there is no disputing that this is a sweeping, touching work of epic art. The Academy thinks so, at least, making it the winner of seven Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director.
4. The Untouchables (1987)
With characteristic bravura, Brian De Palma directs Costner, Sean Connery, Andy Garcia and Robert De Niro in a David Mamet-penned, partially fictionalized thriller about the Prohibition-era manhunt for gangster Al Capone. Scene-stealing Connery won the Oscar, though it’s worth mentioning this is a career highlight for all involved, all at the top of their respective games. The Untouchables is a crime classic.
3. JFK (1991)
Controversial but utterly, mercilessly compelling, Oliver Stone‘s epic drama weaves a complex conspiracy around one of the nation’s most infamous tragedies. Costner plays an idealized Louisiana District Attorney Jim Garrison; the performance was one of the multiple turns around this time that inspired critics to liken the actor to a modern James Stewart. JFK was nominated for eight Oscars, including Best Picture.
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2. Field of Dreams (1989)
If you build it, he will come. A movie that’s positively infamous for making grown men weep, Field of Dreams sees Costner and director Phil Alden Robinson go headfirst into fantasy territory. The plot is unusual, and on paper it seems a little insane: a farmer who hears voices builds a baseball diamond to attract the ghosts of sports legends of the past.
Audiences and critics fell for the American fairy tale about redemption, family and faith, the rare fantasy aimed at a wide grownup audience that works. It’s a spiritual successor to It’s a Wonderful Life that holds up beautifully and was nominated for three Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
Related: The Best Quotes From Bull Durham
1. Bull Durham (1988)
Director Ron Shelton’s real-life experience in minor-league baseball and screen-commanding, nuanced work from Costner, Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins make this rom-com/sports film hybrid something singular, something that transcends both of those genres.
A detailed and character-driven crowdpleaser about two Durham Bull players vying for the affections of a minor-league groupie, Bull Durham is an unusual masterpiece. It’s so funny and so sexy, and the performances are so sparkling and smart. It’s escapism that borders on fantasy in its old-fashioned thrills. It’s exhilarating.
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