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The 10 best films starring Kevin Costner

There was once a time, about 30 years ago, when Kevin Costner was the most prominent actor on the planet. Starring in late 1980s classics such as The Untouchables and Field of Dreams, as we moved into the 1990s, Costner established himself as the hottest leading man in Hollywood, and for a time, it seemed as if he could do no wrong. Thanks to this, he’s starred in various classics from that period and achieved a genuinely mind-blowing feat — winning two Academy Awards in the same year. This is a testament to how stratospheric Costner’s celebrity once was.

In 1991 he took home two Academy Awards for Oliver Stone’s thought-provoking thriller, JFK, and the bombastic action-adventure Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. The following year, he etched himself into pop culture legend when he starred opposite Whitney Houston in the iconic romantic thriller, The Bodyguard, which became one of the highest-grossing films of all time. Whilst the quality of The Bodyguard was doubted at the time and thirty years later ranks in the outwardly terrible category, you cannot doubt its place in popular culture.

This seems to have been a critical facet of Costner’s career. He’s starred in a variety of classics, but these days, with our very modern possession of hindsight, bar a handful of his pictures, even the most prominent titles he’s starred in seem to be lacking any real credibility.

However, this is not to doubt his quality as an actor. He’s starred in films where his performance has been incredible and has been let down by the script, other cast members or both of these things combined. In short, Costner’s star is being too readily overlooked in 2022. Whilst he’s no Orson Welles, he’s a brilliant character actor on his day, one who’s not afraid to try any role. Versatile in every sense of the word, he’s played everyone from serial killers to farmers, reflecting his propensity to devote himself t his craft.

So on his birthday, join us as we list Kevin Costner’s ten best films. 

Kevin Costner’s ten best films:

10. JFK (Oliver Stone, 1991)

Oliver Stone’s JFK is an inarguably brilliant movie. Starring Costner as New Orleans district attorney, Jim Garrison, this is one of the most thought-provoking thrillers you’ll ever see, even if it is 30 years old.

The plot veers along the lines of a conspiracy theory, but you cannot fault how well written the script is. Costner excels at bringing the real-life attorney onto the big screen and is perhaps his ultimate starring role.

9. Dances with Wolves (Kevin Costner, 1990)

Dances with Wolves is vintage Costner. Directed and produced by Costner himself, it was on the back of the film’s release that he became an icon of the era.

An adaptation of the 1988 book of the same name, we witness Costner star as Union Army Lieutenant John J. Dunbar, who travels to America’s Western frontier in search of an outpost. Epic in every sense of the word, the film helped to bring the culture and plight of Native American people’s into focus in the collective consciousness. 

8. The Untouchables (Brian De Palma, 1988)

Cinema is full of legendary partnerships, Riggs and Murtaugh, Holmes and Watson, Bill and Ted – the list is endless. One stellar example of this came as part of Brian De Palma’s crime thriller, The Untouchables, in the form of Costner as prohibition agent, Eliot Ness and Sean Connery as his father-like figure Jim Malone.

Featuring the iconic line about bringing a knife to a gunfight, it’s not just Costner who shines here. Connery, Robert De Niro and even Andy Garcia all help bring the tale to life.

7. Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (Kevin Reynolds, 1991)

Even though Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves is brimming with cheese and is wildly historically inaccurate, you cannot for one moment begin to argue that it’s not good fun. Costner plays a virtuous Americanised version of the Nottinghamshire folk hero and, alongside Alan Rickman, Christian Slater, Morgan Freeman and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, makes this one of the most iconic historical adventures of all time.

Rickman’s dastardly Sheriff of Nottingham provides the perfect foil to Costner’s Robin Hood. Very much of its time, with a Bryan Adams soundtrack to boot, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves is a time capsule back to when things were a bit simpler.

6. Field of Dreams (Phil Alden Robinson, 1989)

Another classic pop culture film is Field of Dreams. The iconic misquote “if you build it, they (he) will come” comes from this landmark movie. Starring Costner as Ray Kinsella, a farmer who builds a baseball field that attracts the ghosts of baseball legends, it’s one of the most heartwarming films ever released.

An account of human beings’ natural propensity for dreams, it’s an unforgettable moment in the career of Kevin Costner. It’s Costner in his prime.

5. A Perfect World (Clint Eastwood, 1993)

An underrated crime thriller, Clint Eastwood‘s A Perfect World, is a great watch. Costner stars as Robert ‘Butch’ Haynes, an escaped convict who takes eight-year-old Phillip Perry hostage. Something of a departure in terms of the type of role Costner typically played, this was the first time we saw him as a villain, or should we say anti-hero. 

A nuanced performance, it is a travesty that Costner is not remembered for his work in Eastwood’s production. For anyone who hasn’t seen A Perfect World, it’s a must-watch and a coveted underrated gem. The only caveat is Costner’s flimsy accent, but for the purpose of the film, you can overlook it.

4. Molly’s Game (Aaron Sorkin, 2017)

Molly’s Game didn’t strike me as a great film when I first watched it in the cinema, however, upon closer inspection, it’s a well-made movie. An adaptation of the real-life story of former Olympic class skier, Molly Bloom, who formed a dodgy poker empire, it shows the dark underbelly of Hollywood.

Costner stars as Larry Bloom, Molly’s father, a psychologist and an overbearing parent. Although a supporting role, Costner showed that there’s still life in the old dog. As a side note, Michael Cera plays a thinly-veiled version of your neighbourhood’s friendly ‘Bully Maguire’, which is a hilarious juxtaposition.

3. No Way Out (Roger Donaldson, 1987)

Another underrated Costner entry in the star’s filmography is No Way Out, a political thriller featuring a cast of legends including Gene Hackman and Sean Young. There’s even an appearance from David Bowie’s widow and iconic supermodel, Iman, too.

A modern spin on the suspense films of the 1940s, Costner shines. Making his best impression of Ray Milland, No Way Out was the first sign of things to come for Costner, particularly with the following year’s The Untouchables.

2. Bull Durham (Ron Shelton, 1988)

Another sports flick starring Costner is Bull Durham. Something of a spiritual counterpart to Field of Dreams, this is Costner at his funniest. He stars as ‘Crash’ Davis, a veteran catcher brought in to teach the rookie pitcher Nuke LaLoosh, played by Tim Robbins, about the finer details of the game in preparation for the major leagues.

Loosely based on the experiences of writer/director Ron Shelton in the minor leagues, it remains one of Costner’s most vital roles and works as the perfect antidote to the sometimes saccharine Field of Dreams.

1. Hidden Figures (Theodore Melfi, 2016)

Another entry that confirmed Costner still has what it takes to be a headline actor was 2016’s Hidden Figures. Loosely based on the 2016 work of non-fiction of the same name by Margot Lee Shetterly, the film follows three female African American mathematicians who worked for NASA during the ‘Space Race’.

Costner stars as Al Harrison, the director of the Space Task Group, needing to get NASA’s rocket into space to compete with the Russians. Serious but balanced, much like his turn in JFK, this is like watching Costner 30 years ago, readying himself for a decade of prime cuts and choice performances.