The Best Movie Ever | Best Kevin Costner Movies List

Kevin Costner started small, became one of the biggest movie stars in the world, and then sank into the inky depths of straight-to-video. But in recent years, Oscar-winning director and star of Dances with Wolves has made a steady comeback with memorable supporting roles in blockbusters like Man of Steel, and starring roles in films like this weekend’s Black or White.

It seems like now is as good a time as any to look back on the career of an actor who doesn’t always get enough credit for his star power and acting prowess, so CraveOnline is asking its three critics – William Bibbiani, Witney Seibold and Brian Formo – to each present their picks for The Best Kevin Costner Movies Ever

Best Kevin Costner Movies List

Find out what they picked as the best Kevin Costner movies ever, and scroll down to the bottom of the page to cast your own vote. Come back every week for another topical installment of CraveOnline’s The Best Movie Ever!


Check Out: The Best Movie Ever: Erotic Thrillers


Brian Formo’s Pick: JFK (1991)

Kevin Costner JFK

There’s a lengthy section of Oliver Stone’s JFK that is so precise, envelope-pushing, and dazzling that it’s usually the reference point for film enthusiasts who call the film the best edited movie of all time (editors Joe Hutshing and Pietro Scalia won the Oscar that year). Even if you haven’t seen JFK, you’ve probably seen short parodies of this scene (including a famous scene in Seinfeld that recreates a spitting incident at a New York Mets game, called “the magic loogie theory” there by Jerry Seinfeld). And while that magic bullet scene is a hallmark moment of cinema (regardless of whether or not you buy or disapprove of Stone’s theories on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy), Kevin Costner really has to sell it. He’s selling it to a jury in the movie, but really he’s selling it to the theater and home audience. With all the images spliced together, Costner has to make every point clear and passionate. And he does.

Costner doesn’t get enough credit for making that scene sizzle. But he also doesn’t get enough credit for his performance in the film, which is his absolute best performance ever. There are a lot of stars in JFK – Jack Lemmon, Joe Pesci, Kevin Bacon, Gary Oldman, Sissy Spacek, Walter Matthau, John Candy, Donald Sutherland and Tommy Lee Jones – and everyone gets a signature moment. Some go over the top (Jones is a hammy offender as a conservative but flamboyant businessman) and some go reserved (such as Oldman, who infuses no lunacy into Lee Harvey Oswald). Together all the performances are a technicolor trench coat of acting. 
But Costner has the hardest job as Prosecutor Garrison. While television has fully embraced the procedural mechanics of re-enactments of evidence from this film, and crapped out serial, weekly JFK-lites (CSI, Criminal Minds, Medium, etc.), the one thing that hasn’t been carbon-copied is Costner’s steady performance. He lacks wisecracks, shades, and agape disgust at judge’s rulings. He’s not boring, though. No, he’s attentive. Garrison is passionate about finding the truth. But that passion can only be evident when he’s reaching it’s conclusion, when it’s unraveling, and when it is necessary. And that’s the element that Costner brings to that crown-wearing magic bullet scene. While the rest of the cast is as erratic and unpredictable as that wily bullet, Costner (and Stone) are in full control.


Witney Seibold’s Pick: JFK (1991)

JFK Kevin Costner

Kevin Costner has always been a bit of a cipher to me. He’s received a lot of criticism over the year for his bland line-readings, a criticism that started somewhere around Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, wherein he played a British man with a SoCal accent. He does have something of a gruff, frontier charm, and in recent years has openly proven that he has a great sense of humor. Indeed, Costner seems to be at his strongest when he’s smiling. 

But it’s his former ineffability that produced his best role in Oliver Stone’s 1991 mystery epic JFK. I wasn’t alive for the Kennedy assassination, but I have received social, political, and historical ripples of the event from my parents, who can indeed remember where they were when they heard the news. More than that, though, I have received an eerie and unsettling sense of frustrating mystery surrounding the event, which comes in the form of deathly serious conspiracy theories. The truth of the assassination has now been smeared and reshuffled, and it seems a 100% accurate record of the event is forever lost. Oliver Stone uses Costner’s steely blankness to great effect in capturing the wrathful mystery of JFK’s death. It seems like we’ll never know anymore, but there was a time – immediately after JFK’s death – that we may have come close. Stone and Costner put that closeness in stark, thrilling relief. 


William Bibbiani’s Pick: Tin Cup (1996)

Tin Cup Kevin Costner

Alright, I’ll be the asshole who picks Tin Cup as “the best Kevin Costner movie ever.” But I have my reasons. I love JFK and Field of Dreams as much as anybody, and I love The Untouchables more than most, but in each of those films Kevin Costner feels like a piece of a larger whole, an effective performance in the service of a grander vision, a moving part that only had to do its job just as effectively as all the others.

In Ron Shelton’s Tin Cup, the entire movie either lives or dies based on his performance, and his performance is a doozy. Costner plays Roy “Tin Cup” McAvoy, a golfer who was perfectly content to be the big fish in a little Texas pond until he meets a therapist (Rene Russo, totally delightful), who happens to be dating his old rival (Don Johnson, perfectly smarmy). The same immaturity that kept him out of the big leagues now forces McAvoy to improve himself to be worthy of her affections; he simply must grow up in order to satisfy his childish urge to get the girl and humiliate an alpha male.

This is the Kevin Costner I love, the rugged and macho windbag who talks a good game and somehow manages to back up his own boasts by the end of the film. He’s got great chemistry with Russo and even moreso with Cheech Marin, who plays Roy’s long-suffering caddy. And although Tin Cup ends with “the big game,” as all sports movies must, that game goes down in a way that’s perfectly in keeping with McAvoy’s loser mentality. He wins by losing, and losing really hard. Kevin Costner has never been funnier, or more perfectly matched with his material. No other actor could have played Roy McAvoy this well. Tin Cup is the best Kevin Costner movie (as opposed to the best movie Kevin Costner was in), and I stand by that statement.

Let us know what you consider to be the best Kevin Costner movies ever in the comment section below!

Best Kevin Costner Movies