Photos via Orion Pictures/20th Century Fox

Kevin Costner’s best movie and TV roles, ranked

Kevin Costner is an icon in the entertainment industry, and he delivers in each role he takes.

There’s something special about sitting down to watch a film or television series and seeing the name Kevin Costner attached to it. He’s a powerhouse of an actor, an icon in the entertainment industry, and someone who brings grit, charisma, and charm to any project he signs onto.

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Few actors were more in demand in the ’80s than Kevin Costner, and that hasn’t changed through the years that followed either. Starring in several acclaimed projects since his debut and still kicking it with the best of them four decades later, the Hollywood legend is an undeniable icon in the film industry. He has established himself not just as a strong and captivating actor but as a remarkable director as well. Costner is a man who adds new accolades to his name with each project.

In addition to acting, directing, writing, and even appearing in documentaries, Costner is also a talented musician. He’s a force to be reckoned with, and there are many facets of his work that I, personally will never tire of.

Costner’s recent foray in television with Yellowstone has set him apart, as much of his prior work was in films, and fans can’t get enough of the longer story this time around, with a familiar character type. Costner can play a plethora of roles well, but audiences love him best as a cowboy.

With over 60 film credits to his name, here are my favorite roles starring Costner, including my favorite – his time as patriarch John Dutton.

15. Silverado (1985)

The first installment on the list is responsible for kickstarting Costner’s career significantly; it’s a film that people associate with him almost immediately after hearing his name in a social circle. Starring alongside Danny Glover, Kevin Kline, and Scott Glenn, Costner holds his own perfectly as his character drives the story forward significantly. The film depicts the narrative of friends who band together to right the wrongs in the titular town and bring peace and justice. Backed by an Oscar-nominated score and emotional performances from the cast, Silverado is a thrilling watch and a fantastic film of Costner’s.

14. Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991)

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves shot to the top at the box office, ending the year as the second-highest grossing film of 1991, but the faith in the story wasn’t very strong at first. The film tells the narrative of Robin of Locksley, who escapes from jail and returns to England to learn that the cruel Sheriff of Nottingham has slain his father. He teams up with other outlaws to avenge his father’s death and bring the sheriff down, carrying his heartache as a weapon with which to exact vengeance.

13. Molly’s Game (2017)

Taking on the role of Larry Bloom, Costner plays a critical role in the film Molly’s Game, a biographical thriller in which he stars alongside Jessica Chastain. The film is an interesting look at the story (be it true or not) of Molly Bloom’s life and how she went from an Olympic hopeful to someone who ran an underground poker ring like her existence depended on it. Molly’s father was profoundly impactful to her life, and it’s certainly a different type of character for Costner.

12. No Way Out (1987)

No Way Out combines romance, drama, action, and crime for an excellent political thriller, and Costner excels in his role. His outstanding performance as the lead actor is a talking point for this movie, and he helps tell an incredibly emotional and layered story. The film follows his character, Tom Farrell, who is tasked with investigating the murder of his former lover. Soon after, he becomes a suspect when it is revealed that his superior was also involved with the same woman. Joined by Hollywood heavyweight Gene Hackman, No Way Out delivers on all fronts for a superbly acted offering. 

11. Let Him Go (2020)

In an emotional role, Costner plays a husband and father dealing with the loss of his son alongside his equally distraught and heartbroken wife. Costner takes on the role of George Blackledge, a retired sheriff who soon suffers another tragedy as he learns that his grandson is living with not just unsavory but downright dangerous people. It’s a story of love and loss, and the power of family.

10. Hidden Figures (2016)

In this 2016 biographical drama about brilliant African-American female mathematicians, Costner delivers a strong performance as Al Harrison, commanding officer to NASA mathematician  Katherine Johnson. Led by the talented trio of powerhouses Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe, Hidden Figures received critical acclaim for its acting and emotional weight, taking home $236 million against a budget of $25 million. Hidden Figures is a must-watch for any film lover, and Costner’s performance helps drive home a significant story.

9. The Upside of Anger (2005)

Costner plays Denny Davies in The Upside of Anger, and even in one of his most lighthearted roles, he still packs an emotional punch. He begins a friendship with his neighbor, but things soon grow into something more profound for both of them. There’s a deeper story here about self-expression, healing, and nurturing new love, but the film also shows aspects of humor and excitement. It’s a fun watch for Costner fans and a perfect movie for a weekend in.

8. The Untouchables (1987)

The Untouchables loosely follows the life of Eliot Ness as he attempts to take down Al Capone. Costner stars in the partially fictionalized story as Ness, an agent who assembles the titular group of people to assist him amid the widespread corruption in law enforcement. In a role he was born to play, Costner delivers charisma, gentility, and depth in his portrayal of Ness, receiving critical praise for his performance. Taking into account a supporting cast of Robert De Niro, Sean Connery, Andy Garcia, and Charles Martin Smith, it was pretty evident from the start that The Untouchables would become a classic. 

7. Field of Dreams (1989)

Field of Dreams is a 1989 sports fantasy based on the 1982 novel Shoeless Joe. It stars Costner as Ray, an Iowa farmer who creates a baseball diamond after hearing a voice in his cornfield and is then visited by the spirits of famous baseball players – particularly Joseph “Shoeless” Jackson. The stunning film impacted audiences because it emphasized the significance of family and faith, something most people can connect to. Costner and his co-stars do an outstanding job in bringing this film to life. When fans think of Costner, this is the role they most frequently associate him with.

6. JFK (1991)

A unique take on the assassination of John F. Kennedy, JFK tells the tale of Jim Garrison, the former New Orleans district attorney who seeks to uncover the ghastly secrets that led to one of the most brutal murders in all of history. While a controversial film at the time of its release, JFK received positive reviews from critics, with Costner’s acting and Oliver Stone’s directing singled out for praise. Garrison tells an exciting story in JFK, and it’s evident in many scenes throughout that Costner is the only actor who could have played this character.

5. Bull Durham (1988)

Widely regarded as one of the best and most influential sports films of all time, Bull Durham was an instant classic following its release in 1988. The film’s plot revolves around a minor league baseball club and its players, fans, and coach. Costner stars as Crash Davis, a veteran catcher charged with teaching rookie Ebby LaLoosh how to play the game properly to make it in the major leagues. Joining the mix is Annie Savoy, a dedicated fan who begins to develop feelings for Crash. The film is a beautiful combination of sports and romance, and it has justifiably earned its place as one of the finest performances of Costner’s long-running career. 

4. A Perfect World (1993)

In the 1993 crime drama A Perfect World, Costner is joined by Clint Eastwood in one of the latter’s best directorial efforts. Costner stars as Butch, an ex-convict on the run who kidnaps a small boy and is pursued by a Texas Ranger named Red Garnett. Things take an emotionally gripping turn as Butch and his hostage develop an interesting bond that changes everything. Praised for incredible acting, emotional scenes, and psychological accuracy on Stockholm Syndrome, A Perfect World might be one of his lesser-known works, but the impressive material speaks for itself. Plus, as I said above, it’s Eastwood and Costner — if that alone doesn’t draw you in, check your pulse.

3. Dances with Wolves (1990)

In his directorial debut, Costner delivers an enthralling performance as Lieutenant John Dunbar, who is assigned to the community of Lakota, falling in love with it and choosing to remain indefinitely. In an emotion-packed adventure, Costner demonstrates that he is just as engaging behind the camera as he is in front of it, and with a whopping seven wins out of 12 nominations at the 63rd Academy Awards, this epic Western sits comfortably as Costner’s most ambitious, respected, and revered work. 

2. The Bodyguard (1992)

You can’t talk about Costner’s work and not mention The Bodyguard; it would be doing the man quite a disservice. This might not have been one of his most critically acclaimed works of film, but it’s a film that allowed audiences to see him from a different perspective. A romantic drama, Costner stole our hearts as he acted alongside Whitney Houston, and we can’t hear the song “I Will Always Love You” without thinking of this film and his role in it. Costner wows as a powerhouse character, but the vulnerability he brings to the table in this one is truly what solidifies it as one of his best.

1. Yellowstone (2018-2023)

The name Kevin Costner is synonymous with Yellowstone; his first long-term television series. Costner plays the patriarch of the Dutton family with poise, determination, strength, and vulnerability. His role in the series is integral to the Yellowverse as a whole, and he has solidified a spot in pop culture history as John Dutton. With the heartbreaking news that Yellowstone is coming to an end with the conclusion of season 5, fans are quickly coming to terms with saying a premature goodbye to John Dutton, ending Costner’s run as the cowboy, and it’s not an arc we’re looking forward to. Here’s hoping they do his character justice as we have to say goodbye — he deserves it.


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Author
Ashley Marie
Ashley Marie is a staff writer, beat leader, Disney fanatic, and Yellowstone expert. When she's not filling her friends in on all the entertainment news they can handle, she's drinking her go-to Starbucks order — a caramel macchiato, thank you — and wishing she was at Disney World or spending time at the Yellowstone Dutton Ranch. With a focus on positivity and kindness in journalism, Ashley has been writing for a decade and hopes to keep bringing you articles for decades to come.
Author
Demi Phillips
When he’s not out exploring the underground music scene, Demilade Phillips covers entertainment news and other exciting topics for We Got This Covered. He scored his Bachelor’s in International Relations and has been writing for almost a decade on the things he’s most passionate about: music, black excellence, anime, and pop culture.