I’ve always thought of Val Kilmer as America’s answer to Daniel Day Lewis. Handsome, talented, Method to the point of not only driving themselves insane, but everyone else around them… Not an easy guy to work with, to be sure, but you can’t argue that his movies disappoint. So, today we’re taking some time out to reflect on Val’s body of historical filmwork over the course of his 35-year career.
And to quote some guy I know, “Never not be Doc Holliday.”
The Murders in the Rue Morgue (1986)
Adapted from the short story by Edgar Allen Poe, Kilmer plays Philippe Huron, a character not actually in the original story, but hey, he’s eye-candy.
The Man Who Broke 1,000 Chains (1987)
Set in 1922, Kilmer is cast as Robert Elliot Burns, a WWI vet who gets arrested and thrown in a Georgia prison and forced to work under horrific conditions on a chain gang. Kind of sounds like “Cool Hand Luke” with a happy ending.
Oh, Mad Martigan, you roguish charmer, you.
Billy the Kid (1989)
The first in a long list of Westerns for Kilmer.
The Doors (1991)
I remember seeing this movie when it came out and having a hard time separating Kilmer’s depiction of Jim Morrison with the actual Jim Morrison.
I’m going to just come right out and say it: Doc Holliday is probably Kilmer’s best role. Fight me.
Wings of Courage (1995)
He’s only in the film for a hot second, as Jean Mermoz, pioneering French aviator.
The Ghost and the Darkness (1996)
An adaptation of the 1907 book, The Man-eaters of Tsavo, by John Henry Patterson (who Kilmer plays in the film). Man-eating lions terrorize the workers building the Uganda-Mombasa Railway in Kenya. Screenplay was by William Goldman and I remember it being a good flick.
George and the Dragon (2004)
Another hot second appearance by Kilmer in this historical fantasy flick.
Kilmer plays King Phillip, father of Alexander the Great.
Comanche Moon (2008)
I have to admit, the costumes have me intrigued, even though I am generally not a fan of Westerns.
Wyatt Earp’s Revenge (2012)
A return to the story of Wyatt Earp, this time taking place during Earp’s time in as a deputy in Dodge City, Kansas. Kilmer plays the older Earp who tells the story of the murder of Dora Hand to a reporter some thirty or so years later.
The Spoils of Babylon (2014)
I find it interesting that I had never heard of this miniseries until I started researching Kilmer’s historical film roles. A spoof of an “epic TV miniseries”. and as a general rule, I love anything that takes the piss out of Hollywood.
Tom Sawyer & Huckleberry Finn (2014) / Cinema Twain (2016) / Mark Twain and Mary Baker Eddy (2020?)
Mark Twain appears to be a role that Val Kilmer can’t get enough of. He’s done one film as the legendary writer, a one-man stage show that he wrote, produced, and starred in, and now a third film is post-production that appears to be an expansion of a 2007 short film he produced on the relationship between Twain and Mary Baker Eddy.
What’s your favorite Val Kilmer historical costume film role?