WTF Happened to Young Guns?

In today’s WTF Happened to Young Guns video, we look back on Christopher Cain’s action Western about Billy the Kid.

Howdy pardners! Today, we’re galloping back to 1988, when Christopher Cain (The Next Karate Kid, Gone Fishin’, Lakota Moon) and a band of rootin’ tootin’ outlaws shot up the silver screen for the American Western action film Young Guns. Presented as a retelling of the adventures of Billy the Kid during the Lincoln Couty War, Young Gun features a murderers’ row of talent, including Emilio Estevez, Kiefer Sutherland, Lou Diamond Phillips, Charlie Sheen, Dermot Mulroney, Casey Siemaszko, Terence Stamp, Jack Palance, and Terry O’Quinn.

Cain directs from a script by John Fusco (Spirit: Stallion of the CimarronHildagoThe Highwaymen). Young Guns revolves around a group of young gunmen, led by Billy the Kid, who become deputies to avenge the murder of the rancher who became their benefactor. However, when Billy takes their authority too far, they become the hunted.

Young Guns, WTF Happened to Young Guns, retrospective, Emilio Estevez

Historian Paul Hutton once called Young Guns the most historically accurate of all films focusing on the dirty deeds of Billy the Kid as of its year of release. The film went off like a gun at the box office, opening in the number-one spot. Young Guns mosied toward $56M worldwide at the box office, whipping up dust devils around its $11M budget.

While Young Guns received mixed reviews from audiences, many think of the film as a cult classic among Westerns and certainly one of Esteves’ most iconic roles outside The Breakfast ClubThe Mighty DucksMaximum Overdrive, and the National Lampoon comedy Loaded Weapon 1. A sequel, Young Guns II, was released in 1990, with Fusco returning as the writer and Geoff Murphy (Dante’s PeakUnder Siege 2: Dark Territory) in the director’s chair. The sequel adds Christian Slater, William Petersen, Alan Ruck, James Coburn, and Balthazar Getty to the cast. Set in 1881, a cattle baron named John Chisum pays a bounty to Patrick Floyd Garrett to kill Esteves’ Billy the Kid.

While Young Guns doesn’t rank among films like High NoonA Fistful of DollarsTrue GritThe Wild BunchOnce Upon a Time in the WestUnforgiven, and The Searchers as one of the greatest movies of the genre, Cain’s film continues to be beloved by fans, with double features happening at theaters across the United States more often than you’d think. How did Young Guns get made? What kind of mishaps ensued before the film hit screens? Find out by watching WTF Happened to Young Guns?

About the Author

Born and raised in New York, then immigrated to Canada, Steve Seigh has been a editor, columnist, and critic since 2012. He started with Ink & Pixel, a column celebrating the magic and evolution of animation, before launching the companion YouTube series Animation Movies Revisited. He's also the host of the Talking Comics Podcast, a personality-driven audio show focusing on comic books, film, music, and more. You'll rarely catch him without headphones on his head and pancakes on his breath.