Billy the Kid (1989 film)

Gore Vidal's Billy the Kid, also known as Billy the Kid, is a 1989 American western television film about famed gunman Billy the Kid. It aired on TNT cable channel on May 10, 1989.[1]

Billy the Kid
Billy the Kid FilmPoster.jpeg
Directed byWilliam Graham
Written byGore Vidal
StarringVal Kilmer
Duncan Regehr
Wilford Brimley
Julie Carmen
Music byLaurence Rosenthal
CinematographyDennis C. Lewiston
Running time
96 minutes
CountryUnited States

One of many depicting the events surrounding the outlaw during his participation in the Lincoln County War, this film, though little known, has routinely been described as the most historically accurate version to date. Written by Gore Vidal and directed by William A. Graham, Val Kilmer stars in the lead role of William Bonney a.k.a. Billy the Kid, with a supporting cast including Wilford Brimley, John O'Hurley, Duncan Regehr, and Ned Vaughn.



Vidal said in his memoirs that he had written the original teleplay for The Left Handed Gun, starring Paul Newman as Billy the Kid, decades earlier, and always felt the studio had butchered the material when his television play was used as the basis for a theatrical movie, so he wanted to return to the story for a more accurate rendition. At the time of his original teleplay with Newman, it was thought that the real Billy was left handed. This was based on a photo of Billy that had been inadvertently flipped when printed. Years later, the error was discovered—Billy was right handed.


While receiving little general attention, the television movie was acclaimed by fans of the western genre due to its comparative historical fidelity.[citation needed] Kilmer was praised[according to whom?] for his portrayal based on his extensive work to not only physically resemble William Bonney as much as possible,[citation needed] but also to capture his personality as related in historical accounts.[citation needed] This contributed to the film being widely recognised as one of the most historically accurate "Billy the Kid" films ever made.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Goodman, Walter (May 10, 1989). "Review/Television - Vidal Draws a Bead on Good-Bad Old Billy the Kid". The New York Times.

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