Tombstone movie cover Movie Locations Guide

Where was Tombstone filmed?

1993

About Tombstone

Loosely based on the classic cowboy capers of the 1880s, this 1993 classic western film holds a special place in a lot of people’s hearts. Starring now household names such as Val Kilmer, Kurt Russell, Sam Eliot, and many more, it’s easy to escape into the wonderful world of cowboys, lawbreakers and shootouts with Tombstone.

The film surrounds the escapades of Wyatt Earp (Kurt Russell) and Doc Holliday (Val Kilmer) as they try to rid the town of Tombstone of cowboys, most notably Curly Bill (Powers Boothe), who has been terrorizing the area. Earp has a hefty reputation as an ex-peace officer and with the help of his brothers and his best friend Doc, they endeavor to keep the peace.

Along the way, they make plenty of enemies, have a lot of fun, play a lot of cards and Wyatt even falls in love. This is for sure a film that has something for everyone and will definitely keep you entertained for a few easy, laidback hours.

Tombstone references real-life historic events such as the shootout at the O.K. Corral and the Earp Vendetta Ride, which is where Wyatt held nationwide searches and hunts for outlaws and cowboys, determined to bring them to justice. The end result is an entertaining and exciting film that’ll remind you of all the westerns that were on in years gone by.

If you’re a fan of action movies, US history, or just fancy kicking back and watching a good old-fashioned western movie that’s filled with witty one-liners, then Tombstone is going to really hit the spot.

City Locations

Mescal, Arizona

Location Types

American, Rustic

Location Styles

Americana/Anywhere America

Tombstone Locations

Predominantly, the movie Tombstone was filmed at the Old Tucson Studios in Mescal, Arizona. This is a really famous and popular filming location for western films as there is a ready-made 1800’s era saloon town already there in the middle of the desert.

This is from a time when studios would make a lot of specific genre movies – think about how many cowboy movies John Wayne made back in the day! So, unlike other studios and sound stages, once a production wrapped, they didn’t take down the entire set as they knew they’d use it again for a similar movie.

In addition to the Old Tucson Studios in Mescal, the Tombstone production chose to shoot all around the rugged and beautiful state of Arizona, including in Sonoita, Texas Canyon, the San Pedro River and more.

Arizona presented the ideal filming location for Tombstone, as the plot directly references cities in Arizona, such as Tucson, and Tombstone itself is a real town with a huge wild west theme that attracts thousands of tourists every year.

It’s been almost three decades since this iconic film came out, so keep reading! Spoilers ahead if you haven’t seen the movie yet.

Wyatt enters the town scene in Tombstone

Boothill Cemetery

When the Earps take the decision to journey from Tucson to Tombstone, they’re greeted by an odd welcome. At the edge of town there is an old gravestone with the comic inscription:

“Here lies Lester Moore, Four slugs from a 44, No Les No More”

It’s one of the most famous epitaphs in film, purely for the cleverness of the puns. The amazing thing? This is a real grave. Lester Moore is buried in Boothill Cemetery in the actual, real town of Tombstone. He existed around the time the movie was set and was apparently a station agent who was killed in a shootout.

Although none of the Tombstone filming locations are actually in the town of Tombstone, this is the closest you get to the real thing. While you’re there, you’ll see other graveyards of real-life Tombstone characters, including Curly Bill’s. If you’re a Tombstone fan or a fan of the wild west, this cemetery is a must-visit.

To get to Boothill Cemetery and the town of Tombstone itself, you’re going to have to drive. It’s out in the desert so public transport is non-existent. But, while you’re there, wander around the real Tombstone and live your wild west fantasies.

Doc killed Johnny Ringo scene in Tombstone

Babacomari Ranch

Throughout the movie, we see Doc Holliday (Val Kilmer) at odds with a cowboy called Johnny Ringo (Michael Biehn). As the film goes on, it’s clear that only one of them is going to live to see the credits roll.

Both Doc and Ringo are amazing marksmen with reputations for ruthlessness. However, Doc is the more likable with his witty one-liners throughout the film. This rivalry comes to a head when they agree to a duel outside of town.

Thanks to Doc’s badge, he has the legal right to kill Ringo without repercussions, unlike Ringo. He reminds him of this before the duel and after he kills him, Doc says to Wyatt (Kurt Russell) that while he’s happy to help him on his villain’s roundup;

"My hypocrisy goes only so far."

Doc is a killer, but a killer with a conscience, and Wyatt needs to be aware of that moving forward.

This particular scene is one of the few not filmed within the Old Tucson Studios and is actually in a place just outside Tombstone called Babacomari Ranch, Sonoita, Arizona.

The ranch sits on 2,500 acres of protected land that helps conservation efforts in the local area. You can visit this ranch, but check their website before you visit this Tombstone filming location, as it is private property. With it being out on its own land, driving is absolutely essential.

Doc’s death scene in Tombstone

Mescal Movie Set

Even during what should be one of the saddest and most emotional scenes in the entire movie, Doc manages to turn it into one of the funniest scenes in Tombstone. His battle with tuberculosis is well documented throughout the film and now it’s getting to the point of no return.

Wyatt visits his friend in the Glenwood Springs Sanitorium and clearly, he doesn’t have long left. When Wyatt asks how he’s doing, Doc replies in typical Doc fashion with:

"I'm dying, how are you?"

It’s one of those quotes that cement Tombstone as an iconic film and it’s why it’s beloved by so many people of all ages and backgrounds.

The sanatorium is actually part of the Mescal Movie Set, one of two movie sets that were combined to create the majority of the Tombstone filming locations. The Mescal Movie Set is home to the fake version of Tombstone and the sanatorium, so if you visit you can get double the Tombstone experience.

The set runs tours with historical and film-based insights that really bring the place to life, so remember to book before you arrive. Again, there isn’t public transport to this filming location, so it’s best to drive.

I’ll be your Huckleberry scene in Tombstone

Old Tucson Studios

In what is possibly the most famous scene in the whole of the movie, Doc has yet another run-in with Ringo. It looks as if Ringo is properly spoiling for a fight, mostly with Wyatt, but Doc is having none of it.

When backing up his friend, Doc says the now infamous line: “I’ll be your Huckleberry”.

Apparently, this is something that the real Doc Holliday actually said, but the meaning remains unclear. Theories range from medieval damsel in distress references to Huck Finn to the most popular one which is the southern slang usage of Huckleberry as someone who’s the right person for the job. Essentially Doc is saying if you want a fight, you’ve come to the right person, bring it on.

This particular scene along with the train station and wedding scenes were all shot on the other studio set, the Old Tucson Studios. In order to get the different parts of this wild west town looking as authentic as possible, the Tombstone production needed to use two different, but existing studio sets to make it work.

You can visit the Old Tucson Studios which are a great visitor attraction and even feature an old carousel, costumed staff and a sweet shop. It’s not too far outside of Tucson itself, to the west of the city, but driving is still the way to go. If you want to stretch your legs, there are also plenty of trailheads near the studios.

Josephine meets Wyatt scene in Tombstone

Granite Mountain

Although Tombstone is largely a gunslinger action film, there’s also a beautiful love story woven in there. Wyatt meets the lovely and entirely different Josephine Marcus (Dana Delany) up in the mountains overlooking Tombstone.

It’s clear that she’s not the shy and lady-like type that was so common at the time. Josephine can definitely hold her own, something that’s replicated in history with the real Josephine. She shows her reckless and fun spirit when she says:

“Let's run it out of them” to Wyatt about their horses and speeds down the mountain on horseback – something a woman of the time probably wouldn’t have done!

This particular Tombstone scene was filmed at Granite Mountain, Prescott, Arizona. The mountains are beautiful with plenty of trails and hikes, varying in difficulty. If you love stretching your legs and taking in beautiful vistas, then this is the filming location for you.

As with all the locations so far, driving is essential to reach this location and there is no public transport in the area.

River shootout scene in Tombstone

San Pedro River

In one of the most famous action scenes in Tombstone, Wyatt and Doc are pinned and ambushed by Curly Bill’s gang down by the river. It’s clear that Doc’s tuberculosis has got him good and he’s in no shape to move or fight. It’s down to Wyatt to end this.

Curly Bill is taunting him from his ambushing position and Wyatt simply repeats one word, over and over again: “No.”

With every shot that goes off, it gets more and more intense, he takes down the entire gang, including Curly Bill single-handedly in what is one of the most iconic scenes in the whole film.

This Tombstone action scene is filmed down on the San Pedro River which flows to the east of Tucson. It’s actually one of only three rivers in the world that flows northbound - how cool is that? Depending on where along the river you visit, you can find trails, picnic areas, parking, wildlife information and more.

Again, to reach the river, it’s best to drive, or you could even follow the river down from outside Tucson all the way to the Mexican border!

Conclusion

There’s a reason why Tombstone has stood the test of time as one of the most iconic and hilarious wild west movies of the late 20th century. It’s full of huge household names, amazing quotes, and classic western movie tropes that are super nostalgic.

Whether you’re rewatching it for the fiftieth time or introducing someone to the magic of this movie for the very first time, you’re guaranteed to have an entertaining few hours of escapism. It’s rare that you get a movie where you can actually learn about history in a fun way, but Tombstone manages to nail it!

With the majority of the Tombstone filming locations being around the Tucson area of Arizona and predominantly on two studio sets that both offer tours, it’s easy to visit these locations and feel as if you’re in the thick of the O.K. Corral action. Tombstone superfans, Tucson is calling, are you going to answer?