His name was Henry McCarty, but the lawmen that hunted him and the journalist who made him an icon called him “Billy the Kid.”
According to History.com, The Kid escaped from jail and killed two guards on his way out. On July 14, he was hiding at a friend’s home in Fort Sumner, New Mexico, when Lincoln County Sheriff Pat Garrett got the drop on him. They were both armed, but the famed gunslinger wasn’t fast enough. He was only 21 years ago when he died.
But as the saying goes, men die, but legends live forever. He ranks amongst the likes of Jesse James and Wild Bill Hickcock. They also finished their careers with a bullet to the head, but we still talk about them. Since Billy The Kid’s inauspicious ending, the myth of Billy the Kid has only grown. Rumors of his escape abound. And there were dozens of people — almost assuredly frauds — who claimed to be Billy the Kid after his death.
But stories of the quick-draw artist and killer were too good for Hollywood to pass up. So, if you’re so inclined to celebrate the outlaw spirit of the Wild West, here are a few that should fit the bill.
Movies Made About Billy The Kid
Films about Billy The Kid were hitting theaters as early as 1911, and they haven’t really stopped yet. The first movies were silent films, and both portrayed Billy as a woman pretending to be a man. It’s probably safe to skip these, even though D.W. Griffith, the famed director, helmed The Adventures of Billy. So, there’s one for your film buffs out there.
But there are some that may be easier for a modern audience to get behind.
- Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973) — This is one of Sam Peckinpaw’s best films and is his farewell to the Wild West. It stars James Coburn, Kris Kristofferson, Jason Robards, and Bob Dylan of all people. This is a more mournful and slow-paced film but it’s full of Peckinpaw’s great direction and camera work. And it focuses on the cat and mouse chase between Sheriff Garrett and Billy.
- Young Guns I and II (1988 and 1990) — If you’re looking for more of the freewheeling and quick-to-fight versions of Billy the Kid, Young Guns and its sequel. Emilio Estevez plays Billy The Kid, always one step ahead of the law, but we all know how the story has to end. The movies are action-packed, full of great one-liners, and a lot of fun.
- The Kid (2019) — Vincent D’Onofrio directs this most recent adaptation of the Billy the Kid myth. The movie is packed with stars. Dane DeHaan plays The Kid. Ethan Hawke plays Sheriff Garrett and Chris Pratt shows up as well. It’s not a great film but it has a few moments.
See the full list of Billy the Kid films here.
For anybody with Epix, a Billy the Kid series is set to come out next year called Billy the Kid. Hopefully, they’re saving the creativity for the show instead of the title.