The Cast of Young Guns and the Characters They Played

By: Alyssa Miller | Last updated: Dec 19, 2023

The cast of the “Young Guns” films features talented actors, that include some familiar faces before they launch into stardom.

The “Young Guns” films, released in 1988 and 1990, were more than just entertaining Westerns. They served as a launchpad for the careers of several talented actors who would later become major stars. Here’s a closer look at the cast and their rise to fame.

The cast of 'Young Guns' and What is ‘Young Guns’ about?

“Young Guns” tells the story of a group of gunmen, led by Billy the Kid, who become deputies in a Western town in the U.S. After their benefactor is slain, Billy and his troupe, known as the Regulators, seek violent revenge which leads to them becoming hunted.

The cast of 'Young Guns' movies

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Inspired by the adventures of William H. “Billy the Kid” Bonney, a real-life gunslinger, during the Lincoln County War, which took place in New Mexico from 1877 to 1878. Historian Paul Hutton called “Young Guns” the most historically accurate Billy the Kid film.

How many Young Guns movies are there?

As of writing, there are two “Young Guns” movies. “Young Guns” was released in 1988, while “Young Guns 2” was released in 1990.

The only surviving authenticated portrait of Billy the Kid.

Source: Pubic Domain/Wikicommons

While there have been rumors of “Young Guns 3,” titled “Guns 3: Alias Billy the Kid,” the third installment of the franchise has been in development limbo for years. Franchise star Emilio Estevez revealed to Collider in March 2021 that the threequel is “definitely in the works.”

Emilio Estevez as Billy the Kid

“Young Guns” starred Emilio Estevez as Billy the Kid. The Kid was widely believed to have killed 21 men, although the true number remains unknown. However, his reputation as a deadly gunslinger was built on the fact that his quick draw and accurate shooting skills were unrivaled.

Emilio Estevez as William H. "Billy the Kid" Bonney,

Credit: 20th Century Fox

The Kid was an embodiment of the Wild West. The controversial figure has sparked debates as he seemingly finds his way into historical events that altered the history of the United States.

Why is Estevez’s performance in ‘Young Guns’ highly regarded

Emilio Estevez’s “Young Guns” performance is widely regarded as one of his best. The actor, known for his roles in “The Outsiders” and “Repo Man,” solidified his status as a leading man and teen idol in the role of Billy the Kid in “Young Guns.”

Emilio Estevez as Billy the Kid in 'Young Guns'

Source: 20th Century Fox

Estevez portrays Billy the Kid with a captivating blend of charm, charisma, and vulnerability that draws audiences to his performance, which helped to lead critics and audiences to consider the film a classic Western. Estevez would reprise the role again in “Young Guns 2.”

Kiefer Sutherland as Doc Scurlock

Kiefer Sutherland’s “Young Guns” character was Doc Scurlock. Josiah Gordon “Doc” Scurlock was an American cowboy, gunfighter, and founding member of the Regulators during the Lincoln County War in New Mexico.

Doc Scurlock posing for a photo

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Scurlock also served as a deputy sheriff and is remembered as a complex and fascinating figure of the Wild West.


What happens to Doc Scurlock in ‘Young Guns’?

Sutherland appears as Scurlock, Billy’s second in command. During “Young Guns,” Scurlock has a romance with Yen Sun (Alice Cater). When he isn’t being a gunslinging deputy, he is composing poetry. In “Young Guns 2,” Scurlock is gunned down during his attempt to save the Regulators from an ambush.


Sutherland, known for his role in “A Few Good Men” and “Flatliners,” delivered a breakout performance. He received critical acclaim for the role, including nominations for the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor and the Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Male.


Lou Diamond Phillips as José Chávez y Chávez

Lou Diamond Phillips plays Jose Chavez y Chaze, another main character from “Young Guns” and “Young Guns 2.” Jose Coby Frey Chavez y Chavez was a Mexican American outlaw from the New Mexican Territory.

Lou Diamond Phillips as Jose Chavez y Chavez in 'Young Guns'

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Phillips’ “Young Guns” character is complex and most remembered for the passionate and emotional delivery of the injustices his people suffered on Native American reservations in the U.S.


Charlie Sheen as Richard “Dick” Brewer

Charlie Sheen’s “Young Guns” character is Richard “Dick” Brewer. The brother of “Young Guns” star Emilio Estevez, Sheen’s Brewer was the founder and original leader of the Regulators. Brewer and the Kid are depicted as clashing frequently in the first act of “Young Guns.”

Charlie Sheen as Richard “Dick” Brewer in 'Young Guns'

Source: Fandom

In real life, Brewer was killed after a dispute over a stolen horse in 1878. In “Young Guns,” Sheen’s character is slain by Buckshot Roberts. Billy assumes leadership of the Regulators.


Dermot Mulroney as “Dirty” Steve Stephens 

Dermot Mulroney plays “Dirty” Steve Stephens in “Young Guns.” Stephens was a member of the Regulators and fought against the corrupt law enforcement and cattle interests led by Lawrence G. Murphy.

Dermot Mulroney as “Dirty” Steve Stephens in 'Young Guns'

Source: 20th Century Fox

Mulroney’s performance as Stephens is most notable for the intense and dramatic climactic ending of “Young Guns,” in which he is gunned down while rescuing a wounded Chavez. While Stephens remains a relatively enigmatic figure in history, Mulroney brings his quiet intensity and brooding demeanor to the role, effectively conveying the character’s internal struggles and loyalty to his comrades.


Christian Slater as “Arkansas” Dave Rudabaugh

Christian Slater joined the cast of “Young Guns 2” as “Arkansas” Dave Rudabaugh. “Arkansas” was a notorious outlaw and gunfighter. While not as well known as some of the other notable figures in the Wild West, he built a reputation for his quick draw, daring robberies, and ruthless streak.

Christian Slater as “Arkansas” Dave Rudabaugh in 'Young Guns 2'

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Christian Slater’s “Young Gun 2” performance sees “Arkansas” as a central character who joins the Regulators to fight alongside them throughout their adventures.


William Petersen as Pat Garrett

William Petersen plays Pat Garrett in the Western sequel, “Young Guns 2.” Garrett was a prominent American lawman, who is best known for killing Billy the Kid in 1881. He played a significant role in the history of the Wild West as a notable sheriff, cowboy, and rancher.

William Petersen as Pat Garrett in 'Young Guns 2'

Source: 20th Century Fox/Pinterest

While William Petersen’s Pat Garrett was not a central member of the Regulators like Billy the Kid, Doc Scurlock, or “Arkansas,” Garrett played a crucial role as a lawman tasked with bringing the young outlaws to justice.


James Coburn as John Chisum

James Coburn played John Chisum in the sequel to “Young Guns.” Chisum was a prominent cattle baron and business owner who helped develop the American West. He is best known for his vast ranching empire in New Mexico and his involvement in the Lincoln County War.

James Coburn as John Chisum in 'Young Guns'

Source: 20th Century Fox

Although James Coburn was hesitant to take on the role of Chisum due to the film’s historical accuracy, Coburn brought a level of wisdom and understanding to the central character. Coburn acted as a mentor to the young and wild Regulators, understanding the potential of the young outlaws and offering them guidance and support when needed.


An Unexpected Cameo in ‘Young Guns’

While there were many notable stars in “Young Guns” and “Young Guns 2,” modern-day blockbuster star Tom Cruise made a cameo in “Young Guns.”

Tom Cruise in 'Days of Thunder' (1990)

Source: Paramount Pictures

Cruise plays an unnamed minion who surrounds the Regulators during the final scene. Although he is obscured by smoke and hidden under a cowboy hat, he can be seen aiming at the Regulators before being shot and killed.


Why did ‘Young Guns’ have a star-studded cast? 

“Young Guns” director Christopher Cain managed the large cast well, ensuring that each character had time in the limelight during the film, all which resulted in a box office smash success.

'Young Gun' actors posing

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The success of the “Young Guns” can be attributed to a combination of factors, including talent, chemistry, preparation, direction, script, music, marketing, and cultural impact. Not to mention to Bon Jovi’s breakout hit song. Each actor who joined the production played their roles to perfection, which contributed to the legacy and success of the film, launching many of these actors’ fantastic careers.