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One of the greatest western films to ever grace this earth, Tombstone (1993) has well-earned the title of “One-liners: the movie.”
The movie is based on real-life legends of the old Wild West, including the three brothers Wyatt Earp (Kurt Russell), Deputy United States Marshal Virgil Earp (Sam Elliott), and Morgan Earp (Bill Paxton), and their good dentist friend “Doc” John Henry Holliday (Val Kilmer).
It also includes famous outlaws like John Peters “Johnny” Ringo (Michael Biehn), Joseph Isaac “Ike” Clanton (Stephen Lang), Johnny Tyler (Billy Bob Thornton), and William “Curly Bill” Brocius (Powers Boothe).
The Tombstone movie is loosely based on real events, not least the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral on October 26, 1881, between the Earp Brothers and the notorious gang called The Cowboys.
Tombstone is filled with famous quotes you will remember for many years. Today, though, we are looking at a fan favorite, Doc Holliday.
Val Kilmer’s performance and portrayal of the real Doc Holliday is probably his best to date (though I really liked him in The Doors (as Jim Morrison), in Top Gun (as Ice), in Willow (as Madmartigan), and in The Saint (as Simon Templar) as well).
Doc has moved to the drier environment of Tombstone because of his tuberculosis.
He hooks back up with his long-time friend Wyatt Earp, and together they have some fine adventures till the end.
Check out some of the best Doc Holliday quotes below and see why Val Kilmer’s performance cemented Doc the dentist as one of the greatest gunslingers in this Western cult classic TV show.
1. “I’m your Huckleberry.”
By far, the best-known quote of the movie, “I’m your Huckleberry,” is said by Doc Holliday twice during the film, both to Johnny Ringo.
Johnny Ringo is a rival outlaw, and he and Doc butt heads the entire film. But what is the meaning behind this famous quote?
Well, multiple theories abound about what it could mean, and if you would like an in-depth analysis of them, read this article.
To cut a long story short, the best theory is that when Doc says, “I’m your Huckleberry,” he means he is the best person for the job.
If Ringo wants trouble, then Doc Holliday is the best person for the job, and he proves it time and time again.
2. “Not me; I’m in my prime.”
Another one of my favorite quotes from the movie!
In this scene, Ike Clanton and Ringo attempt to insult Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday, but Wyatt doesn’t take the bait.
Ringo then turns to Doc, and they begin a battle of wits.
Doc asks his girlfriend if he should hate Ringo and then says, “Evidently, Mr. Ringo’s an educated man. Now I really hate him.”
Here’s the whole exchange, which is filled with some of the best lines and is one of my favorite scenes from the movie:
Curly Bill Brocius: [takes a bill with Wyatt’s signature out of a fan’s hand and casually throws it at the faro table]: “Wyatt Earp, huh? I heard of you.”
Ike Clanton: “Listen now, Mr. Kansas Law Dog. Law don’t go around here. Savvy?”
Wyatt Earp: “I’m retired.”
Curly Bill: “Good. That’s real good.”
Ike Clanton: “Yeah, that’s good, Law Dog, ’cause law just don’t go around here.”
Wyatt Earp: “Yeah, I heard you the first time [flips a card]- Winner to the King, five hundred dollars.”
Curly Bill [laughing]: “Shut up, Ike.”
Johnny Ringo: “You must be Doc Holliday.”
Doc Holliday [coughing]: “That’s the rumor.”
Johnny Ringo: “You retired too?”
Doc Holliday: “Not me, I’m in my prime!”
Johnny Ringo [sarcastic]: “Yeah, you look it.”
Doc Holliday: “You must be Ringo… [turns to his girlfriend Mary Katharine Haroney, “Big Nose Kate” (Joanna Pacula)]… look darlin’: Johnny Ringo – the deadliest pistoleer since Wild Bill, they say. What you think, darling – should I hate him?”
Big Nose Kate: “You don’t even know him.”
Doc Holliday: “No, that’s true, but… I don’t know. There’s just something about him… something around the eyes… I don’t know… reminds me of… me. No! I’m sure of it. I hate him!”
Wyatt Earp [to Ringo]: “He’s drunk.”
Doc Holliday: “In vino veritas.”
[“In wine, truth” meaning: “A drunk person tells the truth”]
Johnny Ringo: “Age quod agis.”
[“Do what you’re doing” meaning: “Focus on what you do best”]
Doc Holliday: “Credat Judaeus apella, non ego.”
[“The Jew Apella may believe it, not I,” meaning: “I don’t believe drinking is what I do best” which is a provocation to get Ringo to test Doc’s fast gun-drawing skills.]
Johnny Ringo [pats his gun]: “Eventus stultorum magister.”
[“Events are the teachers of fools” meaning: “Stupid people have to learn by experience.”]
Doc Holliday: [gives a Cheshire cat smile] “In pace requiescat.”
[“Rest in peace” meaning: “It’s your funeral!”]
Tombstone Marshal Fred White (Harry Carey Jr.): “Come on boys. We don’t want any trouble in here… not in any language.”
Doc Holliday: “That’s Latin, darling. Evidently, Mr. Ringo is an educated man. Now I really hate him!”
[Ringo draws his gun]
Curly Bill: “Watch it Johnny! I hear he’s really fast!”
Ringo then starts to show off his gun-spinning tricks while Doc watches and memorizes everything.
After watching it only once, Doc mimics the routine that Ringo has practiced, thus beating Ringo in the fictitious gunfight.
But more importantly, Doc carefully watches Ringo’s every move, even when drunk, so he’s ready for their next eventual and possibly deadly encounter.
It’s also worth noting that even while Ringo preaches that only fools learn from experience, “Eventus stultorum magister,” as compared to calculating what to do, he doesn’t catch that is exactly what Doc is doing.
By showing off, he allows Doc to learn from experience and calculate his next moves because he has seen Ringo’s skills.
It is a tense and fun scene that sets up Ringo and Doc’s rocky relationship for the rest of the film and lets us know how they view each other.
3. “There is no normal life. There is just life. Get on with it.”
As Doc Holliday lies dying on his deathbed, he has one final conversation with his long-time friend, Wyatt Earp.
Many of his best quotes come from this conversation, and this is one of the saddest ones he ever says.
“There is no normal life. There is just life. Get on with it.” It reminds Wyatt that there is no such thing as a normal life.
We are always trying to have that “normal” life, where everything is good and goes our way, but there is no such thing.
Life is life, and you must get out there and grab it by the horns. There’s no point waiting for that normal life to fall into your lap because you only get one.
4. “I have two guns. One for each of ya.”
After Curly Bill kills Marshall Fred White (Harry Carey Jr.), the townspeople want to string him up, by Wyatt Earp says he is to stand trial.
As things escalate, Doc Holliday comes out and tells one of the town folk that he will be next to die if he tries anything.
“You’re so drunk I bet you’re seeing double.” Not a second after those words leave the poor man’s mouth, Doc has both pistols in his hands.
“I have two guns. One for each of ya.” Even if he sees double, he can put a bullet in both heads before there is time to blink.
Doc Holliday is the best, and lines like this remind us just how scary he can be as a gunman.
5. “Make no mistake; it’s not revenge he’s after. It’s a reckoning.”
After a massive fight with the Cowboys, Wyatt Earp, Doc Holiday, and a large group of other gunmen rest alongside the riverbank.
One of the gunmen with them speaks with Doc Holliday and says, “Knowing Ringo, he’ll be headed straight for us. If they were my brothers, I’d want revenge too.”
To which Doc responds, “Make no mistake; it’s not revenge he’s after. It’s a reckoning.” Ringo doesn’t just want revenge against Doc and Wyatt.
He is bringing hell to them and wants them to pay for what they have cost him, hence the reckoning.
Sometimes revenge just isn’t enough for a person, especially after you have presumably been as wronged as Ringo thinks he has been.
6. “I’m dying. How are you?”
The beginning of the final conversation between Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp, “I’m dying. How are you?” is perfect gallows humor.
After Wyatt asks Doc how he is doing, even though he knows that Doc is dying, Doc answers the only way he knows how.
No point in going out on a low note, so gives the little “I’m dying.” quip to lighten the mood slightly, which makes it one of the most memorable lines from Tombstone.
It is the type of humor that only exists between best friends, and Wyatt and Doc were some of the best there ever were.
7. “Damn it. You are the most fallible, stubborn, self-deluded, bullheaded man I’ve ever known in my entire life.”
After Wyatt Earp has asked Doc Holliday how he is doing on his deathbed, he hands Doc some cards and asks him how many.
Doc responds classically with, “Damn it. You are the most fallible, stubborn, self-deluded, bullheaded man I’ve ever known in my entire life.”
Paying him no attention, Wyatt calls and then tells Doc he has won before taking the cards back.
It is a small scene and may seem to have no real purpose, but it makes perfect sense when you consider that poker has long been a big part of Doc’s life.
Wyatt gives him one last draw and tells him that he has won. Even though he dies moments later, Doc has won at life and will forever be remembered by his friends.
Death is not the end but merely the beginning of a new journey. One that Doc will likely face with the same spunk that he faced his adventures while he lived with.
8. “Nonsense, I have not yet begun to defile myself.”
After all the trouble in town with Marshall White being shot, Doc Holliday has been playing poker and drinking day and night.
He is in bad shape and seems unwilling to stop until Wyatt Earp comes along and tells him that he has been hitting it kinda hard.
Doc tells him, “Nonsense, I have yet begun to defile myself.” and continues to play. Unfortunately, a fight breaks out only a minute later, and the poker game is over.
Still drunk and suffering a coughing bout, Doc collapses to the ground, showing us just how bad his tuberculosis has gotten.
He is taken to the hotel by his girlfriend and some other guys at the bar to rest.
9. “It appears my hypocrisy knows no bounds.”
Another great quote from the final conversation between Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday, this line comes from when Doc is deputized.
He has always been an outlaw and knows and accepts the lies that he lives, so when he says, “It appears my hypocrisy knows no bounds.” he means it full-heartedly.
Not everyone is always willing to accept when they are a hypocrite one way or another, but Doc does.
10. “Forgive me if I don’t shake hands.”
Early in the movie Tombstone, when Doc Holliday is introduced to the town’s sheriff, he drops a one-liner that still rings true today.
“Forgive me if I don’t shake hands.” Not only was it a show of disrespect to the sheriff, who had very little power in the town, but it also set Doc up as someone with a lot of power.
Plus, if you look at it from the modern-day, Doc was just 30 years ahead of his time and was social distancing before that was even a thing.
Good job, Doc. We love to see someone practicing safe habits.
11. “Yes, it’s true. You are a good woman. Then again, you may be the Antichrist.”
After Doc is taken to the hotel after he collapses, and a doctor sees him, he is told to stop drinking, partying, smoking, and partaking in his nightlife.
When the doctor leaves, his girlfriend removes her top layer of clothing and tells Doc she is a good woman.
She has taken good care of him, all while caressing his body after putting a cigarette into his mouth.
Doc tells her, “Yes, it’s true. You are a good woman.” After she leaves, he finishes by saying, “Then again, you may be the Antichrist.”
Maybe she wants him dead, maybe not. Either way, she is not entirely who she seems, and this scene helps give us a bit of a look into what she may truly want.
12. “Wyatt Earp is my friend.”
Right after the fight against the Cowboys, Texas Jack Vermillion asks Doc why he is out there fighting with them when he should be in bed resting.
“Wyatt Earp is my friend.” is the simple reply we receive. Doc has almost no friends, but Wyatt has been his best friend for years.
His help is needed, so even though it may kill him, Doc will go out there and fight for his friend.
Unfortunately, tuberculosis catches up to him, and he falls from his horse with blood eeking out of his mouth.
Doc does not ride again and spends his last hours in a farmhouse with Wyatt Earp before sadly passing away.
13. “I don’t wanna play anymore.”
I found it appropriate to end with another quote from Doc’s final conversation with Wyatt Earp. No quote tops this one when it comes to the saddest quotes of Tombstone.
Wyatt has been visiting Doc regularly as he slowly dies, and one of the things he does is play cards with Doc.
Cards are a big part of Doc’s personality and life, and let’s just say he is quite good at poker.
When he doesn’t do well, he is a fast draw and has a quicker tongue.
So, during that last conversation, Doc says, “I don’t wanna play anymore,” it strikes a chord in your heart.
At the end of his too-short yet illustrious life, he has no will left to play the game he has gambled to since the beginning.
It is a perfect way of wrapping up Doc Holliday’s story and will forever bring a tear to all of his fans.
About the author:
Jan Sørup is a videographer and photographer from Denmark. He owns filmdaft.com and the Danish company Apertura, which produces video content for big companies in Denmark and Scandinavia. Jan has a background in music, has drawn webcomics, and is a former lecturer at the University of Copenhagen.