The film opens with Wyatt Earp as a teenager living on the family farm. His older brothers, Virgil and James, are away at war serving with the Union Army. Wyatt dreams of war, and packs some belongings, bids his younger siblings goodbye, and attempts to run away, intending to lie about his age and join the Union Army. He doesn't make it off the farm before his father catches him and forces him to return home. A short while later, both brothers return home at the war's end, with James gravely wounded. Shortly afterwards, the family moves west. It is during this move that Wyatt first sees a man killed, shot during a gunfight. He gets sick at the sight, and vomits. Years pass, finding him working out west as a wagon driver. During his time there, he works also as a referee for fights, and finds himself at odds with a bully. Wyatt and the bully eventually come to the point of fighting, with the bully intending to shoot Wyatt. Wyatt disarms him and defeats him, taking his gun as a trophy. Returning home to Missouri, Wyatt marries a childhood sweetheart, Urilla Sutherland. The two move into their own house, and he begins working as a policeman. Months later, while pregnant, his wife dies from typhus. He stays by her side throughout the illness, becoming deeply depressed afterward. He burns their home and all they own, begins drinking, and drifting from town to town, eventually landing in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. He robs a man and steals his horse, but is captured a short time later. With Wyatt facing certain hanging, his father bails him out of jail, telling him to leave and never return to Arkansas. He begins working as a buffalo hunter, where he meets Bat and Ed Masterson. The three become friends and work together hunting buffalo, with the two brothers working as Wyatt's skinners. Years pass, and he begins working as a Deputy Marshal in Wichita, Kansas, and builds a reputation as a good lawman. He is recruited to work as a deputy in Dodge City, with a lower salary, but for extra money for each arrest made, in the end making more than he would have in Wichita. In Dodge City he builds a hard reputation, and he kills his first man, a shooting witnessed by actress Josie Marcus. Wyatt becomes involved romantically with prostitute Mattie Blaylock, and the Mastersons begin working with him as deputies. Wyatt disagrees with Ed Masterson working as a lawman, believing him to be too passive. However, the Dodge City council decides that Ed is more acceptable than Wyatt due to the latter's excessive force, and fire him, appointing Ed to take his place. Wyatt then begins working for the railroad, capturing outlaws. While pursuing outlaw Dave Rudabaugh, he is introduced to gunman and gambler Doc Holliday, in Fort Griffin, Texas, and the two become friends. Holliday assists Earp in locating Rudabaugh, whom he dislikes tremendously. Shortly afterward, Wyatt receives word that Ed Masterson has been killed, having shot and killed both his assailants before dying in the street. Wyatt returns to Dodge City to help bring law and order. After working there for a while, he and his family move to Tombstone, Arizona, under the protest of the Earp wives, and Mattie. Wyatt immediately finds himself at odds with the "Cowboy" gang. He meets and becomes involved romantically with popular actress Josie Marcus, which puts him at odds with her boyfriend, Sheriff Behan. This relationship also causes stress in his relationship with Mattie, and becomes the subject of rumor about town. Wyatt and his brothers Morgan and Virgil arrest several Cowboys, and Virgil takes over as marshal following the murder of town marshal Fred White. The brothers find themselves at odds with the Cowboys often, and tension builds. Wyatt breaks up several altercations involving the Cowboys, particularly Ike Clanton, and Doc Holliday swears his loyalty to Wyatt, whom he considers his only real friend. Eventually the Gunfight at the OK Corral occurs, with the brothers becoming very unpopular in town. Virgil is ambushed and wounded, and Morgan is killed. The film then shows only a glimpse of the Vendetta Ride with Wyatt and his friends taking out revenge on the remaining "Cowboys", then skips to many years later with he and Josie mining for gold in Alaska. While enroute by boat, a young man on the same boat recognizes Wyatt, and recounts a story in which Wyatt had saved the boy's uncle, "Tommy behind the deuce". The film ends with Wyatt saying to Josie, "A lot of people say it didn't happen that way", to which she responds "Never mind them Wyatt. It happened that way."