Miracle Mile (film)

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Miracle Mile
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Steve De Jarnatt
Produced by John Daly
Derek Gibson
Screenplay by Steve De Jarnatt
Starring Anthony Edwards
Mare Winningham
Denise Crosby
Mykelti Williamson
Music by Tangerine Dream
Cinematography Theo van de Sande
Edited by Stephen Semel
Kathie Weaver
Miracle Mile Productions
Distributed by Hemdale Film Corporation
Release dates
  • September 11, 1988 (1988-09-11) (Toronto Film Festival)
  • May 19, 1989 (1989-05-19) (United States)
Running time
87 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $3,700,000
Box office $1,145,404

Miracle Mile is a 1988 American apocalyptic thriller cult film[1] written and directed by Steve De Jarnatt, and starring Anthony Edwards and Mare Winningham that takes place mostly in real time. It is named after the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, where most of the action takes place.[2] The movie was well received by critics, but bombed at the box office. Despite the poor box office performance, the movie has attracted a cult following.


The film takes place in a single day and night. The film opens with the two main characters, Harry (Anthony Edwards) and Julie (Mare Winningham), meeting at the La Brea Tar Pits and immediately falling in love. After spending the afternoon together, they make a date to meet after her shift ends at midnight at a local coffee shop, but a power failure means Harry's alarm fails to wake him and Julie leaves for home.

When Harry awakes that night he realizes what's happened and rushes to the shop, arriving at 4 AM. Harry tries to call Julie on a pay phone, but only reaches her answering machine, where he leaves an apology. When the phone rings moments later he picks it up, hearing a frantic man telling his dad that nuclear war is about to break out in less than seventy minutes. When Harry finally gets a chance to talk and asks who's calling, the caller realizes he has dialed the wrong area code. Harry then hears him plead with Harry to call his father and apologize for some past wrong before he is being confronted and presumably shot. An unfamiliar voice picks up the phone and tells Harry to forget everything he heard "...and go back to sleep" before disconnecting.

Harry, confused and not entirely convinced of the reality of the information, wanders back into the diner and tells the other customers what he's heard. One of the diners, a mysterious businesswoman (Denise Crosby) named Landa, calls a number of politicians in Washington on her wireless phone and finds that they are all visiting South America at the same time. This convinces her that the information is most likely correct and she immediately charters several private jets out of LAX to an American base in a region in Antarctica with no rainfall. Most of the customers and staff leave with her in the owner's delivery van. Harry, unwilling to leave without Julie, arranges to meet at the airport and jumps from the truck.

Harry is helped and hindered by various strangers, who are initially unaware of the impending apocalypse. In the process he inadvertently causes several deaths and is deeply shaken by that, yet still he goes on. When he finds Julie and later tells her, she notes that there is no confirmation of the attack. Desperate to reach the airport, Harry finds a helicopter pilot (Brian Thompson) and tells him to meet them on the roof of the Mutual Benefit Life Building. Julie has also tried to find a pilot on her own, and in the moments it takes to find her, Los Angeles descends into violent chaos. There is still no confirmation any of this is real, and Harry wonders if he has sparked a massive false panic in the example of Chicken Little. However, when he uses a phone booth to contact the father of the man who called him (using the number of the booth and the area code the man was trying to use) he reaches a man who says his son is a soldier. Harry tries to pass on the message he was given, but the phone disconnects before he finishes.

When they reach the top of the Mutual Benefit building they find the pad empty, and the roof manned only by a yuppie (Kurt Fuller) taking every drug he can find. Any doubts about a false alarm are eliminated when a warhead can be seen streaking across the sky. As they fear the end, the helicopter suddenly returns with the pilot badly wounded but fulfilling his promise to come back for them. After they lift off from the roof, several warheads hit and the EMP from the detonations causes the helicopter to crash into the La Brea Tar Pits.

As the helicopter sinks and the cabin fills with natural asphalt tar, Harry tries to comfort Julie by saying someday they will be found and they will probably be put in a museum, or maybe they will take a direct hit and be turned into diamonds. Julie seems to take some hope in this, and the movie fades out as the tar fills the compartment. A final explosion seems to imply a direct hit has taken place.



Before Miracle Mile was made, its production had been legendary in Hollywood for ten years.[3] In 1983, it had been chosen by American Film magazine as one of the ten best unmade screenplays.[3] Steve De Jarnatt wrote it just out of the American Film Institute for Warner Brothers with the hope of directing it as well. The studio wanted to make it on a bigger scale and did not want to entrust the project with a first-time director like De Jarnatt.[3]

Miracle Mile spent three years in production limbo until De Jarnatt optioned it himself, buying the script for $25,000.[3] He rewrote it and the studio offered him $400,000 to buy it back. He turned them down.[3] When he shopped it around to other studios, they balked at the mix of romance and nuclear war and the film's downbeat ending. This is what drew Anthony Edwards to the script as he remembers, "It scared the hell out of me. It really made me angry too...I just couldn't believe that somebody had written this."[3] John Daly of Hemdale Films gave De Jarnatt $3.7 million to make the film.

Filming locations[edit]

The following locations in Los Angeles were used in this film: Johnie's Coffee Shop; La Brea Tar Pits; Miracle Mile District; Pan-Pacific Auditorium in the Fairfax District; Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, California.


Critical response[edit]

Miracle Mile received generally positive reviews among critics.

Roger Ebert praised the film, claiming it had a "diabolical effectiveness" and a sense of "real terror".[4] In her review for the Washington Post, Rita Kempley wrote: "It seems he's (De Jarnatt) not committed to his story or his characters, but to the idea that he is saying something profound - which he isn't."[5] Stephen Holden, in The New York Times, wrote: "As Harry and Julie, Mr. Edwards and Ms. Winningham make an unusually refreshing pair."[6] In his review for the Boston Globe, Jay Carr called it: "...a messy film, but it's got energy, urgency, conviction and heat and you won't soon forget it."[7] British film and television critic Charlie Brooker, in an article for the BAFTA web site written in September 2008, awarded Miracle Mile the honor of having the "Biggest Lurch of Tone" of any film he had ever seen.[8]

The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 86% of critics gave the film a positive review, based on twenty-one reviews.[9]




See also[edit]

  • The Day After, a 1983 made-for-TV movie about a NATO-Russian nuclear war.
  • Threads, a 1984 UK film about a major Soviet nuclear attack on the United Kingdom.
  • Arc Light, a World War III scenario set post-cold war, where a strategic nuclear exchange between the Russia and the US is followed by a conventional World War III in the midst of a major US economic crash and a constitutional crisis.
  • Invasion, a 2000 novel by Eric L. Harry portraying a future Chinese invasion of the US after China becomes a global superpower.
  • The Third World War: The Untold Story by General Hackett, portrays a conventional Soviet invasion of Western Europe, including the behavior of the formally neutral Ireland and Sweden, and internal Soviet debates and thinking.
  • Team Yankee, a 1987 novel by Harold Coyle set in Hackett's scenario
  • Red Army, by Ralph Peters, showing a Soviet invasion of Western Europe from an entirely Soviet perspective.
  • Red Storm Rising, a similar World War III scenario covering a conventional Soviet invasion of Western Europe, by Tom Clancy
  • The Third World War by Humphrey Hawksley depicts a slow building crises that culminates in a nightmarish World War III involving nuclear and biological weapons.
  • Trinity's Child by William Prochnau, portrays a sudden nuclear attack by the USSR upon the United States, followed by an eruption of global warfare.
  • The Last Ship by William Brinkley. Portrays a sudden massive nuclear exchange between the superpowers, with further escalating exchanges over a four hour period leaving most of the northern hemisphere choked in radioactive fallout. The ship loses contact with the U.S. Navy, and then investigates various sites around Europe and Africa starting with Naval Station Rota in Spain, making contact with other stray ships, military and civilian. All the consequences of the exchange for the crew, and humanity as a whole, are explored.
  • Special Bulletin, a 1983 made-for-TV movie about nuclear terrorism, shot in the style of simulated news broadcasts
  • Countdown to Looking Glass, a TV movie made in the form of a news broadcast following a deterioration in NATO-Warsaw Pact relations that ends in nuclear warfare.
  • Damnation Alley, a 1970s movie about a sudden Soviet nuclear attack.
  • Without Warning, an apocalyptic 1994 TV movie presented as a news broadcast.
  • Deterrence, a 1999 French-American movie about a Walter Emerson, about a man who's just become US President in the same manner as Gerald Ford, without having been elected. Emerson is on a campaign tour, trapped by a storm in a small town diner, when he gets word Iraq has invaded Kuwait a second time, and is poised to do the same to Saudi Arabia. With US troops committed in a separate engagement on the Korean peninsula, Emerson decides the only way to stop Iraq is to threaten to air-burst a 25 megaton nuclear weapon above Baghdad.
  • Fail Safe, a 2000 film about a computer malfunction at the NMCC in the 1960s giving false Emergency Action Messages to B-52 bombers to penetrate Soviet airspace and commence strategic nuclear strikes. The President, Joint Chiefs, US Strategic Air Command and national security council all try to stop the bombers by various means. They find it hard to get through to the bombers who have been trained to ignore recall signals that are not properly encoded, and at the same time, the Russians are not sure if this is deception warfare or a real malfunction.
  • The Sum of All Fears, a 2002 movie with Ben Afleck and Morgan Freeman. Terrorists plant a nuclear weapon in a US city in an attempt to frame the Russians for the attack and prompt the two powers to wipe each other out.
  • On The Beach, a 2000 film about the aftermath of a series of major nuclear exchanges between the US-Russia-China choking the northern hemisphere in fallout which is slowly spreading to humanity's last refuge in Australia.
  • Special Bulletin, a 1983 made-for-TV movie about nuclear terrorism, shot in the same style of simulated news broadcasts
  • By Dawn's Early Light, a TV movie based on Trinity's Child.
  • Testament, a 1983 American film which tells the story of how one small suburban town near the San Francisco Bay Area slowly falls apart after a nuclear war destroys outside civilization.
  • When the Wind Blows, a 1986 animated British film that shows a nuclear attack on Britain by the Soviet Union from the viewpoint of a retired couple.
  • Able Archer 83, NATO command post exercise that resulted in the 1983 nuclear war scare and changed thinking about nuclear war in Britain.
  • Operation Square Leg a military analysis of the effects of a nuclear war on Britain.
  • Protect and Survive, the 1970s British government information films on nuclear war.


  1. ^ Tangerine Dream, Soundtrack to Miracle Mile - review by Joe McGlinchey. Retrieved on 2-13-2009
  2. ^ Miracle Mile at the American Film Institute Catalog.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Richardson, John H (May 28, 1989). "Miracle Mile Made with Slowly Measured Steps". St. Petersburg Times. 
  4. ^ Ebert, Roger (June 9, 1989). "Miracle Mile". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2010-03-03. 
  5. ^ Kempley, Rita (June 14, 1989). "Miracle Mile to Nowhere". Washington Post. Retrieved 2010-03-03. 
  6. ^ Holden, Stephen (May 19, 1989). "Waiting in California for the next Big Bang". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-03-03. 
  7. ^ Carr, Jay (June 9, 1989). "Miracle Mile". Boston Globe. 
  8. ^ Charlie Brooker, Six of the Best, September 15, 2008.
  9. ^ "Miracle Mile". Rotten Tomatoes. 

External links[edit]