The Postman (film)

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The Postman
Postman ver3.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Kevin Costner
Produced by Kevin Costner
Steve Tisch
Jim Wilson
Screenplay by Eric Roth
Brian Helgeland
Based on The Postman 
by David Brin
Starring Kevin Costner
Will Patton
Larenz Tate
Olivia Williams
James Russo
Tom Petty
Music by James Newton Howard
Cinematography Stephen Windon
Editing by Peter Boyle
Studio Tig Productions
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release dates
  • December 25, 1997 (1997-12-25)
Running time 177 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $80 million[2]
Box office $17,626,234 (US)[2]

The Postman is a 1997 American post-apocalyptic film directed by and starring Kevin Costner, and based on David Brin's 1985 novel of the same name. The film co-stars Will Patton, Larenz Tate, Olivia Williams, James Russo, and Tom Petty. It was filmed in Metaline Falls and Fidalgo Island, Washington, central Oregon, and Tucson, Arizona.

The film is set after an unspecified apocalypse has left a huge impact on human civilization. A nomadic survivor flees a warlord's army while unwittingly inspiring hope of restoring peace. The Postman was panned by critics and was an enormous box office bomb. It also received five Razzie Awards, including Worst Picture, Worst Actor (Kevin Costner), Worst Director (Costner), Worst Screenplay and Worst Original Song (for the entire song score).


After a nuclear war occurred in the late 1990s, civilization collapses leaving pocketfuls of survivors in rural areas and small towns maintaining some semblance of civilization. Others have joined armies that prey on the survivors and have a totalitarian rule over the wastelands. There is basically no technology around, radios destroyed, no vehicles, with people riding on horses to travel around.

In 2013, 15 years after the war ended, an unnamed nomadic survivor (Costner) enters the flatlands of Oregon. Needing food and water, he trades performances of Shakespearian plays. The nomad is captured by and conscripted into a neo-fascist army known as the Holnists, named after deceased founder and ex-farmer Nathan Holn, who ran the army until he died. The army is now run by General Bethlehem.

During a hunting expedition the nomad, nicknamed Shakespeare by the Holnists, escapes by jumping into a river, later taking refuge in a dead postman's mail carrier van. With a bag of mail and the dead postman's uniform, he arrives at Pineview, Oregon, one of the few colonies that survived. Wanting to gain entry, he claims to be an actual postman from the newly restored U.S. government. As he is able to produce a letter addressed to a member of the town, they give the Postman food and a place to live in the abandoned post office.

The Postman inspires a teenager named Ford Lincoln Mercury, who presses him into swearing him into the faux restored postal service. The Postman is approached by Abby (Olivia Williams) seeking a "bodyfather" to impregnate her due to her husband's infertility. Pineview's sheriff is skeptical of "The Postman" telling him to get out of town the following day. Meanwhile, a pile of mail has been left at the door of the post office. Leaving Pineview, the residents give the postman a horse and the sheriff hopefully gives him a letter to his sister.

During a raid of Pineview, General Bethlehem learns of "the Postman" and his tales of restored government. Scared of losing his power of the wastelands over the "fictional" government, Bethlehem burns the American flag and post office. When refused permission to have sex with Abby, he kills her husband and kidnaps her. The Postman surrenders during a battle with the town of Benning, Oregon. Abby captures a gun and fires on Bethlehem as he orders the execution of the postman. The two narrowly escape into the surrounding mountains, though the Postman has been badly wounded.

The Postman and Abby hide in an abandoned cabin. Abby tells the Postman she is pregnant with his child. As spring arrives, the two cross the range and run into a young girl, who claims to be a postal carrier. She reveals that Ford Lincoln Mercury has organized a postal service of his own based on his story. They help towns and settlements to communicate and inadvertently spread the fictional tales of a restored government, which brings hope to the other towns and they start to rebuild. Bethlehem orders the execution of the postal carriers, and the ensuing fights escalate into a running small-scale war. The Postman gets help from a Vietnam War veteran, who teaches him guerrilla warfare tactics.

Despite the tactics, his postal carriers, mostly teenagers pitted against a better-equipped enemy, incur mounting casualties. Dismayed, the Postman orders everyone to disband. Writing a last letter to be delivered to Bethlehem, he states that the postal service is over and that the restored government is gone. Ford volunteers to deliver the message, knowing that he will be killed afterward. Bethlehem reads the letter and is disappointed that he has won without a fight, though does plan to kill Ford and another captured deliverer. When the two captured postal men meet, however, they do not know each other: the other man introduces himself as a postman all the way from California. Bethlehem realizes that the idea has spread so far over the wastelands that it is now impossible to stop, and so he decides to murder the Postman in revenge. Ford is kept as a hostage, but the other deliverer is murdered.

The Postman, Abby, and a small group of postal carriers travel to Bridge City, built on an old dam wall, which is one of the few peaceful sanctuaries and also has been getting mail from other post offices. The settlement is run by a celebrity from before the war (Tom Petty); though never mentioned by name, it is alluded to that he was "famous once". Seemingly trapped between the dam and Bethlehem scouts, the enclave leader helps the Postman to escape on a cable car to find volunteers for an army to fight Bethlehem forces.

In a voice over of King Henry V's speech prior to the Siege of Harfleur, the Postman stirs himself to war and manages to rally troops. Relishing the challenge to full battle, Bethlehem and his army meet the postman's army across a field. Not wanting casualties from the battle, the Postman challenges Bethlehem for Holnist leadership, invoking "Law 7", which he learned of during his time in the conscript army. The law states that any Holnist member can challenge the leader and, if victorious, take leadership.

Shocked that the Postman is from his crew, Bethlehem realizes that the Postman and "Shakespeare" are the same man. The general accepts the challenge and is defeated by the Postman, but does not accept his loss or the Postman's subsequent offer to build a new, peaceful world. Bethlehem acquires a gun and tries to shoot the Postman but is killed by his former first officer. The officer surrenders himself and the rest of the Holnists follow.

With the war over, the Holnists, who actually hated Bethlehem and his tyranny, join the Postman. Upon settling in Bridge City, he continues to rebuild the post offices to communicate with other towns, and with the help of the Holnists, establishes communications all over post-apocalypse status. The Postman also marries Abby and they have a daughter, named Hope.

The story concludes 30 years later. Hope, now a young woman, attends a statue unveiling tribute to her late father, who is recently deceased, in St. Rose, Oregon. From the modern clothing, and signs of modern technology it is suggested that the country has grown in development to approximate its pre-apocalypse status. The statue bears the inscription, "He delivered a message of hope embraced by a new generation." A man and his wife stare at the statue of the Postman catching a letter from a small boy -— echoing a scene from earlier in the film, with the man saying, "That's me."



The Postman (Music from the Motion Picture)
Film score by James Newton Howard
Released December 23, 1997
Label Warner Sunset/Warner Bros.
  1. "Main Titles"
  2. "Shelter in the Storm"
  3. "The Belly of the Beast"
  4. "General Bethlehem"
  5. "Abby Comes Calling"
  6. "The Restored United States"
  7. "The Postman"
  8. "Almost Home" – Performed by Jono Manson
  9. "It Will Happen Naturally" – Performed by Jono Manson
  10. "The Next Big Thing – Performed by Jono Manson
  11. "This Perfect World" – Performed by John Coinman
  12. "Once This Was the Promise Land" – Performed by John Coinman
  13. "I Miss My Radio" – Performed by Jono Manson and John Coinman
  14. "Come and Get Your Love" – Performed by John Coinman
  15. "You Didn't Have to Be So Nice" – Performed by Amy Grant and Kevin Costner

Cast and crew information[edit]

On his personal website,[3] author David Brin reveals that while the studios were bidding for The Postman, his wife decided during a screening of Field of Dreams that Kevin Costner should portray The Postman. Brin agreed that the emotions evoked by Field of Dreams matched the message he intended to deliver with his novel. A decade later, after learning Costner would be cast as the lead, Brin said he was "thrilled" – more so when Costner's interpretation of the Postman's character was similar to Brin's. Costner threw out the old screenplay (in which the moral message of the novel had been reversed) and hired screenwriter Brian Helgeland; Brin says the two of them "rescued the 'soul' of the central character" and reverted the story's message back to one of hope.[4]

In an interview with Metro before filming began, Brin expressed his hope that The Postman would have the "pro-community feel" of Field of Dreams instead of the Mad Max feel of Costner's other post-apocalyptic film Waterworld. Brin said that, unlike typical post-apocalyptic movies that satisfy "little-boy wish fantasies about running amok in a world without rules", the intended moral of The Postman is that "if we lost our civilization, we'd all come to realize how much we missed it, and would realize what a miracle it is simply to get your mail every day."[5]


The Postman received negative reviews from critics.

Stephan Holden of The New York Times criticized the movie for its "bogus sentimentality" and "mawkish jingoism".[6] Roger Ebert described The Postman as "good-hearted" yet "goofy... and pretentious". However, Ebert recognized the movie as a failed parable, for which he said the viewers "shouldn't blame them for trying".[7] On Siskel & Ebert, Ebert and Gene Siskel gave the film "two thumbs down", with Siskel calling it "Dances with Myself" (in reference to Costner's Oscar-winning film Dances with Wolves) while referring to the bronze statue scene.[8]

According to review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, 3 out of 32 film critics gave the film a positive review, with a "Rotten" score of 9% and an average rating of 3.8/10.[9] Metacritic gives the film a metascore of 29 out of 100 based on 14 reviews.

The film was subsequently released on VHS and DVD on June 9, 1998 and on Blu-ray Disc on September 8, 2009.

Box office[edit]

The film was also a notable failure at the box office. Produced on an estimated $80 million budget, it returned less than $18 million.[10][11]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Award Subject Nominee Result
Saturn Award Best Science Fiction Film Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Will Patton Nominated
Best Actor Kevin Costner Nominated
Razzie Award Worst Actor Won
Worst Director Won
Worst Picture Kevin Costner, Steve Tisch, and Jim Wilson Won
Worst Screenplay Eric Roth and Brian Helgeland, based on the book by David Brin Won
Worst Original Song The entire song selection Won


  1. ^ "THE POSTMAN (15)". Warner Bros. British Board of Film Classification. January 16, 1998. Retrieved August 31, 2013. 
  2. ^ a b The Postman at Box Office Mojo
  3. ^ "". December 22, 2009. Retrieved January 27, 2010. 
  4. ^ Brin, David (1998), The Postman: An Impression by the Author of the Original Novel, retrieved January 15, 2012 
  5. ^ Stentz, Zack (6/12/1997), "Brin on science fiction, society and Kevin Costner", Metro, retrieved August 3, 2007 
  6. ^ Holden, Stephen (December 24, 1997). "Movie Review: The Postman". The New York Times. Retrieved August 3, 2007. 
  7. ^ Ebert, Roger (December 25, 1997). "The Postman". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved August 3, 25, 2007. 
  8. ^ "Week of December 27, 1997" (1997). Television: Siskel & Ebert. Burbank: Buena Vista Television.
  9. ^ The Postman. Rotten Tomatoes. Flixter. Retrieved October 14, 2012.
  10. ^ "The Postman (1997)". Box Office Mojo. January 23, 1998. Retrieved January 27, 2010. 
  11. ^ "'Titanic's' Voyage Is Steaming Ahead". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 3, 2012. 
  • Parish, James Robert (2006), Fiasco – A History of Hollywood’s Iconic Flops, Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, pp. 359 pages., ISBN 978-0-471-69159-4 
  • Turner, Barnard Edward (2005), Cultural Tropes of the Contemporary American West, Lewiston, New York: Edwin Mellen, pp. 267 pages., ISBN 0-7734-6219-8 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Picture
18th Golden Raspberry Awards
Succeeded by
An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn