A River Runs Through It (film)

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A River Runs Through It
A river runs through it cover.jpg
Original movie poster
Directed by Robert Redford
Produced by Jake Eberts
Robert Redford
Patrick Markey
Screenplay by Richard Friedenberg
Based on A River Runs Through It
1976 short story 
by Norman Maclean
Starring Craig Sheffer
Brad Pitt
Tom Skerritt
Brenda Blethyn
Emily Lloyd
Narrated by Robert Redford (uncredited)
Music by Mark Isham
Cinematography Philippe Rousselot
Edited by Robert Estrin
Lynzee Klingman
Distributed by Columbia Pictures(USA)
Release dates
  • October 9, 1992 (1992-10-09)
Running time
123 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $43,440,294[1]

A River Runs Through It is a 1992 American film directed by Robert Redford and starring Craig Sheffer, Brad Pitt, Tom Skerritt, Brenda Blethyn, and Emily Lloyd. It is a period drama based on the semi-autobiographical novella A River Runs Through It (1976) written by Norman Maclean (1902–90), adapted for the screen by Richard Friedenberg.

Set in and around the city of Missoula in western Montana, the story follows two sons of a Presbyterian minister—one studious and the other rebellious—as they grow up and come of age in the Rocky Mountain region during a span of time from roughly World War I (1917–18) to the early days of the Great Depression (1929–41), including part of the Prohibition era (1919–33).[2]

The film won an Academy Award for Best Cinematography in 1993 and was nominated for two other Oscars, for Best Music, Original Score and Best Adapted Screenplay. The film grossed $43,440,294 in US domestic returns.[1]

Plot summary[edit]

A River Runs Through It is the true story about two boys, Norman (Craig Sheffer) and Paul (Brad Pitt), growing up in 1920s Missoula, Montana with their father, a Presbyterian minister. Much of the film is about the two boys returning home after becoming troubled adults. A common theme in the film is the men's love of fly fishing for trout in the Blackfoot River and how it impacted their lives. The film is told from Norman's point of view.




The Redeemer Lutheran Church in Livingston, Montana, used for the Presbyterian church scenes.

Although both the book and movie are set in Missoula and on the Blackfoot River, it was filmed in 1991 in south central Montana in Livingston and Bozeman,[2] and on the nearby upper Yellowstone, Gallatin, and Boulder Rivers. The waterfall shown is Granite Falls in Wyoming.[3][4][5] The church scenes were filmed in the Redeemer Lutheran Church in Livingston.[6][4]

An article published in the Helena Independent Record in July 2000 and based on recollections of people who knew both brothers noted a number of specifics about the Macleans — notably various chronological and educational details about Paul Maclean's adult life — that differ somewhat from their portrayal in the film and novella.[7]


Mark Isham, who would go on to compose the scores to most Robert Redford-directed films, composed the musical score for the film. Originally, Elmer Bernstein was hired to score the film. However, after Redford and Bernstein disagreed over the tone of the music, Bernstein was replaced by Isham.[8] Rushed for time, Isham completed the score within four weeks at Schnee Studio of Signet Sound Studios in Hollywood, CA. Upon release, the music was met with positive reviews earning the film both nominations for Grammy and Academy awards. The A River Runs Through It (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) was released on October 27, 1992.[9]

In some home video releases of the film, Elmer Bernstein is credited as the film's composer despite his score being rejected during post-production.


Critical reception[edit]

Released on October 9, 1992, the film grossed $43,440,294 in US domestic returns.[1] The film holds an 83% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on polled critical reviews. The site's consensus reads: "Tasteful to a fault, this period drama combines a talented cast (including a young Brad Pitt) with some stately, beautifully filmed work from director Robert Redford."[10] Much of the praise focused on Pitt's portrayal of Paul, which has been cited as his career making performance.[11]


The film was nominated for three Academy Awards in 1993, including Best Cinematography (Philippe Rousselot); Best Music, Original Score (Mark Isham); and Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium (Richard Friedenberg). Rousselot won for Best Cinematography. At the Golden Globes, Robert Redford was nominated for Best Director - Motion Picture, but did not win.


  1. ^ a b c "A River Runs Through It (1992)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2015-03-09. 
  2. ^ a b Thompson, Toby (October 11, 1992). "A River Runs Through It". Washington Post. Retrieved April 28, 2013. 
  3. ^ "Writers, professors read "A River Runs Through It" - Bozeman Daily Chronicle: Bozeman Daily Chronicle News". Bozeman Daily Chronicle. 2003-06-20. Retrieved 2015-03-09. 
  4. ^ a b "A River Runs Through It (1992) : Filming Locations". IMDb.com. Retrieved 2015-03-09. 
  5. ^ [1] Archived October 26, 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ "Livingston, Montana and the Paradise Valley". Canadafreepress.com. 2010-08-02. Retrieved 2015-03-09. 
  7. ^ "Paul MacLean in Helena". Helenair.com. 2000-07-09. Retrieved 2015-03-09. 
  8. ^ "Filmtracks:A River Runs Through It (Mark Isham)". Filmtracks.com. Retrieved September 6, 2012. 
  9. ^ Mark Morton. "A River Runs Through It [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack]". AllMusic. Retrieved September 6, 2012. 
  10. ^ "A River Runs Through It". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2015-03-09. 
  11. ^ Turan, Kenneth. "Reverence Runs Deep in 'River'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 30 September 2012. 

External links[edit]