A River Runs Through It (film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
A River Runs Through It
A river runs through it cover.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRobert Redford
Screenplay byRichard Friedenberg
Based onA River Runs Through It
by Norman Maclean
Produced by
CinematographyPhilippe Rousselot
Edited by
Music byMark Isham
Distributed byColumbia Pictures (Global)
Guild Film Distribution[1] (United Kingdom)
Release date
  • October 9, 1992 (1992-10-09)
Running time
123 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$12 million[2]
Box office$66 million

A River Runs Through It is a 1992 American drama film directed by Robert Redford and starring Craig Sheffer, Brad Pitt, Tom Skerritt, Brenda Blethyn, and Emily Lloyd. It is based on the 1976 semi-autobiographical novella A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean, adapted for the screen by Richard Friedenberg. Set in and around Missoula, 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 to the early days of the Great Depression, including part of the Prohibition era.[3]

The film won the Academy Award for Best Cinematography and was also nominated for Best Music, Original Score and Best Adapted Screenplay. The film grossed over $66 million and received positive reviews from critics.


The Maclean brothers, Norman and Paul, grow up in Missoula, Montana, with their father, John, a Presbyterian minister, from whom they learn a love of fly fishing for trout in the Blackfoot River. Norman and Paul are home taught and must adhere to the strict moral and educational code of their father. As young men, the brothers navigate a dangerous waterfall. Norman leaves to attend college at Dartmouth; when he returns six years later, he finds that Paul has become a skilled fisherman.

Norman attends a July 4th dance, and meets Jessie Burns. Paul has become a fearless muckraking reporter at a newspaper in Helena. He has angered many of the locals by falling behind in a big poker game in Lolo, Montana, where a bar is a front for gambling and prostitution. He is also dating a Native American woman, Mabel, who is deemed inferior by the white community. Paul is arrested after fighting a man who insulted her, and Norman is awakened in the middle of the night by a phone call from the police to come bail Paul out of jail.

After Norman and Jessie go on several dates, she asks him to try to get along with her brother Neal, who is visiting from California. Norman and Paul do not like Neal, but at Jessie's insistence they invite him to go fishing. Neal shows up drunk with Rawhide, a woman he met at a bar the night before. Norman and Paul fish anyway and return to their car hours later to find that Neal and the woman have drunk all the beer and passed out naked in the sun.

Norman returns a painfully sunburned Neal home, where Jessie is waiting for them. She is angry that the brothers did not fish with Neal. Norman asks Jessie to drive him home as he had brought Neal back in Neal's car, and he tells her that he is falling for her. She drives away angry but a week later asks Norman to come to the train station to see Neal off. After the train departs, Norman shows Jessie a letter from the University of Chicago offering him a job as an English Literature teacher. Norman tells Jessie that he does not necessarily wish to leave and when it becomes clear that it's because of her, her face lights up and she quickly embraces him.

When Norman tells Paul about the job offer and marriage proposal, he urges his brother to come with him and Jessie to Chicago. Paul says he will never leave Montana. Just before leaving for Chicago, Norman, Paul, and their father go fly fishing one last time. Paul catches a huge rainbow trout that drags him through a set of rapids before he finally lands it. John proudly tells Paul that he has become a wonderful fisherman and an artist in the craft, much to Paul's delight. They pose for pictures with the fish.

Soon after the fishing excursion, Norman is called by the police, who tell him that Paul has been found beaten to death in an alley. Norman goes home and tells his parents the news. Years later, Mrs. Maclean, Norman, Jessie, and their two children listen to a sermon being given by John, who dies soon after.

The closing scene is of the elderly Norman, once again fishing on the same river, with Robert Redford narrating the final lines from the original novella.




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 late June to early July 1991 in south central Montana in Livingston and Bozeman,[3] and on the nearby upper Yellowstone, Gallatin, and Boulder Rivers. The waterfall shown is Granite Falls in Wyoming.[4][5] Filming was completed in early September 1991.

An article published in the Helena Independent Record in July 2000, 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.[6]


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.[7] 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 nominations for both Grammy and Academy awards. The A River Runs Through It (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) was released on October 27, 1992.[8]


It premiered at Bozeman, Montana, with a theatrical release on October 9 in the United States.[9]

Home media[edit]

A River Runs Through It was originally released on VHS on May 19, 1993. It was released on DVD in 1999 and in a deluxe DVD edition in 2005.[10] It was reissued on Blu-ray in July 2009 by Sony Pictures with six extra features including 17 deleted scenes and a documentary titled Deep Currents: Making 'A River Runs Through It' with interview segments of the cast and crew.[11]


Box office[edit]

Released on October 9, 1992, the film grossed $43,440,294 in the United States and Canada.[12] In 1993, it grossed $22.9 million for a worldwide total of over $66 million.[13]

Critical response[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes the film holds an approval rating of 80% based on 45 reviews, with an average rating of 6.79/10. The site's critics 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."[14] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 68 out of 100, based on 21 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[15] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A–" on an A+ to F scale.[16]

Much of the praise focused on Pitt's portrayal of Paul, which has been cited as his career-making performance.[17] Despite the critical reception, Pitt was very critical of his performance on the film: "Robert Redford made a quality movie. But I don't think I was skilled enough. I think I could have done better. Maybe it was the pressure of the part, and playing someone who was a real person — and the family was around occasionally — and not wanting to let Redford down."[18]

Awards and honors[edit]

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 River Runs Through It".
  2. ^ "AFI-Catalog". catalog.afi.com. Retrieved 16 March 2019.
  3. ^ a b Thompson, Toby (October 11, 1992). "A River Runs Through It". Washington Post. Retrieved April 28, 2013.
  4. ^ McMillion, Scott (June 20, 2003). "Writers, professors read A River Runs Through It". Bozeman Daily Chronicle. Retrieved March 9, 2015.
  5. ^ A River Runs Through It filming locations. Archived October 26, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ Kidston, Martin J. (July 9, 2000). "Paul MacLean in Helena". Independent Record. Helena, Montana. Retrieved March 9, 2015.
  7. ^ "Filmtracks:A River Runs Through It (Mark Isham)". Filmtracks.com. Retrieved September 6, 2012.
  8. ^ Mark Morton. "A River Runs Through It [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack]". AllMusic. Retrieved September 6, 2012.
  9. ^ Festival Celebrates 25th Anniversary Of "A River Runs Through It" - By JACKIE YAMANAKA, SEP 12, 2017
  10. ^ A River Runs Through It: Deluxe Edition | November 29, 2005
  11. ^ A River Runs Through It Blu-ray DigiBook | Sony Pictures | 1992 | 124 min | Jul 28, 2009
  12. ^ "A River Runs Through It (1992)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved March 9, 2015.
  13. ^ Klady, Leonard (January 3, 1994). "Int'l top 100 earn $8 bil". Variety. p. 1.
  14. ^ "A River Runs Through It Reviews". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved March 9, 2015.
  15. ^ "A River Runs Through It Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved December 10, 2020.
  16. ^ "Find CinemaScore" (Type "River Runs Through It" in the search box). CinemaScore. Retrieved December 10, 2020.
  17. ^ Turan, Kenneth. "Reverence Runs Deep in 'River'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 30, 2012.
  18. ^ "Brad Pitt: The EW interview".

External links[edit]