City Slickers

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City Slickers
Theatrical release poster by John Alvin
Directed byRon Underwood
Written byLowell Ganz
Babaloo Mandel
Produced byIrby Smith
CinematographyDean Semler
Edited byO. Nicholas Brown
Music byMarc Shaiman
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
  • June 7, 1991 (1991-06-07)
Running time
114 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$26 million[1][2]
Box office$179 million[3]

City Slickers is a 1991 American Western comedy film directed by Ron Underwood and starring Billy Crystal, Daniel Stern, Bruno Kirby and Jack Palance, with supporting roles by Patricia Wettig, Helen Slater and Noble Willingham, and Jake Gyllenhaal making his acting debut.

The film's screenplay was written by Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel, and it was shot in New York City; New Mexico; Durango, Colorado; and Spain. For his performance, Palance won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

A sequel titled The Legend of Curly's Gold was released in 1994 with the same cast, with the exception of Kirby, who was replaced by Jon Lovitz.


In Pamplona, Spain, middle-aged friends Mitch Robbins, Ed Furrilo, and Phil Berquist participate in the running of the bulls. As they fly back in the airplane, Mitch tells Ed he is getting fed up with their road trips. Back home in New York City, Mitch realizes he and his friends use adventure trips as escapism from their boring lives.

Mitch hates his radio advertising sales job. Phil is trapped in a loveless marriage to his shrewish wife Arlene while managing his father-in-law's supermarket (who also bullies and humiliates Phil). Ed is a successful and dashing sporting goods salesman who recently married a significantly younger woman but is unwilling to fully settle down.

At Mitch's 39th birthday party, Phil and Ed give Mitch a trip for all three to go on a two-week cattle drive from New Mexico to Colorado. Phil's 20-year-old employee Nancy unexpectedly arrives at the party and announces she is pregnant with his baby, causing Arlene to walk out. Mitch's wife, Barbara, insists he go on the cattle drive to soul search for a new purpose in his life.

In New Mexico, the trio meet ranch owner Clay Stone and their fellow cattle drivers: entrepreneurial brothers Barry and Ira Shalowitz, young and attractive Bonnie, and father-son dentists Ben and Steve Jessup. Mitch confronts ranch hands Jeff and T.R. when they begin sexually harassing Bonnie. Trail boss Curly intervenes, though he inadvertently humiliates Mitch.

During the drive, Mitch accidentally causes a stampede which destroys the camp. While searching for stray cows, Mitch discovers Curly has a kind nature beneath his gruff exterior. Curly encourages Mitch to discover the "one thing" in his life that is most important to him. Along the way, Mitch helps deliver a calf from a dying cow. Mitch names the calf Norman.

Shortly after, Curly suffers a fatal heart attack, leaving the drive under Jeff and T.R.'s control. The camp cook, Cookie, gets drunk and inadvertently destroys the food supply, breaking his leg in the process.

After the Jessups leave to take Cookie to a nearby town (being more qualified because of their medical training in dentistry), Jeff and T.R. become intoxicated. A fight ensues when they threaten to kill Norman and assault Mitch. Phil and Ed intervene, and Phil holds Jeff at gunpoint, which unleashes his pent-up emotions. Soon after, Jeff and T.R. abandon the group. Bonnie and the Shalowitzes continue on to the Colorado ranch, while Ed and Phil remain behind to finish the drive. Mitch also leaves but soon returns to rejoin his friends.

After braving a heavy storm, they drive the herd to Colorado. When Norman nearly drowns as the herd crosses a river, Mitch acts to save him. Both are swept down current, but Phil and Ed rescue them. They safely reach the Colorado ranch. When Stone offers to reimburse everyone's fee, the Jessups prefer going on a future cattle drive. However, Clay reveals he is selling the herd to a meat-packing company. Mitch, Phil, and Ed initially believe they saved the cattle for nothing, but decide to use their experience to help re-evaluate their lives.

The men return to New York City. Mitch, a happier man, reunites with Barbara and their two children; he has also brought Norman home as a pet. Phil, having learned his employee is not pregnant after all, begins a relationship with Bonnie. Ed intends to start a family with his wife. Mitch is ready to restart his life with a new vision.



The film's plot, which consists of inexperienced cowboys battling villains as they press on with their cattle drive after the death of their leader, was conceived to be similar to John Wayne's The Cowboys, although that was a Western drama as opposed to a comedy.[4][failed verification]

In his 2013 memoir, Still Foolin' Em, Billy Crystal writes of how the casting of the film came about. "Palance," he says, "was the first choice from the beginning, but had a commitment to make another film." He wrote that he contacted Charles Bronson about the part, only to be rudely rebuffed because the character dies. Palance got out of his other obligation to join the cast. Rick Moranis, originally cast as Phil, had to leave the production due to his wife's illness. Daniel Stern was a late replacement in the role.[5] The film was also the debut of actor Jake Gyllenhaal.


Critical response[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes, City Slickers received an 89% rating based on 44 reviews. The site's critical consensus reads, "With a supremely talented cast and just enough midlife drama to add weight to its wildly silly overtones, City Slickers uses universal themes to earn big laughs."[6] On Metacritic the film has a weighted average score of 70 out of 100, based on reviews from 25 critics.[7] Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on a scale of A+ to F.[8]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three and a half out of four, and wrote: "City Slickers comes packaged as one kind of movie – a slapstick comedy about white-collar guys on a dude ranch – and it delivers on that level while surprising me by being much more ambitious, and successful, than I expected. This is the proverbial comedy with the heart of truth, the tear in the eye along with the belly laugh. It's funny, and it adds up to something."[9]

Awards and honors[edit]

Jack Palance, for his role as Curly, won the 1992 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, which was the only Oscar nomination the film received. His acceptance speech for the award is best remembered for his demonstration of one-armed push-ups,[10] which he claimed convinced studio insurance agents that he was healthy enough to work on the film. Billy Crystal was the Academy Awards host, and used the humorous incident for several jokes throughout the evening. Later that night, Palance placed the Oscar on Crystal's shoulder and said, "Billy Crystal ... who thought it would be you?" Crystal added in his book, "We had a glass of champagne together, and I could only imagine what Charles Bronson was thinking as he went to sleep that night." The next year's Oscars opened with Palance appearing to drag in a giant Academy Award, with Crystal (again the host) riding on the opposite end.

Award Category Nominee(s) Result Ref.
Academy Awards Best Supporting Actor Jack Palance Won [11]
American Comedy Awards Funniest Actor in a Motion Picture (Leading Role) Billy Crystal Won
Funniest Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture Bruno Kirby Nominated
Jack Palance Won
Daniel Stern Nominated
Artios Awards Outstanding Achievement in Feature Film Casting – Comedy Pam Dixon Nominated [12]
ASCAP Film and Television Music Awards Top Box Office Films Marc Shaiman Won
Chicago Film Critics Association Awards Best Supporting Actor Jack Palance Nominated [13]
Genesis Awards Best Feature Film Won
Golden Globe Awards Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Nominated [14]
Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Billy Crystal Nominated
Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture Jack Palance Won
MTV Movie Awards Best Comedic Performance Billy Crystal Won
People's Choice Awards Favorite Comedy Motion Picture Won

The film is also recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:

Curly: "Day ain't over yet."
– Nominated[16]

The film is ranked No. 73 on Bravo's "100 Funniest Movies".

In popular culture[edit]

  • The Billy Crystal episode of Muppets Tonight featured a parody entitled "City Schtickers", with Kermit the Frog and Fozzie Bear in Kirby and Stern's roles.
  • Funny or Die produced a mash-up short that combined the film with the 2016 HBO series Westworld that featured Crystal and Stern.[18]
  • In American Dad! season 8, episode 1, "Love, AD Style", Roger Smith implies that one of his disguises is Lowell Ganz when he states, "I co-wrote City Slickers with Babaloo Mandel but I can't do this" in regard to poorly running his bar.


  1. ^ "DVD & film details". Archived from the original on September 27, 2012. Retrieved July 10, 2008. giving "an estimated budget of $26 million". Retrieved July 10, 2008.
  2. ^ "AFI|Catalog". A 30 Nov 1990 [Variety] news item indicated that the budget had climbed to $26 million.
  3. ^ "City Slicker (1991)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved December 30, 2023.
  4. ^ The Cowboys - Similar Movies Archived August 20, 2010, at the Wayback Machine at MovieFone. Retrieved January 25, 2010.
  5. ^ Susman, Gary (June 6, 2016). "'City Slickers': 10 Things You (Probably) Didn't Know About the Hit Comedy".
  6. ^ "City Slickers (1991)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved January 20, 2023.
  7. ^ "City Slickers". Metacritic.
  8. ^ "Cinemascore". Archived from the original on December 20, 2018. Retrieved August 30, 2019.
  9. ^ Ebert, Roger (June 7, 1991). "City Slickers Movie Review & Film Summary (1991)". Chicago Sun-Times.
  10. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: Jack Palance Wins Supporting Actor: 1992 Oscars (video). Retrieved January 11, 2018 – via YouTube.
  11. ^ "The 64th Academy Awards (1992) Nominees and Winners". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Archived from the original on July 6, 2011. Retrieved October 22, 2011.
  12. ^ "1992 Artios Awards". Casting Society of America. Retrieved January 6, 2019.
  13. ^ "1988-2013 Award Winner Archives". Chicago Film Critics Association. January 1, 2013. Retrieved August 24, 2021.
  14. ^ "City Slickers". Golden Globe Awards. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  15. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs" (PDF). American Film Institute. Archived from the original (PDF) on June 24, 2016. Retrieved August 21, 2016.
  16. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes Nominees" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on July 6, 2011. Retrieved August 21, 2016.
  17. ^ "AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores Nominees" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on November 6, 2013. Retrieved August 21, 2016.
  18. ^ "City Slickers in Westworld feat. Billy Crystal". Funny Or Die. February 1, 2017. Retrieved April 24, 2022.

External links[edit]