Grand Canyon (1991 film)

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Grand Canyon
Grand canyon poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byLawrence Kasdan
Produced byMichael Grillo
Lawrence Kasdan
Charles Okun
Written byLawrence Kasdan
Meg Kasdan
Music byJames Newton Howard
CinematographyOwen Roizman
Edited byCarol Littleton
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • December 25, 1991 (1991-12-25)
Running time
137 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$40,991,329 (worldwide)[1]

Grand Canyon is a 1991 American drama film directed and produced by Lawrence Kasdan, and written by Kasdan with his wife Meg. Featuring an ensemble cast, the film is about random events affecting a diverse group of people, exploring the race- and class-imposed chasms which separate members of the same community.

The film was produced and distributed by 20th Century Fox and was released on Christmas Day, 1991. Grand Canyon was advertised as "The Big Chill for the '90s", in reference to an earlier Kasdan film.


After attending a Lakers basketball game, an immigration lawyer named Mack (Kevin Kline) finds himself at the mercy of potential muggers when his car breaks down in a bad part of Los Angeles late at night. The muggers are talked out of their plans by Simon (Danny Glover), a tow truck driver who arrives just in time. Mack sets out to befriend Simon, despite their having nothing in common.

In the meantime, Mack's wife Claire (Mary McDonnell) and his best friend Davis (Steve Martin), a producer of violent action films, are experiencing life-changing events. Claire encounters an abandoned baby while jogging and becomes determined to adopt her. Davis suddenly becomes interested in philosophy rather than box-office profits after being shot in the leg by a man trying to steal his watch, vowing to devote the remainder of his career to eliminating violence from the cinema.

The film chronicles how these characters—as well as various acquaintances, co-workers and relatives—are affected by their interactions in the light of life-changing events. In the end, they visit the Grand Canyon on a shared vacation trip, united in a place that is philosophically and actually "bigger" than all their little separate lives.



Writer-director Lawrence Kasdan explained, "Part of what Grand Canyon is about is that we have accepted the fact that our city is not our own. That for people from South Central, for them to go into Beverly Hills and West L.A., the police are on the lookout. They feel unwelcome, are under threat. And vice-versa. Our cities have become these little armed camps."[2]

Parts of the film were shot at Glen Canyon in Utah as well as Los Angeles and Canoga Park, California and the Grand Canyon in Arizona.[3]

The footage of the Los Angeles Lakers game in the film was shot before anybody knew Lakers guard Earvin "Magic" Johnson was HIV+. Rita Kempley, in her film review in The Washington Post, pointed to this scene as proof that "... the filmmaker and his team ha[d] truly caught society on the verge."[4]

The character Davis is based on action film producer Joel Silver.[5]


Grand Canyon: Music From the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack was released in 1992 on Milan Records. In 2013 a remastered and expanded edition was released on La-La Land Records. This version does not contain Warren Zevon's "Searching for a Heart."[6]

Grand Canyon:
Music from the Motion Picture Soundtrack
Soundtrack album by
GenreInstrumental pop, pop rock, soft rock, jazz, orchestra
Length42:53 (original) 67:44 (2013 expansion)
LabelMilan, RCA, BMG, La-La Land Records (expansion)
ProducerJames Newton Howard, Waddy Wachtel

Track listing[edit]

1."Main Titles"3:36
2."Claire Returns the Baby"1:12
3."My Sister Lives Around Here/Those Rocks"1:59
5."The Baby"2:48
6."Don't Work Late"0:52
7."Mack's Flashback"1:22
8."Don't Want Out"6:45
9."Searching for a Heart"4:17
10."Mack and Claire's Dream"5:28
11."Dee in Brentwood"0:48
12."Otis Runs"3:54
13."You White?"1:27
14."Keep the Baby"1:30
15."Doesn't Matter"0:45
16."Grand Canyon Fanfare/End Titles"4:11
Total length:42:53



Critical response[edit]

Grand Canyon received generally positive reviews from critics; it has a 7/10 "fresh" rating at Rotten Tomatoes and a critical rating of 77% based on 35 reviews.[7] Janet Maslin of The New York Times wrote,

Set in Los Angeles, and gliding gracefully among a representative set of characters, the film means to move through different economic strata, age groups and racial backgrounds in its search for common experience. If the ambition to do this is ultimately more impressive than the hazy, unfocused outcome, Mr. Kasdan still deserves a lot of credit for what he has tried.[8]

Washington Post critic Rita Kempley wrote,

Grand Canyon considers the ever-widening chasms that divide us, the shifting demographic fault lines that have set society quaking like the needle on Richter's scale. ... This City of the Angels captured by Kasdan, its skies buzzing with helicopters, reminds us most of all of Vietnam. But this is not war, it's suicide, America in the latent stages of self-inflicted apocalypse. Kasdan validates our fears, but he doesn't strip us of all hope, for the central image also promises something greater than ourselves. The view from the edge can be awesome.[9]

Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly chided the film for its "... solemn zeitgeist chic," and called it "... way too self-conscious," but ultimately decided that "Grand Canyon is finally a very classy soap opera, one that holds a generous mirror up to its audience's anxieties. It's the sort of movie that says: Life is worth living. After a couple of hours spent with characters this enjoyable, the message — in all its forthright sentimentality — feels earned."[10]

Film critic Roger Ebert gave the film four out of four stars, and wrote, "In a time when our cities are wounded, movies like Grand Canyon can help to heal."[11] Ebert's television reviewing partner Gene Siskel also loved the film,[citation needed] with Ebert placing it at the #4 and Siskel at #6 on their 1991 top ten lists.[citation needed]


The film won the Golden Bear for Best Film at the 42nd Berlin International Film Festival.[12] The screenplay was nominated for the Oscar (as Best Original Screenplay), the Golden Globe and the Writers Guild of America.

Box office[edit]

Grand Canyon earned $40.9 million worldwide.[1]


Phil Collins' 1993 song "Both Sides of the Story" references the scene from Grand Canyon where the young mugger tells Simon (played by Danny Glover) that he carries a gun to make sure people respect (and fear) him.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Grand Canyon," Box Office Mojo. Accessed Dec. 23, 2011.
  2. ^
  3. ^ D'Arc, James V. (2010). When Hollywood came to town: a history of moviemaking in Utah (1st ed.). Layton, Utah: Gibbs Smith. ISBN 9781423605874.
  4. ^ Kempley, Rita (January 10, 1992). "Grand Canyon". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 6, 2018.
  5. ^ Wells, Jeffrey (February 21, 1993). "Enough Already: Joel Silver, Model Mogul". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 6, 2018.
  6. ^
  7. ^ "Grand Canyon (1991)," Rotten Tomatoes. Accessed Dec. 22, 2011.
  8. ^ Maslin, Janet. "Review/Film; The Accidents and Miracles in Everyday Life," New York Times (Dec. 25, 1991).
  9. ^ Kempley, Rita. "‘Grand Canyon’," The Washington Post (Jan. 10, 1992).
  10. ^ Gleiberman, Owen. "Grand Canyon (1991)," Entertainment Weekly. (Jan 10, 1992).
  11. ^ Ebert, Roger. "Grand Canyon," Chicago Sun-Times (Jan. 10, 1992).
  12. ^ "Berlinale: 1992 Prize Winners". Retrieved 2011-05-24.
  13. ^ Kot, Greg. "Pop: Phil Collins, Regular Guy: And Like Regular Guys, He's Worried About His Kids," Chicago Tribune (Nov. 7, 1993).

External links[edit]