Maverick (film)

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Maverick movie.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRichard Donner[1]
Written byWilliam Goldman
Based onMaverick
by Roy Huggins
Produced byBruce Davey
Richard Donner
CinematographyVilmos Zsigmond
Edited byStuart Baird
Mike Kelly
Music byRandy Newman
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • May 20, 1994 (1994-05-20)
Running time
127 minutes[2]
CountryUnited States
Budget$75 million[3]
Box office$183 million[4]

Maverick is a 1994 American Western comedy film directed by Richard Donner, written by William Goldman, and starring Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster and James Garner. Based on the 1957–1962 television series of the same name created by Roy Huggins and originally starring James Garner, the film stars Gibson as Bret Maverick, a card player and con artist who collects money in order to enter a high-stakes poker game. He is joined in his adventure by Annabelle Bransford (Foster), another con artist, and Marshal Zane Cooper (Garner), a lawman. The supporting cast features Graham Greene, James Coburn, Alfred Molina and many cameo appearances by Western film actors, country music stars and other actors.

Released theatrically by Warner Bros. on May 20, 1994, the film was both a critical and commercial success, having grossed over $183 million worldwide. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Costume Design.


In the American Old West, gambler Bret Maverick is on his way to a major five-card draw poker tournament being held on the paddle steamer Lauren Belle. Maverick wants to prove he is the best card player of his time. Short $3,000 of the $25,000 tournament entry fee, Maverick travels to the town of Crystal River, intending to collect on debts and win money at card games. At an impromptu poker game, he encounters the ill-tempered gambler Angel, and the young con artist Annabelle Bransford. He wins a massive pot from Angel, but must flee without collecting his winnings.

Maverick and Bransford share a stagecoach with Marshal Zane Cooper, and together the three set out of Crystal River, narrowly escaping falling into a ravine to their deaths when their elderly coachman suddenly dies, and later aiding migrant missionary settlers who have been waylaid by bandits disguised as Indians. The settlers offer Maverick a percentage of the recovered money they desperately need to start their mission, while one spinster missionary suggests marriage to Cooper, but both men turn down their offers. The trio and the settlers are then suddenly cornered by a large band of real Indians led by Joseph. His companions are unaware that Joseph and Maverick are good friends; Maverick "sacrifices" himself to allow his companions' escape. Joseph owes $1,000 to Maverick; they swindle that amount from a Russian Archduke with a scheme that "allows" him to hunt and kill an Indian (Maverick, in disguise).

Angel, still seething that Maverick bluffed him at their previous poker game, receives a telegram instructing him to stop Maverick. Angel and his mercenaries catch up to Maverick, but unable to find his money, leave him for dead. Maverick escapes, recovers the $23,000 hidden in his boot, and makes his way to the Lauren Belle. He reunites with Bransford and Cooper, and Bransford is still short $4,000 herself. Spotting the Archduke aboard, Maverick poses as Bureau of Indian Affairs agent investigating the shooting of Indians for game, conning the Archduke out of $6,000 to cover his and Bransford's entry.

Commodore Duvall welcomes the twenty competitors to the tournament, with Cooper overseeing the security of the game and the prize money, and watching for any cheaters, who are summarily thrown overboard when discovered. Eventually, only four players are left: Maverick, Bransford, Angel, and the Commodore. During the break before the final round, Maverick and Bransford have a tryst in his quarters. After Bransford leaves, Maverick finds he has been locked in to attempt to make him forfeit the game, but manages to climb outside the steamer to make the game on time. Bransford is eliminated early, and as the match comes down to Maverick and Angel, Maverick notices the dealer dealing from the bottom of the deck. He calls this out, and with Angel and the Commodore all-in with strong hands, Maverick is able to pull one card to complete his royal flush. Angel and his men try to shoot and kill Maverick, but Cooper and Maverick shoot first, killing them.

During the closing ceremony to give Maverick his winnings of $500,000, Cooper says he will keep the money for himself and escapes. Later that night, Cooper secretly meets with the Commodore, revealing that the two had struck a deal to steal the money for themselves and that Angel was working for the Commodore. The Commodore draws a gun and breaks his crooked deal with Cooper, when Maverick appears, having tracked them down, and takes back his prize money. Some time later, Maverick is relaxing in a hot bath when Cooper finds him, revealing that Maverick is Cooper's son, and the two had planned this windfall long in advance. As both men enjoy the baths, Bransford arrives, having discerned their father-son relationship from their similar physiques and mannerisms, and walks away with the bag containing the prize money. After she leaves, Maverick reveals to Cooper that he allowed Bransford to take the money uncontested, since he took Cooper's advice and kept half the prize money in his boots. Maverick admits it will be fun retrieving the rest of the funds.


There are various cameo appearances in the film from Western actors, people who have formerly worked with Donner, Gibson, Foster, or Garner, and other celebrities including Danny Glover (uncredited), Hal Ketchum and Corey Feldman as bank robbers; Read Morgan and Steve Kahan as card dealers; Art LaFleur and Leo Gordon as poker players at Maverick's first game; Paul Brinegar as the stagecoach driver; Denver Pyle as a cheating old gambler;[5] Robert Fuller, Doug McClure, Henry Darrow, William Smith and Charles Dierkop as riverboat poker players; William Marshall as a riverboat poker player defeated by Angel; Dennis Fimple as Stuttering, a player beaten by the Commodore; Bert Remsen as an elderly riverboat gambler beaten by Maverick;[5] and Margot Kidder as missionary Margaret Mary, colleague of missionary Mary Margaret, in an uncredited appearance. Additional cameos cut from the film included Alice Cooper as the town drunk, Linda Hunt as a magician and Clint Walker as a Sheriff.

Leo Gordon had played a semi-regular supporting character in seasons one and two of the original Maverick TV show: gambler Big Mike McComb. Gordon also later wrote a few episodes of the show. Margot Kidder had been Garner's co-star and onscreen love interest in the short-lived western TV series Nichols, reflected in their meeting in Maverick when her character quickly hints that his character might want to marry her. Danny Glover's cameo appearance references Donner's Lethal Weapon film series starring Glover and Gibson as cop partners. Their meeting in Maverick sees them share a moment of recognition,[6] complete with Lethal Weapon music, and as he leaves, Glover says Roger Murtaugh's catchphrase: "I'm too old for this shit."

Country singers also cameo including Carlene Carter as a waitress, Waylon Jennings and Kathy Mattea as a gambling couple with concealed guns, Reba McEntire as a spectator in the opening poker game, Clint Black as a sweet-faced gambler thrown overboard for cheating, and Vince Gill and his then-wife Janis Gill as spectators.



In Five Screenplays with Essays, Goldman describes an earlier version of the script, in which Maverick explains he has a magic ability to call the card he needs out of the deck. Although he is not able to do so successfully, the old hermit he attempts to demonstrate it for tells him that he really does have the magic in him.[7] This scene was shot with Linda Hunt playing the hermit but it was felt it did not work in the context of the rest of the movie and was cut.[8]

Garner wrote in his memoirs that Richard Donner originally wanted Paul Newman to play Zane Cooper but Newman was not interested.[9]


Parts of the film were shot at Lake Powell and Warm Creek in Utah. Other filming locations include Lee's Ferry and Marble Canyon in Arizona, Lone Pine, Manzanar, Big Pine, and Yosemite National Park in California, and Columbia River Gorge in Oregon.[10]


The Portland was used in the film as the steamboat Lauren Belle in the film.

The steamboat used in the film—dubbed the Lauren Belle—was the Portland, the last remaining sternwheel tugboat in the US; at the time it belonged to the Oregon Maritime Museum in Portland. Over several weeks, the boat was decorated to alter its appearance to resemble a Mississippi-style gambling boat, including the addition of two decorative chimneys.[11] In August 1993, the production requested permission to film scenes of the riverboat along the Columbia River in Washington State. The artificial smoke released by the boat's chimney was considered to violate air-quality laws in Washington and Oregon and required approval for the scenes before their scheduled filming date in September 1993.[12] After filming concluded, the decorations were removed and the boat was returned to its original state.[11]


The soundtrack featured three chart singles: "Renegades, Rebels and Rogues" by Tracy Lawrence,[13] "A Good Run of Bad Luck" by Clint Black (which also appeared on his album No Time to Kill),[14] and "Something Already Gone" by Carlene Carter. Also included on the album was an all-star rendition of "Amazing Grace", from which all royalties were donated to the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.[15]


Box office[edit]

The film earned $101,631,272 (55.5%) in North America and $81,400,000 (44.5%) elsewhere for a worldwide total of $183,031,272.[4] This gross made it the 12th highest-grossing film in North America and the 15th highest-grossing film worldwide of 1994. As of 2013, the film is the 6th highest grossing Western film in North America.[4]

Pre-release tracking showed that the film would open strongly,.[6] During its opening weekend in North America, Maverick earned $17.2 million from 2,537 theaters – an average of $6,798 per theater – ranking as the number 1 film of the weekend,[4] and took a total of $41.8 million over its first two weeks of release.[6]

The movie was a box office success as it grossed over $183 million worldwide.[16][17]

Critical response[edit]

Maverick has received generally favorable reviews.[6] On Rotten Tomatoes the film has a 67% rating based on reviews from 54 critics, with an average rating of 6/10. The site's consensus states: "It isn't terribly deep, but it's witty and undeniably charming, and the cast is obviously having fun."[18] On Metacritic it has a score of 62% based on reviews from 28 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[19] Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade A− on scale of A to F.[20]

James Berardinelli, from, gave the film three and a half stars out of four. He stated, "The strength of Maverick is the ease with which it switches from comedy to action, and back's refreshing to find something that satisfies expectations."[21] Reviewing it for the Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert gave the film three stars out of four, writing that the film is "the first lighthearted, laugh-oriented family Western in a long time, and one of the nice things about it is, it doesn't feel the need to justify its existence. It acts like it's the most natural thing in the world to be a Western."[5]

William Goldman won Best Screenplay as a Career Achievement.[22]

Other media[edit]

In September 1994, Data East pinball released a pinball machine based on the film. The backglass featured the likeness of Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster and other stars of the film.[23][24]


  1. ^ Hall, Carla (May 15, 1994). "SUMMER SNEAKS '94 : Was, Is and Always a Maverick : His signatures are Rockford and Maverick--can anybody in Hollywood do cool and canny better than James Garner?". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 23, 2010.
  2. ^ "Maverick". British Board of Film Classification. May 26, 1994. Retrieved August 31, 2012.
  3. ^ Box Office Information for Maverick. The Wrap. Retrieved April 4, 2013.
  4. ^ a b c d "Maverick". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved August 31, 2012.
  5. ^ a b c Ebert, Roger (May 20, 1994). "Maverick". Chicago Sun-Times. Sun-Times Media Group. Retrieved August 3, 2020.
  6. ^ a b c d Weinraub, Bernard (June 23, 1994). "At The 'Maverick' Helm". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved September 2, 2012.
  7. ^ Goldman, William (2000). William Goldman: Five Screenplays with Essays. Hal Leonard Corporation. pp. 474–479. ISBN 978-1-55783-362-4.
  8. ^ Goldman, William, Which Lie Did I Tell?, Bloomsbury, 2000 p 68
  9. ^ Garner, James; Winokur, Jon (2011). The Garner Files: A Memoir. Simon & Schuster. p. 261. ISBN 978-1451642612.
  10. ^ D'Arc, James V. (2010). When Hollywood came to town: a history of moviemaking in Utah (1st ed.). Layton, Utah: Gibbs Smith. ISBN 9781423605874.
  11. ^ a b "National Register of Historic Places Registration Form: Portland, Steam Tug" (pdf). National Park Service. June 25, 1997. Archived (PDF) from the original on February 2, 2013. Retrieved February 1, 2013.
  12. ^ "'Maverick' Scene Hinges On Approval". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved October 24, 2010.
  13. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2008). Hot Country Songs 1944 to 2008. Record Research, Inc. pp. 232–233. ISBN 978-0-89820-177-2.
  14. ^ Whitburn, pp. 50-51
  15. ^ Maverick (CD booklet). Various artists. Atlantic Records. 1994. 82595.{{cite AV media notes}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  16. ^ Fox, David J. (May 23, 1994). "Maverick Wins Big Pot at Box Office : Movies: An estimated $17.2-million take for the weekend is the biggest opening this year". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 23, 2010.
  17. ^ Fox, David J. (June 1, 1994). "Memorial Day Weekend Box Office : A Mighty Big Take at the Cash Register". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 23, 2010.
  18. ^ "Maverick". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved June 20, 2022.
  19. ^ "Maverick". Metacritic. Retrieved August 8, 2020.
  20. ^ "MAVERICK (1994) A-". CinemaScore. Archived from the original on February 6, 2018.
  21. ^ "James Berardinelli review of Maverick". Retrieved February 12, 2010.
  22. ^ "1994 Archives". National Board of Review. Retrieved July 16, 2022.
  23. ^ "Maverick Pinball Machine (Data East, 1994) | Pinside Game Archive".
  24. ^ "Internet Pinball Machine Database: Data East 'Maverick the Movie'".

External links[edit]