Road House (1989 film)

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Road House
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRowdy Herrington
Produced byJoel Silver
Screenplay by
Story byDavid Lee Henry
Music byMichael Kamen
CinematographyDean Cundey
Edited by
Distributed byMGM/UA Communications Co.[1]
Release date
‹See TfM›
  • May 19, 1989 (1989-05-19)
Running time
114 minutes[2]
CountryUnited States[1]
Budget$15 million[3]
Box office$30.1 million

Road House is a 1989 American action film directed by Rowdy Herrington and starring Patrick Swayze as a cooler at a newly refurbished roadside bar who protects a small town in Missouri from a corrupt businessman.[4] Sam Elliott co-stars as a bouncer, the mentor, friend, and foil of Swayze's character. The cast also includes Kelly Lynch as Swayze's love interest and Ben Gazzara as the main antagonist.


James Dalton is a professional "cooler", a specialized bouncer, with a mysterious past who is enticed from his job at a club in New York City by Frank Tilghman to take over security at his club/bar, the Double Deuce, in Jasper, Missouri. Tilghman plans to invest substantial money into the club to enhance its image, and he needs a first-rate cooler to maintain stability.

Arriving in Jasper, Dalton takes lodging at a local farm owned by Emmett. Handed control of all bar operations and hiring by Tilghman, Dalton attracts attention by having a quiet demeanor—contrasting with the tough locals. Dalton's "real" car is a 1986 Mercedes 560SEC with New York license plates which he keeps hidden, instead wisely going about in a used 1965 Buick Riviera that is repeatedly vandalized by disgruntled bar patrons.

Dalton is soon introduced to local business magnate Brad Wesley, who lives in a mansion across a river from Emmett. Wesley appears to have a stranglehold on the town; little happens without his knowledge and approval. In the course of cleaning up the violent nightclub, Dalton dismisses several unruly and corrupt employees, some of whom are connected with Wesley. After one particularly violent night where Dalton is forced to physically remove Wesley's henchmen, he suffers a knife wound. Going to the hospital for staples, he strikes up a friendship with Dr. Elizabeth "Doc" Clay, which develops into a romantic relationship.

Wesley summons Dalton to his home in a seemingly innocent attempt to make peace, but has an ulterior motive: Wesley would like Dalton to work for him once he extorts Tilghman's club. He reveals knowledge of Dalton's past by mentioning an incident where Dalton killed a man in Memphis, Tennessee, then claimed self-defense at the trial. When Dalton declines, Wesley begins an assault on Dalton's friends, including interfering with liquor deliveries to the Double Deuce. Dalton's mentor, legendary but aging cooler Wade Garrett, arrives in town after a disconcerting phone call from Dalton and helps him defend a liquor shipment from Wesley's thugs.

That evening, the auto parts store of local business owner Red Webster is destroyed by a fire after he refuses to give ground to Wesley's persistent extortion demands. Dalton, not wanting to exacerbate matters, allows Wesley and his men entrance to the club that night. However, Wesley deploys Jimmy, a violent ex-con and skilled martial artist, to start a brawl with the Double Deuce bouncers. After a brief skirmish with Dalton and Garrett, Wesley calls an end to the fight and leaves the club.

The next day, car dealership owner Pete Stroudenmire becomes Wesley's next victim when he also refuses to pay. As a result, Wesley has one of his goons, Gary Ketchum, demolish the dealership and crush four station wagons in the showroom with his monster truck as Dalton and his friends look on with contempt. Wesley warns everyone not to forget that Jasper is his town.

That night, Doc visits Dalton and attempts to persuade him to leave. However, their conversation is interrupted by a powerful explosion at Emmett's house next door. Dalton rescues Emmett from the blaze before his house is destroyed. He then witnesses Jimmy fleeing the scene and manages to intercept him. After a vicious fight, Jimmy points a revolver at Dalton, but Dalton kills him by ripping out his throat with his bare hand.

The next morning, Dalton receives an ominous phone call from Wesley, who vows to have either Wade or Doc killed by the flip of a coin. After Wesley hangs up leaving the outcome unknown, a badly beaten Wade staggers into the Double Deuce. Believing Doc to be in danger, Dalton races to the hospital alone, but she refuses to leave with him, repulsed by his increasingly violent nature. Upon returning to the Double Deuce, Dalton finds Wade sprawled out on the bar with a knife lodged in his chest and a note reading, "It was tails." In tears of rage, Dalton pulls the knife free and jumps into his car, determined to settle the score with Wesley.

Driving his Mercedes, Dalton speeds recklessly toward Wesley's estate. The car draws gunfire from Wesley's henchmen, but when it crashes, they discover the car empty, and the knife that was used to kill Wade stuck in the accelerator. Using the distraction, Dalton sneaks onto the estate and dispatches each of Wesley's henchmen, eventually coming face-to-face with Wesley himself.

Dalton gains the upper hand in their fight and prepares to finish Wesley in the same brutal manner as Jimmy, but decides against it. As Dalton releases him and walks away, Wesley seizes the opportunity to reach for a gun, but is promptly shot to death in succession by Red, Emmett, Pete, and finally Tilghman, who declares to Wesley, "This is our town, and don't you forget it."

The men stash the weapons away prior to the arrival of the sheriff, and proceed, along with a surviving henchman, to corroborate each other's innocence, with the implication that what happened in Wesley's mansion will remain a secret.

The final scene shows Cody, an old friend of Dalton’s, and his band at the bar performing "When the Night Comes Falling from the Sky", while cutting to Dalton and Doc enjoying each other's company in a swimming hole, suggesting that they do get together and Dalton remains in town for good.


  • John William Young as Tinker


Filming started in April 1988 and took place in locations throughout California, primarily Newhall, Valencia, and Canyon Country. The filming of much of the "New Double Deuce" was done at the Cowboy/The Bandstand (which went by other names as well until it closed) located in Anaheim. The opening and monster truck scenes were filmed in Sanger, California. The Kings River runs between the two residences.[1] The monster truck used was Bigfoot #7, which was originally built for the film. The scene cost $500,000 to film.[5]


The film premiered in New York and Los Angeles on May 19, 1989.[6]

Home media[edit]

The film was originally released on VHS and then on DVD. In the United States Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer first released the film on DVD on February 4, 2003 with a 2.35:1 aspect ratio and theatrical trailer as the sole extra feature.[7] In 2006 a Deluxe Edition DVD was released with two audio commentaries including one with the director, two featurettes titled "On the Roadhouse" and "What Would Dalton Do?".[8] Road House was first issued by MGM on Blu-ray disc on June 2, 2009. A second disc combines the same six special features ported from the Deluxe DVD.[9] After being reissued numerous times in the U.S., in 2016 Shout! Factory released a 2-disc Blu-ray collectors edition with fourteen extra features with material ported over from the previous editions. New supplements include a ‘making of’ documentary with new interviews by Herrington, actors Kelly Lynch, John Doe, Kevin Tighe, Julie Michaels and Red West, a separate conversation with the director and featurette for the films music.[10]


Box office[edit]

Although the film had lackluster box office returns,[11] it did quite well on home video.[12][13][14][15] The film also found life on cable television.[16] Over time, the movie garnered a significant cult following.

Critical response[edit]

Road House received negative reviews upon release.[1] Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a rating of 39% based on 44 reviews and has an average rating of 5.12/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Whether Road House is simply bad or so bad it's good depends largely on the audience's fondness for Swayze – and tolerance for violently cheesy action."[17] Variety was critical of "a flat romantic attachment" between Dalton and Clay and wrote that its "vigilante justice, lawlessness and wanton violence feel ludicrous in a modern setting."[18] Other reviews are critical of Swayze's role as Dalton.[19][clarification needed][20]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 2½ out of 4 stars and commented, "Road House exists right on the edge between the 'good-bad movie' and the merely bad. I hesitate to recommend it, because so much depends on the ironic vision of the viewer. This is not a good movie. But viewed in the right frame of mind, it is not a boring one, either."[21]

When interviewed by Anthony Bourdain, Bill Murray lauded the film as unappreciated, with a complex plot and respect among actors in the film industry since its release.[22] Kelly Lynch told The A.V. Club, "Every time Road House is on and he [Murray] or one of his idiot brothers are watching TV – and they’re always watching TV – one of them calls my husband and says (in a reasonable approximation of Carl Spackler from Caddyshack), 'Kelly's having sex with Patrick Swayze right now. They’re doing it. He's throwing her against the rocks.'"[23]


Road House was nominated for (but did not win) five Golden Raspberry Awards: Worst Picture, Worst Actor (Patrick Swayze), Worst Supporting Actor (Ben Gazzara), Worst Director, and Worst Screenplay. The film is listed in Golden Raspberry Award founder John Wilson's book The Official Razzie Movie Guide as one of The 100 Most Enjoyably Bad Movies Ever Made.[24]


The soundtrack for Road House featured Canadian guitarist Jeff Healey, whose band was featured in the film as the house band for the Double Deuce. Cruzados were the band in the opening credits, contributing three songs to the film that never made the soundtrack. Patrick Swayze also wrote one song and sang two for the soundtrack. The film's score was composed by Michael Kamen.[25][26] A limited edition 14-track score album part of the Special Collection was issued by Intrada Records in 2012.[27] An expanded limited 31-track score was reissued for the films 30th anniversary by La-La Land Records in 2019.[28]

Road House soundtrack album
1."Roadhouse Blues"Jim Morrison,
Robby Krieger,
John Densmore,
Ray Manzarek
The Jeff Healey Band4:51
2."Blue Monday"Dave Bartholomew, Antoine "Fats" DominoBob Seger2:22
3."I'm Tore Down"Sonny ThompsonThe Jeff Healey Band4:26
4."These Arms of Mine"Otis ReddingOtis Redding2:31
5."When the Night Comes Falling from the Sky"Bob DylanThe Jeff Healey Band4:54
6."Rad Gumbo"Bill Payne, Paul Barrere, Martin Kibbee, Sam Clayton, Kenny GradneyLittle Feat3:30
7."Raising Heaven (In Hell Tonight)"Willie Nile, Martin BrileyPatrick Swayze4:41
8."A Good Heart"Maria McKeeKris McKay4:59
9."(I'm Your) Hoochie Coochie Man"Willie DixonThe Jeff Healey Band5:14
10."Cliff's Edge"Patrick Swayze, Stacy Widelitz, Bob MarlettePatrick Swayze4:01
Total length:41:34



A sequel, Road House 2, was released directly to DVD in July 2006. Set many years later and telling the story of Dalton's adult son, it featured no one from the original cast and only a few references to Dalton (who was reportedly shot dead before the film took place). The sequel confirmed that Dalton's first name was James, which could be seen momentarily on the medical chart in the original film's hospital scene, but which had been otherwise unstated. At the same time Road House 2 was released, the original film was reissued in a deluxe edition featuring, among other features, separate audio commentary tracks by director Herrington, Kevin Smith, and Scott Mosier, which the duo had expressed an interest in during the introduction of the tenth anniversary Clerks DVD.[29]


In 2003, an off-Broadway musical production of Road House was staged as a campy comedy by Timothy Haskell, as seen by its full title of Road House: The Stage Version Of The Cinema Classic That Starred Patrick Swayze, Except This One Stars Taimak From The 80's Cult Classic "The Last Dragon" Wearing A Blonde Mullet Wig.[30]

Police training video[edit]

Following the death of Eric Garner, the New York City Police Department began using a scene from Road House as part of a mandatory, three-day retraining course for 22,000 officers expected to "be nice" under pressure.[31]

Canceled remake[edit]

On September 9, 2015, it was announced that Ronda Rousey would star in a remake of Road House.[32] On October 12, 2015, Nick Cassavetes was announced to write and direct the film.[33] However, plans for the movie fell through and the movie was quietly canceled in 2016.[34]

Comic book[edit]

Julia Gfrörer, Sean T. Collins and Gretchen Felker-Martin made All Fucked-Up: Tales From the Roadhouse (2020), a mini comic with six erotic fan fiction comics based on the film. [35]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Road House (1989)". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved March 8, 2019.
  2. ^ "ROAD HOUSE (18)". British Board of Film Classification. June 5, 1989. Retrieved January 27, 2012.
  3. ^ "MOVIES SEXY SWAYZE on the Set of His First Film Since `Dirty Dancing'". Los Angeles Times. July 24, 1988. Retrieved January 28, 2011.
  4. ^ Benson, Sheila (May 28, 1989). "Losing Sight of the Reasons for Success Film makers sometimes have blind spots when they seek to capitalize on an earlier movie". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 28, 2011.
  5. ^ "BIGFOOT #7 « Bigfoot 4×4, Inc. – Monster Truck Racing Team".
  6. ^ "Road House (1989)". American Film Institute. May 23, 1989. Retrieved December 7, 2019.
  7. ^ "Road House DVD". February 4, 2003. Retrieved December 7, 2019.
  8. ^ "Road House Deluxe Edition DVD". July 18, 2006. Retrieved May 10, 2020.
  9. ^ "Road House". June 2009. Retrieved December 7, 2019.
  10. ^ "Road House - Shout! Factory". June 2009. Retrieved May 10, 2020.
  11. ^
  12. ^ Easton, Nina J. (May 23, 1989). "Swayze Flexes Box-Office Muscle". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 28, 2011.
  13. ^ Atkinson, Terry (December 15, 1989). "VIDEO . . . WHAT'S NEW A Weekend Designed for Crystal Gazing THIS WEEK'S MOVIES". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 28, 2011.
  14. ^ Hunt, Dennis (January 18, 1990). "Road House' Looks Like a Hit". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 28, 2011.
  15. ^ King, Susan (July 18, 2006). "Where nothing is as it seems". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 28, 2011.
  16. ^ Marr, Merissa; Peers, Martin (July 7, 2004). "MGM's Library of Old Movies Puts It in Spotlight". The Wall Street Journal.
  17. ^ "Road House (1989)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved December 7, 2019.
  18. ^ "Road House". Variety. December 31, 1988. Retrieved May 2, 2011.
  19. ^ James, Caryn (May 19, 1989). "Road House". The New York Times. Retrieved May 2, 2011.
  20. ^ Benson, Sheila (May 19, 1989). "MOVIE REVIEW Taste Takes a Detour in `Road House'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 28, 2011.
  21. ^ Ebert, Roger (May 19, 1989). "Road House:: Reviews". Retrieved May 18, 2011.
  22. ^ "Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown | Netflix". Retrieved May 19, 2016.
  23. ^ Harris, Will. "Kelly Lynch on Magic City, John Hughes, and playing a drag king".
  24. ^ Wilson, John (2005). The Official Razzie Movie Guide: Enjoying the Best of Hollywood's Worst. Grand Central Publishing. ISBN 978-0-446-69334-9.
  25. ^ "Road House [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack] – Michael Kamen – Songs, Reviews, Credits – AllMusic". AllMusic.
  26. ^
  27. ^ "Road House Soundtrack limited edition". January 2012. Retrieved May 11, 2020.
  28. ^ "Road House Original Score - Expanded Limited Edition of 2,000 Copies". November 8, 2019. Retrieved May 11, 2020.
  29. ^ "Road House: Deluxe Edition". Archived from the original on September 28, 2007.
  30. ^ "Road House". Retrieved June 13, 2014.
  31. ^ Celona, Larry; Golding, Bruce (February 24, 2015). "NYPD using 'Road House' movie to teach cops how to 'be nice'". New York Post.
  32. ^ Brandon Davis (September 9, 2015). "Ronda Rousey To Star in Road House Reboot". Retrieved September 9, 2015.
  33. ^ Kroll, Justin (October 12, 2015). "Nick Cassavetes to Write, Direct Ronda Rousey's Road House". Variety.
  34. ^ Leon Miller (December 15, 2017). "9 Canceled Remakes That Would've Been Terrible (And 6 That Would've Been Amazing)". Screen Rant. Retrieved March 9, 2019.
  35. ^ "Julia Gfrörer". Retrieved September 27, 2020.

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