Salvador (film)

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Salvador (film) POSTER.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byOliver Stone
Written by
Produced by
CinematographyRobert Richardson
Edited byClaire Simpson
Music byGeorges Delerue
Distributed byHemdale Film Corporation
Release date
  • March 5, 1986 (1986-03-05)
Running time
123 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$4.5 million
Box office$1.5 million[1]

Salvador is a 1986 American war drama film co-written and directed by Oliver Stone. It stars James Woods as Richard Boyle, alongside Jim Belushi, Michael Murphy and Elpidia Carrillo, with John Savage and Cynthia Gibb in supporting roles. Stone co-wrote the screenplay with Boyle.

The film tells the story of an American journalist covering the Salvadoran Civil War who becomes entangled with both the FMLN and the right-wing military dictatorship while trying to rescue his girlfriend and her children. The film is highly sympathetic toward the left-wing revolutionaries and strongly critical of the US-supported military, focusing on the murder of four American churchwomen, including Jean Donovan, and the assassination of Archbishop Óscar Romero by death squads. The film was nominated for two Academy Awards: Best Actor in a Leading Role (Woods) and Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen (Stone and Boyle).[2]


Veteran photojournalist Richard Boyle (James Woods) has been taking his camera to the world's trouble spots for over 20 years. While he does good work, Boyle's fondness for booze and drugs, and his colossal arrogance, have given him a reputation that's left him practically unemployable. One morning, he finds that his wife has abandoned him, taking their child with her. Broke and with no immediate prospects, Boyle and his buddy, Doctor Rock (Jim Belushi), an out-of-work disc jockey, head to El Salvador, where Boyle is convinced that he can scrounge some lucrative freelance work amidst the nation's political turmoil. However, when Boyle and Rock witness the execution of a student by government troops just as they enter the country, it becomes clear that this war is more serious than they were expecting. After he asks a soldier for a general he met during the Football War, he and Rock are taken to him in a school-turned-barracks where both discuss the situation and he learns that the Salvadoran Army is supplied by the United States. Feeling that El Salvador is a disaster starting to happen, Boyle eventually decides that it's time to get out, but he's reunited with an old flame named María (Elpidia Carrillo) and her two children (one of whom is his), and he doesn't want to leave her behind.

In the meantime, both he and Maria go to a mass by Archbishop Oscar Romero. During the mass, the Archbishop is killed by an assassin sent by the far-right ARANA party (based on the real-life ARENA party) and the army outside opens fire on the escaping crowd with Boyle and Maria barely escaping.

Following that, he goes to the United States Embassy to convince the ambassador to cut aid for the Salvadoran government as their human rights abuses increase but is denied and is told to leave the country for his own safety, prompting him to leave the embassy in anger.

While attempting to get her out of the country, Boyle is harassed by the military authorities due to his profession and eventually leads to the deaths of innocent people either close to him or María by death squads. John Cassady (John Savage), Boyle's friend and fellow photojournalist, is also killed during a battle between the government and rebels in Santa Ana when the Salvadoran Army starts using American vehicles and air support to crush the rebels.

Boyle and María eventually leave the country for the United States. However, upon entering California, their bus is stopped by immigration officers and María allows herself to be deported alongside her children due to the guilt of leaving her home country behind while Boyle is arrested after desperately arguing with the officers. An epilogue reveals that Maria and her children survived and were last rumored to be in a refugee camp in Guatemala. Doctor Rock eventually returned to San Francisco. John Cassady's photos were published and Richard Boyle is still looking for Maria and her children.



The film was released in the United States on March 5, 1986. In the Philippines, the film was released by Pioneer Films as Guns, Goons, Gold on March 26, 1992.[3]

Box office[edit]

The film was not successful at the box office, grossing a total of $1,500,000 in the United States.[1]

Critical response[edit]

Salvador was popular among critics. Roger Ebert, a film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, gave the movie three stars out of four and wrote, "The movie has an undercurrent of seriousness, and it is not happy about the chaos that we are helping to subsidize. But basically it's a character study — a portrait of a couple of burned-out free-lancers trying to keep their heads above water."[4]

Walter Goodman of The New York Times wrote an unfavorable review, arguing that while "as an adventure film, [it] has plenty of speed, grit and grime", it depicts "improbable people doing implausible things" and in some cases deviates from reality "for the sake of heightening the drama and hammering in the political point". He also compared it to the work of Constantin Costa-Gavras, cinematically as well as politically.[5]

As of November 2020, Salvador holds a rating of 89% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 27 reviews with an average score of 7.7/10 and the consensus: "Despite its somewhat disjointed narrative, Oliver Stone's Salvador is a vivid and powerful political drama that sets an early tone for the director's similarly provocative future projects."[6]


The film garnered two Academy Award nominations for Best Actor in a Leading Role (James Woods) and Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen at the 59th Academy Awards ceremony.

Home media[edit]

The Region 1 special edition DVD was released on 5 June 2001, and includes the following bonus features:

  • Commentary by director Oliver Stone
  • 62-minute documentary "Into the Valley of Death"
  • Eight deleted scenes
  • 46 production photos
  • Original theatrical trailer[7]


  1. ^ a b c Salvador at Box Office Mojo
  2. ^ "The 59th Academy Awards 1987". Retrieved 3 February 2016.
  3. ^ Anonymous (March 26, 1992). "A grim reminder about greed and violence in today's politics". Manila Standard. Kamahalan Publishing Corp. p. 24. Retrieved 14 February 2020. A THIRD WORLD country in Latin American [sic] is girding for the long-awaited political exercise of electing their president.
  4. ^ Ebert, Roger (April 25, 1986). "Salvador". Retrieved December 9, 2016.
  5. ^ Goodman, Walter (March 5, 1986). "Screen: 'Salvador' By Stone". The New York Times. Retrieved December 9, 2016.
  6. ^ "Salvador". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved July 26, 2019.
  7. ^ "Salvador Review". 16 July 2001. Retrieved 28 October 2018.

External links[edit]