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The Bridges of Madison County (film)

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The Bridges of Madison County
Theatrical release poster by Bill Gold
Directed byClint Eastwood
Screenplay byRichard LaGravenese
Based onThe Bridges of Madison County
by Robert James Waller
Produced by
CinematographyJack N. Green
Edited byJoel Cox
Music byLennie Niehaus
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • June 2, 1995 (1995-06-02)
Running time
134 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$22 million[2][3]
Box office$182 million[4]

The Bridges of Madison County is a 1995 American romantic drama based on the 1992 bestselling novel of the same name by Robert James Waller.[5] It was produced and directed by Clint Eastwood, who also starred in the film alongside Meryl Streep. The screenplay was adapted by Richard LaGravenese. Kathleen Kennedy was co-producer. It was produced by Amblin Entertainment and Malpaso Productions, and distributed by Warner Bros. Entertainment.

The Bridges of Madison County is set in 1965 and features Italian war bride, Francesca Johnson (Meryl Streep), who lives with her husband and two children on their Iowa farm. That year she meets National Geographic photojournalist, Robert Kincaid (Clint Eastwood), who comes to Madison County, Iowa to photograph its historic covered bridges. With Francesca's family away for a short trip, the couple have an intense, four-day love affair. The film was released on 2 June 1995 and earned $182 million worldwide[4] It received widespread critical acclaim upon release, with high praise directed towards Streep's performance, earning her a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress at the 67th Academy Awards.



In the present, adult siblings Michael and Carolyn Johnson arrive at the Iowa farmhouse of their recently deceased mother, Francesca, to settle her estate. They are shocked upon learning that Francesca requested to be cremated and her ashes scattered from Roseman Covered Bridge, rather than be buried next to her late husband, Richard.

Michael initially refuses, but while he and Carolyn look through the safe deposit box, they discover an envelope containing photographs, letters, and a key. The photos are of Francesca taken at the Holliwell Covered Bridge and the letters are from a man named Robert Kincaid. The key is to Francesca's locked hope chest. In it are three hardbound notebooks. There are also several National Geographic magazines, including one featuring Madison County's covered wooden bridges,[6] old cameras, a book, and other mementos. The magazine includes a photo of Kincaid, who photographed the bridges; he is wearing Francesca's crucifix pendant.

As Michael and Carolyn begin reading Francesca's notebooks, the film flashes back to 1965. Francesca, a WWII war bride originally from Bari, Italy, stays home while her husband and teenage son and daughter attend the state fair for the next four days. Robert Kincaid, a National Geographic photojournalist on assignment to photograph the county's historic bridges, arrives at the Johnson farm, asking for directions to Roseman Bridge. Francesca rides along to show him the way. Their subsequent affair occurs over four days.

Francesca details the intense affair and its lasting influence on her and Robert, hoping Michael and Carolyn will understand and honor her final request. Francesca and Robert fell deeply in love and nearly ran away together. Francesca, confined to a passionless marriage, was unable to abandon her teenage children and loyal husband. Though she loved Robert, she questioned whether their spontaneous relationship could survive over time. Robert, moved by their brief encounter, found renewed meaning in his life and true calling as an artist. Robert's memories helped sustain her through the remaining years on the farm.

After her husband's death, Francesca attempted to contact Robert, but he had left National Geographic and his whereabouts were unknown. She later learned that Robert died about three years after her husband, and he left his belongings to her. His ashes were scattered from Roseman Bridge.

In the present, Michael and Carolyn, struggling with their own marriages, are deeply moved by their mother's story. They find new directions to their individual lives and carry out their mother's wishes to scatter her ashes at Roseman Bridge.







"I've been that guy a little bit, going off by myself years ago in a pickup truck into Nevada, scouting locations for High Plains Drifter. But I didn't stop off with any housewives while doing that."

— Clint Eastwood on Robert Kincaid[3]

Amblin Entertainment, a production company founded by Steven Spielberg, bought the film rights to Waller's novel for $25,000 in late 1991, before its publication—by the time of the film's release, the novel sold 9.5 million copies worldwide.[3] Spielberg first asked Sydney Pollack to direct, who got Kurt Luedtke to draft the first version of the adaptation but then bowed out; Ronald Bass was brought in by Kathleen Kennedy and Spielberg to work on the script, but they were unsatisfied with the results.[3] But a third draft by Richard LaGravenese was liked by Eastwood, who quite early had been cast for the male lead, and by Spielberg, who liked LaGravenese's version enough to consider making Bridges his next film after Schindler's List (1993), which was in post-production at the time.[3] Both men liked that LaGravenese's script presented the story from Francesca's point of view; Spielberg then had LaGravenese introduce the framing device of having Francesca's adult children discover and read her diaries.[3] When Spielberg decided not to direct, he then brought in Bruce Beresford, who got Alfred Uhry to draft another version of the script; when Warner Bros., Spielberg, and Eastwood all preferred LaGravenese's draft, Beresford dropped out.[3]

Catherine Deneuve and Isabella Rossellini did screen tests to play Francesca.[7] But despite Spielberg's initial reluctance, Eastwood had advocated Meryl Streep for the role from the beginning.[3]


Roseman Bridge in Winterset, Iowa.

Principal photography took 42 days, ending on November 1, 1994, ten days ahead of Eastwood's 52-day schedule; Eastwood filmed it chronologically from Francesca's point of view, "because it was important to work that way. We were two people getting to know each other, in real-time, as actors and as the characters."[3] It was filmed on location in Madison County, Iowa, including the town of Winterset, and in the Dallas County town of Adel.[2]



The MPAA ratings board initially gave the film an "R" rating, for the line "Or should we just fuck on the linoleum one last time?", a line of dialogue spoken sarcastically by Francesca; Eastwood appealed, and the rating was reduced to a PG-13.[3]



Box office


The Bridges of Madison County opened theatrically on June 2, 1995, in 1,805 venues. It grossed $10,519,257 in its opening weekend, ranking number two at the US box office, behind Casper (which was in its second weekend and coincidentally features Eastwood in a cameo).[8] It was number one at the Japanese box office for nine consecutive weeks, grossing over $35 million.[9][10] At the end of its run, the film grossed $71,516,617 in the United States and Canada and $110,500,000 overseas for a worldwide total of $182,016,617.[4]

Critical reception


On Rotten Tomatoes, The Bridges of Madison County has a score of 90% based on 60 reviews, with an average rating of 7.40/10. The site's consensus states: "Sentimental, slow, schmaltzy, and very satisfying, The Bridges of Madison County finds Clint Eastwood adapting a bestseller with heft, wit, and grace."[11] On Metacritic, the film has a 69 out of 100 rating, based on 23 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[12] Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade "A−" on scale of A+ to F.[13]

According to Janet Maslin from The New York Times, "Clint Eastwood, director and alchemist, has transformed The Bridges of Madison County into something bearable—no, something even better. Limited by the vapidity of this material while he trims its excesses with the requisite machete, Eastwood locates a moving, elegiac love story at the heart of Mr. Waller's self-congratulatory overkill. The film has leanness and surprising decency, and Streep has her best role in years. Looking sturdy and voluptuous in her plain housedress (the year is 1965), she rises straight out of Christina's World to embody all the loneliness and fierce yearning Andrew Wyeth captured on canvas. And yet, despite the Iowa setting and the emphasis on down-home Americana, Eastwood's Bridges of Madison County has a European flavor. Its pace is unhurried, which is not the same as slow. It respects long silences and pays attention to small details. It sustains an austere tone and staves off weepiness until the last reel. It voices musings that would definitely sound better in French."[14]

Richard Corliss from Time stated that Eastwood is the "most reticent of directors—where the book ogles, the film discreetly observes—and, here, the courtliest of stars...As scripted by Richard LaGravenese (The Fisher King), The Bridges of Madison County has a slightly riper theme than the book. It is about the anticipation and consequences of passion—the slow dance of appraisal, of waiting to make a move that won't be rejected, of debating what to do when the erotic heat matures into love light. What is the effect of an affair on a woman who has been faithful to her husband, and on a rootless man who only now realizes he needs the one woman he can have but not hold?" Corliss concludes "The Bridges of Madison County is Eastwood's gift to women: to Francesca, to all the girls he's loved before—and to Streep, who alchemizes literary mawkishness into intelligent movie passion."[15]


Association Category Recipient Result
20/20 Awards Best Actress Meryl Streep Nominated
Academy Awards Best Actress Nominated
American Society of Cinematographers Awards Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography in Theatrical Releases Jack N. Green Nominated
ASCAP Film and Television Music Awards Top Box Office Films Clint Eastwood Won
Awards Circuit Community Awards Best Actress in a Leading Role Meryl Streep Nominated
Blockbuster Entertainment Awards Favorite Actress – Drama Nominated
Blue Ribbon Awards Best Foreign Film Clint Eastwood Won
BMI Film & TV Awards Film Music Award Lennie Niehaus Won
Cahiers du Cinéma Best Film Clint Eastwood 4th place
Chicago Film Critics Association Awards Best Director Nominated
Best Actress Meryl Streep Nominated
César Awards Best Foreign Film The Bridges of Madison County Nominated
Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association Awards Best Actress Meryl Streep Nominated
Fotogramas de Plata Best Foreign Film Clint Eastwood Won
Golden Globe Awards Best Motion Picture – Drama The Bridges of Madison County Nominated
Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama Meryl Streep Nominated
Kinema Junpo Awards Best Foreign Language Film Director Clint Eastwood Won
Mainichi Film Awards Best Foreign Language Film Won
National Society of Film Critics Awards Best Actress Meryl Streep 3rd Place
New York Film Critics Circle Awards Best Actress 4th place
Sant Jordi Awards Best Foreign Actress Nominated
Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role Nominated
Turkish Film Critics Association Awards Best Foreign Film The Bridges of Madison County 19th place



The Bridges of Madison County tied with Goodbye South, Goodbye (1996) and Carlito's Way (1993) as the best film of the 1990s in a poll by Cahiers du Cinéma.[16]

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


  1. ^ "THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY (12)". British Board of Film Classification. August 3, 1995. Archived from the original on March 6, 2016. Retrieved November 9, 2015.
  2. ^ a b Hughes, p.110
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Thompson, Anne (June 16, 1995). "Bridge on the River Cry". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on May 6, 2014. Retrieved August 19, 2011.
  4. ^ a b c "The Bridges of Madison County (1995)". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. Archived from the original on December 22, 2015. Retrieved November 9, 2015.
  5. ^ Variety film review; May 22, 1995.
  6. ^ "The Bridges of Madison County". Madison County Chamber of Commerce. Archived from the original on March 30, 2012. Retrieved August 19, 2011.
  7. ^ Fink, Mitchell (July 25, 1994). "The Insider". People. Archived from the original on September 6, 2015.
  8. ^ "Weekend Box Office Results for June 2-4, 1995". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. June 5, 1995. Archived from the original on September 9, 2015. Retrieved November 9, 2015.
  9. ^ "International Box Office". Variety. November 20, 1995. p. 10.
  10. ^ Groves, Don (December 11, 1995). "'Ace' holds o'seas B.O. winning hand". Variety.
  11. ^ "The Bridges of Madison County (1995)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Archived from the original on November 20, 2015. Retrieved January 20, 2023.
  12. ^ "The Bridges of Madison County Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Archived from the original on November 7, 2015. Retrieved November 9, 2015.
  13. ^ "Cinemascore". Archived from the original on December 20, 2018. Retrieved February 11, 2021.
  14. ^ Maslin, Janet (June 2, 1995). "Love Comes Driving Up the Road, and in Middle Age, Too". The New York Times. Retrieved August 16, 2011.
  15. ^ Corliss, Richard (June 5, 1995). "When Erotic Heat Turns into Love Light". Time. Archived from the original on September 19, 2012. Retrieved August 16, 2011.
  16. ^ Johnson, Eric. "Cahiers du cinéma". Critics Lists (Mist Driven Enterprises). Caltech Alumni Association. Archived from the original on March 27, 2012. Retrieved August 19, 2011.
  17. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions" (PDF). afi.com. American Film Institute. Archived (PDF) from the original on June 24, 2016. Retrieved August 18, 2016.