A River Runs Through It

7.22 h 3 min1992X-RayPG
Craig Sheffer and Brad Pitt star as two brothers who rebel against their stern father and become men in the majesty of the Montana wilderness.
Robert Redford
Craig ShefferRobert RedfordBrad Pitt
English [CC]
Audio languages
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Supporting actors
Tom SkerrittBrenda BlethynEmily LloydEdie McClurgStephen Shellen
Robert Redford
TriStar Pictures
PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
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4.8 out of 5 stars

3966 global ratings

  1. 85% of reviews have 5 stars
  2. 9% of reviews have 4 stars
  3. 4% of reviews have 3 stars
  4. 1% of reviews have 2 stars
  5. 1% of reviews have 1 stars
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Top reviews from the United States

Matthew D'SouzaReviewed in the United States on February 24, 2019
5.0 out of 5 stars
A Realist's Take on Family and Fishing
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Sincerity swims alongside breezy direction.

Robert Redford's A River Runs Through It (1992) is a riveting coming of age period drama that centers around the ideals of families and our expectations of what we should be doing with our lives.

Redford directs lust natural surroundings with the same care for faces reacting to uncertainty and pain as he tends to a river flowing quietly along through time. A River Runs Through It is honestly the finest directing of Redford's career. Philippe Rousselot's truly beautiful cinematography and thoughtful shots let you ponder these characters and their perspectives with a patient empathy.

A River Runs Through It is similar to Stand by Me and Legends of the Fall with their period setting and an air of classic Americana. Robert Redford recreates World War I era America through the Great Depression era with a realistic feeling of sleepy Montana conservatives and earthy aspirations. The hair, makeup, and outfits hark back to this older time period perfectly as you feel like you are watching the past. Redford's attention to detail and respect for the past comes across as genuine as Redford clearly reveres hard working Americans and sincere interactions between family members. Even Robert Redford's own narration gives the story a friendly and warm voice that adds a layer of depth and seriousness.

Brad Pitt is amazing in this early career appearance. He emanates charisma and energy as the younger brother Paul MacLean. Pitt feels like a professional fly fisher and free spirit that is at home in the river fishing with his brother. His good nature and natural likability alongside Pitt's heavy weight dramatic skill culminate in a fascinating nuanced performance within A River Runs Through It. Brad Pitt was destined to be a movie star, but continues to prove his high caliber skill level as a dramatic lead.

Craig Sheffer's career peak is as the thoughtful intellectual Norman MacLean. Sheffer captures a sincere kindness and sympathetic viewpoint as Norman. He is not the smooth fun man that Brad Pitt plays. He is quiet, observant, and sentimental. Sheffer gives a likable awkward performance that comes across as so genuine to heart that he endears himself to you. You believe he is the man he says he is at all times.

I must mention the excellent supporting role from Tom Skerritt as Reverend MacLean. His strict, yet nurturing disposition makes him feel so real. You believe that Skerritt is preaching and teaching his congregation as his children, likewise. Skerritt employs a subtle level of understanding without having to make grand speeches and endless monologues. He says so much with a single sentence that cuts through all pretense. Skerritt is incredible in A River Runs Through It.

A River Runs Through It features three distinct supporting roles from its leading ladies. Brenda Blethyn's role as Mrs. MacLean is really interesting. She gives the mother a caring sincerity and a fervent belief in God. I liked her acting choices a lot. Emily Lloyd plays the early American love interest with a look akin to a young Lillian Gish and an attitude like an aloof sweetheart. She's really intriguing in A River Runs Through as her character Jessie Burns is not initially likable at all, but she develops into a sympathetic figure with real feeling. Lastly, I want to commend the sultry and lovely Susan Traylor as Rawhide. She is a comic and tragic all at once. Her disheveled appearance offsets her natural beauty all while you watch her stumbling lady Rawhide with a sympathetic sadness and a humorous joy.

Overall, A River Runs Through It is compelling for its American narrative of grounded ideals and realistic relationships. The acting is top notch all around, especially as it is elevated by Robert Redford's focused direction and engaging storytelling.
24 people found this helpful
Matt EvansReviewed in the United States on October 18, 2017
5.0 out of 5 stars
The magic of water...
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They simply just don't make movies like this anymore…it is indeed sad. I laughed. I cried. I walked down memory lane, thinking back to the days when my own father taught me how to flyfish…when he is gone, I will always have that treasure, in my memory, that only a father can share with his son. 5 star masterpiece, and one of the best movies, in my opinion, ever made!
22 people found this helpful
John P. Jones IIIReviewed in the United States on June 26, 2021
5.0 out of 5 stars
The passions of life…
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… one of which I will never practice – fly fishing - since there are far too many beautiful passions available than time left in this life.

For decades I considered fishing to be BORING, a la Tom Sawyer, sitting under a tree, with a string attached to a worm at one end and a bamboo pole at the other. I had a friend who lived in northern Minnesota who commenced my education into the skill and art of fishing. He was the one who gave me Russell Chatham’s book, “Dark Water,” which provided much additional instruction. A bit more than a decade ago I read Norman Maclean’s eponymous masterpiece, upon which this movie is based. I rated it a solid 5-stars.

Robert Redford directed the movie adaptation of Maclean’s book, which he released in 1992. Craig Sheffer so-often has an admirably perplexed look on his face, as he plays Norman, confronting the dilemmas of life. Brad Pitt plays his younger brother, Paul, who would stay in Montana and become a newspaper reporter. (Norman would go to Dartmouth for six years in the 1920’s, before commencing his career as an English professor at the University of Chicago.) I love Tom Skerritt, always associating him with his role as the sheriff in the TV series, “Picket Fences,” though of course he has played many other admirable roles. In this movie he plays the stern Presbyterian minister father, who taught his sons the “religion” of fly fishing. He also instructed the youthful Norman to make his stories shorter.

“America as it used to be,” was once the tagline for the Idaho Department of Tourism. The book and movie are set in Missoula, Montana, near the border with Idaho and the Bitterroot Mountains. In the movie a similar sentiment is expressed by the youthful Maclean: “…the Montana of my youth was a world with the dew still on it.” (Note: the credits indicate that the movie was filmed further east in Montana, in Bozeman and Livingston, both of which could provide mountains in the background.) Maclean was born in 1902. Redford did an impressive job of assembling black and white photographs from the period, and then going forward through 1917, when all the able-bodied lumberjacks went off to fight in The Great War, which facilitated Norman’s hiring by the Forest Service at the age of 16.

It is not all paradise. To Redford’s credit, he shows the underbelly of frontier life: the drinking, gambling, whoring, and bigotry against Indians. Though it is revealed early in the book, Redford delays to the end the murder of Norman’s younger brother, Paul, who allowed himself to be sucked into the bad influences of that underbelly.

The real star of the movie is the beauty of the land itself, coupled with that ever-so-graceful ability to place the fishing line exactly where you want it. (How many takes were required, I often wondered?) Though I will never flyfish, I do have a strong passion for being able to experience a few days camping in the Bitterroots. This movie was another hard push. 5-stars.
2 people found this helpful
Paul A GeertsenReviewed in the United States on November 11, 2017
5.0 out of 5 stars
I enjoyed the realness of life shared
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My reviews are more how movies touch me emotionally. I enjoyed the realness of life shared, no overly strong good vs bad. The romance is what seems normal in life, enjoyable and touching. It's a beautiful movie in many ways. I'm not a fly fisherman, but I loved learning and seeing the art of it. For the time of 1915..., the pastoral father did not buy into scripture that says spank "spare the rod spoil the child" - seems unusual for that day. He drew me closer to him over time; while stoic he comes through with love; this surprised me in a pleasant way. I was touched by sibling love that is pure and enduring; this is the best part - saying less is more. Good life messages are shared. I like the narrative style, pondering and insightful about a life from beginning to end.
12 people found this helpful
neaReviewed in the United States on July 27, 2021
5.0 out of 5 stars
Robert Redford is an amazing director
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Ever since watching the movies he produced and directed from the Tony Hillerman books about the Navajo Rez Police I have loved movies by Robert Redford. But this one for some reason I had never watched, Not sure I actually realized it was a RR movie. There really isn't anything I can say in criticism because I love his style. Once I begin watching I can't stop. This was no exception. Yes I wish it had had a better ending, but then RR didn't write the book so I am guessing that ending was in the book. I thought the casting was excellent and the photography was top notch. Some complained there wasn't enough fishing, but really, for many watching someone fish is much like watching someone write a letter, the only people who would have needed more fly fishing would be fly fishing enthusiasts. There was plenty in the movie. I actually did enjoy watching the fly fishing, but there was the right amount, not too much nor too little. Trying to consolidate a book into a couple of hours is devilish hard and this was done well. I like movies that go forward, NOT back and forth on the timeline. I find it confusing. I was not confused by anything in this movie. It flowed nicely. I found it to be a bit unique in many ways. It did not feel the need to over dramatize anything, even Paul's death. It was factual and showed the Mother's pain, but didn't zero in on a lot of sobbing and moaning. Even a drama can actually have too much drama to the point it can literally wear us out. I was glad this movie didn't do that, because it was a beautifully made movie and could have been totally dwarfed by too much emotion to the point it would leave us wishing we hadn't even watched it.

It is interesting to see two totally different personalities playing out in the family, I have seen this in my own family, and have come to the realization we are who we are from the minute we are born, and very little of what happens around us really changes who we ultimately become.
One person found this helpful
Retired Prof. of Literature, Alicia JosephsReviewed in the United States on March 31, 2018
4.0 out of 5 stars
Nice well and produced and good cinamatography and acting
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Nice well acted, directed, and produced.Good cinomatography and acting, as expected from a producer like Robert Redford, with his great conscience for the environment. A done well and well acted film. Good portrayal of human feelings, but strangely unequivocal in theme. Why does the one dare-devil brother turn out so differently than the other? There is no clear psychological answer, except maybe that the one was more senstive to literary art like his father the preacher. And I am usually astute at such analysis, but this film just left me thinking. They both had loving parents. It ends with a big question. But good art often does end with a question, rather than an absolute answer. Worth watching for what America was like then and in that place.
3 people found this helpful
Roberto G.Reviewed in the United States on January 14, 2018
5.0 out of 5 stars
I read the book and consider that the movie is a very good representation of book
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This is a movie that I saw many times, I read the book and consider that the movie is a very good representation of book, Blue ray version permit me to view the movie with different languages, I live in Chile so this permit some of my friends, with not good english, to see the picture and understand it without problems.
7 people found this helpful
NadieMaxReviewed in the United States on September 30, 2017
5.0 out of 5 stars
the movie was better than the book on which it was based
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I think this is the first time that I've watched a movie that was better than the book on which it was based. The Montana landscape is indescribably beautiful. No words can do it justice. It must be seen. Also, there was quite a lot in the book about the intricate art and skill of fly fishing. The movie emphasized relationships and family dynamics which I found more interesting. The movie was beautifully done. I will probably watch it again sometime just for the scenery.
6 people found this helpful
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