A River Runs Through It
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A River Runs Through It is a 1992 American drama film directed by Robert Redford and starring Craig Sheffer, Brad Pitt, Tom Skerritt, Brenda Blethyn, and Emily Lloyd. It is based on the 1976 semi-autobiographical novella A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean, adapted for the screen by Richard Friedenberg. Set in and around Missoula, Montana, the story follows two sons of a Presbyterian minister, one studious and the other rebellious, as they grow up and come of age in the Rocky Mountain region during a span of time from roughly World War I to the early days of the Great Depression, including part of the Prohibition era.

The film won the Academy Award for Best Cinematography and was also nominated for Best Music, Original Score and Best Adapted Screenplay. The film grossed over $66 million and received positive reviews from critics.


The Maclean brothers, Norman and Paul, grow up in Missoula, Montana, with their father, Rev. John Norman Maclean, a Presbyterian minister, from whom they learn a love of fly fishing for trout in the Blackfoot River. Norman and Paul are home schooled under the strict moral and academic code of their father. As young men, the brothers steal a rowboat and navigate a dangerous waterfall. Norman leaves to attend college at Dartmouth; when he returns six years later during the Prohibition era and the Jazz Age, he finds that Paul has become a highly skilled fisherman and a hard drinking but fearless investigative journalist working for a newspaper in Helena.

Norman attends a Fourth of July dance and meets Jessie Burns, a flapper whose father runs the general store in Wolf Creek. Immediately smitten, Norman calls Jessie afterwards and sets up a double date.

Norman and Jessie go on their first date in Lolo, Montana, where the Hot Springs speakeasy also hosts illegal gambling and prostitution. Paul arrives with his date, a similarly hard drinking Cheyenne woman named Mabel, who is deemed inferior by local white criminals and the drinking patrons at the Lolo speakeasy.

Soon after, Paul is arrested after a brawl with a drinking patron who insulted Mabel, and Norman is awakened in the middle of the night by a phone call from the police to come bail Paul out of jail. The Desk Sergeant tells Norman that Paul has angered local criminals by falling behind in his debts from a big poker game at the Lolo speakeasy. A terrified Norman offers to give Paul money if he needs it, but Paul brushes him off.

After Norman and Jessie go on several dates, she asks him to try to help her alcoholic brother Neal, who is visiting from Southern California. Norman and Paul dislike Neal, but at Jessie s insistence they invite him to go fly fishing. Neal shows up drunk with Rawhide, a prostitute whom he met at the only speakeasy in Wolf Creek the night before. Norman and Paul fly fish anyway and return to their car hours later to find that Neal and Rawhide have stolen and drunk all the beer, had sex, and passed out naked in the sun.

A humiliated Norman returns an intoxicated and painfully sunburned Neal home, where Jessie is enraged that the brothers left Neal alone with the beer instead of fishing with him. Norman asks Jessie to drive him home as he had brought Neal back in Neal s car, and he tells her that he is falling in love with her. Jessie drives away angry but a week later asks Norman to come to the train station to see Neal off. After the train departs, Jessie laments her failure to save Neal from his alcoholism and asks in tears why the people who need help the most will not accept it. After saying that he does not know why, Norman shows Jessie a letter from the University of Chicago offering him a faculty position in the Department of English Literature. Norman tells Jessie that he does not wish to leave Montana and when it becomes clear that it is because of her, her face lights up and she embraces him.

When Norman tells Paul about his job offer and marriage plans, Norman urges his brother to come with him and Jessie to Chicago. Paul grins and says he will never leave Montana. Just before leaving for Chicago, Norman, Paul, and their father go fly fishing one last time. Paul hooks a huge rainbow trout that drags him down the river rapids before he finally lands it. Their father proudly tells Paul that he has become a wonderful fisherman and an artist in the craft, much to Paul s delight. They pose for pictures with the fish.

Soon after the fishing excursion, Norman is called by the police, who tell him that Paul has been found beaten to death in an alley. Norman goes home and tells his parents the news. Years later, Mrs. Maclean, Norman, Jessie, and their two children listen to a sermon being given by Rev. Maclean, very soon before his own death. Visibly heartbroken, Rev. Maclean preaches about being unable to help loved ones who are destroying themselves and who will not accept help. All that those who truly care for such a self-destructive person can do, Rev. Maclean concludes, is to give unconditional love, even without understanding the reasons why.

The closing scene shows an elderly Norman Maclean fishing on the same river, as director Robert Redford narrates the final lines from his original novella.


  • Craig Sheffer as Norman Maclean Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Young Norman Maclean Arnold Richardson as Old Norman (narrator s voice by Robert Redford)
  • Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Young Norman Maclean
  • Arnold Richardson as Old Norman (narrator s voice by Robert Redford)
  • Brad Pitt as Paul Maclean Vann Gravage as Young Paul Maclean
  • Vann Gravage as Young Paul Maclean
  • Tom Skerritt as Reverend John Maclean
  • Brenda Blethyn as Clara Maclean
  • Emily Lloyd as Jessie Burns
  • Edie McClurg as Mrs. Burns
  • Stephen Shellen as Neal Burns
  • Nicole Burdette as Mabel (Native American woman)
  • Susan Traylor as Rawhide (woman with Neal)
  • Michael Cudlitz as Chub
  • William Hootkins as Murphy



Although both the book and movie are set in Missoula and on the Blackfoot River, it was filmed in late June to early July 1991 in south central Montana in Livingston and Bozeman, and on the nearby upper Yellowstone, Gallatin, and Boulder Rivers. The waterfall shown is Granite Falls in Wyoming. Filming was completed in early September 1991.

An article published in the Helena Independent Record in July 2000, based on recollections of people who knew both brothers, noted a number of specifics about the Macleans — notably various chronological and educational details about Paul Maclean s adult life — that differ somewhat from their portrayal in the film and novella.


Mark Isham, who would go on to compose the scores to most Robert Redford-directed films, composed the musical score for the film. Originally, Elmer Bernstein was hired to score the film. However, after Redford and Bernstein disagreed over the tone of the music, Bernstein was replaced by Isham. Rushed for time, Isham completed the score within four weeks at Schnee Studio of Signet Sound Studios in Hollywood, CA. Upon release, the music was met with positive reviews earning the film nominations for both Grammy and Academy awards. The A River Runs Through It (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) was released on October 27, 1992.


It premiered at Bozeman, Montana, with a theatrical release on October 9 in the United States.

Home media

A River Runs Through It was originally released on VHS on May 19, 1993. It was released on DVD in 1999 and in a deluxe DVD edition in 2005. It was reissued on Blu-ray in July 2009 by Sony Pictures with six extra features including 17 deleted scenes and a documentary titled Deep Currents: Making A River Runs Through It with interview segments of the cast and crew.


Box office

Released on October 9, 1992, the film grossed $43,440,294 in the United States and Canada. In 1993, it grossed $22.9 million for a worldwide total of over $66 million.

Critical response

On Rotten Tomatoes the film holds an approval rating of 80% based on 45 reviews, with an average rating of 6.79/10. The site s critics consensus reads: Tasteful to a fault, this period drama combines a talented cast (including a young Brad Pitt) with some stately, beautifully filmed work from director Robert Redford. On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 68 out of 100, based on 21 critics, indicating generally favorable reviews . Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of A− on an A+ to F scale.

Much of the praise focused on Pitt s portrayal of Paul, which has been cited as his career-making performance. Despite the critical reception, Pitt was very critical of his performance on the film: Robert Redford made a quality movie. But I don t think I was skilled enough. I think I could have done better. Maybe it was the pressure of the part, and playing someone who was a real person — and the family was around occasionally — and not wanting to let Redford down.


Award Category Nominee(s) Result
20/20 Awards Best Adapted Screenplay Richard Friedenberg Nominated
Best Cinematography Philippe Rousselot Nominated
Academy Awards Best Screenplay – Based on Material Previously Produced or Published Richard Friedenberg Nominated
Best Cinematography Philippe Rousselot Won
Best Original Score Mark Isham Nominated
American Society of Cinematographers Awards Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography in Theatrical Releases Philippe Rousselot Nominated
Artios Awards Best Casting for Feature Film – Drama Elisabeth Leustig Nominated
Awards Circuit Community Awards Best Cinematography Philippe Rousselot Nominated
Best Original Score Mark Isham Nominated
Golden Globe Awards Best Director – Motion Picture Robert Redford Nominated
Grammy Awards Best Instrumental Composition Written for a Motion Picture or for Television Mark Isham Nominated
Kinema Junpo Awards Best Foreign Language Film Robert Redford Won
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards Best Music Score Mark Isham Runner-up
USC Scripter Awards Richard Friedenberg (screenwriter);
Norman Maclean (author)
Young Artist Awards Best Young Actor Under 10 in a Motion Picture Joseph Gordon-Levitt Won

Year 1992
ReleaseDate 1992-10-30
RuntimeMins 123
RuntimeStr 2h 3min
Plot Two sons of a stern minister – one reserved, one rebellious – grow up in rural 1920s Montana while devoted to fly fishing.
Awards Won 1 Oscar, 4 wins & 11 nominations total
Directors Robert Redford
Writers Norman Maclean, Richard Friedenberg
Stars Craig Sheffer, Brad Pitt, Tom Skerritt
Produced by Jake Eberts,William Kittredge,Barbara Maltby,Patrick Markey,Amalia Mato,Robert Redford,Annick Smith
Music by Mark Isham
Cinematography by Philippe Rousselot
Film Editing by Robert Estrin,Lynzee Klingman
Casting By Elisabeth Leustig
Production Design by Jon Hutman
Art Direction by Walter P. Martishius
Set Decoration by Gretchen Rau
Costume Design by Kathy O Rear,Bernie Pollack,Reese Spensley
Makeup Department Jean Ann Black,Gina Homan,Anne Morgan,Karen O Connor,Bunny Parker,Tenita A. Parker,Anne Pattison,Dugg Kirkpatrick,Ryan McCormick,Tena Parker
Production Management Jerry Ballew,Carole Fontana,Susan Moore
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director J. Stephen Buck,Patrick Markey,Kaaren F. Ochoa,Steve Perry,Paul Ryan,T.S. O Kelly
Art Department Meg Aeby,Thomas Allen,Braden Aro,Michael Atwell,Jason Baker,Mark Baker,Beth Bernstein,Jason Borger,Robert Bowler,John Ceniceros,Michael D Imperio,Robert M. Dougherty,Carol Francoso,Ellen Freund,Shari Griffin,Bruce Harris,Joseph Kearney,Otto Keele,R. John Legerski,Alisa Lumbreras,Brian Markey,James Martishius,Michael Martishius,Ray Maxwell,James F. Oñate,Laurie Rajski,Eric Ramsey,Don Reinhardt,Beth A. Rubino,Michael Shapiro, Polar Bear Shaw,Eric C. Shilling,Brian Stultz,Chris Ubick,Gregory Vallor,Tony Veach,Ingrid Wilcox,John W. Wise,W. Tim J. Zawisza,Tony Ballew,Jeff Cronin,Adam Lustig,Paul Mason,Larry Misselhorn,David Russell,Ramsey Smith
Sound Department C.J. Appel,Sandina Bailo-Lape,Sara Bolder,Christopher Boyes,Clayton Collins,Robert Deschaine,Ken Fischer,Fonda Fisher,J.R. Grubbs,Ruth Hasty,Richard Hymns,David Jobe,Tom Johnson,Marnie Moore,Tom Myers,Jenny Oznowicz,Hans Roland,Kevin Rose-Williams,Gary Rydstrom,Blair Scheller,Dennie Thorpe,Maia Veres,Gwendolyn Yates Whittle,James Allen,Tim Archer,Dale Bartlett,Steve Bartlett,Clayton Collins,John Countryman,John Keating,Ronald G. Roumas,Noel Vought,Gwendolyn Yates Whittle
Special Effects by Richard Stutsman,Mark Yuricich
Stunts Daniel W. Barringer,Jason Borger,David Burton,John Dietsch,Annie Ellis,Tracy Keehn-Dashnaw,Noon Orsatti,John Robotham,Stagg Summers,Tracy Keehn-Dashnaw
Camera and Electrical Department Robert Adams,James Babineaux,George M. Chappell,Bill Coleman,Peggy Coleman,François Duhamel,Giles Dunning,Alexander Eberts,Jack English,Michael S. Epley,Robert K. Feldmann,Bill Finger,Justin Fonda,Ed George,D. Gorton,Scott Graves,Johnny Hale,Doc Heavirland,John Kelly,John Quincy Koenig,Dwight Joseph Lavers,Ami Canaan Mann,Ted Morris,Peter Pilafian,Paul Ryan,Alex Smith,Joel Snyder,David Stoecklein,S.B. Weathersby,Merie Weismiller Wallace,Jim Wiley,George M. Chappell,J.P. Gabriel
Casting Department Susan Brown,Helen Dollan,Jill Greenberg,Barbara Harris,Lesa Lotito,Janelle Ramaker,Jerry Siem
Costume and Wardrobe Department Amy Andrews,Elizabeth Barber,Marsha Barton,Marie Boller,George Cooper,Jeannie Johnson,Chrisi Karvonides-Dushenko,Karan Kaufman Feder,Barbara Marko,Leslie Neuman,Hugo Peña,Laurie Riley,Christine Schumann,Vincent Sembera,Barbara Shiff,Jim Spensley,Chuck Velasco,Tony Velasco,Tracey Winningham,Lynn Moore,Muto-Little,Reese Spensley
Editorial Department Donah Bassett,Greg Finton,Adam C. Frank,Margaret Liu,Ray Martin,Kate McGowan,Jennifer Spenelli,Brent White
Location Management Lori A. Balton,Mike Fantasia,Craig Manhart,Tina Buckingham
Music Department Sandy DeCrescent,Kathy Durning,Stephan R. Goldman,Stephen Krause,Ken Kugler,Katherine Quittner,Allan K. Rosen,Elmer Bernstein,Tom Boyd,George Doering,Mark Isham,Kim Scharnberg
Script and Continuity Department Kara Baker,Cynthia Upstill
Transportation Department Larry Alexander,Dave Amberik,Tony Ballew,Karla Barghultz,Ralph Good,Cheri Kimerly,David Knox,Merle Luppen,Lonnie Mace,Matthew Markey,Stuart Shiff,Darcy Stewart,Paul Thomas,Erik Westfall,Charlie Carpenter
Additional Crew Dwight Adair,Dennis Aig,Johnny Almaraz,Allen Alsobrook,John Anklow,Terry Austin,John Bailey,Teresa A. Baldus,Donald Beach,Marshall Bloom,Stuart Bratesman,Dean Brown,Dixie Bullock,Kimberly Burns,Dave Cary,George Croonenberghs,Theresa Curtin,John Dietsch,Alexander Eberts,Paul Erickson,Linda Farahi,Wayne Fitzgerald,John Foust,Andy Froemke,David Froemke,Miranda Garrison,Taj Gombart,Anne Gordon,Ron Gordon,Karen Hughes,Steve Jackson,Dale Johnson,Dixie Johnson,Jerry F. Johnson,Donna Kail,Shannon Kane,Lisa King,Marsha Koff,Jonathan Swain Landreth,Alexandra Lin,Maren Linett,Doug Lobaugh,Don MacDonald,Ami Canaan Mann,Doug McClelland,Judy A. Meagher,Anne Merrem,Carla Meyer,Robbie Miller,Paul Monaco,Ralph Moon,Ric Morelli,Breck O Neill,Brandt Oswald,Walter W. Parry Jr.,Julie Ryan,Scott Shigley,Marianne Simon-Strader,Lois Smith,Jacob Snyder,Jean Maclean Snyder,Joel Snyder,Wendy Spurrier,Denise Stenzel,Kelly Stultz,Mak Crash Takaro,Todd Turner,Joseph Urbani,Dick Vincent,Beverly Walker,John Wasson,Ted Watson,Tom Whiteaker,Robert Wilder,Michael Yurchak,Ben Zakheim,Judi M. Durand,Roy Lewis Garton,Jennifer Irvine,Rory J. Kremer,Patrick Roddy
Thanks Bob Auger,Cap Barbell,Tom Cajka,Len Codella,Gunnar Erickson,Lee Hirsch,Adam Lustig,Ed Pearlman,Perk Perkins,Bert Schneiderman,Bette L. Smith,Lonie Stimac,John Sullivan,Doug Truax,E. Richard Vincent,Doug Wonders
Genres Drama
Companies Allied Filmmakers, Wildwood Enterprises
Countries USA
Languages English
ContentRating PG
ImDbRating 7.2
ImDbRatingVotes 60614
MetacriticRating 68
Keywords fishing,river,self discovery,coming of age,brother brother relationship