Joe Versus the Volcano (1990)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Movie Info

Academy Award-winning screenwriter John Patrick Shanley's first foray into the director's chair is a quirky romantic fantasy, featuring Bo Welch's signature production design. Tom Hanks plays Joe Banks, a man who hates his job, thinks the overhead fluorescent lights are making him sick, and quakes at the presence of his boorish boss Frank Watori (Dan Hedaya). He is attracted to the office secretary DeDe (Meg Ryan) but is afraid to speak to her. Then his life changes when he visits Dr. Ellison … More

Rating: PG (adult situations/language)
Genre: Science Fiction & Fantasy, Comedy
Directed By:
Written By: John Patrick Shanley
In Theaters:
On DVD: Apr 2, 2002
Warner Home Video


as Joe Banks

as DeDe/Angelica/Patric...

as Graynamore

as Dr. Ellison

as Chief of the Waponis

as Waturi

as Marshall

as Luggage Salesman

as Hairdresser

as Fred (Guard)

as Ben, the Waponi Adv...

as Bellman

as Clerk (at The Rectal...

as Waitress

as Statue of Liberty

as The (Waponi) God Woo

as Underwear Salesman
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for Joe Versus the Volcano

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Critic Reviews for Joe Versus the Volcano

All Critics (32) | Top Critics (9)

Full Review… | September 7, 2011
Entertainment Weekly
Top Critic

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

Cult classic with smoking, kissing, stereotypes.

Full Review… | September 19, 2012
Common Sense Media

An overlooked gem.

Full Review… | June 29, 2010
Three Movie Buffs

A more fascinating mess you'll never find.

October 31, 2004
Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)

The unredeemable result of Hollywood's total capitulation to the Spielberg/Lucas aesthetic of the 80s.

March 10, 2004
F5 (Wichita, KS)

Audience Reviews for Joe Versus the Volcano


Ahhh, the days of sweet youth! Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan look like high school kids in this little comedic trinket that waxes slightly philosophical. Starting out pretty good, reminiscent of Gilliam's "Brazil", it unfortunately degenerates into a misguided and wayward snicker about all those Hollywood movies dreaming about the good life on some tropical isle somewhere. In between there's a message about appreciating life no matter what, and having good luggage. Hanks plays the affable man/boy that made him popular while Ryan has 3 roles, playing herself as the third. You might want to like it more than you actually do.

Kevin M. Williams

Super Reviewer

An Average Joe. An Adventurous Comedy.

Not so bad as it's said to be. The movie is probably too allegorical for most tastes, but this is a good tale about a character afraid of life, afraid of that next step, who finds his courage and puts his foot forward again.

Joe versus the Volcano is a fable which opens with somewhat surrealistic scenes of the dehumanization of Joe Bank's job and work environment (at a company whose product rather literally screws people) with imagery that seems to have been inspired by the classic film Metropolis. Joe is diagnosed with an incurable disease, quits his dehumanizing job, and accepts an offer to briefly "live like a king, die like a man" - but to fulfill his agreement he must willingly jump into a live volcano on the island of Waponi Woo in order to appease the volcano god. En route to the island, Joe meets a series of interesting characters in NYC and LA, then boards a yacht, captained by Patricia Graynamore. During the voyage Joe and Patricia survive disaster, fall in love, and finally arrive at the island where they face their destiny.

Manu Gino

Super Reviewer

Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks prove once again that they have incredible movie chemistry. Meg Ryan plays 3 astonishingly different women, Dee dee, the shy women, who works with Joe Banks (Hanks), Angelica, the messed up woman living off of daddy's money and the independent and confidant, Patricia. Tom Hanks plays Joe, a man you fears everything in life. This is one of those movies that you'll want to watch again and again for many years to come (:

Cassie Hill

Super Reviewer

Joe Versus the Volcano Quotes

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– Submitted by Brent W (18 months ago)
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– Submitted by Patrick C (2 years ago)

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