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My Own Private Idaho (1991)



Average Rating: 7.3/10
Reviews Counted: 36
Fresh: 31 | Rotten: 5

A tantalizing glimpse of a talented director and his stars all at the top of their respective games, Gus Van Sant's loose reworking of Henry IV is smart, sad and audacious.


Average Rating: 8.6/10
Critic Reviews: 8
Fresh: 8 | Rotten: 0

A tantalizing glimpse of a talented director and his stars all at the top of their respective games, Gus Van Sant's loose reworking of Henry IV is smart, sad and audacious.



liked it
Average Rating: 3.6/5
User Ratings: 37,547

My Rating

Movie Info

Gus Van Sant's dreamtime riff on Shakespeare's "Henry IV, Parts I and II" features River Phoenix as Mike Waters, a narcoleptic male hustler who is first seen drifting on a stretch of highway in Idaho. Mike shifts from Seattle to Portland, where he has taken up with Scott Favor (Keanu Reeves), who is also a hustler. The difference between them is Mike's sleepy state betrays an uncertain future, while Scott is ready to inherit a fortune from his father within a week. Mike feels a real affection


Art House & International, Drama

Gus Van Sant

Mar 1, 2005

Fine Line Features

Watch It Now



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All Critics (38) | Top Critics (10) | Fresh (31) | Rotten (5) | DVD (17)

One of those ambitious, over-reaching disappointments that is more interesting than some more conservative successes.

July 3, 2008 Full Review Source: Variety
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The film's uniqueness lies in its remarkable emotional open-heartedness.

February 9, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The performances, especially by the two young stars, are as surprising as they are sure.

May 20, 2003 Full Review Source: New York Times
New York Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

An essential testament to the beauty and chops of the late River Phoenix...

May 12, 2001
Rolling Stone
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The achievement of this film is that is wants to evoke that state of drifting need, and it does.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Even though it falters toward the end, it soars above the fray.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Washington Post
Washington Post
Top Critic IconTop Critic

My Own Private Idaho might be the perfect cinematic time capsule for '90s aimlessness, universal in its details.

November 12, 2012 Full Review Source: Slant Magazine
Slant Magazine

Van Sant photographs the story in his trademark dreamy-surreal style, fusing elements of Warhol with the classic American road movie, and interpreting the Western as the refuge of society's maligned fringe.

November 7, 2012 Full Review Source: Empire Magazine Australasia
Empire Magazine Australasia

My Own Private Idaho is a seminal movie for many people. It certainly has been for me.

September 17, 2011 Full Review Source: House Next Door
House Next Door

One of Gus Van Sant's most personal visions.

July 3, 2008 Full Review Source: Film4

One of Van Sant's best films, a richly dense, poetic evocation of friendhsip that retells Shakespeare's Henry IV in an original and intriguing way; River Phoenix gives his most riveting performance.

January 31, 2007 Full Review Source: EmanuelLevy.Com

A quite stark, poetic rumination on the unyielding desire for home.

January 25, 2006 Full Review Source: Lessons of Darkness
Lessons of Darkness

Gus Van Sant's best movie.

November 7, 2005

Works as a brilliant piece of art, and entertainment.

May 13, 2005 Full Review Source: Apollo Guide
Apollo Guide

Homosexual road movie that espouses the family values of a Disney feature and the pop art sensibilities of a Warhol piece - with a dose of Shakespeare added for good measure.

March 18, 2005 Full Review Source: Creative Loafing | Comment (1)
Creative Loafing

a high-water mark in '90s independent film

January 10, 2005 Full Review Source:

provocative and engaging

September 19, 2004
Shadows on the Wall

Bittersweet, considering the fate of Phoenix.

January 24, 2004 | Comment (1)
Juicy Cerebellum

Van Sant casts a gently hypnotic spell that is not easily forgotten.

July 30, 2003 Full Review Source: TV Guide's Movie Guide
TV Guide's Movie Guide

Inventive depiction of the universal quest for home.

July 18, 2003 Full Review Source: Spirituality and Practice
Spirituality and Practice

A provocative, quiet little psychological gem with an indescribable odd charm

May 27, 2003

I think this movie gave me narcolepsy

February 19, 2003 | Comments (2)
Henderson Home News (Henderson, NV)

Back when Gus Van Sant actually was a filmmaker...

November 12, 2002
Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)

Audience Reviews for My Own Private Idaho

Once in a while, I do enjoy Gus Van Sant, who, for me, is a lot like Steven Soderbergh: really versatile, talented, and definitely important. This movie has been on my list of films to see since I first wrote it over five years ago. Yes, I'm serious. I'm not sure why it took me so long to finally see it, but I'm glad I finally did.

Allegedly this is supposed to be loosely based on the Shakespeare works Henry IV Parts I and II and Henry V, but I didn't really see that. Of course, it would probably help if I was actually familiar with those works, but still. Okay, so sometimes the dialogue does come off as somewhat Shakespearean because of the delivery, but I really don't see the whole thing of translating historical dramas into a dream-like road movie about two hustlers.

We mostly follow Mike Waters, a sensitive young street hustler with narcolepsy. He works the streets of Portland and Seattle, but longs to find his mother who abandoned him at a young age. His search leads him to all kinds of places, namely Idaho (where he's originally from), but overseas as well. Joining him on his quest for "home" is Scott Favor the unrequited love interest. Scott, like Mike, is a hustler, but he's from a more well-to-do background. In fact, he's the wayward son of Portland's mayor. He says he'll eventually straighten up and do as his father wishes, but for the time being, he's happy being on the mean streets with all kinds of colorful characters.

The film was a rather big deal when it came out, and I can see why. It sheds light on an interesting subculture, it's got some mostly strong direction, great visuals, it continued Van Sant's wave of success, and featured some terrific performances from River Phoenix as Mike and, yes, shockingly enough, Keanu Reeves as Scott. I don't know what happened to him that caused him to be how he is now, but yeah, back in the day, he was actually a credible and legitimately good performer. Other performers are good too, but these guys are the real highlight.

Even though this is a good movie, and I can see why it has a very positive reputation, it's not perfect. It's merely good, instead of great, hasn't really aged that well, doesn't seem that fresh anymore, and has a tendency to meander a little too much a little too often. It does provide a nice and sensible look at Gen X hustlers, but even then it comes off as a tad pretentious here and there.

Despite my gripes, I do like this, I'm glad I finally saw it, and think you should check it out if you enjoy the offbeat, or want to really get into the career of Van Sant.
June 13, 2013
Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

A strong beginning that becomes a bit cryptic towards the end, My Own Private Idaho is a respectable piece of film and is pure Van Sant. The poetic dialogue in some scenes mixed in with River Phoenix's narcolepsy brings a story that develops unusual characters and a excellent adventure.
August 30, 2012
paul o.
paul oh

Super Reviewer

Beautifully shot and with great performances, this uneasy story pulls you in. A surprising role by Udo Kier is an extra bonus.
October 27, 2011
Graham Jones

Super Reviewer

    1. Scott Favor: I only have sex with a guy for money.
    2. Mike Waters: Yeah, I know.
    3. Scott Favor: And two guys can't love each other.
    4. Mike Waters: Yeah.
    5. Mike Waters: Well, I don't know. I mean... I mean, for me, I could love someone even if I, you know, wasn't paid for it... I love you, and... you don't pay me.
    6. Scott Favor: Mike...
    7. Mike Waters: I really wanna kiss you, man... Well goodnight, man... I love you though... You know that... I do love you.
    – Submitted by Andrea M (8 months ago)
    1. Mike Waters: I love you, and you don't pay me.
    – Submitted by Andrea M (8 months ago)
    1. Mike Waters: I've been tasting roads all my life. This road will never end. It probably goes all around the world.
    – Submitted by Denver N (12 months ago)
    1. Mike Waters: This road has no end. It probably goes all the way round the world.
    – Submitted by Peter G (12 months ago)
View all quotes (4)

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Foreign Titles

  • Idaho, el camino de mis sueños (ES)
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