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Rumble Fish (1983)


Average Rating: 6/10
Reviews Counted: 24
Fresh: 17
Rotten: 7

Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.

Average Rating: 4.6/10
Reviews Counted: 6
Fresh: 2
Rotten: 4

Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.


Average Rating: 3.6/5
User Ratings: 23,068



Movie Info

One of two S.E. Hinton novels Francis Ford Coppola directed in 1983, Rumble Fish is a stylized black-and-white film about the death of gang culture in a rough-and-tumble town full of stunted youths. The central character is the strutting Rusty James (Matt Dillon), a foul-mouthed lunkhead clad in sweaty tank tops, who passes his time at the billiards hall waiting for "something" to happen in his life. That something might be the return of his brother, known only as the Motorcycle Boy (Mickey … More

R (adult situations/language, nudity, violence)
Directed By:
Written By:
Francis Ford Coppola
In Theaters:
Sep 8, 1998
Universal Pictures


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Critic Reviews for Rumble Fish

All Critics (24) | Top Critics (6) | Fresh (17) | Rotten (7) | DVD (21)

If Rumble Fish fails as a traditional movie about real people, it is beguiling as an exercise in hallucinatory style.

Full Review… | December 11, 2007
TIME Magazine
Top Critic

Overwrought and overthought.

Full Review… | December 11, 2007
Top Critic

Coppola's recent viewing seems to have been German silent films of the '20s, so he has decided to coat the whole enterprise in a startling Expressionist style, which is very arresting but hardly appropriate to the matter in hand.

Full Review… | February 9, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

This is a movie you are likely to hate, unless you can love it for its crazy, feverish charm.

Full Review… | September 1, 2005
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

A number of the images in Rumble Fish are more memorable than the film is as a whole, sometimes for the wrong reasons.

Full Review… | May 21, 2003
New York Times
Top Critic

The action is clotted and murky, and Coppola obviously hasn't bothered to clarify it for the members of his cast, who wander through the film with expressions of winsome, honest befuddlement.

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Rumble Fish is like a unisex Sweet 16 gift for children whose favorite hangouts are the pool hall, the Cinématheque Française, and the rings of Saturn.

Full Review… | January 22, 2012
Nick's Flick Picks

Teen-gang saga is more intense, violent than the book.

Full Review… | September 14, 2010
Common Sense Media


March 4, 2008

A bit too over-stylized to allow for any great involvement, the most interesting part of this is spotting the young actors before they became stars -- most notably nephew-of-the-director Nicolas Cage.

Full Review… | August 1, 2007
Empire Magazine

An offbeat experiment that, while certainly not a brilliant movie, flies far more than it fails.

Full Review… | October 11, 2005
DVD Clinic

Visually stunning but dramatically inert coming-of-age tale

March 24, 2005
Film Journal International

Art for adolscents, tricked out in quasi-seriousness. Once hip, now amusing.

June 29, 2004
F5 (Wichita, KS)

Give it a try. It might change your life.

Full Review… | July 30, 2003
TV Guide's Movie Guide

An iconic outsider of 1980s teen cinema, Rumble Fish remains an intriguing anomaly on Coppola's chequered CV.

Full Review… | May 24, 2003

A seminal work in teen films, shot appropriately in B/W (except for the fish).

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Audience Reviews for Rumble Fish

I forgot about this one, and it is worth seeing if you haven't already.
As a long time percussionist and fan of the brilliant work of Stewart Copeland, his score alone kept me engaged. Then again, you have the great Dennis Hopper as the drunken father, pre-plastic surgery Mickey Rourke as the former rumble leader called "Motorcycle Boy", and Matt Dillon as his younger brother who attempts to slip into that role while waiting for his return.
Throw Diane Lane in there as Rusty James's(Dillon) girlfriend in crime and his friends portrayed by Chris Penn and another pre-plastic surgery actor by the name of Nicolas Cage, and things may get ugly amongst the black and white film where only the rumble fish show their color.

Eric S

Super Reviewer

Released back-to-back with his previous 'teen-novel' adaptation "The Outsiders", Francis Ford Coppola attempted another of S.E. Hinton's books. Like his previous release, he assembled a brilliant cast but approached it in a different style. This time, the results were far more impressive.
Rusty James (Matt Dillon) is a troubled young man from a broken background. His mother left him years ago and his father (Dennis Hopper) has turned to alcohol. He's the leader of a small gang in a time where gang fights are dying out and most people of his generation still idolise his absent older brother 'The Motorcycle Boy' (Mickey Rourke). Rusty James refuses to accept and believes he can make as much a name for himself as his legendary sibling. When his brother returns to town, the life that Rusty James envisioned begins to change.
Admittedly, I never got around to reading the book on this one and given Coppola's sumptuous visual take on it, I'm sure it would have made for an interesting comparison. Much like "The Outsiders", this also has a feeling of a teenage audience at heart but is executed with much more darkness and depth. Coppola's use of monochrome - with momentary flashes of vibrant technicolor - is simply astounding and quite beautiful to observe. Several scenes throughout the film border on surreal and dreamlike and the intense performances add to this; Matt Dillon is on great form as the tearaway teenager who can't stay out of trouble and as his brother, Mickey Rourke delivers a character of quiet, tortured intensity. The rest of the cast are great also with Dennis Hopper playing the alcoholic father and Laurence Fishburne, Chris Penn and Nicolas Cage making up the rest of Rusty James' crew. Added to which, there is a welcome cameo appearance by Tom Waits, mumbling his way through a short but memorable character. Coppola once described this film as "an art-film for teenagers" and coming from the man himself, there is no better description. It might have been experimental or ambitious for him at this time but it still stands as one of his most visually refined pieces of work. Special mention must also go to Stephen H. Burum for his ethereally stunning cinematography and Stewart Copeland (from the band "The Police"), for his unsettling and impressionistic score.
This makes a perfectly dark companion piece to the lighter side of "The Outsiders". They couldn't have been shot any more different and if viewed together, would make a great double bill.

Mark Walker

Super Reviewer

I remember when The Outsiders came out, I watched it and enjoyed it but what I remember most is my sister and her friends going mad over it, more precisely, its cast. Rumble Fish passed me by, probably because of its higher rating but until now I have to admit I never knew of the connection between the two. It's a little bit like a mainstream Jim Jarmusch film, an '80s doing the 50's' Rock n' Roll noir, complete with ultra cool characters, striking black and white film (with occasional splashes of colour) and a certain disjointed charm. It feels like there is something not quite right about it though, but in turn, that might be what I really liked about it - it didn't quite work but if it had been this ultra-glossy tidy production, it would have been laughable. Definitely of its time and great to look back on, the cast is pretty unbeatable. The Outsiders for the Girls and Rumble Fish for the Boys? Matt Dillon's 'out of body experience' scene is fantastic!

Anthony Lawrie

Super Reviewer

The Motorcycle Boy: If you're going to lead people, you have to have somewhere to go. 

"No leader can survive becoming a legend."

Since first watching Rumble Fish, it has grown and grown on me. Initially I liked it, but thought it was lesser Coppola, not nearly as bad as Jack, but not even as good as one of his more average movies, Tetro. The more I have thought about it, the more I have really started to like the film. I love these brother movies, where the younger brother tries to be the older brother, but can't. There is so much truth in them and this one one is extremely well done.

The movie opens with Rusty James being told that another street punk wants to kill him and challenged him to fight. We then learn through conversations with his friends that Rusty's brother has been gone for awhile. His brother is a legend on the streets; he is The Motorcycle Boy. When Rusty James and his gang go to the fight, The Motorcycle Boy shows up too and the two brothers start hanging out again. From there, there isn't too much plot. It is all about the brothers and what it means to be a leader and shit like that.

The Motorcycle Boy is such an awesome character. He is played by Mickey Rourke and I don't think there was an actor better suited to play him. The character is like James Dean's from Rebel Without a Cause reincarnated. The guy is tough, but he is also soft spoken. He is color blind and doesn't hear all that well. He looks old for his age, probably from all the partying and fighting. The Motorcycle Boy is a leader and a smart, philosophical brother to  Rusty James and all Rusty wants his to be like his brother when he grows up. 

Maybe it isn't The Godfather or Apocalypse Now, but I still think this shows off just how good Coppola is. It shows how flexible he is as a filmmaker and further proves his immense talent. There is only one thing that hurt the movie and that was knowing the ending way too early. Not that we were told of it, but that it was too obvious. It was the only way it could end. Still a beautiful film from Francis Ford Coppola.

Melvin White

Super Reviewer

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