Mystery Train (1989)



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Movie Info

A tacky, low-rent Memphis motel dedicated to Elvis Presley is the setting for this anecdotal comedy-drama. The film tells three overlapping but distinct stories taking place over the course of one evening, featuring foreign tourists, criminals on the run, and the spirit of the King himself.
Art House & International , Comedy , Drama
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
Orion Home Video

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Youki Kudoh
as Mitsuko
Joe Strummer
as Johnny
Rufus Thomas
as Man in Station
Steve Buscemi
as Charlie
Rick Aviles
as Will Robinson
Cinqué Lee
as Bellboy
Stephen Jones
as The Ghost
Sy Richardson
as Newsvendor
Tom Noonan
as Man in Diner
Tom Waits
as Radio DJ
Joshua Elvis Hoch
as Tourist Studio Guide
Jodie Markell
as Sun Studio Guide
William Hoch
as Tourist Family
Pat Hoch
as Tourist Family
Reginald Freeman
as Conductor
Beverly Prye
as Streetwalker
Sara Driver
as Airport Clerk
Richard Boes
as Second Man in Diner
Darryl Daniel
as Waitress
Calvin Brown Jr.
as Pedestrian
Jim Stark
as Pall Bearer
Elan Yaari
as Pall Bearer
Marvell Thomas
as Dave, Pool Player
Charles Ponder
as Pool Player
D'Army Bailey
as Pool Player
Rockets Redglare
as Liquor Store Clerk
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Critic Reviews for Mystery Train

All Critics (32) | Top Critics (6)

The three-part structure of Mystery Train is still a bit shambling and slight, but there's an undeniable air of deadpan cool that permeates the film and gives it a haunting sense of place.

Full Review… | June 9, 2010
Entertainment Weekly
Top Critic

Happily, Jarmusch's formal inventiveness is framed by a rare flair for zany entertainment ...

Full Review… | June 23, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

It's the best thing Mr. Jarmusch has done to date.

Full Review… | August 30, 2004
New York Times
Top Critic

Certainly Jarmusch brings back his favorite predilections (and probably always will), but he makes his passengers interesting, kicks the plot off the platform whenever possible and keeps the way ahead refreshingly uncertain.

Full Review… | December 31, 1999
Washington Post
Top Critic

If there is a rationale for what takes place on-screen, it's not evident. Things happen, and nothing means anything.

Full Review… | December 31, 1999
Washington Post
Top Critic

The best thing about "Mystery Train" is that it takes you to an America you feel you ought to be able to find for yourself, if you only knew where to look.

Full Review… | December 31, 1999
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Mystery Train

Another classic from Jarmusch with the backdrop of Memphis and featuring great performances especially from Mr. Screamin' Jay Hawkins.

Graham Jones
Graham Jones

Super Reviewer

A simple tale, told in three parts, of three groups of people who converge on the same flea-bag hotel in Memphis. The characters are eccentric, and the three tales are held together by one comically executed event in the early morning hours. This film is worth it just to see Screamin' Jay Hawkins as the desk clerk at the hotel, but there are other musicians who make appearances as well in this homage to the Memphis music scene. Even a young Steve Buscemi makes an appearance here. The humorous moments are subtle, and the story is told with a certain amount of pathos that steadily draws the viewer in until we actually care what happens to these people. Okay, maybe not for the clowns in the third segment, but for most of them, anyway. A lot of the area where this was filmed has changed since then, so this can be seen as preserving a bit of the history of Memphis as well. One of Jim Jarmusch's early efforts, it is a well crafted film and one this viewer enjoyed.

Mark Abell
Mark Abell

Super Reviewer

Mystery Train was capable of much better. It's divided into thirds; the first portion is the best, far and away. The Japanese couple are the richest characters, have the best dialogue, and experience the most interesting situations. The second portion is uninvolving, with a couple of gleaming moments to be taken from the chaff. The third is just dumb. The fact that these three stories overlap time is a purposeless gimmick - something to tie these incongruous tales together. Ideally, you'd do best just watching the first forty minutes and shutting the movie off.

Drew Smith
Drew Smith

Super Reviewer

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