The Fisher King (1991)



Critic Consensus: An odd but affecting mixture of drama, comedy and fantasy, The Fisher King manages to balance moving performances from Robin Williams and Jeff Bridges with director Terry Gilliam's typically askew universe.

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Movie Info

Terry Gilliam directed this adaptation of Richard LaGravenese's mystical (and mythical) tale of redemption in the hard-time town of New York City. Jeff Bridges is shock radio DJ Jack Lucas, whose low opinion of humanity lends itself well to his radio talk show, where the enmity rubs off on his listeners. One fan in particular takes Jack's rants to heart and goes to a fancy restaurant with a gun, murdering innocent diners. Jack is so distraught at what his on-air suggestion wrought that he sinks into a three-year depression, drinking himself to sleep and mooching off of his girlfriend Anne Napolitano (Mercedes Ruehl, in an Oscar-winning performance), an attractive owner of a video store. Hitting bottom, Jack slumps to the river, prepared to commit suicide. To his rescue comes a crazed but witty homeless man named Parry (Robin Williams), who tells Jack he's destined for great things -- all his has to do is find the Holy Grail (conveniently located in mid-town Manhattan) and save Parry's soul. He also wants Jack to help him out with the woman of his dreams, Lydia Sinclair (Amanda Plummer), a shy type who works at a publishing company. Parry was once a university professor became unglued by a tragic event in his past; Jack soon realizes that to save himself, he first must save Parry.
R (adult situations/language, violence)
Comedy , Drama , Science Fiction & Fantasy
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
TriStar Pictures

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Jeff Bridges
as Jack Lucas
Mercedes Ruehl
as Anne Napolitano
Michael Jeter
as Homeless Cabaret Singer
Chris Howell
as Red Knight
John Hefferman
as Stockbroker Bum
Al Fann
as Superindendent
Kathy Najimy
as Crazed Video Customer
Lisa Blades
as Parry's WIfe
Adam Bryant
as Radio Engineer
Paul Lombardi
as Radio Engineer
David Hyde Pierce
as Lou Rosen
Ted Ross
as Limo Bum
Lara Harris
as Sondra
Warren Olney
as TV Anchorman
Frazer Smith
as News Reporter
Harry Shearer
as Sitcom Actor Ben Starr
Melinda Culea
as Sitcom Wife
James Remini
as Bum at Hotel
Mark Bowden
as Doorman
John Ottavino
as Father at Hotel
Brian Michaels
as Little Boy
Jayce Bartok
as First Punk
Dan Futterman
as Second Punk
Bradley Gregg
as Hippie Bum
William Jay Marshall
as Jamaican Bum
Stephen Bridgewater
as Porno Customer
Richard LaGravenese
as Strait Jacket Yuppie
Anita Dangler
as Bag Lady
Johnny Paganelli
as Pizza Boy
Diane Robin
as Receptionist
John Benjamin Red
as Motorcyclist
Joe Jamrog
as Guard
John De Lancie
as TV Executive
Lou Hancock
as Nurse
Caroline Cromelin
as Radio Show Call-In
Kathleen Bridget Kelly
as Radio Show Call-In
Patrick Fraley
as Radio Show Call-In
Mel Bourne
as Carmichael
Tom Waits
as Homeless Vietnam Vet in Wheelchair
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Critic Reviews for The Fisher King

All Critics (55) | Top Critics (10)

Visually impressive, frequently pretentious, and extremely fluid as narrative (the 137 minutes sail by effortlessly), this mythic comedy-drama presents Gilliam as half seer, half snake-oil salesman and defies you to sort out which is which.

Full Review… | January 29, 2010
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

The Fisher King has two actors at the top of their form, and a compelling, well-directed and well-produced story.

Full Review… | March 25, 2009
Top Critic

Working within the constraints of a big studio film has brought out Gilliam's best: he's become a true storyteller and a wonderful director of actors. This time he delights not only the eye but the soul.

Full Review… | April 6, 2008
Top Critic

Scary, touching, often hilarious, this modern fairytale is surprisingly enchanting.

Full Review… | January 25, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

For every wild ride through Manhattan by an imaginary Red Knight trailing billows of flame, there is a small, comic encounter in a more down-to-earth mode.

May 20, 2003
New York Times
Top Critic

So what if it's not perfect? It's magic.

May 12, 2001
Rolling Stone
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for The Fisher King

A powerful and moving performance by Robin Williams is tempered by Jeff Bridges who just doesn't seem up to the task of portraying a character of any depth. Oh, and that hair! Dare I comment on the gawd-awful early 1990's fashion?

Christian C
Christian C

Super Reviewer


An intriguingly original mix of fantasy, drama, and comedy concerning a brash radio host (Jeff Bridges) who feels responsible once one of his listeners goes off the edge and goes on a shooting spree. One of those affected by this tragedy, now a crazed homeless man (Robin Williams), crosses paths with the now haunted DJ, and the radio host feels this is his chance at redemption, even though his girlfriend (Mercedes Ruehl) is not supportive of it at first. Director Terry Gilliam is well known for being fairly whimsical and goofy with his material, and this film is no exception. It feels a tad unnecessary at times, but the script itself is so strong, and the performances are all so, so good, that this film remains likeable throughout its running time. It balances a lot of heavy material such as loneliness, madness, and depression very well, and New York City proves to be the perfect backdrop for a story such as this one.

Dan Schultz
Dan Schultz

Super Reviewer


With the death of Robin Williams, in review this film may be one of his performances that leave you heartbroken. Williams plays Parry, a homeless vagrant who is still reeling from the murder of his wife three years prior, via an insane mass shooter. Bridges is a shock jock whose thoughtless antics leads said mass shooter to do the deed. Playing on this achingly pathetic set-up, director Gilliam leads us by the hand through his mystical world, created by the bitterness of grief, the terror of self-actualization, and the wonder of change. Bridges and Williams both engender the sympathy of the audience with their human performances, symbiotic and yet complete opposites. The symbolism of the Red Knight is mythological but also telling of the psychological trauma induced by his wife's death. It is both the driving fear of the unknown and also the self-hatred that lends itself to Parry's psychosis. This symbol can be regarded as everyone's true fear, anyone's anxiety inducing parallel, and that not only is very touching when regarded as a metaphor for mental illness, but for those running from something in general. Very beautiful in execution, and always heartbreaking, no matter the context, Gilliam created a vivid world, and an even wilder set of characters for us to fall in love with.

Spencer S.
Spencer S.

Super Reviewer

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