The Indian Runner


The Indian Runner

Critics Consensus

No consensus yet.



Total Count: 19


Audience Score

User Ratings: 5,707
User image

The Indian Runner Photos

Movie Info

The Indian Runner, Sean Penn's debut film as director (he also wrote the script, based on the Bruce Springsteen song "Highway Patrolman") is a brooding tale of two brothers -- one peaceful and sedate, the other violent and aggressive -- whose natures, left unchecked since they were children, are set to the boiling point as they head toward middle-age. David Morse is the quiet brother, Joe Roberts, who is a deputy sheriff in a small town. His older brother Frank (Viggo Mortensen) shows up on Joe's doorsteps, after a recent run-in with the police. Frank tells Joe that he is coming back home to stay and that he has given up his criminal life. His wife Maria (Valeria Golino) is skeptical, but Joe tells her that he is prepared to help Frank get his life back together. Frank has almost convinced himself that his future holds real promise and he's ready to start a new life with his pregnant girlfriend Dorothy (Patricia Arquette). But, once again, Frank's violent temper explodes, and everyone's plans for Frank's future crumble into rubble

Watch it now


David Morse
as Joe Roberts
Viggo Mortensen
as Frank Roberts
Valeria Golino
as Maria Roberts
Charles Bronson
as Mr. Roberts
Sandy Dennis
as Mrs. Roberts
Enzo Rossi
as Raffael
Harry Crews
as Mr. Baker
Eileen Ryan
as Mrs. Baker
Trevor Endicott
as Joe (age 12)
Brandon Fleck
as Frank (age 7)
Kathy Jensen
as Lady at Carwash
Jim Devny
as 1st Deputy
Annie Pearson
as Fat Woman
James J. Luxa
as Randall's Partner
Adam Nelson
as Cellmate
Eddie Katz
as Guy on Commode
Kenny Stabler
as Indian Runner
Don Shanks
as Young Indian Runner
Neal Stark
as Circus Midget
Elaine Schoonover
as Bearded Lady
Phil Gould
as Man at Del Mar
Chuck Ulmer
as Frank's Boss
Joe Martin
as Dorothy's Father
Helen Halmes
as Dorothy's Mother
Jimmy Intveld
as Kid on Highway
Jim Deveny
as 1st Deputy
View All

Critic Reviews for The Indian Runner

All Critics (19) | Top Critics (5) | Fresh (14) | Rotten (5)

  • Rambling, indulgent and joltingly raw at times, Sean Penn's first outing as a director takes a fair amount of patience to get through but has an integrity that intermittently serves it well.

    Mar 26, 2009 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Top Critic
  • Penn's first project as writer/director is a film out of time, drenched in an overbearing '60s world-view which veers between the dated and the dopey.

    Feb 9, 2006 | Full Review…

    Geoff Andrew

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • Loose, rambling and sometimes rudderless as it is, "The Indian Runner" has a fundamental honesty that gives it real substance.

    May 20, 2003 | Rating: 3.5/5
  • Penn surrounds his brothers with supporting characters who are so well-realized, I'll remember them as long as I remember the leads.

    Jan 1, 2000 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
  • Penn is trying to get at gritty American ''truths'' about love, brutality, and blood ties. Somehow, though, it's all a bit pat: By now, even these stark themes have the ring of movie conventions.

    Jun 1, 1991 | Rating: B- | Full Review…
  • The film is slow and pretentious, but it's a feature debut and Sean Penn, a distinguished actor, is good with his cast.

    Apr 29, 2011 | Rating: C+ | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Indian Runner

  • Mar 24, 2011
    Not sure but I guess that I may have been able to appreciate it more had I understood it more.
    familiar s Super Reviewer
  • Feb 15, 2010
    I think it would be quite an interesting exercise to see what Sean Penn could have made of his career if he exclusively directed and didn't appear in front of the camera. This film is evidence that it would have been quite the considerable body of work!
    John B Super Reviewer
  • Jan 17, 2008
    Great Penn movie with two amazing actors doing some of their best work... oh yeah, and one God (Bronson) taking a hiatus from ass kicking to give an amazing performance. It's awesome how Penn uses great actors the world has forgotten about (Bronson, Mickey Rourke and Michael O Keefe in The Pledge, Morse at the time) and gets the performances of a lifetime out of them. A great story about 2 brothers with different mindsets and ideals. And Bronson is in it!
    Christopher B Super Reviewer
  • Sep 19, 2007
    <DIV ALIGN=center><B>THE INDIAN RUNNER (1991) directed by Sean Penn starring David Morse, Viggo Mortensen, Valeria Golino</B></DIV><P><DIV ALIGN=justify><I>The Indian Runner</I> is Sean Penn's directorial debut. Penn has always been an actor with depth taking his acting job very seriously and he does the same as a director telling us this deep and dark story.<P><I>The Indian Runner</I> is about two brothers who are the absolute opposite of each other, one is the small town sherif and the other one is a Viet-Nam veteran with a bit too much violence inside of him. The older brother tries to bring back - and keep - his brother on the right path but its not easy cause the younger is pretty much of control.<P>David Morse is fairly good as the sherif older brother, he is somehow touching and makes his character believale while Viggo Mortensen kinda overact portraying the younger one but that character is never likable - and thats the point - with his useless explosion of anger and violence. Valeria Golino and Patria Arquette play their respective wives and even with smaller screen time they mannage to portray a strong woman - Golino - and the mentally challenged girlfriend - Arquette - in the right tone. Dennis Hopper and Charles Bronson compelte the cast with small parts, almost cameo appearances but still they get some effective scenes.<P>With his film Sean Penn make it a point to show how hard life is - thats why the film moves slowly - but he also tells you that its your own decision to live it this hard cause you can try to see the brither side and forget about the sad things life brings to you. That is in a way what oppose the two brothers, one tries hard to survive and is happy when he sees his family while the other is simply angry and sees bad things everywhere.<P>This film looks very realistic, from begenning to end, it has a 70's feel in the direction - but its also set right after the Viet-Nam war - with the dirty photography.<P>Good film, quite emotional but not for everyone. Very raw.</DIV>
    Hugo S Super Reviewer

The Indian Runner Quotes

There are no approved quotes yet for this movie.

News & Features