A River Runs Through It

Critics Consensus

Tasteful to a fault, this period drama combines a talented cast (including a young Brad Pitt) with some stately, beautifully filmed work from director Robert Redford.



Reviews Counted: 45

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Reviews Count: 0
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Average Rating: 3.5/5

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Movie Info

Robert Redford's lyrical direction sets the tone for this evocative adaptation of author Norman MacLean's memoir of his idyllic Montana youth. The MacLean family is presided over by the strict but encouraging Rev. MacLean (Tom Skerritt) and his loving wife (Brenda Blethyn). Craig Sheffer stars as the young Norman, the older son in his family, who takes his school work and writing a bit too seriously for Paul (Brad Pitt), the impetuous younger son, to take much stock in. Paul would rather have a good time, drink and play cards than get involved with academic study. Where Norman wants to be a college literature professor, Paul would prefer to stay in Montana all his life and wrangle some kind of job writing for a local newspaper. But, ironically, Paul is the better fly fisherman and in this way attains a sense of perfection. The film also details the MacLean boys' involvement with a colorful group of town's people -- including a young Indian woman Paul decides to date and the defiant Jessie (Emily Lloyd), whom Norman later marries.

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Craig Sheffer
as Norman Maclean
Brad Pitt
as Paul Maclean
Tom Skerritt
as Mr. Maclean
Brenda Blethyn
as Mrs. Maclean
Emily Lloyd
as Jessie Burns
Edie McClurg
as Mrs. Burns
Stephen Shellen
as Neal Burns
Vann Gravage
as Young Paul
Rob Cox
as Conroy
Fred Oakland
as Mr. Burns
David Creamer
as Ken Burns
Madonna Reubens
as Aunt Sally
Macintyre Dixon
as Police Sergeant
William Hootkins
as Mr. Murchison
Jess Schwidde
as Mr. Sweeney
Chuck Adamson
as Harry the Editor
Rex Kendall
as Reporter
Jack Kroll
as Reporter
Martina Kreidl
as Secretary at Newspaper
Noah Snyder
as Copy Boy at Newspaper
Philip A. Braun
as Dealer at Lolo
Tracy Mayfield
as Bouncer at Lolo
Anne Merrem
as Hooker at Lolo
Chuck Tweed
as Drunk in Jail
Prudence Johnson
as Pavilion Singer
D. Gorton
as Pavilion Announcer
Lincoln Quesenberry
as Drunk in Alley
Hawk Forssell
as Bouncer at Speakeasy
Jim Dunkin
as Speakeasy Bartender
Jacob Snyder
as Piano Player
Kathy Scharler
as Waitress at Speakeasy
Don Jeffery
as Black Jack
Byron Dingman
as Speakeasy Patron
Cecily Johnson
as Speakeasy Patron
Robert Redford
as Narration
Caleb Shiff
as Young John
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News & Interviews for A River Runs Through It

Critic Reviews for A River Runs Through It

All Critics (45) | Top Critics (13)

  • Redford directs with a fluid grace... to capture the idyllic, light-drenched aura of Maclean's early childhood memories. Even the seemingly unexciting fly-fishing sequences take on a magical air worthy of Spielberg.

    Oct 10, 2018 | Full Review…
  • Redford does an honorable job emulating the author's unsentimental, laconically witty style. A River Runs Through It is made with reverence and taste, but it only fitfully comes fully alive as a film.

    Jul 7, 2010 | Full Review…

    David Ansen

    Top Critic
  • A skilled, careful adaptation of a much-admired story.

    Nov 8, 2007 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Top Critic
  • This may work for you if you settle at the outset for a nostalgic, all-American mood piece.

    Nov 8, 2007 | Full Review…
  • Leave your preconceptions about fishing at the door: you'll be caught hook, line and sinker.

    Jun 24, 2006 | Full Review…
    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • Here are two things I never thought I'd say: I like a movie about fly fishing, and Robert Redford has directed one of the most ambitious, accomplished films of the year.

    May 20, 2003 | Rating: 4.5/5

Audience Reviews for A River Runs Through It

This movie is about the youth and young adulthood of two brothers - set in the mountains of Montana - with fly fishing as a major component. Robert Redford is the narrator (and director). Worth watching.

Red Lats
Red Lats

Super Reviewer

Absolutely breathtaking cinematography more than makes up for a less-than riveting storyline. A young Brad Pitt shines as well.

Spencer Macklin
Spencer Macklin

Super Reviewer


Robert Redford directs and narrates this American poem about the life of one family in early 20th century Montana. Touching and evocative, surely this is one of Redford's better films, a bittersweet toast to life itself. The casting choice of C.Sheffer, in my opinion, is where this work unfortunately falters. He seems to be wondering through the length of the film: "what am I doing in this here movie with Brad Pitt?!?"

Kevin M. Williams
Kevin M. Williams

Super Reviewer

I can't see whats not to like about this film. Sure, we've seen it a million times but "A River Runs Through It" works like no other. The beatiful direction and visual of Montana in the early 1900's is done wonderfully. The acting, in my own opinon, was very well-done. Once again I am surprised to say that another movie starring Brad Pitt has entered the list of my favorite films. I've never really noticed it before, but about 75 percent of my favorite movies star Pitt. But, does that make him my favorite actor? I'm quite unsure. I mean, "Fight Club" is my third most favorite film out there. "Se7en", I believe is number six. "Sleepers" is at number ten [altough I may push it up to the late teens]. "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" is up there and "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" and "Burn After Reading" are in there too. I believe theres more that aren't coming to mind. Brad Pitt is just one fine actor. I've never noticed before how many of his movies were favorites of mine. Well, in this movie he plays Paul, the younger brother of Norman. Paul is the younger brother of Norman. Paul is the brother who likes to live life like no tommorow. He the type of character who isn't afraid to die. Hes a character who just doesn't give a fuck what people think. There is one scene in this movie where Paul brings an Asian girl into a bar [where she is not allowed----takes place during WW1]. Paul is the cool character. Brad Pitt does one great job in the supporting role. The movie pretty much just tells the tale of two close brothers whose lives change over the course of time. The movie has beatiful shots of rivers as the characters in the movie fly-fish. To me, I loved this movie. Some find it boring, but me, no. I found this to be a beatifully told tale of the true story of the two Maclean brothers. Great acting, great direction, great visual photography. Thats enough for me to give this movie a solid five stars.

Corey Wood
Corey Wood

Super Reviewer

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