Salvador (1986)




Critic Consensus: Despite its somewhat disjointed narrative, Oliver Stone's Salvador is a vivid and powerful political drama that sets an early tone for the director's similarly provocative future projects.

Movie Info

While Salvador wasn't Oliver Stone's first film (a pair of offbeat horror stories preceded it), it defined his style of fiercely dramatic, politically oriented filmmaking, staked out his territory as one of the major directors of the 1980s and 1990s, and remains one of his strongest works to date. Veteran photojournalist Richard Boyle (James Woods) has been taking his camera to the world's trouble spots for over 20 years; while he does good work, Boyle's fondness for booze and drugs, and his … More

Rating: R (adult situations/language, nudity, violence)
Genre: Mystery & Suspense, Drama
Directed By:
Written By: Rick Boyle, Richard Boyle, Richard Boyle, Oliver Stone
In Theaters:
On DVD: Jun 5, 2001
MGM Pictures, Inc.


as Richard Boyle

as Doctor Rock

as Ambassador Thomas Ke...

as John Cassady

as Maj. Max

as Jack Morgan

as Cathy Moore

as Col. Hyde

as Col. Hyde

as Pauline Axelrod

as Archbishop Romero

as Col. Julio Figueroa

as Army Lieutenant

as Human Rights Leader

as His Assistant

as Bodyguard to Major M...

as Maria's Brother

as Australian Reporter

as French Reporter

as Maj. Max's Assistant

as Roberto, Restaurant...

as U.S. Customs Officia...

as Young Student Killed

as Woman Rebel

as Rebel Youth

as Dog Attendant

as Immigration Officer ...

as Boyle's Baby

as Immigration Officer ...

as Landlord, San Franc...

as Boyle's Baby

as Maria's Daughter

as Sister Stan

as 2nd Immigration Offi...

as Sister Burkit

as Sister Wagner

as Kelly Assistant

as WAC at Party

as Romero Assassin

as Cop in San Francisco

as Death Squad

as Death Squad

as Mayor at Nun's Buria...

as Jefe at Customs Shed

as Customs Officer

as Rapist

as Customs Officer

as Customs Officer

as Customs Officer

as Young Student Killed

as Maria's Son

as Road Block Thug

as Road Block Thug

as Carlos' Friend

as Carlos' Friend

as Executed Lieutenant

as Messenger on Horse

as Bodyguard to Major M...

as GI in Salvador

as Maria's Grandmother

as Mamma Moncha at Pana...

as US Customs Official

as Tic Tac Monster in C...

as Capt. Marti

as Cathy Moore
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Critic Reviews for Salvador

All Critics (24) | Top Critics (4)

The polemic may seem obvious and at times laboured, but the action sequences are brilliant, and the film does achieve a brutal, often very moving, power.

Full Review… | June 24, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

[The] crime spree feels more like bored rich kids on a joy ride than committed leftie intellectuals hastening regime change.

Full Review… | May 24, 2006
Top Critic

One look at the youthful, idealistic guerrillas, accompanied everywhere by folk music, and you know where Mr. Stone's heart lies.

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

Salvador is long and disjointed and tries to tell too many stories...But the heart of the movie is fascinating.

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

Borgesian critique, or exotic backdrop for a scoundrel's Hollywood redemption?

Full Review… | April 21, 2010

Though structurally messy and with uneven dialogue, Stone's independent movie captures vividly the cool, rush, and hysteria of jaded leftist American journos in the political chaos of El Slavaodr in 1980-81; James Woods Oscar-nominated turn is brilliant

Full Review… | September 18, 2007

Audience Reviews for Salvador

"..... remains one of his strongest works to date."

Maybe so, but I found it quite dated.

familiar stranger

Super Reviewer

Not Oliver Stone's first film, but definitely the first to really show the direction his career would be taking (politically charged, hauntingly dramatic, very strong sense of vision and message). And, this was released the same year as his landmark Platoon, so 1986 was one great year for him.

Another thing about this movie that would become a Stone trademark is that it's based on actual events, with the script co-written by Stone and the subject of the film, in this case journalist Richard Boyle and his exploits in civil war torn El Salvador in the 1980s.

Boyle was basically a washed up sleazy gonzo journalist who, ever the opportunist, decided to go to El Salvador (well, return as it were) to make a quick buck getting photos of the tumultuous uprising going on. Along for the ride is his friend the American DJ Dr. Rock, who, like many from the U.S. was initially ignorant of what was going on. As the things they see and experience get more harrowing and brutal though, Boyle becomes enlightened and rather than just be there to cash in on thigns, becomes a crusader who regains his lost soul and humanity.

The film is really gritty and sometimes ugly, but it fits the subject matter perfectly. There's some great cinematography here, and the location shooting really helps, too. The great about this film is that Boyle is not really all that likeable of a guy. He's sleazy, opportunistic, and hedonistic, but he's still a fascinating guy, so that's what makes the film watchable. Plus, he does grow and change and earn the audience's care. James Woods really shines here as Boyle, and his Oscar nomination was much deserved. This is the second film I've watched recently with James Belushi in a dramatic role, and this one really cements my belief that he's a talent that has unfortunately fallen by the wayside. He's great as Dr. Rock, and seeing him and Woods together is quite reminiscent of a less zonkeed out Hunter S. Thompson sort of tale.

I'll admit that I really wasn't too familair with Boyle, or the situation in El Salvador. Sure, I've heard of it, but prior ot seeing this I couldn't really tell you anything about it. Basically the U.S. supplied military aid to the country to help root out the spread of communism, but the tactics used by the anti-communists were so brutal and vile that they pretty much reflected the actions of those they were trying to defeat. It's bitterly ironic, and some very compelling material, especially when you have these two down and out gringos swept up in the middle of things.

Stone can be a very challenging filmmaker with some tough films. This is one of those, but it also is rather accessbile. It does help to have a strong stomach though, and to be able to handle a lead that isn't usually all that likeable. If you can do that, then this will be a good film to give a watch.

Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

Off-beat actor meets eccentric director meets gritty material.

Randy Tippy

Super Reviewer

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