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.



Total Count: 45


Audience Score

User Ratings: 67,798
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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.


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) | Fresh (36) | Rotten (9)

  • 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

  • Jul 23, 2012
    Yeeeah, it's all nice and purdy. Can't fault the actors terribly much for playing bland characters. About as exciting a picture as most seniors get. Bit of fly fishing too.
    John B Super Reviewer
  • Nov 29, 2011
    Riveting, inspirational, and heartwarming, "A River Runs Through It" is bolstered by an honest script, beautiful photography, and great performances from Tom Skerrit and Brad Pitt.
    Stephen E Super Reviewer
  • Nov 07, 2011
    Absolutely breathtaking cinematography more than makes up for a less-than riveting storyline. A young Brad Pitt shines as well.
    Spencer M Super Reviewer
  • Aug 15, 2011
    Riveting, inspirational, and heartwarming with a great script and performances from Tom Skerrit and Brad Pitt. It's not totally original, but these kinds of movies always get me.
    Stephen E Super Reviewer

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