A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that A River Runs Through It is a 1993 Robert Redford-directed movie based on a story by Norman Maclean. Given that it's a movie set in Missoula, Mont., in the early decades of the 20th century, characters often are shown drinking whiskey and smoking cigarettes. Also, a Native American woman is referred to as an "Injun," and a character makes reference to "colored jazz." Early in the movie, two boys are shown dancing in a silly manner in front of several prostitutes lounging around behind a building. There are some fistfights -- characters are shown bloodied and bruised during and after the fights. In one scene, a character visiting from California drinks whiskey all night and well into the day and brings a prostitute with him on a fishing trip. They both pass out face down in the woods, buttocks exposed. The man is later shown trying to walk, unclothed and also with buttocks exposed, after getting a terrible sunburn.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT, Norman and Paul Maclean are raised by a Presbyterian minister father (Tom Skerritt) who taught them their schoolwork, religion, and fly fishing as though they were all one subject; all were taught strictly and thoroughly. Norman (Craig Sheffer), though more sober, loves the wild streak in Paul (Brad Pitt) that makes him "tougher than any man alive," but fears it will destroy him. And it does. While Norman becomes a professor of English literature and falls in love with Jessie Burns (Emily Lloyd), Paul becomes a reporter and gets into trouble drinking and gambling. Norman is called by the police to get Paul out of jail, and, ultimately, he's called again when Paul is killed.
Is it any good?
Based on writer Norman Maclean's autobiographical story of growing up in Montana, this is a moving, powerful drama that combines gorgeous cinematography with earnest, heartfelt performances. IA River Runs Through It isn't perfect, but its father-son themes (and all the fishing) have given it a special place in a lot of grown men's hearts.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about adaptations of stories into movies. What do you see as being the challenges in adaptation?
How was the culture of Missoula, Mont., in the early 20th century conveyed in A River Runs Through It?
This film focuses on two brothers who are opposites in many respects. How were these "opposite" qualities revealed as the film progressed? What are some other examples of movies in which two main characters are "opposites" of each other?
Themes & Topics
Browse titles with similar subject matter.
For kids who love dramas
Our editors recommend
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
Streaming options powered by JustWatch