A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Women -- specifically mothers -- can be strong, quick-witted, and heroic. Although love doesn't always conquer all, it can overcome adversity and relationships (especially marriage) can become all the stronger for it ... you've just got to ride out the waves.
Positive Role Models
Gail is the one female lead but carries the whole movie with her strong will, bravery, physical strength, and smart wit. These attributes are all used to try and save her family. She is presented as fit and beautiful without the gratuitous glare. Tom is a hardworking father who may be a workaholic. But he soon realizes his duties as a father go beyond being the breadwinner. He too must pull his weight with parenting (and fighting off the villains) and eventually comes to enjoy it.
Women -- specifically mothers -- are shown to play a motivating force in a family and lead the way both mentally and physically. A family teaches their child about Native American forms of communication such as rock art and smoke-signals -- these are later used to escape a hijacking. A character is deaf and the their family are shown using American Sign Language as a means to communicate with them. One supporting character is Native American. However, their role is simply to demonstrate the racial prejudice of a main character.
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Violence & Scariness
Characters hijack a family on their raft by threatening them with a loaded handgun and knife. Bullets are shown being loaded into a gun. Characters have a fist fight which leaves someone with a bloody face. The gun is used to kill two characters. A young child is slapped around the face by an adult.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A married couple kiss passionately and there is a suggestion that they will take things further after putting their child to bed. A character bathes in a river. They are naked but full nudity is not shown.
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Language includes "stud d--k," "s--t," "ass," and one use of "f--k." "Oh my God" is used as an exclamation.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Characters drink wine and beer.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The River Wild is a 1994 action-drama with violence involving guns and knives, and occasional strong language. Tom (David Strathairn) and Gail Hartman (Meryl Streep) are on the cusp of divorce when they take a family rafting trip down the Salmon River. But soon their marriage troubles are the least of their problems when they are hijacked by two men, Wade (Kevin Bacon) and Terry (John C. Reilly), who are on the run. Gail is a positive female role model, flexing her strength and intelligence to save her family from the perils of the vicious river and the two villains. A loaded gun, knives, fists, and some hefty uses of an oar, are all used in various fight scenes, some of which end in tragedy. The language is infrequent, but does include "s--t," "d--k," and one use of "f--k." Gail bathes naked in the river, but no sensitive body parts are shown. The Hartmans use American Sign Language to communicate as the grandfather is deaf, as well as being used to outsmart the baddies. There is also some talk about the treatment of Native Americans and the environment, although both topics are only briefly discussed. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This sensitive family tale alongside high-energy action makes for a thrilling watch. With breathtaking scenes of U.S. landscape and impressive camerawork to capture the spirit of the wild and rampant river, The River Wild immerses you in its beauty and chaos. This would have been a real treat to anyone who caught it on the big screen when it was first released in 1994.
The film makes some feeble attempts to discuss some bigger topics. For example, Streep's character, Gail, talks about Native American rock art, "before the white man took over," and there is mention to the declining environment in reference to the pollution in the river. But what's quickly mentioned is soon shrugged off as not to distract from the Hollywood action. That all said, The River Wild is a solid '90s action-packed adventure that still warrants a watch all these years later.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.