Review of “Romancing the Stone” (1984)

trailer from YouTube

Our Saturday night pizza and bad movie movie was in color for a change. And our usual place for pizza procurement changed hands, which included a big jump in prices. I asked if that meant a pay raise for the worker bees, not realizing I was talking to one of the new owners. He laughed. We still have to microwave our pizza after we get home. Neither here nor there.


In the opening scenes, evil old west cowboy Grogan barges into the house of a scantily (but not provocatively)-dressed woman named Angelina. He takes the saddlebags where she’s been concealing…something… and then moves in on her with a leer on his face. She removes a knife from her garter belt and throws it at him. He drops dead (*THUD*). In a voiceover, Angelina tells the viewer Grogan had killed her father, raped and murdered her sister, burned her ranch, shot her dog, and stolen her Bible.

But that’s not all…

Once she’s dressed, she rides off, only to be followed by Grogan’s brothers. A shadowy figure appears on a ridgetop and rescues her. Jesse! And they’ll be together forever!

The viewer next sees Joan Wilder (Kathleen Turner) sobbing behind an electric typewriter at a crowded desk. She’s out of tissues and toilet paper to wipe away her tears. Her apartment is decorated with Post-It Notes, one of which reminds her to buy tissue. But she’s finished her book! Time to celebrate! She calls for Romeo, her cat, and gives him a can of tuna on the coffee table while she drinks.

After celebrating, she wakes on the couch, realizing she’s late for a meeting with her publisher. She grabs her manuscript in a box (this is 1984). On her way out, she meets Mrs. Irwin (Eve Smith), an elderly neighbor who hands her a package that wouldn’t fit in the mailbox, something from Joan’s late brother-in-law, Eduardo, in Colombia, whose body was found mutilated. (That happen a lot in Colombia?)

Because she’s running late, Joan takes the package with her to meet her publisher, Gloria (Holland Taylor). Gloria loves the new book and takes her out on the town, where they drink and evaluate the men in the bar. None of them–alas!–measure up to the fictional Jesse.

While she’s out, a sinister sort lurks by her door. The super approaches the sinister man, only to be knifed. Upon returning home, Joan finds someone has ransacked her apartment. Romeo is okay. The phone rings. Joan’s sister, Elaine (Mary Ellen Trainor), is on the other end, asking if Eduardo has sent her a package. She’s been kidnapped. Her ransom is the map in the package. Joan must come to Colombia with the map.


This is a silly movie. The kidnappers, cousins Ralph and Ira (Danny DeVito and Zach Norman), are the kind of villains who might be dangerous if they had a working neuron between them. The evil villain is Zolo (Manuel Ojeda), a steely-eyed man of few words, capable of the cold-blooded murder of a building super, for example, and commands something of a private militia. (Is that a common thing in Colombia?).

There are genuinely funny scenes, though. Joan and Jack Colton (Michael Douglas), a smuggler who agreed to help her for a fee, walk through a small village, followed by menacing-looking men. When they ask for a car, they are directed to “Juan” (Alfonso Arau). Knocking on Juan’s door, they receive a rebuff through a peephole. A further effort brings a second rebuff with a gun–until Juan realizes who Joan is. She’s his favorite author. He lets the men behind them know she’s the author they read every week and invites the couple inside. He treats Jack like Joan’s servant. Despite its humble appearance, his house is actually a luxurious mansion.

I did not see this movie when it came out in theaters. This is my first time seeing it. Perhaps it’s only my old jaded eyes that just look at the flick as sort of cute, lightweight fare. I was surprised to find this was nominated and won several awards. It was nominated for an Oscar for best film editing in 1985. It was also nominated for Best Edited Feature Film by American Cinema Editors in 1985. Kathleen Turner won a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture in 1985. Most Spectacular Stunt went to a long list of stuntmen from the Stuntman Awards in 1985.

This was different from our usual Saturday night movie and a nice change of scene, but I’m looking forward to some more sci-fi/horror schlock or more noir.

Title: Romancing the Stone (1984)

Directed by
Robert Zemeckis

Writing Credits
Diane Thomas…(written by)
Lem Dobbs…(uncredited)
Howard Franklin…(uncredited)
Treva Silverman…(uncredited)

Cast (in credits order)
Michael Douglas…Jack Colton
Kathleen Turner…Joan Wilder
Danny DeVito…Ralph
Zack Norman…Ira
Alfonso Arau…Juan
Manuel Ojeda…Zolo

Released: 1984
Length: 1 hour, 46 minutes

Published by 9siduri

I have written book and movie reviews for the late and lamented sites Epinions and Examiner. I have book of reviews of speculative fiction from before 1900, and short works in publications such Mobius, Protea Poetry Journal, and, most recently, Wisconsin Review and Drunken Pen Writing. I'm busily working away on a book of reviews pulp science fiction stories from the 1930s-1960s. It's a lot of fun. I am the author of the short story "Always Coming Home," a chapbook of poetry titled "Sotto Voce," and a collection of reviews of pre-1900 speculative fiction, "By Firelight."

14 thoughts on “Review of “Romancing the Stone” (1984)

    1. It happens, of course. Narco-terror exists, sadly. But even in as lightweight a movie as this was, nearly everyone was a drug dealer, a smuggler, a “bad hombre” (credited as such)… or a writer… They really needed a drummer.

      1. But regarding “Romancing the Stone,” I think it might have been better to tone that aspect of the plot a bit, considering its romantic comedy/adventure” genre.

      2. They had to have bad guy to shoot at them. And there was some funny stuff. But I couldn’t help make notes, Yeah, this a big problem in Colombia?

  1. I remember seeing it in the theater when it came out, probably with my friends from high school. We enjoyed it at the time – it was trying to build on the Indiana Jones and Crocodile Dundee films.

  2. Am I the only one who understands that this GREAT movie never took itself as seriously as everyone seems to feel it did (or should have)?

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