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Romancing the Stone

For the song by Eddy Grant of the same name, see Going for Broke (album).
Romancing the Stone
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Robert Zemeckis
Produced by Michael Douglas
Written by Diane Thomas
Music by Alan Silvestri
Cinematography Dean Cundey
Edited by Donn Cambern
Frank Morriss
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release dates
  • March 30, 1984 (1984-03-30)
Running time
106 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $10 million[1][2][3]
Box office $86.5 million[4]

Romancing the Stone is a 1984 American action-adventure romantic comedy. Directed by Robert Zemeckis, it stars Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner and Danny DeVito. The film was followed by a 1985 sequel, The Jewel of the Nile.

The film earned over $86,572,238 worldwide in box-office receipts. It also helped launch Turner to stardom, reintroduced Douglas to the public as a capable leading man, and gave Zemeckis his first box-office success. Decades later, it retains critical acclaim, with an 87% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.[5]


Joan Wilder (Kathleen Turner) is a lonely romance novelist in New York City. As she leaves her apartment, she's handed a letter sent to her by her late brother-in-law. She goes to meet her editor, and they go to a bar where the editor laments that Joan can't find a good man, since she is holding out for someone like "Jesse," the dashing hero in her books. When asked if authorities in Colombia have found her brother-in-law's body, Joan replies, "Just the one...piece." Meanwhile, in Colombia, Joan's sister is walking to a red convertible when a little boy in the street hurls bolas at her, knocking her unconscious. Back in New York, a mysterious man breaks into Joan's apartment. Joan returns to find her apartment ransacked. She gets a call from her sister, Elaine (Mary Ellen Trainor), who has been kidnapped in Colombia by bumbling antiquities smugglers Ira (Zack Norman) and Ralph (Danny DeVito); Elaine informs Joan that the letter contains a treasure map, and the map is to be the ransom to set her free.

Flying to Colombia, Joan is detoured from the rendezvous with Ralph by Colonel Zolo (Manuel Ojeda), the man who killed Elaine's husband. He deceives her into boarding the wrong bus, bound for the interior of the country instead of the coastal city of Cartagena, where Elaine is being held. Joan becomes suspicious and attempts to ask the bus driver where they are headed, causing the bus to crash. As the rest of the passengers walk away, Joan is menaced by Zolo but is saved by American exotic bird smuggler Jack T. Colton (Michael Douglas). Joan hires Jack to help her get back to civilization. They narrowly escape Zolo and his posse by sliding through a muddy ravine and swinging on vines.

Jack and Joan elude Zolo, who wants the treasure and chases them with military police. After spending a night hiding in a marijuana smuggler's crashed C-47 airplane, they encounter a drug lord named Juan (Alfonso Arau), who is a big fan of Joan's novels and helps them escape from Zolo.

After a night of dancing and passion, Jack suggests to Joan that they find the treasure before handing over the map. They follow the clues and locate an enormous emerald called El Corazon ("The Heart"). Unknown to Jack and Joan, they had used Ralph's car for the last leg of their journey while Ralph was sleeping in the back. Ralph takes the emerald at gunpoint and taunts Joan that Jack would have done the same.

When Zolo appears, Jack chases Ralph and steals the jewel back, then Jack and Joan are chased into a river and go over a waterfall. They end up on opposite sides of the raging river; Joan has the map, but Jack has the emerald. Jack directs Joan to Cartagena, promising that he will meet her there with the emerald, but she is skeptical, owing to Ralph's taunts.

In Cartagena, Joan meets with Ira and Ralph and makes the exchange. As Joan and Elaine attempt to leave, they are stopped by Zolo and his men, who have captured Jack. Zolo demands the emerald and threatens Joan with the crocodiles that Ira keeps as pets. To save Joan, Jack surrenders the emerald to Zolo, but a crocodile bites off Zolo's hand and swallows it along with the emerald.

As a gun battle takes place between Zolo's soldiers and Ira's gang, Joan and Elaine dash for safety, but they are pursued by Zolo, who catches up, attacking Joan with a knife. Jack tries to stop the crocodile from escaping but lets it go when he sees that Joan is in grave danger. Zolo charges at Joan, who knocks him into the crocodile pit. Ira and his men escape, but Ralph is left behind as the authorities arrive. After a kiss, Jack dives into the water after the crocodile, leaving Joan behind with her sister.

Some time later, Joan is back in New York City, delivering a new manuscript based on her adventure, and her publisher, Gloria (Holland Taylor), loves it. Returning home, she finds Jack waiting for her in a sailboat named the Angelina, after heroine of Joan's novels. He caught the crocodile and had it made into a pair of boots, sold the emerald, and bought the boat he had told Joan was his dream. They go off together, planning to sail around the world.


Production and release

Filming locations included Veracruz, Mexico (Fort of San Juan de Ulúa); and Huasca de Ocampo, Mexico The scene where Turner and Douglas get separated on opposite banks on a whitewater river, about two-thirds into the movie, was filmed on the Rio Antigua near the town of Jalcomulco, Veracruz.[citation needed]

This was the first Zemeckis film to feature an electronic-orchestral music score by composer Alan Silvestri; Silvestri has scored each subsequent film Zemeckis has directed.[citation needed]

Although, upon its release, comparisons to Raiders of the Lost Ark were inevitable (Time magazine called the movie "a distaff Raiders rip-off"),[6] the screenplay for Romancing had actually been written five years earlier. It was written by a Malibu waitress named Diane Thomas in what would end up being her only screenplay; she died in a car crash shortly after the film's release.[7]

Turner later said of the film's production, "I remember terrible arguments [with Robert Zemeckis] doing Romancing. He's a film-school grad, fascinated by cameras and effects. I never felt that he knew what I was having to do to adjust my acting to some of his damn cameras – sometimes he puts you in ridiculous postures. I'd say, 'This is not helping me! This is not the way I like to work, thank you!'"[8] Despite their difficulties on the film, Zemeckis would go on to work with Turner again, casting her as the voice of Jessica Rabbit in 1988's Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

Studio insiders expected Romancing the Stone to flop (to the point that, after viewing a rough cut of the film, the producers of the then under development Cocoon fired Zemeckis as director of that film),[9] but the film became a surprise hit. It became 20th Century Fox's "only big hit" of 1984.[10] Zemeckis later stated that the success of Romancing the Stone allowed him to make Back to the Future, which was an even larger success.[11] The film's success also led to an equally successful sequel, 1985's The Jewel of the Nile, without Zemeckis at the helm but with Douglas, Turner, and DeVito all returning. Another sequel, called The Crimson Eagle, never made it past the development stage. This planned yet unproduced sequel would have seen Jack Colton and his partner Joan Wilder take their two teenage children to Thailand where they would find themselves blackmailed into stealing a priceless statue. DeVito reunited himself, Douglas and Turner in his 1989 film The War of the Roses. In 2005 and again in 2008, Michael Douglas was working on a second sequel entitled Racing the Monsoon, although there have been no further developments in recent years.

The novelization of this film was credited to Joan Wilder though it (and a novelization of the sequel movie, The Jewel of the Nile) was actually written by Catherine Lanigan.[12]

Sylvester Stallone was originally considered for the role of Jack T. Colton.[citation needed]


Critical reaction

The film was well received by critics and is considered by some as among the best films of 1984.[13][14][15][16] It holds an 87% approval rating on the review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 43 reviews.[5]


Award wins:[17]

Award nominations:


  1. ^ Romancing the Stone (1984) - Box office / business
  2. ^ Aubrey Solomon, Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History, Scarecrow Press, 1989 p. 260.
  3. ^ ZEMECKIS PUTS HIS HEART AND SOUL IN 'ROMANCING THE STONE' Pollock, Dale. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 29 Mar 1984: m1.
  4. ^ "Romancing the Stone". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved July 27, 2012. 
  5. ^ a b "Romancing the Stone (1984)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved July 27, 2012. 
  6. ^ Richard Corliss; Richard Schickel (April 23, 1984). "The Greening of the Box Office". Time. Retrieved February 9, 2007. 
  7. ^ "Biography for Diane Thomas". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved June 11, 2010. 
  8. ^ "The Last Movie Star". Entertainment Weekly. August 2, 1991. Retrieved February 9, 2007. 
  9. ^ Horowitz, Mark. "Back with a Future," American Film July/Aug. 1988. pp. 32–35.
  10. ^ "Musical Chairs in Hollywood". Time. September 24, 1984. Retrieved February 9, 2007. 
  11. ^ Supplements for the Back to the Future DVD.
  12. ^ The page of the Romancing the Stone novelization, mentioning Catherine Lanigan's ghost authorship of the book.
  13. ^ "The Greatest Films of 1984". AMC Retrieved June 11, 2010. 
  14. ^ "Was 1984 the Greatest Year in Movies Ever?". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved June 11, 2010. 
  15. ^ "The Best Movies of 1984 by Rank". Retrieved May 21, 2010. 
  16. ^ "Most Popular Feature Films Released in 1984". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved June 11, 2010. 
  17. ^ "Romancing the Stone: Award Wins and Nominations". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved June 11, 2010. 
  18. ^ a b "The 42nd Annual Golden Globe Awards (1985)". Golden Globe Award. Retrieved July 27, 2012. 

External links