Romancing the Stone
Theatrical release poster by John Solie
Directed byRobert Zemeckis
Written byDiane Thomas
Produced byMichael Douglas
CinematographyDean Cundey
Edited byDonn Cambern
Frank Morriss
Music byAlan Silvestri
El Corazon Producciones S.A.[1]
Distributed by20th Century Fox[1]
Release dates
  • March 30, 1984 (1984-03-30) (United States)
  • September 14, 1984 (1984-09-14) (Mexico)
Running time
106 minutes
Budget$10 million[2][3]
Box office$115.1 million[4]

Romancing the Stone is a 1984 action adventure romantic comedy film directed by Robert Zemeckis, written by Diane Thomas and produced by Michael Douglas, who also stars in the film alongside Kathleen Turner and Danny DeVito. The film follows a romance novelist who must venture beyond her New York City comfort zone to Colombia in order to save her sister from criminals who are holding her for ransom.

Thomas wrote the screenplay in 1979. Zemeckis, who at the time was developing Cocoon, liked Thomas's screenplay and offered to direct but 20th Century Fox initially declined, citing the commercial failure of his first two films I Wanna Hold Your Hand and Used Cars. Zemeckis was eventually dismissed from Cocoon after an early screening of Romancing the Stone failed to further impress studio executives. Alan Silvestri, who would collaborate with Zemeckis on his later films, composed the score.[5]

Romancing the Stone was released on March 30, 1984, to positive reviews from critics and earned over $115 million worldwide at the box office. A sequel, The Jewel of the Nile, was released in December 1985.


Joan Wilder is a successful, but lonely, romance novelist in New York City. After finishing her latest novel, Joan leaves her apartment to meet her editor, Gloria. On the way she is handed a letter by her neighbor, Mrs. Irwin, that contains a map, sent by her recently murdered brother-in-law, Eduardo. While she is gone, a man tries to break into her apartment and is discovered by her apartment building's superintendent, whom he kills. Returning to her apartment, Joan finds it ransacked. She then receives a frantic phone call from her sister Elaine, Eduardo's widow. Elaine has been kidnapped by antiquities smugglers, cousins Ira and Ralph, and instructs Joan to go to the Colombian coastal city of Cartagena with the map she received; it is Elaine's ransom.

Flying to Colombia, Joan is diverted from the rendezvous point by Colonel Zolo—the same man who ransacked her apartment looking for the map—by tricking her into boarding the wrong bus. Instead of heading to Cartagena, this bus goes deep into the interior of the country. Ralph realizes this and begins following Joan. After Joan accidentally distracts the bus driver by asking where they are going, the bus crashes into a Land Rover, wrecking both vehicles. As the rest of the passengers walk away, Joan is menaced by Zolo but is saved by the Land Rover's owner, an American exotic bird smuggler named Jack T. Colton. For getting her out of the jungle and to a telephone, Joan promises to pay Jack $375 in traveler's cheques.

Jack and Joan travel the jungle while eluding Zolo and his military police. Reaching a small village, they encounter a drug lord named Juan, who is a big fan of Joan's novels and happily helps them escape from Zolo.

After a night of dancing and passion in a nearby town, Jack suggests to Joan that they find the treasure themselves before handing over the map. Zolo's men enter the town, so Jack and Joan steal a car to escape—but it is Ralph's car, and he is sleeping in the back. They follow the clues and retrieve the treasure, an enormous emerald called El Corazón ("The Heart"). Ralph takes the emerald from them at gunpoint, but Zolo's forces appear, distracting Ralph long enough for Jack to steal the jewel back. After being chased into a river and over a waterfall, Jack and Joan are separated 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.

In Cartagena, Joan meets with Ira, who takes the map and releases Elaine. But Zolo and his men arrive, with a captured Jack and a severely beaten Ralph. As Zolo tortures Joan, Jack tries to kick the emerald into a crocodile pool behind Zolo. Zolo is able to catch the emerald, but then a crocodile jumps up and bites his hand off, swallowing the emerald with it. A shootout ensues between Zolo's soldiers and Ira's gang. Joan and Elaine dash for safety, pursued by the maimed Zolo, as Jack tries to stop the crocodile from escaping. He begrudgingly releases it, to instead try to save Joan.

A crazed Zolo charges at Joan; she dodges his wild knife slashes and he falls into a crocodile pit. As the authorities arrive, Ira and his men escape, but Ralph is left behind. After a kiss, Jack dives into the water after the crocodile with the emerald, leaving Joan behind with her sister.

Later, Joan is back in New York City, and has written a new novel based on her adventure. Gloria—Joan's publisher—is moved to tears by the story and tells Joan she has another best-seller on her hands. Returning home, she finds Jack waiting for her in a sailboat named the Angelina, after the heroine of Joan's novels, and wearing boots made from the crocodile's skin. He jokes that the crocodile got "a fatal case of indigestion" from the emerald, which he sold, using the money to buy the boat of his dreams. They go off together, planning to sail around the world.




The screenplay was written five years earlier by Malibu waitress Diane Thomas in what would end up being her only screenplay made into a movie. She died in a car crash a year and a half after the film's release.[6]


Sylvester Stallone was originally considered for the role of Jack T. Colton.[7] Other leads considered include Burt Reynolds, Clint Eastwood, Paul Newman, and Christopher Reeve for the part of Jack Colton and Debra Winger as Joan Wilder.[8][9]


Filming locations included Veracruz, Mexico (Fort of San Juan de Ulúa), Huasca de Ocampo, Mexico, and Snow Canyon, Utah.[10] The scene where Turner and Douglas get separated on opposite banks on a whitewater river was filmed on the Rio Antigua near the town of Jalcomulco, Veracruz.[11]

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!'"[12] Zemeckis would go on to work with Turner again, casting her as the voice of Jessica Rabbit in 1988's Who Framed Roger Rabbit.[13]


Box office

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.[14] However, it became a surprise hit and 20th Century Fox's only big hit of 1984.[15] The film eventually grossed over US$115 million worldwide, becoming the sixth-highest-grossing film of 1984.[16] Zemeckis later stated that the success of Romancing the Stone allowed him to make Back to the Future (1985).[17]


Romancing the Stone holds an 86% approval rating on the review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 56 reviews. The website's critical consensus reads, "Romancing the Stone reaches back to the classic Saturday morning serials of old with an action-filled adventure enlivened by the sparkling chemistry between its well-matched leads."[18]

Upon the release of Romancing the Stone, Time magazine called the film "a distaff Raiders rip-off".[19] The Washington Post remarked that "Though fitfully thrilling and amusing, [Joan Wilder's] adventures degenerate into a muddle. Neither screenwriter Diane Thomas nor director Robert Zemeckis, good-humored as they strive to be, maintains a coherent perception of how the plot should be contrived to trump the heroine's overactive fantasy life." They elaborated that the stone makes an uncompelling MacGuffin, Joan's character development is incongruous and ultimately unsatisfying, and Joan and Jack lack romantic chemistry.[20] By contrast, Time Out commented that "The script is sharp and funny, the direction sure-footed on both the comedy and action fronts", and compared the film favorably to its contemporary in the same genre, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984).[21] Roger Ebert called it "a silly, high-spirited chase picture", saying he greatly enjoyed the film's imaginative perils, colorful cast of villains, and believable relationship between its two lead characters. He likewise compared it favorably to other Raiders of the Lost Ark clones.[22]

Colin Greenland reviewed Romancing the Stone for Imagine magazine, and stated that "Good-humoured, sparky stuff in the manner of Raiders of the Lost Ark."[23] included it as one of the best films of 1984,[24] and Entertainment Weekly included it on its list of films that made 1984 one of the best years for Hollywood films.[25]

Then-U.S. President Ronald Reagan viewed the film at Camp David in May 1984.[26]


Award wins:[27]

Award nominations:

In other media


The novelization of Romancing the Stone was credited to Joan Wilder, although (along with a novelization of the sequel movie, The Jewel of the Nile) it was actually written by Catherine Lanigan.[29][better source needed]


In the season five, episode eight episode of the American adult animated sitcom Family Guy titled “Barely Legal”, Mayor Adam West deploys the entire Quahog Police Department to Cartagena, Colombia to search for Elaine Wilder after the mayor had watched the film, leaving Joe Swanson behind (as he was not deployed due to his disability and the fact that parts of Cartagena are not wheelchair-accessible) with the police station's skeleton crew.


The success of Romancing the Stone led to a sequel, The Jewel of the Nile, without Zemeckis directing but with Douglas, Turner, and DeVito all returning. The film was released in December 1985 and was commercially successful, but received weaker reviews than the first film.[30]

Since 1985, numerous attempts have been made to produce further sequels to the film. Another sequel, called The Crimson Eagle, would have had Jack and Joan take their two teenage children to Thailand where they are blackmailed into stealing a priceless statue. Filming was scheduled to begin in 1987, following Michael Douglas's shooting of Wall Street, but the production was delayed and ultimately never made it past the development stage.[31] DeVito reunited Douglas, Turner, and himself in his 1989 film The War of the Roses.[13]

In 2005 and again in 2008, Douglas was developing a second sequel, tentatively titled Racing the Monsoon.[32]

Since 2007, 20th Century Fox has considered producing a remake of Romancing the Stone, with the possibility of a reboot series. The roles of Jack Colton and Joan Wilder would be filled by Taylor Kitsch (or Gerard Butler) and Katherine Heigl, respectively.[33] By 2011, the remake was re-worked as a television series.[34]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d "Romancing the Stone (1984)". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved September 11, 2020.
  2. ^ Solomon 1989, p. 260.
  3. ^ Pollock, Dale. "Zemeckis puts his heart and soul in 'Romancing The Stone'". Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles), March 29, 1984. p. m1.
  4. ^ "Receipts: 'Romancing the Stone'." Box Office Mojo. Retrieved: March 28, 2016.
  5. ^ Landekic, Lola. "Romancing the Stone". Retrieved 2022-07-20.
  6. ^ Eliot 2013, p. 142.
  7. ^ Plumb, Ali. "14 things we learned from the 'Evening with Sylvester Stallone' Q&A." Empire Online, October 9, 2015. Retrieved: March 28, 2016.
  8. ^ Susman, Gary. "'Romancing the Stone': 25 things you didn't know about the Kathleen Turner classic.", March 24, 2014. Retrieved: March 28, 2016.
  9. ^ Leigh 2014, p. 171.
  10. ^ D'Arc, James V. (2010). When Hollywood came to town: a history of moviemaking in Utah (1st ed.). Layton, Utah: Gibbs Smith. ISBN 9781423605874.
  11. ^ Bouey, Steve. "Finally on Location." The World by Road, January 19, 2009. Retrieved: March 28, 2016.
  12. ^ Appelo, Tim; Kilday, Greg (August 2, 1991). "Kathleen Turner: The last movie star". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved March 28, 2016.
  13. ^ a b Turner 2008, unpaginated.
  14. ^ Horowitz, Mark. "Back with a Future," American Film July/Aug. 1988. pp. 32–35.
  15. ^ "Musical Chairs in Hollywood". Time. September 24, 1984. Archived from the original on July 25, 2014. Retrieved March 28, 2016.
  16. ^ "Top 1984 Movies at the Worldwide Box Office". Nash Information Services, LLC. Retrieved 29 September 2022.
  17. ^ Supplements for the Back to the Future DVD.
  18. ^ "Romancing the Stone (1984)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved September 28, 2022.
  19. ^ Schickel, Richard; Corliss, Richard (April 23, 1984). "The greening of the box office". Time. Archived from the original on July 25, 2014. Retrieved March 28, 2016.
  20. ^ Arnold, Gary (April 6, 1984). "The Stone Clone". The Washington Post. Retrieved 28 December 2019.
  21. ^ Preston, John. "Romancing the Stone". Time Out. Retrieved 29 December 2019.
  22. ^ Ebert, Roger (January 1, 1984). "Romancing the Stone Movie Review". Retrieved 28 December 2019.
  23. ^ Greenland, Colin (February 1985). "Fantasy Media". Imagine (review). No. 23. TSR Hobbies (UK), Ltd. p. 47.
  24. ^ "The Greatest Films of 1984". Retrieved June 11, 2010.
  25. ^ Nashawaty, Chris. "Was 1984 the Greatest Year in Movies Ever?". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved June 11, 2010.
  26. ^ "Films Viewed by President and MRS. Reagan".
  27. ^ "Romancing the Stone: Award Wins and Nominations". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved June 11, 2010.
  28. ^ a b "The 42nd Annual Golden Globe Awards (1985)". Golden Globe Award. Archived from the original on April 14, 2013. Retrieved July 27, 2012.
  29. ^ Wilder, Joan (pseudonym) and Catherine Lanigan (ghostwriter). Romancing the Stone novelization." Retrieved: March 28, 2016.
  30. ^ Eliot 2013, pp. 142–143.
  31. ^ "Newsday from New York, New York on April 6, 1987 · 106". 6 April 1987. Retrieved 2021-06-25.
  32. ^ "Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones to co-star in film 'Racing The Monsoon'." The Telegraph, May 19, 2008. Retrieved: March 28, 2016.
  33. ^ Schaefer, Sandy "‘Romancing the Stone’ remake is still moving forward." Screen Rant, August 24, 2011. Retrieved: March 28, 2016.
  34. ^ Fischer, Russ. "The 'Romancing the Stone' remake is now a TV series.", September 1, 2011. Retrieved: March 28, 2016.


  • Eliot, Marc. Michael Douglas: A Biography. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2013. ISBN 978-0-3079-5237-0.
  • Leigh, Mark. Epic Fail: The Ultimate Book of Blunders. London: Virgin Books, 2014. ISBN 978-0-7535-4126-5.
  • Solomon, Aubrey. Twentieth Century-Fox: A Corporate and Financial History (The Scarecrow Filmmakers Series). Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 1988. ISBN 978-0-8108-4244-1.
  • Turner, Kathleen. Send Yourself Roses: Thoughts on My Life, Love, and Leading Roles. New York: Springboard Press, 2008. ISBN 978-0-4465-8112-7.