Box art for Rumble Fish

Rumble Fish

  • Rated R


Francis Ford Coppola directs this unforgettable story of two brothers (Matt Dillon and Mickey Rourke) struggling to break out of the urban trap of gang warfare and violence.

Rotten Tomatoes® scores

  • Critic Score
  • Audience Score

common sense

PAUSE for kids age 16
0 out of 5
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
4 out of 5
3 out of 5
Positive messages
0 out of 5
Positive role models
1 out of 5
4 out of 5
4 out of 5

Teen-gang saga is more intense, violent than the book.

what parents need to know

Parents need to know that the raw moments include a sex-party scene exhibiting female and male nudity (erotic-daydream fantasies about a pretty girl wearing very little in a classroom are slightly less explicit). There's also gang-fighting (arranged like a duel, with all the kids turning out to watch at the appointed time), a mugging and beating with a tire iron, and reckless driving on a motorcycle (no helmets), plus one fatal shooting. There is much drinking/drunkenness and cigarette smoking as well, and heroin use and addiction is discussed (and disparaged). Swearing at R-level emphasizes the f-word, and the lead character speaks glowingly of the street-gang lifestyle, though other characters work to change his mind.

what families can talk about

  • Families can talk about the messages in the film and the choices the characters make. Why did Motorcycle Boy come back from California to his dangerous, no-future hometown situation?
  • Do you know any Motorcycle Boy-types? Can you relate to the people and situations here or not? What other movies and books speak to this type of character?
  • Many teens have read the book. Ask what they think of director Coppola's offbeat approach to the story, and if they would like to see more serious-minded films like this that take wild chances with B&W photography and hallucinatory imagery.

movie reviews from Rotten Tomatoes®

  • Tomatometer®

    reviews counted: 10
    see all Rumble Fish reviews
  • Audience


Top Critic Reviews

Fresh: Beautiful.

- Cole Smithey,, Thursday, June 24, 2010

Rotten: Visually stunning but dramatically inert coming-of-age tale

- Daniel Eagan, Film Journal International, Thursday, June 24, 2010

Rotten: The action is clotted and murky, and Coppola obviously hasn't bothered to clarify it for the members of his cast, who wander through the film with expressions of winsome, honest befuddlement.

- Dave Kehr, Chicago Reader, Saturday, January 1, 2000

Audience Reviews

4 stars

Released back-to-back with his previous 'teen-novel' adaptation "The Outsiders", Francis Ford Coppola attempted another of S.E. Hinton's books. Like his previous release, he assembled a brilliant cast but approached it in a different style. This time, the results were far more impressive. Rusty James (Matt Dillon) is a troubled young man from a broken background. His mother left him years ago and his father (Dennis Hopper) has turned to alcohol. He's the leader of a small gang in a time where gang fights are dying out and most people of his generation still idolise his absent older brother 'The Motorcycle Boy' (Mickey Rourke). Rusty James refuses to accept and believes he can make as much a name for himself as his legendary sibling. When his brother returns to town, the life that Rusty James envisioned begins to change. Admittedly, I never got around to reading the book on this one and given Coppola's sumptuous visual take on it, I'm sure it would have made for an interesting comparison. Much like "The Outsiders", this also has a feeling of a teenage audience at heart but is executed with much more darkness and depth. Coppola's use of monochrome - with momentary flashes of vibrant technicolor - is simply astounding and quite beautiful to observe. Several scenes throughout the film border on surreal and dreamlike and the intense performances add to this; Matt Dillon is on great form as the tearaway teenager who can't stay out of trouble and as his brother, Mickey Rourke delivers a character of quiet, tortured intensity. The rest of the cast are great also with Dennis Hopper playing the alcoholic father and Laurence Fishburne, Chris Penn and Nicolas Cage making up the rest of Rusty James' crew. Added to which, there is a welcome cameo appearance by Tom Waits, mumbling his way through a short but memorable character. Coppola once described this film as "an art-film for teenagers" and coming from the man himself, there is no better description. It might have been experimental or ambitious for him at this time but it still stands as one of his most visually refined pieces of work. Special mention must also go to Stephen H. Burum for his ethereally stunning cinematography and Stewart Copeland (from the band "The Police"), for his unsettling and impressionistic score. This makes a perfectly dark companion piece to the lighter side of "The Outsiders". They couldn't have been shot any more different and if viewed together, would make a great double bill.

- MrMarakai, Friday, June 15, 2012

4 stars

I remember when The Outsiders came out, I watched it and enjoyed it but what I remember most is my sister and her friends going mad over it, more precisely, its cast. Rumble Fish passed me by, probably because of its higher rating but until now I have to admit I never knew of the connection between the two. It's a little bit like a mainstream Jim Jarmusch film, an '80s doing the 50's' Rock n' Roll noir, complete with ultra cool characters, striking black and white film (with occasional splashes of colour) and a certain disjointed charm. It feels like there is something not quite right about it though, but in turn, that might be what I really liked about it - it didn't quite work but if it had been this ultra-glossy tidy production, it would have been laughable. Definitely of its time and great to look back on, the cast is pretty unbeatable. The Outsiders for the Girls and Rumble Fish for the Boys? Matt Dillon's 'out of body experience' scene is fantastic!

- SirPant, Tuesday, March 13, 2012

4 stars

The Motorcycle Boy: If you're going to lead people, you have to have somewhere to go. "No leader can survive becoming a legend." Since first watching Rumble Fish, it has grown and grown on me. Initially I liked it, but thought it was lesser Coppola, not nearly as bad as Jack, but not even as good as one of his more average movies, Tetro. The more I have thought about it, the more I have really started to like the film. I love these brother movies, where the younger brother tries to be the older brother, but can't. There is so much truth in them and this one one is extremely well done. The movie opens with Rusty James being told that another street punk wants to kill him and challenged him to fight. We then learn through conversations with his friends that Rusty's brother has been gone for awhile. His brother is a legend on the streets; he is The Motorcycle Boy. When Rusty James and his gang go to the fight, The Motorcycle Boy shows up too and the two brothers start hanging out again. From there, there isn't too much plot. It is all about the brothers and what it means to be a leader and shit like that. The Motorcycle Boy is such an awesome character. He is played by Mickey Rourke and I don't think there was an actor better suited to play him. The character is like James Dean's from Rebel Without a Cause reincarnated. The guy is tough, but he is also soft spoken. He is color blind and doesn't hear all that well. He looks old for his age, probably from all the partying and fighting. The Motorcycle Boy is a leader and a smart, philosophical brother to Rusty James and all Rusty wants his to be like his brother when he grows up. Maybe it isn't The Godfather or Apocalypse Now, but I still think this shows off just how good Coppola is. It shows how flexible he is as a filmmaker and further proves his immense talent. There is only one thing that hurt the movie and that was knowing the ending way too early. Not that we were told of it, but that it was too obvious. It was the only way it could end. Still a beautiful film from Francis Ford Coppola.

- blkbomb, Tuesday, November 29, 2011