Romancing the Stone

Romancing the Stone is a 1984 American romantic comedy-adventure film directed by Robert Zemeckis and written by Diane Thomas. The film stars Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner, and Danny DeVito, and was followed by a 1985 sequel titled The Jewel of the Nile. Romancing the Stone earned over $86 million worldwide at the box office.

Romancing the Stone
Theatrical release poster by Drew Struzan
Directed byRobert Zemeckis
Produced byMichael Douglas
Written byDiane Thomas
Music byAlan Silvestri
CinematographyDean Cundey
Edited by
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • March 30, 1984 (1984-03-30)
Running time
106 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$10 million[1][2]
Box office$115.1 million[3]


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, and is handed a letter 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 supervisor, 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 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 that ransacked her apartment looking for the map - by tricking her into boarding the wrong bus (which was heading for Castillo de San Felipe, the castle in Cartagena, an in-joke). Instead of heading to the coast, this bus heads 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. Coming across a small village, they encounter a drug lord named Juan, who is a big fan of Joan's novels and 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 unknowingly steal Ralph's car (with a sleeping Ralph in the back) to escape. 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 releases Elaine for the map. Zolo and his men arrive with a captured Jack and severely-beaten Ralph, interrupting the exchange. As Zolo tortures Joan, Jack surrenders the emerald to Zolo, but a crocodile bites off Zolo's hand and swallows it along with the emerald. A shootout ensues between Zolo's soldiers and Ira's gang. Joan and Elaine dash for safety, pursued by Zolo, as Jack tries to stop the crocodile from escaping; he begrudgingly lets it go to try and save Joan. A crazed Zolo charges at Joan; she dodges his wild knife slashes and he falls into the 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, leaving Joan behind with her sister.

Later, Joan is back in New York City, and wrote a new manuscript based on her adventure. Gloria 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 explains the crocodile died from ingesting the emerald and he had sold it, using the money to buy the boat of his dreams. They go off together, planning to sail around the world.




Sylvester Stallone was originally considered for the role of Jack T. Colton.[4][Note 1]


Filming locations for Romancing the Stone included Veracruz, Mexico (Fort of San Juan de Ulúa); and Huasca de Ocampo, Mexico. Parts of the film were also shot in Snow Canyon, Utah.[7] 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.[8]

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!'"[9] 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.[10]


Upon the release of Romancing the Stone, comparisons to Raiders of the Lost Ark were inevitable; Time magazine called the film "a distaff Raiders rip-off".[11] The screenplay for Romancing had actually been written five years earlier by a Malibu waitress named Diane Thomas in what would end up being her only screenplay made into a movie. She died in a car crash shortly after the film's release.[12]

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),[13] but the film became a surprise hit. It became 20th Century Fox's "only big hit" of 1984.[14] Zemeckis later stated that the success of Romancing the Stone allowed him to make Back to the Future, which was an even larger success.[15]


Critical reaction

Romancing the Stone holds an 86% approval rating and a 7.3/10 average on the review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 49 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."[16] AMC included it as one of the best films of 1984,[17] and Entertainment Weekly included it on their list of films that made 1984 one of the best years for Hollywood films.[18]


Award wins:[19]

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.[21]


The success of Romancing the Stone also led to a sequel that was equally successful commercially, 1985's The Jewel of the Nile, without Zemeckis at the helm but with Douglas, Turner and DeVito all returning.[22] Another sequel, called The Crimson Eagle, never made it past the development stage. This planned yet un-produced 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 Douglas, Turner, and himself in his 1989 film The War of the Roses.[10]

In 2005 and again in 2008, Michael Douglas was working on a second sequel to Romancing the Stone entitled Racing the Monsoon, although there have been no further developments in recent years.[23]

Since 2007, 20th Century Fox considered a remake of Romancing the Stone with the possibility of a "reboot" of a series. The roles of Jack Colton and Joan Wilder would be filled by Taylor Kitsch (or Gerard Butler) and Katherine Heigl.[24] By 2011, the remake was re-worked as a television series.[25]

See also



  1. 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.[5][6]


  1. Solomon 1989, p. 260.
  2. Pollock, Dale. "Zemeckis puts his heart and soul in 'Romancing The Stone'". Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles), March 29, 1984. p. m1.
  3. "Receipts: 'Romancing the Stone'." Box Office Mojo. Retrieved: March 28, 2016.
  4. Plumb, Ali. "14 things we learned from the 'Evening with Sylvester Stallone' Q&A." Empire Online, October 9, 2015. Retrieved: March 28, 2016.
  5. Susman, Gary. "'Romancing the Stone': 25 things you didn't know about the Kathleen Turner classic.", March 24, 2014. Retrieved: March 28, 2016.
  6. Leigh 2014, p. 171.
  7. D'Arc, James V. (2010). When Hollywood came to town: a history of moviemaking in Utah (1st ed.). Layton, Utah: Gibbs Smith. ISBN 9781423605874.
  8. Bouey, Steve. "Finally on Location." The World by Road, January 19, 2009. Retrieved: March 28, 2016.
  9. Appelo, Tim; Kilday, Greg (August 2, 1991). "Kathleen Turner: The last movie star". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved March 28, 2016.
  10. Turner 2008, unpaginated.
  11. Schickel, Richard; Corliss, Richard (April 23, 1984). "The greening of the box office". Time. Retrieved March 28, 2016.
  12. Eliot 2013, p. 142.
  13. Horowitz, Mark. "Back with a Future," American Film July/Aug. 1988. pp. 32–35.
  14. "Musical chairs in Hollywood." Time, September 24, 1984. Retrieved: March 28, 2016.
  15. Supplements for the Back to the Future DVD.
  16. "Romancing the Stone (1984)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved April 9, 2018.
  17. "The Greatest Films of 1984". AMC Retrieved June 11, 2010.
  18. Nashawaty, Chris. "Was 1984 the Greatest Year in Movies Ever?". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved June 11, 2010.
  19. "Romancing the Stone: Award Wins and Nominations". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved June 11, 2010.
  20. "The 42nd Annual Golden Globe Awards (1985)". Golden Globe Award. Archived from the original on April 14, 2013. Retrieved July 27, 2012.
  21. Wilder, Joan (pseudonym) and Catherine Lanigan (ghostwriter). Romancing the Stone novelization." Retrieved: March 28, 2016.
  22. Eliot 2013, pp. 142–143.
  23. "Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones to co-star in film 'Racing The Monsoon'." The Telegraph, May 19, 2008. Retrieved: March 28, 2016.
  24. Schaefer, Sandy "‘Romancing the Stone’ remake is still moving forward." Screen Rant, August 24, 2011. Retrieved: March 28, 2016.
  25. 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.
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