This is part two of Dillon Cole’s guidehouse quarantine series
Here’s a question for you: When you’re checking movie reviews online, which weighs heaviest? Do you scope out IMDB? Rotten Tomatoes? Google user reviews? I personally like to glimpse all three of those, but ultimately I go with my gut. There’s something satisfying in not always watching a great or even good movie once in a while; you get to appreciate the true standouts. Plus with every terrible movie, there’s always a select few people who really enjoy it and maybe it’s me.
Lucky for you, I’ve picked out a few movies that revolve (albeit sometimes loosely) around rivers. All of these are great to shred away a few afternoons indoors. While I didn’t rate them on any scale, as I just admitted I watch bad movies on purpose, there should be something in this list that catches your eye.
1. The River Wild
I’m a sucker for semi-cheesy 90’s movies so the The River Wild always gets a solid A from me. Filmed on two rivers in Montana and the Rogue in Oregon, this movie focuses on Meryl Streep as the lead action hero in the form of a not-so-washed-up river guide (great for my ego) that is in charge of getting her family safely down the river. While you will probably be ahead of the plot throughout the movie, this movie pairs the classic take on city-folk battling nature only along with some classic 90’s tropes – think helpful dogs and old-school handheld radios.
However, the standout feature for me is the fact that the hardest river section in the movie is called “The Gauntlet” which corresponds to the hardest class V rapids on the Forks of the Kern. Give this a watch if you like badass female roles, 90s style adventure films, and some hyped up rapid scenes that will get you fired up for your next trip.
2. A River Runs Through It
A River Runs Through It has so much going for it: It’s based on a true story, has award-winning cinematography, contains a classic Brad Pitt, and puts fly fishing at the forefront of the story. In this movie, fishing represents life and as best put by Roger Ebert “If you can learn to do it correctly, to read the river and the fish and yourself, and to do what needs to be done without one wasted motion, you will have attained some of the grace and economy needed to live a good life.”
At its foundation, A River Runs Through It is a simple story about interesting people that take various directions in life. What is otherwise a simple story becomes the film’s best achievement by stylishly communicating the message that most events in life are unpredictable and often accidental. The Reverend’s lessons are about how to handle oneself no matter what life is dealing: with honesty, courage, and a little bit of grace. I think that’s a great lesson for any point in time, especially with everything going on now.
3. Bird Box
I know this one is a little bit of a stretch to be classified as a “river movie” but it does have a great scene with Sandra Bullock going through a river blindfolded which is something I’ve been pushing to teach in our annual Whitewater guide school. While the reviews were admittedly less than stellar, these days Bird Box allows you to share some solidarity with Sandra Bullock about being quarantined: whether that’s in a house full of roommates, suiting up to go on a grocery store run, or with your toddlers in the woods.
I believe if you take this movie for its creative value as a thriller, it holds up alright. Sandra Bullock and Trevante Rhodes do their due diligence in quality acting, Vivian Blair has a heart-wrenching scene as “girl”, and John Malkovitch plays his part perfectly, as usual. The river scenes that are in this movie are a little funny, sometimes suspenseful, and a tad distressing. If you need a movie that checks a few boxes, adds some suspense, and can kill an afternoon. Give it a watch. And if you don’t trust me, this is the most impartial review I could find.
I feel like I would get angry emails if I left Deliverance off the movie list. Touted as one of the best films of 1972 (you can’t beat The Godfather), Deliverance popularized one of the most remembered banjo riffs and captured the beauty of East Coast rivers. While some scenes are a little overdone, it is Burt Reynolds’ breakthrough role. Plus, you can relish in the fact that actors had to do their own stunts with no insurance due to budget restrictions.
White Water Rebels
Watch this movie for the opening scene as it’s hilarious. (Available for YouTube for free.) This movie gets a mention as it was filmed, here, on the Kern River. However, after the opening scene, just turn it off as you’ve already seen all 5 of the 5.3 points this movie has on IMDB.