The Fisher King (1991)

fisher king poster 1991 movie
8.5 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 9/10

Weird genre blend

Not as dynamic as some of Gilliam’s other films

Movie Info

Movie Name:   The Fisher King

Studio:   Hill/Obst Productions

Genre(s):   Comedy/Drama/Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Release Date(s):   September 20, 1991

MPAA Rating:   R

the fisher king chinese restaurant scene jeff bridges robin williams amanda plumber mercedes ruehl

Who’s crazy…who’s sane?

Shock jock Jack Lucas (Jeff Bridges) is on top of the world.  He’s about to be a movie star and his radio show is a roaring success…when Lucas learns his words have consequences.  His life ruined, Jack finds himself with a girlfriend named Anne (Mercedes Ruehl) and living above a video store where he work.  During a drunken bender, Jack encounters a homeless man named Parry (Robin Williams) who has a shocking tie to Jack and sees to right his life, he must first right Parry’s life.  Jack and Anne set to land the unstable Parry the woman of his dreams in Lydia Sinclair (Amanda Plummer)…but simply finding love doesn’t cure everything that ails a person.

Directed by Terry Gilliam, The Fisher King is a fantasy drama.  The film was released to strong reviews and Mercedes Ruehl received an Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role with nominations for Best Actor (Williams), Best Original Screenplay, Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, and Best Original Score.  A remastered version of the film was released as part of the Criterion Collection (Criterion #764).

the fisher king demon horse knight

Hi…want to ride my demon horse?

With ties to mythology, The Fisher King is a layered film.  The movie (with Terry Gilliam at the helm) also has a fantasy aspect to it.  It is the nice blending of genres that help elevate The Fisher King.

The story for The Fisher King takes aspects from the story about a broken man who can’t find healing…and his lack of healing is corruptive.  It is easy to follow where the story will go, but it is still creatively written and told…despite an ending which is rather “fairy tale” perfect (which could be seen as appropriate due to the story).

The cast for the movie is great, and it is hard to select a standout.  Robin Williams always was praised for his dramatic roles, and he is definitely the wild card (and a much more toned version than his normal over-the-top performance).  Jeff Bridges is stuck being the straight man to Williams and gets to have his own humor by being dragged into Williams’ fantasy world.  Amanda Plummer always plays quirky, but Mercedes Ruehl’s tolerant Anne steals all her scenes.

the fisher king jeff bridges robin williams naked central park pinocchio

We’re just a couple of naked guys with our Pinocchio doll…what’s weird about that?

The movie is a great combination of Gilliam’s surreal style with a dramatic story.  Williams is haunted by the knight on the flaming horse in his quest for the grail, but smartly Gilliam doesn’t plunge even deeper into the fantasy role which allows the rather tragic tale to be anchored a bit more in reality.

The Fisher King isn’t Gilliam’s most dynamic film, but it is a solid one.  It feels a bit like he needed a step back from films like Time Bandits, Brazil, and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen and this is a nice compromise.  The movie ends a bit too optimistic and sugary for me, but not all films about mental illness have to end in malaise and sorrow…it might not be realistic but it is probably more satisfying.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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