An American photojournalist gets caught in a political struggle at El Salvador in 1980.



, (as Richard Boyle)

Watch Now

From $2.99 (SD) on Amazon Video

Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 3 wins & 7 nominations. See more awards »



Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

Talk Radio (1988)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

A rude, contemptuous talk show host becomes overwhelmed by the hatred that surrounds his program just before it goes national.

Director: Oliver Stone
Stars: Eric Bogosian, Ellen Greene, Leslie Hope
Action | Biography | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  

The final movie in Oliver Stone's Vietnam trilogy follows the true story of a Vietnamese village girl who survives a life of suffering and hardship during and after the Vietnam war. As a ... See full summary »

Director: Oliver Stone
Stars: Hiep Thi Le, Tommy Lee Jones, Haing S. Ngor
Nixon (1995)
Biography | Drama | History
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

A biographical story of former U.S. president Richard Milhous Nixon, from his days as a young boy to his eventual presidency which ended in shame.

Director: Oliver Stone
Stars: Anthony Hopkins, Joan Allen, Powers Boothe
The Hand (1981)
Drama | Horror | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.4/10 X  

Jon Lansdale is a comic book artist who loses his right hand in a car accident. The hand was not found at the scene of the accident, but it soon returns by itself to follow Jon around, and ... See full summary »

Director: Oliver Stone
Stars: Michael Caine, Andrea Marcovicci, Annie McEnroe
U Turn (1997)
Crime | Drama | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  

A man heading to Vegas to pay off his gambling debt before the Russian mafia kills him, is forced to stop in an Arizona town where everything that can go wrong, does go wrong.

Director: Oliver Stone
Stars: Sean Penn, Jennifer Lopez, Nick Nolte
Biography | Drama | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

The biography of Ron Kovic. Paralyzed in the Vietnam war, he becomes an anti-war and pro-human rights political activist after feeling betrayed by the country he fought for.

Director: Oliver Stone
Stars: Tom Cruise, Raymond J. Barry, Caroline Kava
Comandante (2003)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

Documentary on the director's meeting with Castro.

Director: Oliver Stone
Stars: Fidel Castro, Oliver Stone, Juanita Vera
JFK (1991)
Drama | History | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8/10 X  

A New Orleans DA discovers there's more to the Kennedy assassination than the official story.

Director: Oliver Stone
Stars: Kevin Costner, Gary Oldman, Jack Lemmon
The Doors (1991)
Biography | Drama | Music
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

The story of the famous and influential 1960s rock band and its lead singer and composer, Jim Morrison, from his days as a UCLA film student in Los Angeles, to his untimely death in Paris, France at age 27 in 1971.

Director: Oliver Stone
Stars: Val Kilmer, Meg Ryan, Kyle MacLachlan
Seizure (1974)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 4.8/10 X  

Jonathan Frid portrays a horror novelist who has a recurring nightmare about three figures out of his book who terrorize him and his family and friends during a weekend of fun. Then the ... See full summary »

Director: Oliver Stone
Stars: Jonathan Frid, Martine Beswick, Joseph Sirola
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

A road trip across five countries to explore the social and political movements as well as the mainstream media's misperception of South America while interviewing seven of its elected presidents.

Director: Oliver Stone
Stars: Tariq Ali, Raúl Castro, Hugo Chávez
W. I (2008)
Biography | Drama | History
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 X  

A chronicle of the life and presidency of George W. Bush.

Director: Oliver Stone
Stars: Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Banks, Ioan Gruffudd


Cast overview, first billed only:
Doctor Rock (as James Belushi)
María (as Elpedia Carrillo)
Cathy Moore (as Cindy Gibb)
Will MacMillan ...
José Carlos Ruiz ...
Jorge Luke ...
Colonel Julio Figueroa
Army Lieutenant
Salvador Sánchez ...
Human Rights Leader
Rosario Zúñiga ...
Human Rights Assistant


A journalist, down on his luck in the US, drives to El Salvador to chronicle the events of the 1980 military dictatorship, including the assasination of Archbishop Oscar Romero. He forms an uneasy alliance with both guerillas in the countryside who want him to get pictures out to the US press, and the right-wing military, who want him to bring them photographs of the rebels. Meanwhile he has to find a way of protecting his Salvadorean girlfriend and getting her out of the country. Written by Tony Bowden <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Based on a true story. See more »


Drama | History | Thriller | War


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:







Release Date:

23 April 1986 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Outpost: Salvador  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$4,500,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


According to Oliver Stone, he cast Joshua Gallegos as the immigration officer because of his resemblance to Erik Estrada on CHiPs (1977) See more »


In the beginning of the movie, the main character (Woods) complains to his friend (Belushi) that San Francisco has become a "yuppie" town. The word "yuppie" is used frequently. However, the movie is set in 1980-81, and the term "yuppie" didn't become popular until 1983-84. An early, obscure use of the word from 1980 exists, but a syndicated 1983 magazine article is commonly viewed as the introduction of the term. See more »


Doctor Rock: [babbles in poor Spanish, trying to buy a drink]
Richard Boyle: You asshole. You know what you just said?
Doctor Rock: What?
Richard Boyle: You said you'd pay her in two menstrual cycles, you moron!
See more »


Featured in The 100 Greatest War Films (2005) See more »


Los Vientos De Octubre
Instrumental Written & Performed Yolocamba Ita
Courtesy of Discos Pentagrama S.A.
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Compelling Film About the Intersection Between Journalistic Ethics and Politics
17 February 2001 | by (Los Angeles, CA) – See all my reviews

Going back and watching Salvador makes me realize how long it's been since Oliver Stone has been on his game. How long has it been since he made a film that actually required the audience to think. It's not that he's suddenly become loud and bombastic, it's that he's suddenly stopped doing anything genuinely provocative. Natural Born Killers, for example, is *not* a provocative film. It's a loud and angry and aggressive film. However, the film produced only attacks on the filmmaker (or rather excessive adulation for Stone) and never really stimulated an intelligent national debate. But Salvador, based on the true experiences of photojournalist Rick Boyle, is Stone at his best. It's complicated and full of the mixture of regret, guilt, nostalgia, and outrage that fill the director's landmarks (JFK or Platoon, for example). After all of the violence and horror, it becomes a film about representations of reality and the different reasons for distorting truth.

Rick Boyle (James Woods) is at the end of his rope. He's unemployed, his wife just left him. And he's just been thrown in jail for a litany of driving violations. After getting bailed out by his tubby friend Doctor Rock (James Belushi in the role he was probably born to play), he hops in his unregistered car that he isn't licensed to drive, and he heads south to El Salvador. His only companions are Doctor Jack, his alcohol, and his drugs on a journey that can't help but be likened to the drive to Vegas in Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. When he arrives in El Salvador, he finds the country torn apart with leftist rebels fleeing to the hills and a country braced for a bloody "democratic" election in which a murderous American puppet general will likely be elected. Boyle tries to use his connections to get a press pass and get one last shot to become a success. This is made easier by the Salvadorian woman who loves him and the ace photographer who lends him a hand (John Savage).

But not everybody in El Salvador is supportive of the loose cannon journalist. There's the colonel who thinks he's a communist, the military attache who's using him for information, and the local military forces who resent the way Boyle depicted them in a previous campaign. The audience is supposed to be disgusted by the way that Boyle treats himself and those he loves, but there's one important fact that's repeated over and over: Boyle was the last journalist out of Cambodia. We know that he stayed to help save people. And it's just a matter of time before he becomes even more personally invested in what's happening in Central America. And that's when things go really crazy.

The world of photojournalism depicted in the film is one step from public relations and sometimes not even that. Boyle's major supported among the military leaders is a general about whom Boyle had written a glowing profile. Boyle is also able to curry favor by showing his pictures to American military leaders before trying to publish them. The question that comes up, of course, is why are the pictures being taken at all and how can anybody ever know the truth of any war. Journalists, like everybody else, get caught up in their surroundings. Boyle may be supporting the right side in El Salvador, but he admits to having favored Pol Pot for a brief period years earlier. The difference between canonizing a truly noble leader (like the assassinated Archbishop Romero) and elevating a genocidal lunatic is a small one. Salvador calls into question how American audiences can ever know who to trust in a media covered war. On one hand we have Pauline Axelrod (Valerie Wildman) appearing on air because she's pretty and blond even though she just accepts the official statements as truth. Then there's also Savage's journalist who's willing to do anything to get the perfect shot, to create an image that shows both the conflict and the reasons behind it in a single frame. Idealism and self preservation are competing instincts.

The film is pure Stone. The battle sequences are tense and tightly edited and the dialogue (which Stone cowrote with Rick Boyle) is rippingly good, for the most part. Then again, its misogyny is almost worn as a gold star, female characters are, as always, Madonnas or whores, and a rape scene is fairly exploitative. Also in a conversation between Boyle and a conservative US Colonel, Stone unpacks entirely too much of his personal ideology in a series of monologues. The message of the film, about not wanted to create another Vietnam and liberalism not being the same as Communism is much too literally articulated.

The film basically hinges on Woods's wonderful performance. His typical manic energy perfectly fits his character's earliest incarnation, but as Boyle becomes more troubled by what he sees around him, Woods's performance becomes deeper, richer, and more internalized. The rest of the cast has less to do and thus can't really be blamed for not standing out. Belushi's Doctor Jack has "Fictitious Composite Character" written all over him. Basically we watch as his story arc goes in opposite directions from Woods's at all times.

Salvador is perhaps the only film to ever express nostalgia for Jimmy Carter. I like that. I like that it's challenging, dogmatic, but rarely insults my intelligence by saying things that I already know. This is a very fine 8/10 film.

42 of 48 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
Movie similar to Salvador? jasonwhitt-1
TV on windshield FrmPeru
Stone's most underrated film SlipGun
only 7.5 Jefferies2006
Other salvador war film treebeard822
algun salvadoreño q la haya visto hace poco? the2ndranger
Discuss Salvador (1986) on the IMDb message boards »

Contribute to This Page

Create a character page for: